DESTINATION: CAPE COD
T WAS simply serendipitous that a most meaningful experience on our five-day tour of Cape Cod happened near the Nobska Lighthouse, built in 1828 and visible for 17 miles at sea.
It happened when we visited the town of Falmouth, the second largest town (after Provincetown) with a population of 33,000, at the southwest corner of the Cape. This is the closest point of departure for Martha’s Vineyard, served by three ferry lines. We found the lighthouse in the tiny Woods Hole, one of eight villages in Falmouth. (Cape Cod consists of 15 towns, each with its own cluster of villages.)
There on the bank stood two persons, cleaning and polishing a wooden bench facing Vineyard Sound. They certainly didn’t look like your typical parks maintenance crew.
They were Anne Heffernan and her husband Kent Kannenberg engaged in a weekly ritual of personal catharsis. Anne’s daughter, Neilie Anne Heffernan Casey of Wellesley, Mass., was one of the passengers aboard the doomed American Airlines Flight 11 with which Islamist terrorists turned the World Trade Center into dust.
“My daughter got engaged here at the seashore,” Anne said. “She and Michael had their wedding pictures taken in front of the lighthouse.
“When she died in the first plane that crashed into the North Tower, she left behind a six-month-old daughter, Riley Eileen. Senator Edward Kennedy arranged for a plaque and this bench to be placed here.”
Anne comes to Neilie’s Point once a week to maintain the bench in perfect shape for anyone who wants to pause at the seashore, gaze at the tranquil ocean and contemplate one’s destiny. You may post a message for Neilie Casey at www.sept11thmemorial.com.
Jim Murray and wife Gwyn at Nimrod
IME for lunch or dinner? In the center of Falmouth seaport, actually on Main Street, is the lively Irish pub of Liam Maguire’s. Liam himself will greet you and make sure you get your corned beef and cabbage or anything you desire from his extensive menu – entrees such as New England clam chowder ($6), Chesapeake style crab cakes (an authentic Maryland recipe, $18), Gaelic steak ($18) as well as such sandwiches as roast beef ($8), Cape Cod fish ($9), and even a meatless burger ($7).
Culture? There is an array of houses depicting life in the 18th and 19th centuries in these parts. Historic house tours are $5, children under 13 free.
Be sure to explore the Falmouth Museums on the Green, a two-acre complex in the heart of town that showcases period furnishings, toys, whaling industries and pre-Civil War medicine (you’ll faint when you realize what those people had to endure at the hands of their medical practitioners).
Conant House Museum
One of the finest restaurants on the Cape is the Nimrod, owned by chef Jim Murray and his wife Gwyn. The big structure has capacity for 250 diners in various rooms. Martin Scorsese discovered the Nimrod during the Woods Hole Film Festival. It is also a favorite location for fashion shoots.
At Conant House you’ll learn about Falmouth’s most famous native, Katharine Lee Bates. She wrote the poem America the Beautiful, which was later set to music to become America’s most beloved patriotic hymn.
AMED for the seacoast town of Sandwich in, Kent, England, this is the oldest town on the Cape, population 20,000. It is small village with big ambitions. Take the Heritage Museums & Gardens, with its spectacular array of beauty with Dexter rhododendrons on 100 acres of gardens and trails. You ought to spend at least half a day to explore the grounds and attractions.
Since 1969 the Heritage has featured several museums, including the Josiah K. Lilly III’s personal Antique Automobile Collection exhibited in a Shaker round barn. Probably the most important cumulation of antique cars in the country. It was fascinating to see the earliest moving vehicles that tread the streets at the turn of the century.
The centerpiece of this spectacular show of antique American cars and bicycles has to be silver screen star Gary Cooper’s lime green and primrose yellow 1930 Duesenberg Model J Derham Tourster, one of eight produced for $14,000.
You will also see the first presidential car – President Taft’s White Steamer.
Back in the gardens we shot a picture of the Old East Mill, a working 200-year-old windmill, and then proceeded to the Art Museum, which holds a restored 1912 hand-carved carousel. A spin on the carousel was fun, but left me dizzy.
Dexter’s Grist Mill
The Sandwich Glass Museum displays wonderful jewelry and other valuable wares that were made during the town’s thriving glass-making period between 1825 and 1888. More recent acquisitions are also on display. The hottest show in town takes place when Donald Parkinson, 27, who’s been blowing glass for nine years, holds daily demonstrations at the fiery glass furnace.
Around the block you’ll see Dexter’s Grist Mill, built in 1654 and restored in 1961. Here is where the local citizens brought their corn to be ground into meal, their most important food.
When it was time to turn in we turned to the Belfry Inne & Bistro with its strict non-smoking policy. Christopher Wilson’s hotel consists of three properties: Drew House, an 1882 Victorian manor house with 11 individually decorated guest rooms ($135-165); the Abbey, a former 1900 church with six uniquely furnished chambers ($165-215), and the Village House, a Federal style wood frame shingled structure with six rooms ($110-135). See more at www.belfryinn.com.
Of the 715 dining spots on Cape Cod, the Belfry is one place that encourages you to dine light – but go wild on their $8 desserts such as Banana and White Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Crème Brulee, Hazelnut and Coffee Torte, Flourless Chocolate Dome and the Bellfry Pillow (flaky pastry and Bavarian cream with berries, toasted coconut, raspberry and white chocolate sauces). This is one pillow to take at bedtime.
E made a stop in the charming village of Dennis consisting of 16,000 people. In its day Dennis was an important whaling, shipbuilding and farming community.
Today it boasts the Cape Museum of Fine Arts, a fine institution that since 1981 has been showing Cape Cod art from 1899 to the present as well as work by contemporary artists inspired by the Cape. Among the 850 pieces in its permanent collection are treasures by Hassam, Hawthorne, Chafee, Selman, Hoffman, Cahoon, Hensche and others.
This fabulous museum comprises seven exhibition galleries, research library and lovely landscaped sculpture garden. During the summer there are painting classes plus a children’s art camp.
The museum shares the grounds with the Cape Cinema, Playhouse Bistro and Cape Playhouse Center for the Arts.
In 1993 the Cape Museum of Fine Arts joined with 14 other museums to create the Consortium of New England Community Art Museums to share resources.
To share their important collections, the group has created an exhibit that has been traveling around Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. This exhibition, spanning a hundred years of American art, will be housed at the Cape Museum of Fine Arts from November 13, 2004, to February 27, 2005.
Envisioning New England: Treasures From Community Art Museums (University Press of New England, soft cover, 96 pages, $24.95) is a gorgeously produced catalogue of this traveling exhibition.
E couldn’t pass through the tiny village of Cotuit, in the robust town of Barnstable, without taking a glimpse at the Cahoon Museum of American Art. After all, we were on a cultural kick on this trip.
This quaint 1775 Georgian Colonial has been showing artwork for 20 years, especially the paintings of Ralph and Martha Cahoon, in addition to a choice collection of 19th and 20th century marine landscapes and portraits. You’ll also enjoy browsing in the enchanting gift shop.