Friday, June 26, 2015

Stop 5: Cape Cod


Chatham Pier

Coast Guard Beach, Town of Truro

I had always wanted to visit Cape Cod.
"Spending summers on the Cape" just sounded so romantic and idyllic.
Straight off a postcard.
It always seemed so "Coastal Living Magazine."

And that's exactly what it was like.

But you know what else it was?


I have come to realize that South Florida has spoiled me. Traveling up north (in the summer, mind you) has made me appreciate home all the more. As beautiful as Cape Cod was, I can't tell you how much I missed hair-ruining, make-up melting, sweltering South Florida humidity. I'm sure it didn't help that there was a bit of a cold front coming through (perhaps, ironically, the same one we were celebrating in New York) and it rained a couple of the days, but even on the hottest day, the temperatures never hit the 80s and the water was a bone-chilling 65 degrees.

The other thing I have been missing is Southern hospitality. I am amazed by how different the vibe is the more north you go. Not that anyone has been rude or unpleasant; but you just don't feel that warmth and laid back vibe of the South. 

When you take Cape Cod and compare it to Outer Banks, they are very similar on paper. Both are popular summer destinations with beaches, various little towns, beautiful views, and great seafood. Although Cape Cod is a peninsula and the Outer Banks are barrier islands, you're still talking about, essentially, a narrow piece of land with water on each side. The vibe should be the same, but it's not. It's funny: I felt at home in Outer Banks, like I could live there. I didn't feel that same energy in Cape Cod. 

This is one of the things I'm loving about this trip: you see all these places and get a feel for each. Then you walk away with a ton of awesome pictures, even better memories, and a new awareness and appreciation for not only new places but your own spots back home. (And you learn a little bit about yourself along the way, too, if you're paying attention.)

"Freddy and Fiona Flamingo," our tropical friends who travel with us

We stayed in the town of Truro, at Adventure Bound Campground, very near the eastern "tip" of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The coolest thing about this campground was that many of the sites were seasonal, which meant that people paid for them by the year and left their trailers and campers set up all year long in order to return each summer to their vacation "homes." We had never seen set-ups like this: there were full blown gardens worthy of a magazine shoot, room additions built and attached to the campers, car ports, and even outdoor kitchens and water features. 

Surely this addition cost the owners more than the camper
A close up of the addition

This one had a log cabin facade in the front, complete with deck

The campground was along the edge of the beach, so we would bike or walk the wooded path each day. We grilled some nights and hung out at the campground a lot too, which was a much needed respite from the hectic go-go-go days of DC and NYC.

Trail to the beach

I was fascinated by the lack of seashells and abundance of gorgeous beach stones

The tides would create these cool "pools" and sandbanks everywhere

Check out the water on each side of us...we were standing on one of the sandbanks

We all braved the chilly waters on the warmest days (but for the record, I did NOT enjoy it!)

On one of the cooler days--and the first one with actual sunshine--I plopped myself on the warmest, sunniest spot I found. I have definitely confirmed that I am solar-powered.

As if the cold waters were not enough of a deterrent, check out the Great White advisory
that greets you at each beach.

The reason for this Great White population? The huge seal population!
We saw dozens each day. That little black spot in the water is one of them.

Playing in the campground: the boys made an "Air Chair"

It was strong enough to serve as a swing, too.

Adult campground fun: sitting by the fire pit drinking local beer.
The growler label stated that it was freshest within 12 hours of opening,
so we HAD to drink it all.

We were staying only 6 miles from Provincetown, so we spent some time there a couple of days, shopping, sightseeing, and eating.

Some of the cutest little houses ever

These hydrangeas looked fake, even up close

Where the Pilgrims first set foot

A new tattoo added to his collection...
...and new souvenirs for theirs

My absolute favorite restaurant and meal of this trip (and possibly my lifetime):

The Canteen in Provincetown

This lobster roll was so good that it made me extra glad I had done some personal experimentation prior to traveling to double check I am not allergic to lobster anymore. Thank God I am not, but maybe even if I were, this meal might have been worth a trip to the ER.

  And as if the food wasn't good enough, this the "backyard" of the restaurant:

Lobster rolls were followed by the best damn doughnuts from Happy Camper
and cupcakes from Scottcakes--cupcakes so amazing that they made
our Misha's Cupcakes back home taste like crap.

Loved this shop's name

One of our favorite things from Cape Cod was spending the afternoon at the Chatham Pier, watching the fishermen unload their catch and the seals waiting for their scraps! If you ever go to the Cape, don't bother spending a penny on a seal-watching cruise. You can watch them at the pier up close and for free!

We didn't get to do a few of the things we had wanted to, because Ben got sick and was out of commission for a couple of days, but we felt like we did enough to get a good feel for the Cape. It really is something out of a Coastal Living Magazine. And although I suspect we are a bit too hippie-surfer vibe for it, we still loved the postcard perfection of it.

Our next adventure: Acadia National Park, Maine.

3 more states added to the map

Cape Cod, check!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Stop 4: New York City

New York has always been one of my favorite cities. When I was in my early 20s, it was one of my Top Bucket List Destinations. I was lucky enough to have a great friend take me there when I was 25 because I couldn't afford it on my own. I remember thinking, as the plane flew over Manhattan, that it looked like a Monopoly game that had gone on for too long. The city intimidated and thrilled me. I absolutely loved it. Shortly after that, in the midst of a divorce, I even seriously contemplated moving there. I returned two more times after that first trip, always in December, and fell more and more in love with the city each time. There was something about frenetic pace, the chaos, the crowds, the noise...I felt cooler, hipper, more alive in NY.

This was the first time I went with the boys. I was a mom in sneakers, not a twenty- or thirty-something-year-old in stilettos visiting some of the bars made famous by "Sex and the City." To say it was a different experience is putting it mildly. The thrill was still there, and I still loved it, but I think I have mellowed so much that the noise and the frenzy was a bit exhausting. Instead of looking at people on the subway coming home from work and thinking: "How cool to have to walk everywhere," I would think: "How exhausting to have to walk everywhere." It's only been a few days and I'm longing for the quiet of the ocean, the warmth of the sun, and the sand between my toes. It is official: I am no longer the glamour girl who loved her heels more than anything. I am the hippie mom who loves her flip flops best.

We stayed in the nearest "campground" to the city: Liberty Harbor Marina and RV Park in Jersey, just across the Hudson River. You could see the Statue of Liberty from the lot.

It wasn't fancy or relaxing, but it was pretty cool to look out your RV window and see skyscrapers. We'd walk 4 blocks to the nearest Jersey subway stop and take a short train ride into Manhattan.

Since we only had two full days there, we tried to just give the boys a taste of the whole city. We walked a ton and got lucky with a bit of a cold front. They were way less cranky in NY than they were in DC. 

The first day we started out where our train left us: at the World Trade Center. We visited the 9/11 Memorial, which was incredibly moving.
The new World Trade Tower

These memorial "pools" mark where each of the Twin Towers once stood

We then made our way uptown to Chinatown, Little Italy, and SoHo.
Seeing the boys' reactions to some of the stuff being sold in the markets
in Chinatown was priceless.
"Oh my God! Those are eels, Mommy!
Oh my God! The eels are still alive, Mommy!"

A delicious lunch in Little Italy

As we walked around the city, the boys seemed to blend right in...
My little New Yorkers

We then hit Times Square, which was "aaaaaamazing" (to quote Ben), but perhaps not quite as amazing as the famous Toys R Us store, where they spent a lot of their saved up money and even more of our time.
Times Square

Riding the Toys R Us ferris wheel

The big moment of trying to figure out how much of their money they wanted to spend

That's a big shopping bag and some happy boys!
(Guess who had to carry that bag around the rest of the day?)

We went back to Times Square later so they could see it at night

But the boys weren't the only ones who went home with a big bag of stuff:
I got me some NY bagels!
Day 2 of NYC included the Staten Island Ferry for a (free!) view of Lady Liberty and the Manhattan skyline:

And a stop in Battery Park for a local brew and some hot dogs

Then on to Central Park (after another quick beer and overpriced lemonade stop at Tavern on the Green):

And then to Top of the Rock, the observatory at the Rockefeller Center (way cheaper than the Empire State Building and with better views, although not quite as iconic):

We ended our NY visit with some of the best pizza and ice cream in Greenwich Village:

Overall, NYC was definitely a big hit, but I think we are all ready to put the big cities behind us and hit our next stop: Cape Cod! Bring on the ocean, please!

Four more states added to USA map and a new "I Love NY" for the collection.
New York, check!