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Boston and Cape Cod in early May!
Daffodils, tulips and cherry blossom; freezing fog and spectacular sunshine; from winter to spring and back again in 24 hours… and an hour with Ming the Merciless 🙂
Usually I can never say no to a trip to Boston but next time I may be tempted to remain in Florida in the glorious May sunshine sitting at home by the pool rather than dig out my winter clothes, previously mothballed from the last skiing trip, and spend a chilly week dodging raindrops.
In four days we saw freezing fog, persistent “British” rain (the type which drags on for weeks with no apparent end in sight) alternating with stunning sunshine and mediterranean blue skies.
Our arrival coincided with an enormous slow-moving storm which had already drenched half the country and was set to drizzle for 24 hours. Perfect! One of my favorite walkable cities at my feet and I was stuck inside whilst Geoff headed off to his conference.
I expect we should be more cultural during all of our world travels and gaze with awe upon great works of art in intimidatingly famous museums but fundamentally we are both outdoorsy people and the thought of being stuck inside anywhere for more time than it takes to eat lunch or dinner is positively claustrophobic.
On this occasion, however, the hotel room was looking far less appealing than the option of grabbing a cab in the rain and paying a visit to the Musuem of Fine Art to check out the new Matisse exhibit and the Monet gallery. The latter was far more impressive than the former. No doubt as an accredited, professional, self-sufficient artist I should pass my spare time dipping in and out of art museums across the globe with glee but so often I gaze upon exhibits with curious wonder and ask myself how on earth they got there.
Thankfully, I was rescued from my confusion by a glint of sunshine promising a break in the relentless rain and so I escaped this more cerebral activity to pass the remainder of my days in the city wandering in the sunshine happily snapping my views of the world.
Fuelled by Barrington’s coffee, there were occasional rest stops at Tatte Bakery on Charles Street (unmissable) and Flour Bakery in Back Bay or Seaport (also unmissable) in between strolling along the Seaport boardwalk and Harborside walk, sunning myself in the tulip-filled Boston Public Garden (cherry blossom carpeting the pathways) and meandering through the streets of Chinatown. An artist friend from New Hampshire came down to meet me for lunch one day – we ate too much at Tatte Bakery; we meandered through Beacon Hill and waddled up Newbury Street and then Roxane dragged me to the Prudential Center to check out Eataly ( a recently opened and supremely popular upmarket Italian marketplace with cafes, deli counters and other irresistibles). I put on 5 pounds just wandering through it.
By strange coincidence an old friend from our days in Bristol, England (before we emigrated to the US in 1999) was also in Boston briefly on business. We haven’t seen Alex for at least 19 years but he found out that we were there via Facebook (I always knew it would have a useful purpose in the end!). So we grabbed a beer and sat in the freezing cold sunshine at the harbor and caught up – and when we could take the wind chill no longer we headed to dinner with him before he caught the night flight home. Aside from the fact that we’ve all got a few more wrinkles (and the boys aren’t sporting quite as much hair as they used to 😉 ) the years fell away and it seemed like yesterday since we last saw him!
Naturally no trip to Boston would be complete without spending an hour in a comfy reclining chair with Ming, a tub of vaseline and a couple of warm damp towels. Ming’s Chinese foot massages at Rainbow Spa on Essex Street should be legendary – alternating between excruciatingly ticklish and exquisitely torturous. As I sat there enduring an hour of muscles being stripped from my calves and thumbs drilling into the pressure points on the souls of my feet I couldn’t help thinking that (just like his namesake) Ming shows no mercy 😉
And so, Geoff’s conference over, we headed out to Cape Cod for a weekend of cute cottages, towns and gardens… marshes… crashing Atlantic waves… a bridge to nowhere (some inexplicable paddling at high tide for Geoff to confirm that the bridge really did lead nowhere – followed by a change of shoes, trousers and socks) … a cliff walk… a beach walk and an unexpected wave drenching followed by yet another change of shoes, trousers and socks…
Chatham, in the elbow of Cape Cod, scores highly on the cuteness scale and, more importantly, is home to Delmar Bistro which scores even more highly on the foodie destination scale. So our pre-summer “bikini” diets didn’t start well and neither was there any great improvement on Saturday morning with a huge New England sized breakfast at the airport. To be clear we wouldn’t ordinarily head to an airport (even a tiny one like Chatham Airport) for a gourmet breakfast but Hangar B comes highly rated and, as we obviously weren’t going to be sitting in the sun in a garden cafe enjoying the spring flowers, we dodged the rain drops from the huge incoming storm and took shelter there instead. We would have returned the following day if it weren’t for the fact that I had already sniffed out a French cafe further north in Wellfleet (P B Boulagerie) and had my eye on an almond croissant for Sunday brunch.
Luckily the rain finally ended on Saturday night and Sunday was glorious – which meant a mad dash through the hotspots of central Cape Cod post-croissant! We followed a couple of roads and dead ended twice in our explorations – once at Griffin Island where the wind howled and the deciduous trees were replaced by low-lying coastal scrub at the end of the peninsula and then again on Lieutenant Island Road. I’m sure it would have been nice to visit Lieutenant Island but it was fairly clear to me upon our approach to the island bridge that that wasn’t going to be possible. An incoming high tide had flooded the road – a not abnormal occurrence, apparently. Inexplicably, it wasn’t quite as obvious to Geoff that we had, quite literally, come to the end of the road. His dogged determination to check out the bridge “floating” in the bay and confirm that the road was, indeed, impassable cost him a soggy pair of socks, a drenched pair of jeans, water-logged sneakers and 10 hypothermic toes. My feet, however, remained deliciously warm and dry 🙂
Twitching from the caffeine and excessive sugar intake of P B Boulangerie’s breakfast we headed to the Cape Cod National Seashore to enjoy a coastal stroll and the free parking before season starts (which is a bigger bonus than it sounds when you consider that it’s $20 per day to park at the beach in high season!). The waves were rolling and crashing and the beach was empty at Cahoon Hollow save for a lone figure and his surfboard. It was a long way to scramble down the sand cliff to the beach and we were far too lazy so we stuck to the windblown trail along the cliff edge which was desolate and beautiful out of crazy beach season.
Fort Hill in Eastham was distinctly more springlike away from the bracing cliff-top breezes. Cherry blossom and birdsong with sweeping views across the salt marshes.
Next stop – Nauset Beach. As there is more of a sedate descent to the beach than the beaches further north it was more manageable for fat, lazy people trying to conserve body heat. The mid-50’s F may well be a balmy spring day in Cape Cod to a New Englander but for a Floridian it is a bitter day in the depths of winter 😉
Busily snapping photos of the incoming waves and the headland for the blog I wandered closer to the shoreline. Geoff wanted to send a photo back home to family in England on his iPhone and as he has all the compositional skills of a chimpanzee, I deleted his half-hearted efforts and grabbed his phone from him.
“Leave it to the expert!” I said… “but make sure you watch the waves please” I said… “I don’t want to get swept out to sea!” I said…
I distinctly remember making this quite specific instruction…
Not 20 seconds later – just as I am composing my second iPhone photo worthy of texting across the Atlantic – Geoff yelps and squeaks something inaudible as an icy cold wave practically knocks me off my feet. As wave-watcher, Geoff was summarily dismissed and we slopped our soggy way back to the car, sea water squelching between our toes and damp rapidly rising up our jeans by capillary action.
So, another entire change of clothes for Geoff and now three pairs of sneakers and stinky socks left to dry on the dashboard of the rental car as we headed back to the relative safety of Chatham town for lunch.
Time to head home before Geoff ruined any more shoes 🙂 !