I’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard twice in my life, and while both times were each wonderful, the first was the best. Of course, the first time always has the advantage of the new and fresh, and as well, it lived up to every expectation and more. This is a journal of of my first trip, with photographs from both.
Arriving in Boston after an easy flight from Houston, I meet Lene, and together we board the tiny Cape Air plane for Martha’s Vineyard, the start of a long-awaited little adventure.
We arrive quickly at the tiny airport; the weather at Martha’s Vineyard is glorious: blue skies, brisk breeze, and a slight chill in the air. Our taxi takes us to the Charlotte Inn, everything it’s been cracked up to be and more (and one of my favorite places to stay in the entire world). Waterford crystal decanters filled with Bristol Cream Sherry are in every room, and we toast to the next three days.
The tiny hall downstairs leads to a tiny front desk; the Inn is full of fresh flowers – in our room, which we reach up a winding staircase; in the tiny hallway upstairs and down; in each sitting room.
Our room is delightful, papered in dark red stripes with a tiny green pattern. It contains two twin beds with big thick mattresses, clothed in white covers and duvets. Dark green and mulberry striped draperies are hemmed at the ceiling with padded pelmets. Two deep green club chairs sit in the corners. Two latticed windows open onto a little side street, the third onto a grass lawn, flowers and fountain. The bathroom is huge, and snowy white. The Inn is surrounded by black iron railings.
It is absolutely enchanting.
We drop our suitcases then walk around the town and down the road to The Square Rigger, a tiny restaurant splot in the middle of the road fork. We have broiled lobster and salad and a (small) piece of pecan pie. After dinner, we walk back to the Charlotte Inn under a clear dark sky dotted with stars, in the very fresh air, with a brisk breeze following our footsteps. Lene and I talk non-stop, until we both pass out from exhaustion!
Edgartown and Chappaquiddick
A good night’s sleep, and we’re up. Breakfast is downstairs in L’etoile, and the menu is: spinach, feta and tomato omelet, fresh orange juice and coffee.
After breakfast, we ramble down to Edgartown. How beautiful – and how clean – it all is, like something from a wonderful picture book. The houses are pristine, painted white-white or Nantucket gray, and flowers bloom everywhere we turn. The biggest rhododendrons in scarlets, pinks and white. Lilies of the valley, actually hedging a white picket fence (I couldn’t believe my eyes.) Hawthorn, lilacs and wisteria bloom madly. Gigantic tulips, daisies, buttercups and forsythia abound! Geraniums splash in pinks and vibrant reds.
When we’d drunk our fill of the beauty, we wander down to the beach along the deserted sand, until the sea surrounds us. Then it’s back to town to check out the ferry for Chappaquiddick, and lunch!
The balcony of The Sand Bar overlooks the main street. The menu: clam chowder, fresh shrimp, bloody marys. The air is bell-clear, and the sky a brilliant blue, with a fresh breeze blowing through the town.
After this slightly decadent lunch, we rent bikes at a little bike shop. We are told to lock our bikes to the railing and drop the key in the mail box slot on our return (I’d like to try this in Houston.) We are given a map of Chappaquiddick with “The Bridge” circled, where it is and how to get to it. Not a word is spoken of Teddy Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopeckne, it’s simply “The Bridge.”
The On-Time Ferry to Chappaquiddick is $3 round trip, and takes two seconds. On arrival, we set off down a paved road, and then the island quickly becomes untrammelled, wild and lonely. It takes us about an hour to get to The Bridge. Along the way, we pass groves of trees, tiny woods, with two-story clapboard houses, grey-cedar shingled, dotted here and there.
We arrive at The Bridge, and by this time, the sky is overcast, and it all looks very wild, remote and “edge of the world.” And here is The Bridge. Parking the bikes, we wander around taking photographs. As I’m standing in the middle of The Bridge, patting the heavy, heavy wood railings and saying (sotto voce) to the wind: “I can’t see how the car went through these things,” a man bicycling by says, as he sails past: “They weren’t there then.” Eerie.
The water on either side of The Bridge is very shallow: you can see the stones glimmering below. The only spot deep enough to drown in is where the car went down.
Few people are on the island today. We bicycle over two or three roads leading to more sandy roads, which in turn lead to sea or woods. Once in a while, we pass a house. I like this island! It is so quiet, all we hear is the wind over the water.
On our way back to the ferry, we pass a Japanese garden, about three acres deep. It is the most colorful thing on the island, filled with an immense variety of flowering trees and shrubs: blue, white and pink hydrangeas, rhododendrons, tulips, daffodils, spirea, and so many flowers I don’t know the names of. Small streams cross the paths, tiny bridges ford the streams, statues dot the landscape, and all very quiet and peaceful. Just enchanting.
We ride our bikes all over Chappaquiddick. After about three hours, we were very glad to see the ferry! As Lene noted, “It was uphill on the way in, why isn’t it downhill on the way back?!” Once again on Martha’s Vineyard, we drop off our bicycles and keys, and stop for beer and nachos at a little restaurant hovering over the water. The sky is dark, and it begins to rain.
We walk back to the Inn, looking forward to bubblebaths and rest. Fires burn in the fireplaces in the sitting rooms, which are filled with flowers and beautiful artwork. I hear the church clock down the road chiming the hour; the church bells chime in unison. This is a magical world.
Katama, Tisbury, and Vineyard Haven
Up around 9AM, we breakfast downstairs in the little restaurant, with Lenox china and Waterford glasses beautifully displayed on the white linen tablecloths. Our menu: fresh orange juice, hot coffee, bagels and spinach, feta and tomato omelets. A long stemmed fresh red rose is on every table.
After we eat, we discuss going to Nantucket with the lady at the front desk. As the ferry is not available until June, we’re on standby with the airlines for a Saturday jaunt.
On a beautifully clear day, time for (we think) a fairly brisk walk before taking a taxi to Vineyard Haven. We set off at a fairly rapid trot up flower-straddled lanes to the main road of Katama. Very soon, we are out of Edgartown, walking and talking on an empty road leading up-island. The beautiful homes we see are soon further and further apart. Runners and bicyclists become fewer and fewer. After a couple of hours, we wonder where the heck we are! But we keep on because our thinking is: sooner or later we’ll come to a town, and then we can take a taxi back to the Inn.
Wrong! We are heading for who knows where, even after a couple of people try to give us directions…so we decide to turn back to Edgartown – not soon enough for an iced cappuccino and a banana, blueberry, strawberry and raspberry smoothie! Our short brisk trot up Katama turned out to be on eight mile trek. I, of course, can get lost in a parking lot.
After the break, we take a taxi on a tour of the island on our way to Vineyard Haven for lunch. After comforting ourselves with cappuccinos, our first stop is Midnight Farm, Carly Simon’s shop. It is adorable…and expensive. I buy a white wooden picture frame, the book “Midnight Farm”, and some powder and lavendar spray, but the shop has some marvelous overstuffed furniture which catches my eye. Lene’s attention is caught by the pillows, so we leave with bags stuffed with lots of goodies. The weekend has begun, and the town is filled with tourists. The narrow Main Street is crowded with shoppers and stalls, and these have some wonderful things. Discovering the ability to request shipping, I immediately send a package of orange, banana and rum cakes, baked in glass jars, to my mother and aunt, and a little carved mirror to myself! Shipping is a wonderful invention.
Completely forgetting about Nantucket, our return to the Inn is punctuated by a note pinned to our door which reminds us that we have round trip tickets for Saturday via U.S. Air. On this high note, we change clothes and check on dinner ideas with the front desk. Before we blink an eye, Paula calls Cresca’s on South Water Streetand reserves a table.
Cresca’s menu has many delightful entrees, and we end up with feta cheese salads, shrimp and crabcakes. Then comes dessert. The piece de resistance is a sampler with a little of everything from the dessert menu. We order it, and it is delicious: tiramisu, English custard with fresh raspberries, ginger pound cake, brownie fudge with whipped cream, fresh strawberries and blueberries, and a vanilla ice cream “snowball” – all in miniature. We eat every bite, after which, we waddle home, checking out the shops on the way. Some yo-yos in a window catch our eye, and we buy one…trying it out once we get back to our room.
Although it is almost midnight, the streets are still alive with people. The air is chill and clear and beautiful, and the sound of laughter floats over the water…
Nantucket and Up-Island
Today is our jaunt to Nantucket!
It is another glorious day outside: the sunshine is brilliant. I hear the church clock chiming the hour of nine. Outside our bedroom window, the scene below reflects maids in black and white carrying armloads of white towels as they scurry over the brick walks from building to building. John is cleaning the black iron railings. The air is incredibly fresh, and the green seems more intense as time goes by. Mown grass fragrance fills the air.
Edgartown is one of the prettiest towns I have ever seen; it is so pristine, it looks as if it is painted white every day. Many of the houses are white clapboard with black shutters. We hear the lawnmowers and hedge clippers, and smell cut grass and lilac everywhere. It is all so beautifully landscaped, edged and manicured, and the flowers are blooming madly. I think I am in love with Martha’s Vineyard. No, I know it.
U.S. Air drops us off inNantucket. We picked quite a time to come here: it is the Memorial Day Weekend, and the weekend of the Figawi Regatta – the place is jammed with wall-to-wall college kids, all tanned, slender and having a raucous time.
Nantucket’s cobbled and brick-laid streets and gray clapboard houses are impeccable and delightful. A whaling town, one of the island’s must-see sights is the Whaling Museum. It houses multitudes of artifacts and information about Nantucket’s whaling history, from the first African-American whaler, to punishments for mutiny (pretty grim.) One room holds the full skeleton of a small, 43-foot whale. The museum is dim, fascinating, and not a little uncanny.
The rest of the afternoon is spent wandering Nantucket’s streets and shops, which have beautiful and expensive things to sell, all very enticing. The sea is such an integral part of everything, we cannot walk more than two minutes without standing on a waterfront or beach. It is very soothing.
Our plane takes off at 3PM, and soon we are back at Martha’s Vineyard’s adorable tiny airport, where we hire a taxi for a tour up-island <see “Up Island”, by Anne Rivers Siddons>.
Martha’s Vineyard holds a real fascination for me: it is so full of beauty and old-world charm, like a piece of the past come to life. Today, the sky is brilliantly blue and massed with clouds, and the sea breeze is constant and crisp. Our taxi driver and former Head of Edgartown’s Town Council, Steve, takes us up-island by way of Middle Road, through West Tisbury, Menemsha, Chilmark, and West Chop (I love that name) to Gay Head, now known as Aquinnah.
Middle Road, as the name implies, cuts through the center of the island. It is lined with high, high hedgerows and dry stone walls, very English. Sheep graze placidly in the green fields hemmed in by locust wood posts and cedar rails.
We pass the Sculpture Garden, an odd sort of spot with abstract figures sculpted in white dotting a wide green lawn. Interesting! Always, seas, ponds and lakes abound. Over rolling countryside we drive to a beautiful bluff Steve calls Overlook Point. This looks down to a crystal clear blue lake with white-sailed boats skimming the surface.
Next come Chilmark and Menemsha, two tiny fishing villages, with small gray clapboard houses. “Jaws” was filmed at Menemsha, and just across the inlet, the remains of the “Orca” can be seen on the tiny beach.
From here, it is a winding road to Gay Head/Aquinnah, and the Cliffs which look out forever over a silvery-gray Atlantic. The day is still brilliantly sunny, but the wind is immensely strong, bracing and fabulous.
The South Road leads us back to Edgartown. We arrive at our beautiful little Charlotte Inn, walk to The Black Dog to buy t-shirts, then back to the inn to drink Bristol Cream sherry and plan for our last dinner at L’etoile. Our dinner menu: duck fois gras, lobster etouvee, rack of lamb and fresh berries. The perfect end to a perfect day.
Leaving Martha’s Vineyard
We wake to another Chelsea morning: brilliant sunshine, clean, clear skies and a slight breeze. Poking my head from the window, I see the maid scurrying along the brick pathway with an armload of fresh white towels.
If we’d ordered the weather, we wouldn’t make a single change. Martha’s Vineyard is everything we thought it would be – a little white-painted jewel set amongst many-colored flowers and underscored by the music of the sea. And the flowers! White spirea, double headed orange poppies, daisies, tulips, daffodils, narcissus, peonies, wisteria, roses, and everywhere…the lilac trees! The scent of lilac is in the wind. Everywhere we look are green, green lawns, white houses trimmed with black shutters, all backed by vivid blue skies.
I love it here. This is one of my favorite places on the face of the earth. Goodbye, dearMartha’s Vineyard!