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Deja Vu! From Boston to the Enchanted Isle – Martha’s Vineyard

Over 20 years ago, Arlene and I spent a magical week on Martha’s Vineyard and loved it so much, we were determined to return. Well, okay, it took a while. We booked The Charlotte Inn sometime back in 2019 just before the pandemic was in full swing, and as so many of us had done, we put our long-awaited trip on hold until … well …this September 2022!

Monday, September 12

It was an early-morning rise, but at this point I was so eager to get to Boston, I didn’t mind at all. Despite misgivings as to cancelled or delayed flights, getting booked into my flight, and the flight itself, was streamlined and easy once I got to Bush Intercontinental Airport. The plane took off on time, I got a good seat, and it was a direct flight! Hooray for me!

I met up with Lene at the Boston airport, and we took a taxi to the Battery Wharf Hotel which is right on the wharf (duh!) and was just perfect.

After freshening up, talking a mile a minute, interspersed with “are we really here’s” every few seconds, we wandered across the street – it had started drizzling but what did we care – and had a terrific dinner at the strangely named “Legal Seafood” restaurant on the waterfront.

We sat in the Oyster Bar, which was cozy and busy; nonetheless drinks and food were served quickly and everything was delish: Cajun salmon with French fries and Garlicky Green Beans (oh those French fries!). After which, we toddled back to the hotel and crashed – dreaming Martha’s Vineyard dreams.

Tuesday, September 13

As Cape Air had cancelled our flight from Boston to the Vineyard, we researched various options getting us there, and ended up booking Uber to Woods Hole – which turned out to be a terrific idea of Lene’s (first time I’d ever taken an Uber)… It made the trip to Woods Hole so pleasant and relaxing and as we had so much to catch up on, the time just whizzed by. And then it began to rain. We splashed our way to the Woods Hole Ferry office, bought our round trip tickets to and from the Vineyard and then stood in a shelter that in the best of times gave as much cover as an autumn leaf.

I fished an old hiking rain jacket out of my suitcase, and put it on…casually noting that the white lining seemed to have cracked and crumbled a bit. Nonetheless, it was the only rain jacket I had, so zipped it up, and crammed my hair under its hood. The ferry arrived, and we all got on…the ferry floorboards were awash with this unusual rainy onslaught!

When we sat down, Lene pointed out that I’d left a trail of white breadcrumbs in my wake…and my hair and sweatshirt were also covered in the white flakes. The stuff from the coat’s lining was everywhere, and I looked as if I were snowing! I bundled up the rain jacket and immediately tossed it in the trash, hoping no one would think “my god, that girl has a bad case of dandruff!” But as everyone looked as if they’d been rode hard and put up wet, I guess some woman shedding like a duck wasn’t an issue.

The rain had flooded various parts of not only the ferry, but Woods Hole, Vineyard Haven and Edgartown. Still, by the time we docked at Vineyard Haven, it was just misty and drizzly, and our taxi was waiting for us.

In half an hour, we were standing in front of our wonderful Charlotte Inn, looking a bit like drowned rats but, again: Who cared!

Framed in green and white, the Charlotte Inn’s gardens were just as beautiful as we remembered. Gery and Paula, the owners, had done such a marvelous job with the incredible landscaping. And our Carriage Suite was like a miniature English home, with a private entrance up the stairs, and with the most charming artwork, accessories, lamps, and chintz-covered chairs and cushions.

The sitting room was so cozy: Olive green sofa and two easy chairs. The bedroom with both a King size and double size bed was dressed in white.

Casement windows looked out onto beds of hydrangeas and boxwood parterres, sweet-smelling plants and flowers, and statuary peering through stone walls and windows covered in vines and English ivies. It was magic!

So…we cleaned ourselves up after a glass of champagne, and made our way in the evening dusk to dinner at l’etoile (where we’d dined so many years ago when it was a part of the Inn). We had a wonderful cheese platter with Kicuk cheese – a tasty soft white cheese from upstate New York, and finished the delightful meal off with a filet (me) and grilled haddock (healthy Lene!).

After which, we rambled back the one or two blocks to the Charlotte Inn, under a now clear and starry sky.

Wednesday, September 14

We awoke at 9AM to glorious sunshine! What a day – the sun shone, the birds sang, the sky and sea were blue blue blue! This scenario reminded me forcefully of the scene in the movie “Enchanted April.” The women arrive in Portofino in drenching thunderstorms; and the next morning, they open the casement window to the most beautiful sunshine and scenery….

We began with breakfast in the Green Room…the regular breakfast room having been flooded with the heavy rains of the previous day, and was being dried out. The Green Room – and the Inn itself – is really English to the core, full of beautiful antiques, fireplaces, chintz and comfort.

We were joined at table by Morgan, Gery and Paula’s golden retriever (and twin of Bentley, her brother) who gazed soulfully at each of us with big brown eyes until a slice of toast was offered. From then on, she joined us every morning.  Breakfast included eggs or oatmeal …toast…bacon…hot coffee or tea…fruit … and absolutely no deadlines to meet.

And then we continued with a ramble again around the Inn’s gardens: The gardens are composed of tiny idylls of green vines and ivy and sculpted boxwood balls and hedges…with stone walls lending counterpoint to nature…and everywhere the lush flowers bloom in a cultured disarray of color and variety.

Interspersed with the green and stone are white picket fences and pergolas…

…lawn chairs and stretches of lawn, small tables and small green sheds, brick walkways…

…bow-fronted windows opening into English sitting rooms with deep green walls and chintz-covered sofas mirroring the beauty outside…each vignette a picture.

Drystone walls, an English heritage, enhanced the other stonework where statues peered round corners or through apertures cut into the stone.

The Inn is painted the ubiquitous clean white as are many Edgartown houses. As we walked, two maids in black uniforms with white collars trotted along the brick walkways.

And on to Edgartown. I remembered the white or gray frame houses from twenty years past, and landscaped with the most entrancing flowers and greenery.

We looked into bow-fronted shop windows trimmed in white, checked out The Black Dog, and slowly made our way to the On Time Ferry which makes the run to Chappaquiddick every four minutes (thus the name) – this time sans bicycles.

Because we were on foot rather than bikes – what 20 years ago seemed like a hop, skip and jump to the Japanese gardens, this time was not within easy walking distance. We wandered along the main road, taking a short excursion through bushes to the water, but eventually as we didn’t seem to be making any headway, we turned around and recaught the ferry back to the Vineyard!

Which was fine, because once off the ferry, food and ale was our next motivation…and the Seafood Shanty, with a top deck dining room open to the sky (with table umbrellas to shade from the sun) and overlooking the endless blue of the sea seemed to be perfect on such a perfect day.

We ordered IPAs and lunch…Lene having a lobster roll, me with sashimi – absolutely delicious. The sun was strong and it was warm and balmy – the beer was so relaxing – heaven!

A couple of hours later, we walked to a great little shop where I bought a Martha’s Vineyard hoodie and Lene, a carry-on travel bag. (! I bought one the next day.) We’d decided to ship our luggage back home by Fed X and take the minimum items in carry-ons back to Boston.

After another ramble around Edgartown’s historic cobbled streets, we ended up back at the Inn and settled in for the night, relaxed and peaceful.

Thursday, September 15

Up at 8:30AM to a chilly but sunny, gloriously beautiful day. Again breakfast in the Green Room – omelette, fruit, toast, coffee and Morgan, and then we were out to the shops.

After which, we ordered a taxi from Antonia for a ride to Oak Bluffs and its Victorian homes.

The houses, full of charm and quaintness, outlined in colorful gingerbread trim, looked like they belonged atop a wedding cake.

We had a light lunch at Nancy’s on the Waterfront, a long chat, then we walked around a beautifully green park surrounded by these lovely homes. Mockingbirds were singing, the sun was shining and the water sparkled like blue champagne.

The gingerbread homes in Oak Bluffs are unique to the island…shades of pink, yellow, blue, green outlined in white, kept in tip-top condition, some with green lawns clipped close like a green shag rug. The neighborhood and park were so quiet;  people sat on their porch swings and chatted in low tones.

Our taxi picked us up, and once back in Edgartown, we trotted into its bookstore for a look around. Lots and lots of lovely books, we got so embedded looking and reading and reading and looking, the time passed and we needed to get back to the Inn to ready ourselves for the drive to Aquinnah and the Outermost Inn, a drive taking about 30 minutes.

Located at the furthest end of the island, the Outermost Inn is situated on wide green rolling lawns, where you can sit outside and watch the deer crop the grass in the distance, or watch the sun going down. The dining room was spacious and surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows allowing for views in every direction.

The menu here was prix fixe – so choices were limited…but the salads and main course were delightful. Also, no liquor license so we shared a bottle of Chardonnay.

After dinner, Margritta, our taxi driver for the night, drove us back to Edgartown along dark winding roads encircled by the deep fir-green woods of Martha’s Vineyard. An occasional headlight nearly blinded us at times, but scarcely anyone was on the road and we made it back to our Inn safely under a banner of silver stars in an inky navy-blue sky. And so to bed, after a long and satisfying day.

Friday, September 16

Another perfect day. Sigh. The temperature continued in the low 70s, a cheeky little breeze ruffled the leaves on the trees, and the sun shone brightly.

Unfortunately, we had a night of up-and-down upsets, from what we don’t know. But eventually all was well, we cleaned up and it was down the stairs for breakfast after stopping at the tiny front desk to discuss shipping our baggage back to our respective homes. Great idea – we’d each bought carry-ons large enough to hold toiletries, pajamas and a change of clothes…so much easier to carry onto the plane.

After breakfast, our taxi picked us up for a quick tour of the island – Menemsha was one of our first stops, which we remembered from previous trips.

A small fishing village dotted with gray-painted cottages, it settled on the waterfront bound by a long wooden pier, which we ambled around under a brilliant sun.

The white fishing boats bobbed on the crystal-clear water, which mirrored the blue of the cloudless sky, and the sandy beach was the palest ivory.

We wanted to also go by the dancing statues, where it was really de rigeur to emulate, not very well I might add – but we tried!

At the Charlotte Inn we took a quick break and then walked again through the now-quiet streets to the upper deck of the Seafood Shanty. Pale ale and sushi and French fries – could anything have tasted any better? Rhetorical question.

The gentle swell of the sea continued to the horizon, reminding us of the old Martha’s Vineyard movie “Jaws” … here, close to Chappy’s ferry, is where many of the scenes took place. And so passed the afternoon…

Back at the Inn, we called the front desk for tape and scissors to wrap up our luggage. A knock on the door and a new front desk steward carrying a silver platter offered the items requested, which reposed atop a white doily. Can I live here forever?

As we did this and that in preparation for leaving, Lene, asking questions about various knickknacks around the room, finally pointed out a photograph of me and my ex-husband, framed on a side table. Being slow on the uptake these days, I wondered how the Charlotte Inn had gotten hold of that old photograph. Which of course Lene had put in the frame…placed in full view on the table…and which I never noticed. Oh well, comes the dawn and not a moment too soon, as I’m sure she wanted to slap me over the head with frame and photo!!

So Lene watched the news, we packed almost everything in the luggage, and twilight descended.

Saturday, September 17

I woke around 6:30 to get my hair washed and dried and finish the packing which we then took downstairs to Carol to take care of.

Then came our last breakfast in the Green Room. We shared toast and bacon with Morgan one final time as she looked mournfully at us over the white tablecloth. Who could resist that look!

We paid our final bill and then it was our turn for a mournful goodbye to our dear Charlotte Inn.

We caught the taxi back to Vineyard Haven, where we’d landed just a few short days before, and clambered onto the ferry to Woods Hole. At Woods Hole, minor contretemps with Uber, but our driver (Pedro – great guy!) turned up and all went smoothly from then on. (He even came back to Boston the following day to take us each to the airport!) Two and a half hours later, we were in Boston.

We planted our bags in our room and decided to see what we could of the city.

What a marvelous city it is, history around every corner…

…we walked the Freedom Trail, sauntered around the Boston Common, passed by Beacon Hill, enjoyed fantasizing about the delightful homes lining the streets, and more…about 4.5 miles all told.

We ended up at Cheers, which was a destination we were determined to find. What fun we had.

We took lots of pictures, drank beer and ate French fries…the patrons were delightful, and the waitress as nice as could be…didn’t seem to care for Diane though.

We were lucky: We got a table immediately – and there was a line!

It was hard to leave, but finally we made our way, tired but happy, back to the hotel. An early dinner celebrated Lene’s birthday and our short but sweet vacation.

Martha’s Vineyard is that delightful island where few things change as the years pass– in Edgartown, the houses still looked as if they are painted every day, the sun shone (for us anyway), the water was crystalline, the flowers bloomed and garlanded streets and doorways…and the Charlotte Inn nestled in its gardens, as full of charm and delight as it had been since we last visited over 20 years ago.

I never tire of the Vineyard’s beauty and peace…always for me, the perfect island.

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