Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cape Cod and Beyond

One of Martha's Vineyard's Lighthouses
The second half of our trip started with a day of rain so we did a few inside things; caught up with our laundry, visited the Cape Cod potato chip factory and visited the Kennedy Museum in Hyannis.  The latter is a small museum which focuses on the Kennedy’s time in Cape Cod.  Most of the exhibits focus on JFK, but there are also lots of mementos from the rest of the family including pieces from the Kennedy’s Compound in Hyannis Port.  Very interesting to see the more casual side of the Kennedys. 

Speaking of Hyannis and Hyannis Port: we were confused as to where these towns started and stopped and how they related to Barnstable (another town we had visited) so we asked a docent at the Kennedy Museum to explain.  Turns out that Barnstable is the town and Hyannis is one of seven villages within the town.  Hyannis Port isn’t even a village; it’s more like a suburb of Hyannis which includes one of the town’s (Barnstable’s) ports.  Oh, by the way, there is also a village named Barnstable and a place called Barnstable Port.  Not confusing at all!

The slow ferry coming in.
Next up on our agenda was Martha’s Vineyard.  We drove an hour across the Cape to Woods Hole and boarded the fast ferry to the Vineyard, landing after 45 minutes in Vineyard Haven.  This little town used to be called “Homes Hole” but locals got tired of explaining why their town was named as such so they renamed it to something more socially acceptable. (In case you’re wondering Wiki says: "Known by the original Wampanoag inhabitants as Nobnocket, this area was first referred to by the colonial settlers as Homes Hole; "Homes" from a Wampanoag term for "old man," and "Hole" meaning a sheltered inlet.")

The ferry ride is interesting in and of itself. The passengers cover the gamut; with day tourists like us, commuters who make this ride twice a day, and people who are going for an extended stay with lots of luggage and big dogs.  In fact, there were lots of big dogs and all were well behaved and quite friendly.  For our ride the ferry wasn’t crowded and there was plenty of space for all, even for the dogs.  However, we found out that beginning Memorial Day all the ferries are packed and sometimes you have to make reservations several days ahead to ensure you get a seat.  Lucky for us it was off season and we could ride anytime we wanted.  
Sea Captain's Homes on Water Street, Edgartown

Once on Martha’s Vineyard we caught a bus to visit Edgartown; one of the five towns on the island.  Edgartown used to be one of the primary whaling ports of the new world with ships from around the world docking here.  Water Street was where many of the sea captains built their mansions with their Widow’s Walks looking out to sea.  Most of these houses have been restored to their former glory and walking along them almost takes you back in time.

Edgartown was also the shooting location for the fictional town of Amity in the movie “Jaws”.  We can’t wait to re-watch the movie to revisit the town!

Victorian Mansion on Oak Bluff Commons
It was time to move on so we caught bus #13 and got off at the next town: Oak Bluffs.  Stepping off the bus is like stepping into a movie set.  The sea is on one side of the road and on the other side is the town commons, a sea of green grass centered with a picture-perfect gazebo.  Circling the commons is Ocean Avenue which is lined with stately Victorian Mansions, many of which were built by Portuguese mariners in the 19th century.  Beautiful!

A few blocks behind the Victorians is Wesleyan Grove, formerly a tent campground for Methodist camp meetings.  Many families returned to the campground year after year and over time the tents were replaced with small ornately decorated homes.  These homes are painted in bright colors and have elaborate trim and scrollwork bordering which led to them being labeled as “gingerbread cottages.”  Many of these homes have been passed from generation to generation and are as beautiful as the day they were built.  Walking through this village of over 300 homes is like walking through a fairy land!
The Pink House.  1 of over 300 Gingerbread houses

Martha’s Vineyard is incredibly quaint and photo-worthy at almost every turn.  Our visit spanned only a day but I can see how people would want to stay here all summer.  But we didn’t have all summer so soon we were back on the ferry and then in Hyannis having another great seafood dinner.

The next morning we caught the Fast Ferry to Nantucket.  This ferry had the same mix of passengers as yesterday’s, including the large dogs.  That mix of people makes for some very interesting conversations to overhear!  As usual, I spent most of my time on the outside deck scanning for whales and dolphins.  I’ve always done this and have never seen much of anything.  However, this ride was different in that I actually spotted spotted a fin whale!  Woot!

Sea Captain's Home on Nantucket

Unlike our Martha’s Vineyards bus riding, we decided that this would be strictly a walking visit.  We started with a mile and a half wander along the cobblestone streets to a restaurant high up on the bluff.  After yet another great seafood meal we wandered back and marveled at all the sea captains’ mansions.  In the 1800s Nantucket was the largest whaling seaport in the world, so there are hundreds of these beautiful homes here.  Did you know that the entire island of Nantucket is a National Historic Site and there are over 800 pre-Civil War homes here; the largest concentration in the country.  Many of these homes were abandoned after the end of the whaling industry in the 19th century but now they are almost priceless, commanding some of the highest prices per square foot in the United States.  

I must admit even though I was entranced by the stately mansions and the cobblestone streets I couldn’t stop thinking about….well….you know…those immortal words…

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
    But his daughter, named Nan,
    Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

I’m glad that’s out now and I can move on!

We really enjoyed visiting Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and would really like spending more time there when the weather is warmer.  The trouble is that with warm weather comes the influx of summer residents and thousands of tourists.  For now, our brief visits will have to suffice!

Our week on Cape Cod was now at an end.  We loved the wildlife, the beautiful shore vistas, the history, the lighthouses and of course the seafood.  We had seafood virtually every meal: oysters, Quahogs, scallops, shrimp and fish of all kinds.  Yum!  However, by week’s end we were actually tired of seafood.  For our last meal on the Cape we snuck over to the Mexican restaurant next door and feasted on carnitas and taco chips.  Sad, but true…and oh so yummy!

We worked our way off the Cape via Route 6 and headed west towards home.  We weren’t in any hurry so we geocached along the way and stopped to see what could be seen.  We caught Interstate 88 which wanders along the southern edge of New York and eventually took I-86 to the Allegheny Mountains.  We ended up in Jamestown, NY which is the birthplace of Lucille Ball.  

Jamestown is a cute little town with lots of memorials to Lucy including several Lucy murals and two
No pics allowed inside.  :-(
museums focusing on Lucy and Desi Arnez.  Next morning Mona decided she wanted to visit both museums.  I reluctantly agreed.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Lucy, but frankly I didn’t think the museums would be that interesting.  I was wrong.  One museum was primarily dedicated to Lucille Ball with lots of memorabilia from her early life and video-taped stories from people who knew her when.  

The second museum was my favorite as its primary focus was on Lucy, Desi and their TV show, “I Love Lucy.”  There were reproductions of the sets from the show and film clips from some of the funniest moments of the show.  This turned into a nostalgic trip back into my childhood when I watched countless reruns of Lucy.  I’m still hearing their theme song as I type these words! 

The target for the next segment of our trip was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.  Just as we were heading out of our hotel we heard a news broadcast discussing the court ruling about police who had chased down a fleeing car and who fired 137 shots into the car with two unarmed people in it.  The encounter ended with an officer jumping onto the hood of the car and firing the last 15 shots.  That officer was on trial and was found innocent.  That verdict sparked protests in downtown Cleveland and we were concerned about getting into the middle of the protest.  Cleveland was a couple of hours away so Mona monitored Twitter and CNN to see if it was safe to visit.  Fortunately, the protests remained peaceful so we ventured into Cleveland and were glad we did.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sits right on the waterfront.  The waterfront is awesome, with a science center, football stadium and lots of other attractions.  However, we stayed focused on our goal, leaving everything else for a future visit.

We both grew up listening to rock and roll and some of my earliest musical memories dating back to Chubby Checker and of course, Elvis.  My parents were huge fans of both, but most of all, big fans of Elvis.  Mona was the same, but I think her early favorites were Dion and Elvis.  From then on our lives paralleled rock and roll’s evolution: Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, Dave Clark Five, Rolling Stones, and on and on and on.  Perhaps that’s why the Hall of Fame struck such a chord with us!  (Yep, pun intended.)

From the first exhibit to the last we were entranced.  There was music everywhere and seemingly each exhibit taught us more and more about the music we loved and the musicians who played it. 
Lady Gaga Costume
This. Place. Rocks!  

Ringo's Drums
The lower level of the museum traces the history of rock from its early beginnings in Blues, Soul and Gospel and then all the way to Lady Gaga.  Another floor that we visited had videos of inductions year by year.  Two upper floors had iconic rock stars’ (including Tina Turner, Cher, Madonna and Paul McCartney) photographs taken by Herb Ritts.  Many of these were familiar as they had been on albums that we’ve purchased over the years.
Herb Ritts Photo of Tina

We spent over 4 hours at the Hall of Fame and it wasn’t nearly enough.  We are already planning to return!

On our way out of Cleveland we saw a line of police officers in full riot gear advancing down the street.  We feared that the people of Cleveland were in for a night of violence, but luckily calm prevailed and the protests continued peacefully.  Hoping and praying that continues.

Now we’re home.  It’s time for laundry, grocery shopping and catching up with family and friends.  And of course, we’ll find some time in there to plan for our next trip!

Travel Tips

Cape Cod is expensive and we never saw a coupon book to help us save money.  Not only that, it’s against Massachusetts state law to have happy hours so you can’t get any bargains that way.  Parking along the street is inexpensive but it’s limited. Parking lots for ferries, tours, etc. cost about $15….and this is the off season.  All I can say is to travel in the off season and split a few dinners to help save.  Otherwise, short of buying groceries and preparing your meals in your room, there’s not much you can do here to save on food costs.

As I said in an earlier post, on our trip out we stayed for free at Choice Hotels using points earned on our Florida trips.  On our return Choice had another promotion so we paid for our rooms to earn additional points.


This will be my last blog in this format.  I'm changing my hosting site and my editing tools hoping to have more control over the published format.

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