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The beloved ferry the Islander plied the waters between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard for 57 years before retiring in the winter of 2007. There was just something about this tub of a boat that endeared her to all who sailed on her… she wasn’t a great beauty but she had a regalness about her.
Her blue plastic outdoor seats certainly weren’t known for their comfort. But comfort wasn’t necessarily what one was after for the 45 minute sail from America to the Vineyard, it was more of a transition from the everyday to the magicalness awaiting you. The Vineyard is many things to many people and in many hearts the Islander was the emotional connection.
I don’t know if any songs have been written about her but I do know that one in particular was written on her. Carly Simon was on the Islander late one night on her way home to the Vineyard when she penned her song “Never Been Gone.” Her words come to mind every time I go back to MV.
She has been replaced by a bigger and sparkling new ferry called the Island Home. I haven’t sailed on her yet but I’m sure when I do I’ll be thinking a little about her predecessor.
In 1971 Captain Robert Douglas opened The Black Dog tavern so that Vineyarders would have a place to gather, especially during the winter months. A place where they could enjoy a good meal and good conversation.
If there is an unofficial mascot of MV then the Black Dog is it. Its tee-shirts, baseball caps, sweatshirts etc with the profile of the black dog have been seen everywhere from MV to Thailand and China. For awhile MV was the only place you could visit a Black Dog store but they’ve branched out now to places like Cape Cod, Provincetown, Chatham, Newport RI, Nantucket, Mystic CT and Portland, ME. But there still remains only one Black Dog restaurant and that sits unpretentiously on the harbor in Vineyard Haven.
There actually was a black dog, named Black Dog. She was an orphan puppy given to Capt Douglas by a friend. She accompanied him on his ship the Shenandoah almost every day and she turned out to be quite the sea dog.
Besides the tavern restaurant and the stores the Black Dog also has a bakery and my mouth is watering just typing this. The granola is superb, the biscotti is the best I’ve tasted anywhere and according to our family dog Chappy, the dog biscuits are to drool for.
In 1602 Bartholomew Gosnold, captain of the vessel the Concord, discovered Martha’s Vineyard. It was however already inhabited by the Native American’s know as the Wampanoag’s who called the island Noepe. I guess they were undiscovered until he arrived.
Gosnold was taken by the beauty of the island and of the abundance of grapes. He decided to name the island after his infant daughter.. Martha.
A popular story is that Gosnold had three daughters so he named the Elizabeth Islands just west of MV for Elizabeth.. Martha’s Vineyard for Martha.. and the remaining island.. well ‘Nan took it’ (Nantucket). I don’t know if he even had three daughters or if he did in fact name Nantucket but it makes for a cute tale.
In the spirit of Halloween I’d like to tell the following story.
On the magical and much haunted island of Martha’s Vineyard.. in the town of Oak Bluffs.. in a restored Victorian home is a restaurant called The Sweet Life Cafe. In this house in the 1930′s lived a daughter and her mother. In this house the mother passed away. That woman was my grandmother and the daughter was my mother. I had never met my grandmother as she passed on long before my parents were married but I always felt a closeness to her.
A few years ago my daughter and I decided to treat ourselves to dinner at the Sweet Life Cafe… we’d never eaten there but felt the time was right. It was around 5 o’clock on a beautiful cloudless and breezeless May evening so we opted to sit on the patio in the garden as it was empty and peaceful. We had a glass of wine and settled back to talk about our day and enjoy the pretty surroundings. The tables were beautifully laid out and each had on it a small hurricane lamp with a candle in it. We looked around and noticed that the candles on all the tables but ours were lit! Our waitress re-lit ours. The candle went out. Again she lit it. Again it went out. She came back with a new candle. Again out it went. Again she re-lit it to no avail. My daughter and I joked that our grandmothers were joining us and were definitely in a playful mood.
Later after we’d eaten I stepped inside the house for the first time ever. As I climbed the stairs to the second floor and headed down the hallway to the restroom I passed what had been three bedrooms and a feeling of comfort came over me.
Later that evening as my daughter and I were passing by the restaurant we looked in at the patio…… the candle on the table we had been sitting at was burning brightly !!
There are many, many good restaurants on Martha’s Vineyard but you won’t find a fast food establishment anywhere… not that the biggest of them hasn’t tried though. Back in the late 1970′s McDonald’s tried and failed.
A No Mac committee was formed which included Carly Simon, James Taylor, Mia Farrow authors John Updike and William Styron and other Vineyarders. They fought against the conglomerate and it worked and McDonald’s gave up saying they didn’t need the aggravation.
So…. don’t expect Starbucks but do experience Espresso Love and Mocha Motts. Don’t expect Dunkin Donuts but do experience Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Bakery and Dippin Donuts.
From Atria in Edgartown to Zephrus in Vineyard Haven the food on Martha’s Vineyard is eclectic and delicious… but not so fast.
This is the house I spent all my summers in with my parents and godparents when I was growing up. I’m a very nostalgic person and during every trip I take to MV I pass by this house and smile. I was writing in my journal one evening after passing by the house and these words spilled from my pen onto the paper.
The old house saw her walking down the road, the woman was grown up now but the house remembered her as a child. The woman wasn’t alone.. there was a man and a young girl with her, they were her family. As they neared the house the woman pointed at it and you could see glimpses of memories in her eyes. She knew this house well.. many happy hours of her childhood were spent here. Suddenly they were gone, so fleeting a moment after so many, many years. The house knew she did not look the same as she had all those years ago… her paint was faded and peeling and her rooms seemed small and dingy… she felt old and neglected.
A few years later a car approached slowly… could it be… yes, inside was the woman but she was alone this time. The car stopped and she stared at the house.. a smile appeared on her face… she was remembering the people who once lived there and for an instant they were there again. Then the woman was gone… the old house sighed.
Years passed and from time to time out of nowhere the woman would appear and stop in front of the house if only for an instant. It seemed as if something was left undone. The house stood there waiting year after year.
Then it happened. A car drove by slowly… it returned minutes later and stopped. The door opened and the woman got out… she approached the house with great anticipation. She was pleased to see that the house was freshly painted, it made her happy. She engaged in conversation with a girl on the porch and then suddenly she was entering the house after more then 40 years… it was quite a moment. The house wondered what the woman would think of her… time does take its toll and she was afraid she would not be as the woman remembered her!
The woman thought to herself “the rooms seem so much smaller.. or is it that I’m bigger… so many things have changed but I am seeing what was here not what is here now.” Once or twice however something did seem the same… a faint aroma… the slant of the bathroom ceiling… the curve of the staircase… the white iron beds… the secret room beneath the stairs… a creak.
It was but a moment in time, the reunion of the woman and the house but somehow their bond would never be broken and neither would forget the other.
Martha’s Vineyard is very pet friendly. Just about any store will happily welcome your pet in to browse and be fawned over.
There are a few places on MV that accommodate pets and in my opinion the best one is the Island Inn . They have different sized rooms from typical motel size to 2 and 3 bedroom suites. I believe they stop accepting pets the end of May but start again in Sep… that rule might have changed so checking with the management is a good idea.
In a separate post I will touch upon the part of traveling with a pet to MV that the pet likes best…… food & treats and where to find them. I will be interviewing our dog Chappy for this post as he is after all the pet expert.
Once you’ve decided to go to Martha’s Vineyard you’ll need a place to stay. I like to have those arrangements all taken care of before I leave home… leaving accommodations to chance is pretty chancy on MV especially in the summer months.
My favorite town to stay in is Edgartown, the epitome of a New England town right down to the white church steeples. Edgartown is filled with elegant old whaling captains homes many of which have been turned into B&B’s. Picture white picketed fences, green lawns, white homes with black shutters and there you have Edgartown.
One of my favorite places to stay is the Victorian Inn.. a three story Victorian mansion run by two of the nicest people you’ll find anywhere. The rooms are large and airy and perfectly decorated. The breakfast is one of the best on MV bar none. It begins with a selection of muffins…. then fresh fruit if desired… then your choice of one of several main dishes (I love the French toast) and of course there’s never ending coffee, juices and tea. In the warmer months breakfast is outside on the patio… cooler months it’s inside in the cozy breakfast room. And let’s not forget the chocolate chip cookies and tea in the afternoon. So if you want to get away from it all and just tune out for awhile this is your place to stay, unlike other places the Vic does not have TV’s or phones in the rooms. As for the location, it’s right smack in the center of town. They say the Vic is haunted by the Amorous Ghost… no extra charge if he appears in your room !!!
My second choice is the The Hob Knob. This too is beautifully decorated. The inn is large and rooms vary in size but all are beautifully appointed and comfortable to stay in. They also have a small exercise room and sauna for those achy tourist bones after a long day of exploring MV. Breakfast is quite good… nice selection and presentation. There are a couple of breakfast rooms where you can make yourself comfortable while planning your days activities. After a full day of exploring MV the inn offers tea and cookies in the afternoon. The HK is open all year and one of the prettiest times to go there is in early December when it’s all decked out for the holidays.
One more great place I’ll mention is the Harborside Inn . This is Edgartowns only waterfront resort and it is worth taking a look especially if you have children. Each room is equipped with a small refrigerator tucked away in the closet. Even though it is a waterfront resort there is not a beach that you can step out onto. There is a pool though and a fantastic view of Edgartown harbor right outside your door.
There are lots of other wonderful places in Edgartown to stay… they can all be viewed at www.mvol.com it’s really the best way to get a look at all that Edgartown has to offer.
These are the cliffs of Aquinnah located on the western tip of Martha’s Vineyard. These multicolored cliffs have been of interest to geologists and paleontologists for many years helping them to recount millions of years of the earth’s formation. Bones of camels and wild horses as well as fossil bones of ancient whales have been found in the cliffs.
Many years ago people were allowed to climb the cliffs… today the cliffs are protected by law against such adventures. The cliffs look different in each season… this particular picture of them was taken in the fall when the cliffs are exhibiting cooler colors from the vibrant oranges that appear in the summer. To walk beneath the majesty of the cliffs allows you a closer look at the drama that took place in their formation.
There’s not too much more I can say about the cliffs, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
But if you visit Martha’s Vineyard you must try and see them, you won’t be disappointed they are spectacular.