Cape Cod July 4th from Sea to Shining Sea.
I’ve always been a great admirer of Edward Hopper’s paintings. His inexplicable talent for bending light against form and the overwhelming richness of tonality present in his work is what made him a celebrated American Realist painter. Famous pieces like “Corn Hill,” “House with Rain Barrel,” and “Dauphinee House,” evoked a musing simplicity, with their quaint structures embedded in sun-kissed hills against alabaster skies. I walked through the dunes of Truro, watching the long sea-grass be manipulated by the wind, while a sailboat zigzagged across the tangential line where powder-blue sky met navy-blue sea. It wasn’t difficult to understand how Cape Cod and its staggering beauty inspired Hopper to capture its seemingly perfect landscape with such qualitative accuracy for over 40 years.
Replete with sea cottages, charming shops owned by families for generations, and first-class restaurants serving the countries best oysters and clams, Provincetown, Truro and Wellfleet are three neighboring towns that make up what is known as the Outer Cape. These quintessential New England communities are Norman Rockwell paintings come to life! Old saltbox and clapboard houses camouflaged by tall leafy gray birch or white pine with blossoming flowerbeds of milkweed and lady slippers can be found all over the area—one more beautiful than the next. Farmer’s markets sell the best of the summer’s harvest as children bike ride to the local ice creamery for a cooling treat. Over 4th of July, my partner’s sister invited us to her summer house in Wellfleet, where my love affair with the Cape began.
Activities & Entertainment
We partook in the typical beach-town vacation activities and relaxed—having the kind days where the biggest decision needing to be made was where to make dinner reservations. We played board games (Monoploy), card games (500 Rummy), played basketball and Lacrosse, read by the pool (A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara- masterpiece) put together a puzzle, grilled lobsters, drank cocktails and wine and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the country.
Geographically, the Outer Cape and its terrain are intrinsic to the Cape Cod National Seashore. From lighthouses and swimming beaches, to plants and wildlife, this New England stretch is widely protected. In addition to riding our bikes through the picturesque town of Wellfleet, I absolutely loved going to the famous Kettle ponds. There are a number of ponds filled with glacier water scattered throughout the Cape, but Wellfleet is home to the best. Once we obtained our beach stickers that allowed us to park and access the ponds, we sunbathed, swam and played Marco Polo in the crystal-clear water pure enough to drink! Early in the morning when hardly anyone was around, I took the paddleboard out on the still water for a meditative glide. I pushed myself along and listened to the water quietly ripple behind me. It became one of my favorite pastimes.
“Partying” on the Outer Cape can go one of two ways: a) Awkwardly gesticulating while members of your family try to guess whatever person, place or thing is written on a strip of scrap-paper in 60 seconds or less. Ooooorrrr b) Fist-pumping, glow stick-holding, paddle-turning to Beyonce until 5 am with a gaggle of gays on the dance floor of a local Provincetown nightclub! If you ask me, both sound like a fabulous time (although the latter usually ends in a hangover and a trip to the free clinic). With rainbow flags proudly flying everywhere, Provincetown has long been a summer vacation haunt for affluent gay men. Like the changing of the guards, mom’s and dad’s holding the hands of their toddlers waddling down Commercial Street slowly make there way back to their cars and homes, just as the scantily-clad gays looking to turn-it-up for the night begin to emerge. It’s an unspoken harmonious exchange of shared space that really makes this place uniquely special.
Bluish- purple hydrangea bushes had just been planted around the 2-story, 3-bed, 3 bath Wellfleet house. Grayish-brown clapboard in the traditional New England style with a wrap-around deck overlooked a large pool surrounded by tall Dogwood trees. There was an outdoor shower connected to a utility shed, which stored surfboards, bikes, kayaks, and other various sporting equipment. Inside the home the décor was modern where woven grass rugs protected white-oak floors and light spilled in from every gigantic window or sliding glass door. In fact, the entire backside of the house was all glass. A hefty wood-block island with stainless steel highchairs doubled as the dining table. The kitchen was spacious and open with stainless steel countertops and functioned without a standing refrigerator. Instead stainless steel Miele refrigerated drawers held all the perishable items. An ample living room featuring a white brick fireplace stacked with decorative birch logs was directly to the left of the master and guest bedrooms. The bathrooms had seashells encased in the shower floors. Downstairs was another great room, master bedroom and bathroom, an office and laundry room. The house was tastefully decorated with sea glass and art characteristic of the beach. Above all it was peaceful and the perfect place to unwind.
Although I didn’t stay there myself, The Red Inn came highly recommended by locals. We had lunch in their restaurant and enjoyed wonderful lobster sliders and shrimp from the raw bar while taking in the impressive view of the Bay.
After you’ve let three adorable children pretend to drown you in a Kettle pond for the entire afternoon, your reward is of course stuffing your face with scrumptious food! Lucky for me, and everyone who visits the Cape, there are plenty of great restaurants to choose from. Here are some of the highlights of what felt like a trip of marathon eating!
1. The Wicked Oyster- Let’s start with breakfast. I built my own scramble with fresh pesto, goat cheese, roasted tomatoes, and bacon. The scramble was so fresh I could have sworn it “boooocked” at me! My fellow dining companions were also impressed with the cinnamon pear pancakes and breakfast potatoes. The atmosphere was homey. It reminded me of a large Victorian B&B a sweet grandmother would have run.
2.Mac’s Shack Wellfleet- We tried to go to this restaurant twice and both times it was insanely packed with waits over an hour. The third time was a charm and I’m glad we were persistent. The tuna poke and fish and chips were perfection. Probably the best tuna poke I’ve ever had—better than the one I had in Kauai at the St Regis Princeville. Instead of peanuts there are broken seashells on the floors of the outdoor bar, which makes the atmosphere festive.
3.Local 186- Right in the heart of Provincetown, this restaurant offered elevated comfort food. I devoured my butter-poached lobster and Kobe beef burger as if someone was going to take it away from me before I could finish it. I actually ordered another round of the fried artichoke hearts with lemon garlic aioli and slurped down a few spicy margaritas.
4.Savory and the Sweet Escape- After dinner—on more than one occasion we indulged with scoops of tasty ice cream. With pizza on one side (which I didn’t try) and homemade ice cream on the other, Savory & Sweet Escape served wildly creative flavors like “Wicked Mud Flats,” “Lavender Fig,” “Charlie Coconuts Almond Joy” and my personal favorite “Celebration Cake.”
5.Blackfish- In a class of its own, this Truro fine dining establishment is by far the best restaurant I ate at on the Cape. Once a blacksmith shop, set in the middle of the woods with a garden that produces the majority of the ingredients sourced for its menu, the delectability of the food was unequaled. The presentation and the service were superior to any other restaurant and the ingenuity found in the food was truly impressive. Mussels and smoked bone marrow, butter-poached lobster and sea scallops, crispy skin haddock and the signature tuna Bolognese have all been filed away in my taste buds’ memory as absolute bliss.
Another honorable mention is The Flying Fish Café. We had a lovely breakfast one morning on their outdoor patio. Loads of green trees with bird feeders and flowering bushes made for a pleasing atmosphere.
I’ve definitely been spoiled by the Rosebowl flea market here in Los Angeles and Artists & Fleas or Fort Green Flea in New York. These monthly bazaars provide access to elite vendors selling a plethora of one-of-a-kind items. I’ve found antique furniture, rare pottery and glassware, paintings and artifacts, as well as local designers selling original products. One never knows what they might find at a flea market, and I’m always on the hunt for that impeccably made gem that has a history and is free of banal mass-production.
That’s exactly what I found at the Wellfleet Flea Market. I scored for the day when I came across Moonstone Vintage Jewelry. The stall was filled with eclectic jewelry representing iconic eras of jewelry design like: Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Retro and Contemporary. Every piece I picked up had an embossed stamp certifying the 100% purity of the metal. The quality of the stones or precious gems was undeniable, even when it came to the costume pieces (Miriam Haskell originals). But as a man with small wrists that feels very comfortable in his sexuality, I love when I find Art Deco or Contemporary pieces that have a unisex or masculine design aesthetic. My favorite piece that I purchased was this vintage Frank Rebajes copper and enamel bracelet from the 1940s.
For those who aren’t so keen on flea market shopping, I also enjoyed the boutiques along Commercial Street in Provincetown that sell a great selection of high-end apparel and home goods. We picked up a few items at both Henry&Co. and Coffey Men.
On a bright sunny day before a family bike ride through Provincetown, we stopped at the Highland Lighthouse in North Truro. Constructed under the order of President George Washington the Highland had the distinction of being the first recipient of a Fresnel lens from France. Formally known as the Cape Cod Light, in 1996 the lighthouse had to be moved 450 feet away from the coastline due to the threat of erosion. This historic site is fully operational to this day. After climbing the spiral staircase—admiring the weathered brick along the way, I reached the top and took in the extraordinary view. I could see the entire Outer Cape and beyond. In that moment I was reminded again of Hopper’s paintings and the raw beauty of the land held captive in his brush strokes.