A Travellerspoint blog

The Vineyard

A Jeep adventure over Martha's Vineyard

sunny 84 °F
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After Newport, we headed to Woods Hole, Mass to catch yet another ferry to Martha's Vineyard. While we had the option of ferrying directly from Newport, the cost was $69 per person, so with 6 people it was a bit costly, and much more reasonable to drive to Woods Hole. Also, since it was high season, we couldn't really bring our car because we couldn't get a reservation to bring it back on the weekend until October! So we decided to do "passenger" only.
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Again, luck held out as the crossing was calm and beautiful.
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Arriving in Oak Bluffs, we checked into The Wesley Hotel, which was perfectly located right on the bay, although rather disappointing (and even downright retarded) in all other respects.
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Walking into town, we came across "Nancy's Restaurant" (Jim and Amy's mom is named Nancy), so of course we had to stop. It was right on the docks of the town and looked promising. Little did we know at the time that Lobster Mac and Cheese would become one of our preferred dishes to order throughout our travels through New England, but it was at Nancy's that we found the most delicious iteration of this dish!

We spent the afternoon getting the lay of the land and scouting out the shops of Oak Bluffs and having a libation dockside, where we once again encountered "Gene Machine" a large yacht that we saw in Newport.  Dinner was at a little place called "Sidecar", and while we were a little apprehensive at the somewhat limited menu, we all agreed it was the best meal we had on the trip so far.  Everything, without exception, was absolutely delicious, including Jim's burger, which is probably the best burger I have ever tasted! Amazing chargrilled perfection!

After dinner we sought out a place called "Back Door Donuts" for dessert, and we followed the intense aroma of fresh baked donuts to a little bakery shop, where we were promptly told to go around down the street and to the back of the store in keeping with its name.  Holy crap! were we suprised at the line waiting at the door!  They are only open from 7:30pm to 1:00am, and there must have been 50 people waiting in line at 7:30!  They must be awesome donuts, but there was no way we were going to wait.  So we went for a little drink for awhile and checked back about 9:30.  The line was even longer!  Everyone on Martha's Vineyard must go to this place for donuts!

We decided to call it a night, but around midnight I was still awake and couldn't stop thinking about those donuts.  How incredible must they be to have that many people lining up?  What intriguing gourmet flavors do they have?  Why are they only open at night? What secret was I missing?  Is there still a line?  I had to know.  It was only a 5 minute walk.

Arriving at the Back Door, I found that the hordes must have been satisfied, as I was there alone, other than the bakers still busy in the kitchen.  The selections were pretty standard: honey-glazed, chocolate glazed, raspberry filled, Boston cream filled, cinnamon cake donuts, etc.  No gourmet flavor concoctions, but the fresh smell was still amazing.  I guiltily ordered 4 donuts.  Sitting on a bench in the waterside park, I tried each one telling myself I would only eat maybe half of each donut.  But alas, willpower was no match against the evils of freshly made donuts, and I devoured them all.  Surprisingly, they were not some gift of manna from heaven, but were in fact pretty ordinary - delicious nonetheless as any fresh donut is.  I guess the never-ending line is due more to a Vineyard tradition than any serious culinary creative force.  Wiping the raspberry jelly off my face with my sticky glaze-covered hands, I did the walk-of-shame back to our room.

The next day I eventually confessed my sins to my co-travellers, and for my clandestine midnight raid, I was dubbed "The Midnight Donut Whore!". It was a moniker I accepted with guilty pride, as I had, after-all, tasted the much sought-after donuts, and no one else had.  The envy was palpable.

To explore Martha's Vineyard fully, you really need a car, which we of course didn't have. It is larger than I had envisioned, by a factor of 10.  So, we rented a 4 door Jeep Wrangler, piled 3 in the backseat, and one more on the floor behind the back seats and went exploring.  We travelled the whole island, from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown, thru West Tisbury & Chillmark to the cliffs of Gay Head in Aquinnah.  We stopped for a drink in Menemsha at a beautiful and quaint cliffside Inn and discovered that most of the island is, in fact, "dry".  Only 2 towns served alcohol: Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.  So, back thru Vineyard Haven on a return trip to Edgartown.  The towns of Oak Bluffs and Edgartown are distinctly different.  Oak Bluffs is much more bohemian and laid back with an interesting collection of small, gaily colored cottages surrounding the Tabernacle, an open air auditorium of sorts, which lends it's history to a "tent village" constructed during religious retreats.  The tents later became wooden-sided structures with a tent roof, and then became these tiny cute cottages.  Edgartown is where the money is, with large white houses with colonnaded porches, tended gardens, and higher-end shops and restaurants lining the narrow streets.
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We also had to check out the "Chappaquiddick Bridge" of Kennedy infamy.  We had a bit of a problem finding it, as we thought it was a bridge connecting Edgartown to Chappaquiddick Island a VERY short distance away.  But there is no such bridge, only a ferry.  So onto another ferry we went, forcing poor Riley to hide low in the back of the Jeep, so we could save the $4 fee per person.  It was more of a lark than any real desire to save a few pennies, but we all had a good laugh over it, as the ferry operator and toll collector stood right next to the Jeep during the quick crossing.
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We eventually found the bridge, linking a sandy beach peninsula (accessible only to specially sand-permitted vehicles with low tire pressure) to Chappaquiddick Island.  It was amazingly small and only a short distance above a shallow creek.  It really put things into perspective when thinking about how it was possible to not save someone trapped there. Hmmmm???  What those with immense power and money can get away with?

A return trip on the ferry (with Riley fully upright and engaged in the transit - you only pay one way: on the way on to the island) brought our ferry count to 6, so far.  Dinner was at a very nice restaurant in Edgartown, Detente, albeit rather expensive.

The next day we returned via ferry to Woods Hole, bringing our ferry count to 7.  The weather fairies were not quite as effective, with a rather overcast day, but at least the waters were calm, and it kept things a bit cooler.  My donut escapade was a bit foiled, though, as Ed had stopped at the bakery (via the front door this time) and found the same donuts on sale in the morning, and he brought along enough for everyone.  So much for "The Midnight Donut Whore's" exclusive enjoyment! 

Posted by jim-n-mark 15:42 Archived in USA Tagged gay vineyard door head back martha's oak donuts bluffs edgartown chappaquiddick Comments (0)

Ferries, fairies and more ferries!

Going to jail in Newport.

sunny 85 °F
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Leaving Montauk, we were in a bit of a time crunch, as we had to be in Newport, Rhode Island to meet family by noon or so, so we had to hustle in order to make the ferries on time.  On to Sag Harbor, then the South Shelter Island Ferry, then the North Shelter Island Ferry, on to Orient Point and the Orient Point - New London, CT ferry.  It was surprising to see how close this eastern tip of Long Island is to the Connecticut shoreline.  We really lucked out with weather, as it was a picture-perfect, calm seas crossing.
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Continuing on, we headed to Newport, Rhode Island.  As we crossed the Jamestown bridge, Newport and the harbor opened up before us and we saw how stunning the vista was.  Islands, coves, and boats, boats and more boats everywhere.  Sailing vessels, fishing boats, small pleasure craft and huge yachts were moored and criss-crossing the harbor.  We checked into the Jailhouse Inn, which used to be the actual jailhouse of Newport, and still has some bars inside -- for decoration only, not to lock in the guests!  ;)
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We joined Jim's sister, Amy, her husband, Ed,  and two of their children, Kelly and Riley (alas, no Hillary this trip) in the Cooke House restaurant and, of course, had to have the lobster roll!  We took a sightseeing boat trip aboard the Amazing Grace around the harbor and got an historic overview of Newport, her storied residents, and some of her more famous ships and boats, including the gorgeous Lady B, a sleek, modern 45 meter sailing yacht (150') with a 60 meter (190') mast.
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After dinner at the Brick Alley Pub, we found a surprisingly cool, modern dockside lounge called 41o North, that looked it was transplanted directly from Miami. Surrounded by mega yachts, it glowed blue and pink and had that sleek vibe.
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The next day, Ed went swimming along the beach as training for his upcoming 2 mile swim, while the rest of toured some of the mansions along the cliffs of Newport, including the Vanderbilt's estate, The Breakers, and a slightly more modest mansion, Rosecliff. They were, of course, stunning in their showcase of grandiose living during The Gilded Age. It was amazing to me that these uber-wealthy families built these mega-mansions to recreate the grand castles of Europe, but within 5-10 years after completion, they were too grand and expensive to maintain and were pretty much abandoned, eventually given to the Preservation Society. An interesting tidbit: a "social hostess" was expected to throw at least 6 dinner parties for 60 or more, and at least 2 grand balls for over 600 people each "social season" which only lasted 10 weeks. The cost for one season? At least 7 million dollars, in today's money!
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We rejoined Ed for lunch at The Casino (which has never had gambling, but is more of a social club) courtside for the Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Tournament.
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The remainder of the afternoon involved walking the wharfs, shopping, and a beer or two, ending at The White Horse Tavern, the oldest operating tavern in America.
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Newport has dark Irish pubs everywhere, but this one was truly historical with not a straight wall, floor or ceiling in the place. We enjoyed a delicious meal at The Moorings, a waterfront and more modern destination, and can highly recommend it.

Overall, we enjoyed Newport very much. It is undoubtedly very touristy, but it has a certain charm, is easy to walk, and has beautiful water views and wharves overlooking lots of boats, which is very much up our alley.
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If we were to come back, I would like to spend more time strolling the side streets off the beaten path. Alas, we had further destinations to discover. The next day we were off to Martha's Vineyard.

Posted by jim-n-mark 05:49 Archived in USA Tagged newport Comments (0)

The Hamptons vs. Montauk & a couple of unexpected surprises!

A tale of two, rather different, "cities"

sunny 92 °F
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After the wedding, we headed to the eastern most point of Long Island.  We meandered down lazy lanes and through the various hamlets that make up The Hamptons:  Westhampton, Quogue, Southampton, Amagansett, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton, Water Mill, Easthampton, Hampton Bays, etc.  High hedges hid most of the hydrangea-hugged Hamptons hideaways (sorry, couldn't resist), but sometimes you could catch a glimpse of the stately homes with their immaculately tended gardens.  I was surprised at how big and widespread "The Hamptons" are, and how many separate little villages there are.  I was under the misconception that The Hamptons was one compartmentalized area, but it is quite spread out, with each of the hamlets having its own feeling.  Some of them are quiet and quaint with more farm-style homes, and others, such as Southampton, in particular, are very chic and high-falutin', as they say in the South.  Pretense is high, with smartly dressed patrons walking along the expensive shops, while Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Maseratis, Aston Martins and Range Rovers (apparently the Official Vehicle of The Hamptons) cruise up and down the streets.  Bratty young teens in trendy stores using daddy's credit card to buy marijuana-print shorts (and then confidently stating they are going to wear them on the first day of school) was an interesting experience.  So was the open-air Southampton Farmer's Market, with a big banner proudly declaring that it's vendors accept Food Stamps.  Really?  With more super exotics driving the streets than I have seen anywhere else?  Really?  I suppose the attitude is:  "Well, 'The Help' has to eat, too.  If they can't afford fresh produce, then Let Them Eat Cake.  We're certainly not paying them a penny more, as it would cut too deep into our shoe budget." It just seemed such an odd juxtaposition.

Leaving The Hamptons and moving east along the South Fork of Long Island, we passed through several miles of unspoiled natural land, and came upon Montauk, which has a decidedly different feel.  Much more bohemian, surf town, this place was more laid-back and beachy, and clearly owes its roots to the fishing and boating industry.  Some consider Montauk part of The Hamptons, but I would argue that it is a distinct and separate place.

Taking a recommendation from a friend, we stayed at the Montauk Yacht Club, and are very thankful we did.  They have done a wonderful job at renovations, with a smart blue and white nautical theme throughout.  We had a second floor room, with a balcony overlooking a little beach on Montauk Lake.  Perfect relaxation!
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As the first surprise, we ran into our friend from Sarasota who moors his Hatteras at The Yacht Club, when not at Marina Jack's (and who's wife made the recommendation to stay there).  We thought they would already be gone on a fishing trip to Nantucket, but caught them a day early.  We joined him aboard for a cocktail, while he and the crew regaled stories of their fishing adventures and all the Yellowfin and Big Eye Tuna they had caught.  That is one impressive fishing machine, and the name "Fish Tank" is certainly appropriate.  Too bad we weren't there a day earlier when he was hanging out with Jay-Z and Kanye West on their 200' yacht.
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The next day we took a tour of the Montauk Point Lighthouse, climbed its steep 137 steps, and enjoyed the views of the bluffs and Block Island, and drove around the nearby defunct military installation with its absolutely enormous rusted hulk of a radar tower.
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As a nice second surprise, our wedding hosts decided to bring their boat for an overnight at the Yacht Club on their journey back to their home port.  So instead of not seeing them until October, it was only a day!  Could it get any better?  Oh, yes!  Upon another recommendation from our friend, we ended up at Navy Beach, a remote little restaurant with a picture-perfect setting along an almost deserted  beach-lined cove with two mega yachts bobbing at anchor a few dozen yards offshore.  Italians tendered in and sat next to us while sipped yummy drinks.  It felt like another world, as if we were in a remote cove of the French Riviera.  Fantastique!  We highly recommend Navy Beach.
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We went by an old hotel that our friend used to stay at when he was a kid and the same giant tiki statue was still there all these years later, and it merited  us taking silly pictures, laughing all the way.
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We had a great time and would likely go back to Montauk!

Posted by jim-n-mark 05:35 Archived in USA Tagged the club yacht montauk hamptons Comments (0)

Magic!!!

sunny 94 °F
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It has been a hectic and magical few days.  First, a long drive from  Rehoboth Beach, DE to Westhampton, NY mainly along the New Jersey Turnpike, then onto the several parkways that cross Long Island.  
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Arriving in Westhampton Beach, we checked into the Dune Deck beach resort before heading to the "rehearsal dinner" at Docker's Waterside restaurant, where our hosts had reserved the entire lower deck along the beautiful marshy coastline of Long Island Sound for their party.
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It was great getting to meet the friends and family of our hosts, of whom we had heard so much, and finally being able to put faces with names.  It was a lovely afternoon with delicious food and a few libations.  Afterwards as the sun was setting, we headed over to our hosts' home to help with some last minute preparations before the Big Day.  We helped put up a tent-like shade structure, with gauzy white fabric draped into curtains to provide a bit of relief from the next day's expected 100 degree temperatures.  We finally got back to the hotel about 11:00 pm to find a band rocking the Dune Deck almost directly under our room.  No matter, though.  Everyone was having a good time, and we enjoyed the music on our balcony until they quit about 11:45.

The next day could only be described as magical.  Words can not adequately describe what a perfect event had been planned and flawlessly executed.  Everyone was dressed in white and mingling among the various lounging areas that had been set up on the expansive lawn that flowed down from the dramatic Jaffe (the architect) house to the beach along Long Island Sound.  Two small white tents, along with two shingle sided "beach bars" (hand built by Tim, of course) flanked the property.  A steel-drum Calypso band provided the perfect beat and ambiance.  At the bottom of the pool were dozens of LED lit candles marking out the number "7" in reference and honor to their beloved dog, named Seven, which serendipitously brought our two friends together on a New York City street corner 13 years ago and culminated in this perfect event on 7/7.

Waiters glided in and out offering delicious bites of tuna tartare, vanilla cakes stuffed with lobster salad, crab cakes, the tiniest terra cotta pots with fresh crudités and tapenade covered cheese as the "soil", and more.  

The ceremony itself began with the lucky couple arriving by boat, driven by the father, while the crowd gathered in the center of the lawn.  All the children and grandchildren of the families gathered with the couple at the front, which touched me immensely - they were witnessing and part of a great teaching moment, showing that love overcomes all boundaries and limitations.  While the couple spoke their vows to each other simultaneously in one voice, tears were noticeably flowing throughout the crowd, including a brief choke-up by the master of ceremonies, Rich.  My partner and I cried, too, at both the beauty and meaningfulness of the moment, and the fact that we do not have the right to join together in the same legal manner, living in Florida.

After the ceremony, everyone gathered in the living room of the house, where 4 long tables had been set up, seating about 80 people!  Having been to the house before, I was amazed that they could fit 80 people for a sit-down dinner, but it totally worked, and was like a beautiful intimate restaurant.  The chairs were amazing bent-wood chairs, not in any way banquet-style, and the tables were covered in simple clusters of gorgeous summer flowers.  The food was absolutely delicious, and paired with wonderful wines.  The speeches given were all heartfelt and special.
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The whole event was beautiful, and could best be described as easy-going beachside elegance, without an ounce of pretense or stuffiness.  Everyone felt at home and welcomed and part of the family.  A truly magical event!

The next morning everyone gathered back at the house for a country-cottage brunch of bagels, cream-cheese & lox, along with fresh fruit and sweet baked goods.  Good-byes were said, and we were a bit sad that it was all over, and that we would not see our dear friends again until October for a trip to the BVI.  Or so we thought.......
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Posted by jim-n-mark 05:32 Archived in USA Tagged wedding dune deck westhampton Comments (0)

Hello, Poodle!

Greetings from Poodle Beach, DE.

sunny 99 °F
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Hello, Poodle, from Rehoboth Beach, DE

Hello, Poodle, from Rehoboth Beach, DE

Day 4 and the living is easy! Hot to the tune of 99 degrees, but a decent ocean breeze and a dip in the 72 degree Atlantic Ocean (brrrrr!) keeps it fairly comfortable.

We are lying in the sun at "Poodle Beach" in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware surrounded by tanned bodies. It's been a fairly uneventful couple of days, travelling up I-95, first to the Norfolk, VA area for just a quick stop-over, then yesterday to Rehoboth.
Crossing Chesapeake Bay via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Crossing Chesapeake Bay via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

We came up through Ocean Ciy, MD, since we had never been there, and we can now say that we will never go that away again. Can you say Daytona Beach on steroids? How about "Tacky"? It was a pleasant change when we got to the Delaware state line, and the development dwindled to quaint clapboard and shingle-sided houses studded between the dunes and natural state parks.Some of the typical beach houses along Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Some of the typical beach houses along Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach are quaint beachside towns, with walkable downtowns and tree-shaded residential streets.A quaint street in Rehoboth Beach

A quaint street in Rehoboth Beach

We had a very nice lunch at the Back Porch Cafe, and can definitely recommend it. As we were walking along the main drag in Rehoboth getting a lay of the land, we bumped into Hoda Kotb of The Today Show, and she said a pleasant hello, surprising us both as she must have recognized on our faces the look of recognition of her. I guess you never know who you might run into.

We did find a little restaurant and bar, The Blue Moon, that was fun for a drink and rated as one of the best restaurants in Delaware, but since we had such a late and filling lunch, we decided to put off dinner there until the next day - which is today.

We decided to have a lazy beach day today, something that we never afford ourselves at home, even though over the last few years we have lived within a few miles of several beaches that have consistently won the Top Beach in The World award. I guess it really is a vacation thing. We should remember this more often.

Posted by jim-n-mark 09:58 Archived in USA Tagged ocean beach city blue back moon cafe delaware poodle rehoboth porch Comments (0)

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