New England & Mid-Atlantic Coast – Summer 2021

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Boston Seaport

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Back on the art show/travel/vacation treadmill with brief interspersed periods of respite back home in Florida!

The chaotic summer and fall of 2021 began with the first summer art show since 2019 in the quaint New England town of Wickford, Rhode Island which went past in such a flurry of activity that all I can now remember is the food (which pretty much sets the scene for the entirety of the trips backwards and forwards to the northeast over 4 months). There are no restaurants of particular note in Wickford so unless you wish to dine on lobster rolls and fries in a plastic basket at a very elevated price point then you need to travel further afield to East Greenwich. Blu on the Water was the most upmarket of the 2 waterfront fish restaurants overlooking Greenwich Bay; the views at sunset were serene from both Finn’s Harborside and Blu but the food and ambience was a distinct cut above at Blu.

We returned from our 2 week hiking vacation out in the Pacific Northwest straight back into Boston where we hung out with our good friend Jan in his pad in Seaport. Having been deprived of Boston’s excellent restaurants for almost 2 years we wasted no time in returning to our old favorite places – Bar Mezzana and Chickadee – and tested out the sushi and decorative cocktails at the newly opened Shore Leave. The proximity of Jan’s apartment to Flour Bakery on Farnsworth Street and Tatte on Pier 4 Boulevard is always problematic since I have absolutely no will power to resist either. The culinary highlight of our visit to Boston was undoubtedly dinner at O Ya – the world-famous James Beard award-winning Japanese-inspired contemporary sushi restaurant in the Leather District. We were talked into this return visit by Jan – which at $800 per couple for dinner and drinks is not something you want to do on a regular basis – however innovative and immaculately presented their dishes might be. Still, Geoff was very happy as it is his favorite restaurant. The tasting menu was as spectacular as ever but I couldn’t help thinking that a first class flight to the Caribbean would have cost less!😉

I revisited my favorite parts of the city – Seaport, Beacon Hill, downtown, the North End, Boston Public Garden & King’s Chapel historic burial ground – plus there is the bonus of the best rooftop view in the city from Jan’s apartment block. I walked Harborwalk daily savoring the aroma of sun-warmed seaweed and trying to dodge the squawking seagulls on the waterfront. On the important topic of food – in the Italian North End – I revisited Mike’s Florentine cannolis, I tested out various coffee shops (favorite of this trip was George Howell on Temple close to Boston Common) and met some friends for lunch at Figs on Charles St (for future reference – the company was better than the food 😊).

We made the momentarily disastrous discovery that during COVID Rainbow Health Centre had disappeared from Chinatown. No more torturous foot massages by Ming the Merciless for me! After some panic-stricken googling we found Happy Feet Spa in the Leather District which somewhat made up for the loss.

In between working weeks in the city we spent the weekend in coastal Newburyport with our yankee besties Don and Sue hanging out under the pretense of exhibiting at the art show. Surprisingly they’re still talking to me. I made a fatal error earlier in the year and failed to book the one and only decent hotel in Newburyport for the duration of the art show weekend. Instead, I found what looked online to be a positively charming historic Victorian bed and breakfast in Ipswich, MA – the Ipswich Inn. Against their better judgement I managed to convince our friends to cancel their prized reservation at the Essex Street Inn in Newburyport and to make “a weekend of it in the country” and stay out at the Ipswich Inn with us. Whilst the elderly owners of the Inn are very convivial it wasn’t quite as charming or “boutique” (or clean) as the photos online suggested. Whilst I spent the rest of the weekend groveling for forgiveness, Don exacted a cruel revenge by making a reservation for dinner at Fox Creek Tavern in Ipswich which served by far the worst restaurant meal we’ve ever eaten. Nice move Don 😉

Ipswich is famous for marshes, clams (repulsive crustaceans adored almost universally by native New Englanders) and not much else – so Saturday night we were back in Newburyport at our old favorite (Black Cow) for dinner. We drowned our accommodation-related sorrows in their cocktails (which are definitely worth the hangover) and an excellent dinner was followed by the traditional sunset stroll along the waterfront amongst the well-heeled and their designer dogs. Life was suddenly so much better 😊

Time to head south to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (which was hotter than Florida) for 10 days – 2 art shows and the intervening week. I know it’s a very popular vacation destination for residents of the DC area but I’m not convinced. The town and the beaches are more over-crowded than the streets of Mumbai. The renowned Boardwalk is dotted with sticky ice-cream drips and squashed discarded fries. The food vendors along the Boardwalk are aimed exclusively at the fries followed by ice-cream and/or candy floss for dessert diners. There is human chaos everywhere, chocolate covered children, trash strewn along the beach (despite the trash cans supplied by the town every few feet) and the stationary traffic and honking of horns is reminiscent of downtown Manhattan.

Hmmm … Did I mention that I’m not a fan? …

Redeeming features – the art show – which was excellent as usual; Salt Air restaurant (bartender Jenna’s cocktails were on the table before we’d actually sat down and settled in with the menu); Blue Coast (both the Rehoboth Beach and the Bethany Beach locations); Eden which was an oasis of peace; and best of all – 90 minutes on a massage table with Tiger at New Relaxation Spa.

Not much in need of an “I ❤️ Rehoboth Beach” t-shirt from one of the many t-shirt vendors in town (which anyway would have been a blatant lie) and with no desire whatsoever to paddle amongst the kids abandoned buckets and spades in the chilly, murky shark-filled waters of the mid-Atlantic shores, I had to travel further afield for more amenable and sedate places to visit.

20 minutes north Lewes is tiny but fit the bill – I breathed a sigh of relief – it is far more refined and peaceful and, even better, on the outskirts of town is The Station on Kings. The Station is a posh bakery/coffee shop/garden centre café – the closest I’ve come across in the States to compare to the nicer of the garden center cafés so popular in rural England. It was much more pleasant sipping coffee amongst the fragrant flowers buzzing with bees than picking chewing gum from the sole of my flip-flops on Rehoboth’s grubby Boardwalk.

Lewes also boasts 2 excellent restaurants. Harbor at Canal Square has great food with a prime location overlooking the waterway. Outside seating at sunset might have been wonderful if it weren’t 100F – not that the wealthy out-of-towners seemed at all perturbed by the searing temperatures. Raas Indian is a refined curry house in an ornate blue-painted Victorian house. The food was very good and the chef even stopped by to check that we were enjoying the evening which was a nice touch.

Try as I might, however, I still couldn’t find quite enough tires to kick to last a full day anywhere in the locality of Rehoboth that I visited.

I drove the skinny peninsula south to Bethany Beach – the self-proclaimed “Quiet Resort”. The Bethany Beach Boardwalk is 0.38 of a mile long and 12 feet wide and at 9am (thankfully) isn’t very busy – mainly older residents toddling up and down in elongated “circles” getting some exercise in the sun and the occasional jogger. 3 laps of the shortest boardwalk in the country and a jaunt on the (notably trash-free) beach and I was back in the car within 40 minutes.

I suppose I might have paid $10 and visited either the Delaware Seashore State Park or the famed Cape Henlopen State Park but I pretty much knew that I would be disappointed with the cold, dark water even though there might have been slightly less human beach chaos and fewer abandoned plastic bottles and ice-cream wrappers for me to collect on behalf of their original careless owners.

30 minutes north inland from Rehoboth Beach took me to Georgetown which, according to research, is one of the prettiest towns in Delaware. It has a central “circle” with a lovely fountain and well-cultivated flowerbeds, all loomed over by the imposing Sussex County Courthouse. Pretty as it is, with several well-preserved historic buildings on the circle, it took 3 times longer to drive there than I actually spent enjoying its highlights. Two ambulatory loops of the circle, photographing it from every conceivable angle, and I was back in the car en route to Warrington Manor Lavender Fields in Milton. The lavender had unsurprisingly long since been harvested back in June but they had a small flower garden reminiscent of an overgrown English country garden which was positively alive with bees heavy with pollen. Butterflies fluttered in their hundreds. This was very possibly the highlight of my week in Delaware which pretty much says it all …

Still, I wasn’t ready to entirely give up! I followed another blogger’s advice and took off to Milford – which must surely have had more to offer than the search for hand-painted miniature boats along the short riverwalk?! The gathering storm clouds were beginning to match my mood 😉

I don’t think the Delaware seashore and its immediate environs are really for me…

Still, Delaware is close to Maryland so I decided to expand my horizons and explore out of state.

It was only a 50 minute drive, passing farms and marshland to the town of Berlin, Maryland. Finally, I managed to spend as much time meandering through the town as I had spent driving to get there in the first place – which was undoubtedly a first for the week!

Berlin is quaint, Victorian and as touristy as a small town in the middle of nowhere can get. I liked it – for coffee or lunch and to wander aimlessly through the stores for a couple of hours. It was worth the drive.

I stopped for coffee at On What Grounds which passed muster (at least what was left after I had thrown most of it over the wrought iron cafe table on the street!). I followed it up an hour later at Baked Dessert Cafe and Gallery (the best bakery in town) with a cup of earl grey tea and a slice of peach bourbon cake. Berlin is apparently famous for its peaches so I could hardly pass up the unique opportunity of testing out this seasonal delicacy 😊

I salvaged what I could from a week left to my own devices in between the 2 art shows on the Delaware seashore but I suspect that next year, for the purposes of my sanity, we’d head back to Boston instead!

First stop in the fall northeast corridor art show circuit – Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Too busy at the art show to do anything outside of remind ourselves why Philly is such a cool foodie city – Metropolitan Bakery’s flourless chocolate cake – within striking distance of my booth – is always dangerous for anyone counting calories; JJ Thai – so good we went twice; Thanal Indian which was excellent and within walking distance of the Sonesta Downtown Hotel; we tested out 2 coffee shops – hands down Ultimo beats Vibrant; and for vegan lunch food there is Hip City Veg.

Penultimate stop – Armonk, NY for another top-rated art festival. No time to breathe save for dinner at Indi-Q Indian (one of my favorite curry houses in the US) and Portuguese at Douro in Greenwich, Connecticut which appears to have gone downhill over the last few years. We stayed in Stanton House in Greenwich, CT but probably wouldn’t repeat the experience since we had to hang blankets from the windows to prevent the exterior security lights from blinding us all night … sigh 😉

Bethesda, Maryland was so busy we barely had time to eat … an absolutely crazy show season over … definitely time to head home!

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