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Category Archives: Musings

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend on Earth Day

April 24, 2015 by Beth Colt

Women gather around copper beech and hug it before it gets cut down April 2015 Woods HoleEarth Day is always special in Woods Hole, as the village is packed with scientists and others who study, examine, support and cherish mother earth and her oceans.

But this Earth Day was unique, as locals gathered on Challenger Drive to say goodbye to an enormous copper beech tree that has offered shade and comfort for 150 years.  Aborists have determined the tree is beyond saving, and this massive old friend will be cut down soon for safety.

About 40 people gathered as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution leader Susan Avery said a few words about how hard it is to say goodbye to a tree of this stature.  Local theologian Deborah Warner spoke about nature, then read a moving Mary Oliver poem that began, “When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness, I would almost say they save me, and daily.” (From “Thirst, poems by Mary Oliver,” Beacon Press, 2006)

Susan Witzell, a local historian, shared anecdotes about Joseph Story Fay who once owned this property and planted these seedlings back when Woods Hole had been cleared for timber and was mostly meadow used for sheep.  Fay was devoted to planting trees, and along with his gardener Michael Walsh, is responsible for much of the forest that now dominates this end of Falmouth.

In closing, a group gathered around the base for an actual tree hug.  It was such a warm spring day, with long shadows drifting across the impossibly green spring grass.  Susan Avery spoke of planting a new copper beech in the same spot and emotions ran high thinking about this symbolic new era in Woods Hole, a time for saplings, spring and new beginnings.

WCAI also reported on this special day, and you can hear their radio version of the story here.

Woods Hole Cape Cod Trees with blue flowersWoods Hole copper beechgreen spring grass in Woods Hole photo 4(1)Deb Warner and Susan Avery on Earth Day April 2015Cape Cod blue flowers in Woods Hole

Steve Jobs Mega Yacht Venus

January 5, 2015 by Beth Colt

inside maga yacht venus Steve JobsIs is fitting that I captured images of the late Steve Jobs yacht Venus with my iPhone?  Yes.  Would he have been amused that posting them to Instagram later that day would cause an international stir?  I am thinking not.

I took a vacation last week, sailing around the British Virgin Islands with my family and a few friends on a small rental sailboat from a great outfit called the Moorings in Tortola.  On our last night out at sea, we anchored in the Norman Island Bight, famous as an ancient hideaway for pirates and rum runners.  Captain Kidd hung out there, or so they say at the pub onshore.

In any case, I was snorkeling and enjoying the trade winds on our last day out when this extraordinary mega yacht anchored at the mouth of the harbor.  It looked like something suitable for a villain in a Bond movie.  Not really even like a ship — boxy, clear, highly structured.  From a distance it appeared that the bow was square, like the whole thing was a floating Bauhaus inspired cube.   More like something you would see in the Malibu hills than on the ocean.  More like an Apple store.

When we got closer, we saw the huge bow deck littered with teak furniture and red cushions.  The illusion of a box from afar was created by a polished chrome bowline that reflected the water.  The whole boat was like a mirror, mirroring images that passed (like our tiny sailboat that looked positively trailer trash in comparison).  The stern was open like a tin can, with a ziggurat of steps cascading down to the water.  We circled peeking into what was clearly an exercise room with a huge shiny X that reminded me of the Mondrian Hotel in LA.  Several crew members were in there, polishing the chrome, scrubbing the deck  and rearranging the bicycle collection.  There were paddle boards, a small umbrella, room for the launch which appeared to be elsewhere.

I posted these photos to Instagram right after I saw the ship.  I could not resist, even though I try to keep my photo stream focused on fun things to do here in Woods Hole.  Little did I imagine that these images would go viral the next day. First on Gizmodo, then Business Insider, Time MagazineCult of Mac, you name it.

So what does Steve Jobs’ mega yacht have to do with the Woods Hole Inn?  Challenging question.  I am a big fan of the iPhone, especially for photos, and I teach a seminar called “ten tips for great photos with your smart phone” with a session coming up next week.  Not nothing, but not likely to get me the TED talk that might earn me an invite on this ship. Of course, there is always Captain Kidd.  He hid out around here too, in amazing harbors like Tarpaulin Cove and Quicks Hole — equally beautiful places in summertime.  (There is even a Captain Kidd restaurant right here in Woods Hole!)  And we share the beautiful Atlantic waters as Cape Cod is the last stop on the East Coast for the Gulf Stream.

OK, maybe you are right — the connections between the Woods Hole Inn and Steve Jobs’ mega yacht Venus are tenuous at best.  I doubt publishing these photos will help get me my dream invite on board, but I’ll keep you posted.  I can only imagine the stir true inside shots might make.  All rights reserved.

Steve Jobs Venus yachtmega yacht Venusinside Steve Jobs mega yacht Venus

 

Photo of the Year, Pick Your Favorite from the 2014 Season

December 20, 2014 by Beth Colt

Call me shutterbug.  All year long, I wander around Woods Hole and snap photos with my iPhone.  I post these photos daily on the Woods Hole Inn’s Facebook page under the moniker “Woods Hole Colors.”  Maybe some of you already follow me there.

As we hurtle towards the New Year, I decided to review 365 days of my photo library and share my favorites.  There are so many breathtaking vistas in and around Woods Hole, but I am always hunting for new light, a new angle, a new take.  Somehow, the scenery manages to change and familiar spots continue to look new to me.

My photo of the year essay starts in the winter, perhaps my favorite season because it is new to me.  As a wash-ashore aka former summer person (the lowliest form of life to a real Cape Codder:), the landscape I know so well never ceases to amaze me when bathed in snow.

snow on Eel Pond Channel in Woods Hole winter 2014

A close second to snow scenes are winter sunsets.  I am not sure if they are more beautiful because we need them to be to keep our spirits up in the cold, or perhaps we are more likely to appreciate them because they come so much earlier in the day.  In any case, the light across the water with storm clouds hovering also captures my imagination.

sunset and research vessel in Woods Hole, MA on Cape Cod

When spring comes, I wait for these three cherry  trees to blossom.  You can see them from Woods Hole Road as you drive into town, and their high bloom only lasts a day or so, less if the wind blows hard.  Perched as they are atop a hill in the golf course, these three sisters epitomize late spring for me.

cherry trees on Woods Hole golf club in full pink blossom in springCome summer, I like to visit Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard.  You can get there via the ferry to Vineyard Haven, then hire a taxi or hop the public bus system.  This spring, I held an iPhoneography workshop at the Inn and on Sunday we visited this tiny fishing village.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a commitment to get all the way out to Menemsha.  Off the grid.  Rustic.  Old school.

Menemsha Fish Market closed for the seasonIn late June, the Corwith Cramer comes back to her home port.  This metal hulled clipper ship sails the seven seas with college kids aboard as part of the “Sea Education Association” (aka S.E.A.).  Her slip in Woods Hole is right across the street from the Woods Hole Inn.  All of a sudden, Woods Hole feels a bit more like the whaling village it once was.

Corwith Cramer from the stern at port in Woods HoleHigh summer, the days are so long it does not get totally dark until after 9 pm.  The view from the Eel Pond drawbridge is beautiful every day, but some days, with the stillness of evening settling the water to glass, a ferry perched on the horizon and the sky tingling with hues of pink and baby blue?  Thank goodness for that iPhone in my pocket!  Poems should be written about this channel, children named after it, world leaders brought here to fill their hearts with tranquility before global negotiations.  I share the immeasurable healing power of a single vista.

Martha's Vineyard ferry in the distance from Woods Hole draw bridge

Summer is a blur of guests from far and near with the streets of Woods Hole packed like Manhattan, the buzz of late night revelers walking in the warm air, buskers, beach days, sailing trips, outdoor showers, sand on the floor, piles of salty towels on the porch, little sleep and lots of fun.

green bike with red wagon on Falmouth MA beach photo by Beth ColtFriends visit: we enjoy restaurant meals, ferry rides, books on the beach and long walks home under the bright stars.

friends gather at Quicks Hole Tavern including Timothy OliphantThe kids love these long days filled with cousins, trips to Cuttyhunk for ice cream, climbing the copper beach in front of Pie in the Sky, trying every item at the penny candy store.

Cuttyhunk ice cream store summer Cape CodSummer is all about parties and invitations.  This was a memorial gathering in the forest outside the house of my friend Jill (a wicked talented architect) who lost her daughter earlier this year.  It was an understandably muted festivity in honor of Lizzie, but there was plenty of square dancing after the pot luck meal.

hay bales for chairs and wooden board tables at pot luck gathering summer of 2014 in Falmouth MA

 

Of course there are also spectacular summer sunsets, and many people have roof decks.  Sweet huh.

sunset on roof deck overlooking Buzzards Bay on Cape Cod

Not every day is perfect.  Sometimes the fog rolls in and you can hear the ferries talking to each other with their horns as they pass in pea soup of Vineyard Sound.  A hush seems to fall over the village, even the street conversations are quieter.  OK, you’re right – it’s perfect in a different way.

Eel Pond Channel in fod with red light in foreground and mysterious large ship in the distanceThen with a headlong rush comes fall.  It’s later here because the Gulf Stream keeps temps high until the end of October.  As my kids carved pumpkins on the front porch at Halloween this year, a gaggle of eighth graders came by in towels from a swim at the beach. (I think they were showing off, but whatever.)

Road winding away with yellow leaves and old fashioned fence in Woods Hole MAFor the final best photos of the year, I will take you home to a recent autumn picture of the Woods Hole Inn, where a warm welcome awaits you should you decide to come experience the Cape Cod seasons for yourself.  If you have a favorite from my collection, let me know in the comments below.

Or follow me on Facebook, where I post seasonal images every day, all year long. #WoodsHoleColors

Woods Hole Inn instagram filter with autumn leaves in forground

 

 

Propose at Nobska Beach, or the perfect Cape Cod Proposal

December 2, 2014 by Beth Colt

Cape Cod Proposal

Looking for the perfect spot to propose on Cape Cod?  Meet Jeanette and Andres, a couple whose Cape Cod proposal story will warm your heart as much as this incredible photo of them with the sun setting behind them, shot in the very moment that Andres proposed!

In their own words:

“Dear Woods Hole Inn:

We are so grateful for the beautiful moments we have shared with the Inn. Since our first stay in 2013, we haven’t stopped talking about our time in Woods Hole.

Our most recent stay was thanks to our participation in the 2013 photo contest. After learning that we won, we immediately celebrated and planned our return visit to what is now one of the most memorable places in our lives.

Andres and I have been together for 10 wonderful years.  On our last night, Andres proposed to me by the Nobska Lighthouse, which was a recommendation by the staff.  After I said YES, the staff had champagne and a big hug waiting for us at the Inn.

We have traveled all around the world, though it was no surprise that one of the most special nights of my life was shared at Woods Hole Inn. We hope to continue to visit your Inn for many years to come. We wanted to give a special thanks to Joe for all his help and kindness.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts,

Jeanette and Andres

We are so honored to have this happen right at the Woods Hole Inn, and even better from a winner of our T-shirt contest!  Check Jeanette’s winning photo from last year’s contest here, and see you soon in Woods Hole.

Fall Colors 2014 in Woods Hole

October 6, 2014 by Beth Colt

Woods Hole ferry to Marthas Vineyard

Fall into autumn with a visit to Cape Cod, the perfect time to explore Woods Hole.  There are so many exciting things to do in fall, looking at the fall colors is just one of them.  Here, my TOP TEN reasons to visit Woods Hole this autumn.

#10:  Ride the Shining Sea Bike Path

Riding bikes on Cape CodBefore moving here, I had no idea of the splendor of riding a dedicated bike path, past beaches, lagoons, bird sanctuaries.. all without a car in sight.  Falmouth’s Shining Sea Bike Path is a national treasure, especially as the fall colors bloom.  Add the cool air, and it is the perfect time to explore Falmouth by bike.  The bike path is 11 miles long, starting in Woods Hole and ending in North Falmouth.

#9: Sit a Spell

Woods Hole autumn colorsThe ferry horn blows in the distance.  The blue heron explores the shoreline, leaves tumble in the wind, a water bug sends ripples over the perfect reflection.  You slow down, listen, and true relaxation sets in.

#8. Walk to the Light Houseautumn Nobska light Nobska Light is know as one of the most beautiful lighthouses in America,  and it’s a short walk from the center of Woods Hole.  Wander up here on a clear day and you can see Menemsha, Martha’s Vineyard, Falmouth Heights, even Tarpaulin Cove if you know where to look.  Ferry boats pass in the distance, white clouds race overhead.  Lie on the cool grass and imagine you’re in your own personal  “Christina’s World.”

#7. Go Antiquing

antiquing on Cape CodI live for antique shops filled with clutter — old wooden boats, glass balls, ships anchors, crooked oars and wicker chairs.  Here, treasures unknown await — a racy deck of playing cards, old letters, signs for businesses that no longer exist.  Upper Cape Cod has a nice collection of these hideaways, plus an excellent yard sale scene.  When you come to the Woods Hole Inn, I will share my secret sources with you, crafting an itinerary that includes a scenic drive and plenty of Cape Cod memorabilia.

#6. See the Sunrise over the HarborWoods Hole romantic walksSure, anyone can walk around our charming marina any old time of day, but if you really want to see it at it’s VERY best?  Sunrise!  Every day this amazing show goes on and most people are still in bed.  Not you!  I tipped you off, now just get up and see it:)  You can thank me later.

#5. Walk an Empty Beach

Dog on beach Falmouth MA

Fall colors bloom on the beach with the deep blue of the ocean setting off the autumn leaf peepers display.  Long walks searching for seaglass and shells are in your future.   I recommend Nobska Beach, Stoney Beach, Wood Neck Beach, Surf Drive or Chappaquoit but there are many others within an easy drive of here.  You will not run out of beaches to explore while staying in Falmouth — there are over 70 of them!

#4. Eat a Romantic Meal on the waterfront

Woods Hole waterfront diningIn the fall, the waterfront places fire up the wood stoves and these summer porches become the most delightful and romantic dining destinations.  Try the Landfall, the Captain Kidd, Fishmonger, Phusion or the new Quicks Hole Tavern.  There is a waterfront table with an incredible sunset view of the fall colors waiting for you in Woods Hole.  Yum!

#3. Paint a Picture

Dockside in Woods Hole paintingBundle up, grab your paints and find the perfect vista to paint. Oh that Cape Cod light!  Just sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the time roll away.  Add the fall colors?  Perfect.

#2. Enjoy a Hearty Breakfastcontinental style breakfast at the Woods Hole InnGuests of the Woods Hole Inn enjoy a great spread of all you can eat treats like mini quiches, bread puddings, croissants, fresh cut fruit, Greek yoghurt, home made granola and lots of piping hot coffee.  Who doesn’t want to start the day with a great breakfast?  You will need it with all the activities we have planned for you.

#1. Daytrip to Martha’s Vineyard

ferry to Marthas VIneyard parkingFrom the Woods Hole Inn, you just walk across the street to hop on the ferry to visit Martha’s Vineyard. As the ferry pulls away from the slip, look back over the village of Woods Hole for the view above.  The 45 minute ferry ride is part of the fun, with a great outdoor deck plus hot cocoa and beer inside.

Passenger tickets are $16 per person round trip.  You arrive in Vineyard Haven where there are shops, bookstores and great restaurants to explore.  Parking is tricky in Woods Hole, but as a guest of the inn we will take care of all that for you.   It makes day tripping to the Vineyard delightfully easy.

That’s it, my TOP TEN.  Hope to see you soon in Woods Hole!  The fall colors await.

Dreaming of Summer

February 14, 2014 by Beth Colt

I am constantly bragging about how mild the weather is here, how rarely we get snow, how when we do it melts right away.  Readers of this blog must have heard me reference the warm “gulf stream waters” dozens of times and even heard me lament the brief sledding opportunities, the short pond-skating season.

Not this year: snowed yesterday, snowed last week, going to snow tomorrow.  It’s been so snowy, most people are officially done with small talking about it, annoyed with the over-reporting of it all and beyond the bend about shoveling their driveway “One. More. Time.”

So this blog is NOT about snow.

Snow day in Woods Hole No, this blog is all about dreaming of summer.  Walking down my street in this snow scape, it’s really hard to remember that in just a few months my neighborhood will transform — with clusters of kids giggling and snapping their towels, summer people perched at the waterfront with lobster dipped in butter dripping off their chins, Woods Hole Inn guests sitting on the deck watching cloud banks drift over Vineyard Sound, the strum of cicadas at twilight, the feeling of dusk on a sunburn, the glow of fireflies as open mic night gets cranking at Pie in the Sky.  Oh yes, a girl can dream.

So as the wind blows outside and we brace for another nine inches tomorrow, please enjoy these classics from the dreams of my summers past.

Gorgeous vistas of Woods Hole in summer Cape Cod buoy on water Close to the ferry Woods Hole Inn summer fun in Woods Hole onm Cape Cod Cape Cod charm Woods Hole Inn romantic getaway Gorgeous vistas of Woods Hole in summer Woods Hole Inn beaches in summer

New Perch in Woods Hole

July 31, 2013 by Beth Colt

Woods Hole Inn, best place on Cape CodMeet Phil Stanton, a friend of mine and local fisherman extraordinaire.  Phil has won more fishing derbies than most people have collected parking tickets, is renowned for having re-located a raft of eider ducks from Maine to Penikese Island (not to mention being a world-expert on the species),  and is a dedicated participant in all elements of the Woods Hole community from auctioneer to fishing guide to horse wrangler to deer hunter to welcome wagon.  It’s not an exaggeration to say Phil is the ultimate renaissance man, Woods Hole style.

Phil took my son fishing last summer and showed him a secret spot where the squid gather in the Woods Hole current at certain tides.  “Cast right in there,” he said, pointing to a swirl near the rocks about 10 feet in diameter.  Ten minutes and several large Stripers later, the fishing trip was over and my twelve-year-old came home with a huge catch and a huger smile on his face.  Phil’s generosity and knowledge inculcated another young convert to the secret joy of fishing.

Last winter, Phil offered to build a stone bench to honor his mother on the side of the Community Hall. There has been much hoopla in town about the new Rachel Carson statue, and tongues wagging about a new MBL whale-tail sculpture that is possibly dangerous for climbing children.  But to date I have seen no notice of this wonderful bench Phil financed which might be the best addition to town in decades, perched as it is on the edge of the channel into Eel Pond at just the right spot to catch both the view and the breeze. (Of course, Phil would know that!)

With a stunning view out toward Nonamesset Island, this bench is the perfect place to watch the drawbridge go up and down, with boats large and small flowing in and out of our protected harbor. You will enjoy the view, the constant southwesterly breeze… and if you are patient, you will see Phil heading out in his boat, as he goes fishing most everyday.

Phil Stanton view from the bench, Woods Hole Phil Stanton Betty Stanton bench SEA

5 ways Woods Hole is just like PARIS…

April 8, 2013 by Beth Colt

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Last month, my family and I went on a week’s vacation in Paris.  That’s right, Paris, France, home of the Mona Lisa and birthplace of the croissant.   With its’ dramatic wide boulevards, miles of shops and restaurants, triumphant arches and epic churches, it’s fair to say that on the surface of things, Paris does not have much in common with our tiny fishing village on Cape Cod.

But scratch a little deeper and there are similarities, so many that I may start calling Woods Hole the Paris of Cape Cod.

So here we go, countdown style, starting with number five, the things Paris and Woods Hole have in common:

5) IT’S COLD, BUT NOT CROWDED IN MARCH.  Both Paris and Woods Hole are damp in March, prone to spring flurries of snow and dominated by people in rubber boots, blown backwards umbrellas and the scowl that comes from winter lasting longer than desired.  Endure the chilly weather, and visit both places without the crowds.  Here on Cape Cod that means empty beaches, crystal clear waters, open sky and views for miles.  In Paris, you can jostle into the Louvre in less than 10 minutes, and see the Mona Lisa with 100 people rather than 1,000.  Love it!

Woods Hole in March IMG_1397

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) KILLER PASTRY SHOPS.  OK, Paris has thousands of patisseries competing with each other for the finest tarte citron and mousse au chocolat.  But, here in Falmouth, we have Pie in the Sky bakery offering sweet treats all year long, and the new Maison Villatte, serving French delicacies like croissant au chocolat and palmiers.  Don your bakers hat and let the Parisian bake off begin!

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3) SCULPTURE GARDENS.  Sure, Paris boasts Rodin, Braque and Brancusi… but here in Woods Hole, we have a pretty cool collection of outdoor sculpture.  Check out the placement of simple mill stones in Spohr Gardens, which like the  famous Jardin des Tuileries, is not to be missed in spring plus the collection sprinkled around the MBL on Water and MBL Streets.   Coming soon?  A bronze of Rachel Carson, the famous environmentalist who wrote “Silent Spring,” expected in Waterfront Park.  Take that, Gay Paris!

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2) BIKES EVERYWHERE.  Paris has embraced the bicycle, offering municipal bike rental stations called velib, and creating bike lanes to green up the city.  This is also true here in Woods Hole, where the former train tracks into town have been converted to a dedicated bike path running along beaches, past cranberry bogs and though ancient forests.  Hear, hear to forward-thinking municipalities everywhere.

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Drumroll, please….The number one thing that Paris and Woods Hole have in common is:

1)   BATEAU MOUCHES.  The River Seine is packed with ferries and transport ships, called bateau mouches, some for tourists but many plying the river for trade as they have for eons.  Woods Hole is no different, with a deep water harbor that brought whaling ships here in the 18th century, scientific research vessels in the 19th and 20th.   Ferries also run constantly here, connecting Woods Hole like a tether to the island of Martha’s Vineyard.  The allure of pragmatic boat travel is central to both locales, and ties us to our sister city.

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So there you have it people… why Woods Hole is the Paris of Cape Cod.  If you are having trouble guessing which photo is which, you are not alone, because that is how similar the two places are!

What do you think?

Jenny Wren

March 14, 2013 by Beth Colt

I don’t often write personal posts, but today I uncovered a cache of photos from my past, and I have to share this story with you.

Here I am as a toddler, my hand mysteriously extended in mid air.

friendship loveOn the back of the photo, my mother wrote:  Beth holding hands with “Jenny Wren” her important imaginary friend!   We lived in Milton, Mass. and I was the first born.  According to my mother, I insisted on this portrait of myself and Jenny Wren.  At the ripe old age of three, with my baby sister maybe six months old,  I can imagine I felt the need for a someone who I could really talk to about losing my mother’s attention, someone who listened, someone to hold hands with when I felt scared.

And there were lots of things to be scared about.  The world was changing everywhere you looked — civil rights, women’s lib, Vietnam.  I remember the nightly news reports with strange names that I whispered to Jenny because I liked how they rolled off my tongue: Ho Chi MinhMy Lai…   I remember running naked through the sprinkler until I heard news about the arrests of streakers which scared me into a bathing suit.  I remember the Great Dane next door, especially after our paper girl arrived on the doorstep with her thigh ripped open from his giant teeth.  Yes, there was plenty of scary stuff back then.

Little could I imagine that 25 years later, I would meet my friend Jenny, and she would become a real-life Jenny Wren for me.  I kind of think I was preparing for her here in this photo, making room in my growing brain for a friend so loyal that she would do anything for me (and visa versa).

The real-life Jenny Wren and I found each other in Los Angeles in the 1990’s, discovered that we were both from Massachusetts, and recalled that we had once met through the odd world of high school speech team.  We found ourselves thousands of miles from the cobbled lanes of old Boston, wandering among the sushi bars, nail salons, parking lots and palm trees of Hollywood.  Should it surprise you that we clung to each other like Mork and Mindy?

Everyone should have a friend like my Jenny Wren.  She is warm, caring, kind and a great listener.  You can count on her to tell it to you straight.  She will support you to the ends of the earth with her spirited laugh and wide smile.  Imaginative, talented, a great storyteller — my Jenny Wren is so great, she became a successful film writer and director.  She is everything that little girl in the top photo dreamed of in the perfect friend.

Jenny WrenJenny Wren and I have some pretty great plans about growing old together (after our husbands are gone — it happens, you have to plan!)  We will make sure to have plenty of younger friends, so we keep in touch with pop culture.  I will teach her to knit, she will teach me charades.   We will buy audiobooks when our eyes fail.  She is a killer poker player, so we will go on the pro circuit — she will play and I will handle her marketing.  Granny Jenny?  That is ratings gold!  We will eat out, laugh plenty and always hold hands in icy weather.

In case you are wondering what the real Jenny Wren looks like, here is the photo also discovered today that inspired this post.  It’s the day before my wedding, back when Jenny was my “new” friend.  She looks older than she did when we were three, but that is to be expected when you move from imaginary to real.

The real Jenny Wren is now traveling the world with her husband and two kids (you can learn more about her amazing journey on her blog AYeartoThink.com).  While we are miles apart, and in different time zones, she is always in my heart.  In fact, if I miss her, I can reach out my hand and feel hers right there, warm and calm, squeezing me back.

Just like when I was three.

 

 

 

 

Lap of Luxury

January 8, 2013 by Beth Colt

The summer people (those who own houses and visit Woods Hole mostly in the summer) really know how to live — yachts waiting at the end of long deep harbor docks, vegetable gardens brimming with hyper-local fare, rose cutting gardens and tennis courts perched above private beaches.

Martha's Vineyard vacation

Surrounding the charming village of Woods Hole (where the Woods Hole Inn is located) with it’s busy shops and wonderful restaurants are estates, docks and yachts that would put the most status-oriented Hamptonite’s teeth on edge.

But Woods Hole wealth is so low key that you probably have never heard of the families that reside near here, captains of industry who choose to remain anonymous, who cherish their private personas and their hidden invitation-only estates.  Cape Cod has sections where it’s all about status, where public dinners in expensive and impossible-to-get-into restaurants are de rigueur (ahem, Nantucket) but Woods Hole is decidedly not one of them.

Woods Hole people are more impressed with your latest published book, your hike up Kilimanjaro or your Nobel prize than they are with the length of your driveway or the new varnish on your Woody.  (Yes, that is a real Woody waiting to squire this Woods Hole family around Buzzards Bay after dinner.)

Woody waits in Cape Cod driveway.

 

One such prominent Woods Hole clan entertains guests on a series of dark blue power yachts for sunset cruises to Vineyard Haven and Edgartown (harbor towns on nearby Martha’s Vineyard), finally acquiring so many different boats that they bought a local marina in order to dock them all nearby.  Another local grande dame told me, upon touring her house laden with China Trade era antiques: “We don’t buy furniture, we have it.”  The Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey could not have said it better.

 

 

Private beaches on Cape Cod

But keeping it real is part of the game — I have had cocktails on the verandah of a fabulous Penzance Point house only to see it’s occupants headed out of Job Lot the next morning, arms laden with items priced at $1.  Or arrived on the porch of the finest property and shared laughter and deep insights into current events along with stale saltines and watery lemonade.

This must be how the rich get richer, I muse.  I just continue to feel lucky to live amongst the beauty and eccentricity that is Woods Hole — the best kept secret on Cape Cod.

 

map of Cape Cod

 

 

 

 

 

My Summer on Cape Cod

August 17, 2012 by Beth Colt

Summer is always too short, and the days and weeks are as fleeting as signs of the season – beach days, blooming flowers, and warm midday rainstorms come and go as fast as they arrived. My summer in Cape Cod has been too short, but entirely fantastic and memorable.

Living in and becoming apart of the town of Woods Hole has been wonderful. Before my time on the Cape I have always lived in larger cities and I was originally unsure about spending three months in a “small, sleepy” town. However Woods Hole has surprised me again and again and kept me very busy for the last couple of months.

While the list is long, some things I will miss most about living here are,

The smell of the Inn breakfast in the morning and my hot cup of coffee.

Every morning a delicious, gourmet breakfast is prepared in the Woods Hole Inn for the guests and I love starting my day with the warm smells of freshly baked muffins and just brewed coffee. There is something inherently comforting about walking down the stairs to the heartening smells of a hot breakfast.

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Being less than a five-minute bike ride away from the beach.

Coming from landlocked Minnesota, it’s been an extra special treat living near the ocean. I can see it out my bedroom window, smell it when I walk outside and whenever its sunny and I have an hour or two to spare I go for a quick midday swim. I haven’t swum this much in ages and being in the sun almost everyday makes me feel like a kid again.

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The small-town charm of Woods Hole.

Coming from Minneapolis, and having attended large universities both there and in Copenhagen, I’ve never lived somewhere that had the same feeling and atmosphere as Woods Hole. I love that I can go almost anywhere and run into someone that I know. It’s been interesting to feel apart of a community so easily and I’ll miss the sense of familiarity and friendliness that Woods Hole now has for me.

I’ll miss living in Woods Hole, and working at the Woods Hole Inn. It really has become a home away from home for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my perspective on the Cape, and all the wonderful things there are to do, see and try here.

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Thanks for reading and all my best to my friends in Woods Hole,

Megan

Road Race Frenzy

August 12, 2012 by Beth Colt

Early this morning Woods Hole went from a bustling village to a packed-to-the-brim racetrack. Runners, and their family, friends and coaches all came for the 40th Annual New Balance Falmouth Road Race. The dark clouds and rain couldn’t dampen the excited spirit felt this morning. Donning garbage bags and raincoats participants came in droves to take part in the race.

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Over 11,000 runners were present for this seven-mile race beginning in Woods Hole on Water Street and ending in the Falmouth Heights. At its heart the Road Race is a “fun” run, perfect for all ages and skill levels, however there were elite athletes present.

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Watching from the deck of the Woods Hole Inn we were able to see the start of the race, the blur of colors as they ran past and hear the cheer of the crowd. The Road Race really is the event of the summer. Congratulations to all this years participants and especially our own Amanda Benoit who ran this year!

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Guest Post by Megan Jensen

 

A Day with the Whales

August 3, 2012 by Beth Colt

Guest Post by Blogger Megan Jensen

Last week I had the opportunity to go whale watching in Barnstable with Hyannis Whale Watching Cruises. Before coming to Cape Cod, I had heard about all the fantastic marine life off this unique spit of sand. During my first week here I was lucky enough to see Harbor Seals off of Race Point Beach in Provincetown. But I had yet to see any whales, and was excited to take to the high seas like a modern day Herman Melville.

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I got up early in the morning, hoping to catch the earlier of the two daily cruises. Hyannis Whale Watching recommend arriving a least an hour prior to the cruise departure time – and I recommend calling ahead of time concerning availability and precise cruise times.

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After a quick stop at Pie in the Sky for breakfast, I headed to Barnstable for the 9 am cruise (it’s about 50 minute drive from the Woods Hole Inn). Parking is an additional cost to tickets – around $15.00. I recommend arriving early so you can get good seats on the boat (but once the cruise begins everyone moves around and stands up).

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The first hour is informational, as you make your way out of the harbor with stunning views of Sandy Neck Lighthouse and Provincetown.  As you pass Provincetown, you head out towards the Stellwagon Bank National Marine Sanctuary for the whale sightings  – and the real excitement begins.

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I had not anticipated how great, and close, the sightings would be! I recommend sitting at the top (open to those over 18 years) since you can easily see all sides of the boat. We saw tons of Minke and Humpback whales, many with calves cavorting alongside them.  It was amazing to see the whales catch fish and truly beautiful to watch them dive, flip their tails and empty their blowholes.

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I highly recommend taking a whale watching cruise during your visit to Cape Cod.  I was worried it might be touristy, or the whales would be hard to see, but I was very impressed with both the cruise and the staff.  Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses and to dress in layers! The ship has tons of snack and drink options but feel free to bring your own as well.

After whale watching, I stopped by the Cape Cod Beer Micro Brewery that is just down the street for a quick tasting and to pick up a souvenir growler. Other nearby attractions includes the Oldest Wooden Jail in the United States, and the Coast Guard Museum. If you are looking for a bite to eat Osterville Fish Too is right next to the Whale Watching Cruise parking lot. I tried the XL lobster roll and it was delicious!

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I hope you get a chance to spend a day with the whales like I did – it was really unforgettable!

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Sandwich: A Little Town as Great as Its Name

August 1, 2012 by Beth Colt

A guest post by blogger Megan Jensen

If most visitors to Cape Cod are anything like me, then they probably get a kick out of hearing there is town in the area called Sandwich. Looking at a map when I first arrived I had to laugh, and subsequently make a few bad jokes, “I wonder if they have a good BLT,” “that town sounds delicious, and “lett-uce go to Sandwich!”

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When I visited Sandwich I found there was much more to this village than an interesting name – this town is full of great places to visit, explore, spend time outside, shop and grab a sandwich.

Here is what I saw, did, ate…and highly recommend.

1. Visit the Boardwalk

By far my favorite thing about Sandwich is the boardwalk fording Mill Creek across Sandwich harbor. At 1350 feet long, located in the heart of Sandwich this is an attraction you can’t miss. This boardwalk is actually a replacement of the original that was destroyed in the early 1990’s by a hurricane. When walking the boardwalk pay special attention to the engravings on the planks, which helped pay for the new boardwalk. Messages range from heartfelt to funny, to mysterious. You can park in the boardwalk parking lot (10$), but there is also parking available in town (free) and the distance is easily walk-able.

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2. Grab a Bite to Eat

This town has lots of great places to stop and have a meal or just grab a bite to go.

Café Chew – Called Sandwich’s Sandwichery this organic café has delicious and healthy options on their extensive breakfast and lunch menus. Café Chew is more than just sandwiches; they have all your breakfast basics and a good selection of soups and salads as well. I tried “The Bavarian,” and the brie was amazing!

The Marshland – This Bakery/ Restaurant/ Diner has something for everyone and offers great casual dining on the upper cape. The Marshland’s Stuffed Quahog was featured on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” When I stopped by around 2 pm they were still very busy and the woman working at the bakery knew most of the customers by name. She was incredibly friendly and gave me a day – old bakery muffin for free, it was so good!

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The Roost – Located near the boardwalk on the corner of Rt. 6A and Jarves, this café has a wide selection of locally brewed coffee’s as well as sandwiches. I got the special of the day to go and brought it with me to the boardwalk to eat on the beach.

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3. Heritage Museums and Gardens – Beware – you could easily spend an entire day here. “Comprised of three galleries and expansive gardens located in historic Sandwich, Massachusetts” Heritage Museums and Gardens, “includes galleries for American Folk Art, a vintage carousel, automobiles and traveling exhibitions.” This is a great place for families with children to visit, and it has something for all ages. Don’t miss the Hidden Hollow: an outdoor play complex, that was featured as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative. When I visited the special exhibition was on Norman Rockwell. Running until September 3rd, I highly recommend seeing it if you get the chance.

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4. The Glass Museum – This was my first stop when I visited Sandwich and besides the several rooms and exhibits filled with amazing glass works I found this museum to give a detailed account of this historic towns history. It’s interesting how the history of glass works in Sandwich is closely tied to the founding, expansion and economic success of Sandwich. References to many of the great glassmakers can still be seen today, Jarves Street is named after Demming Jarves – the founder and manager of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company. Make sure to see live glass blowing demonstrations every hour on the hour. Also a secret tip, when the glass blower asks for volunteers, raise your hand, you might get a souvenir!

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5. Twin Acres Ice Cream – Don’t forget the ice cream! This local favorite is easy to spot by the crowd usually present outside its serving window. I stopped for ginger ice cream and it was delicious!

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6. Jarves Street – Located near the Sandwich Boardwalk and intersecting 6A this street has several cute shops, café’s and is a great place to park and relax.

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7. Burgress House – When in Sandwich stop by the Burgress House, the home of the author of the famous Peter Rabbit Tales. Thornton W. Burgress grew up and lived in Sandwich and his stories focus on the wildlife he loved around him. “Over 170 books and 15,000 stories by Burgess chronicle the tales of Peter Rabbit and his animal friends, including Jimmy Skunk, Grandfather Frog, Johnny Chuck, Sammy Jay, Reddy Fox, Hooty Owl and many others.”

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Don’t miss these upcoming events at the Burgress House:

August 4:   BLUEBERRY FESTIVAL 

August 15:  PETER RABBIT’S ANIMAL DAY 

This is the route I drove from the Woods Hole Inn to Sandwich. Enjoy!

Eight fun things to do in Oak Bluffs

July 20, 2012 by Beth Colt

Hot days in July sometimes cause sudden thunderstorms.

This week was hot, hot like life on the proverbial tin roof, so I lit out for the open air of the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, hoping to catch a little wind on the way, and see the sights in Oak Bluffs.  I have been to the Vineyard many times before, but never explored every nook and cranny of this hip little island town, so here — after an afternoon of beating the streets  — are my favorite to things to do in Oak Bluffs:

1. Hunt for a Souvenir.

Island life is filled with long dusk walks, ice cream cones and trips to the beach.

From Soft as a Grape to Menemsha Blues to the Black Dog, there is a t-shirt for everyone on the main strip which is called Circuit Avenue.  I wandered into the Black Dog and admired their fluffy sweatshirts with the ubiquitous large retriever.  Tip for shoppers: While there appears to be a Black Dog on every corner, the “outlet” store sells much of the same stuff at a discount in a small shop down by the marina called the Dockside Premium Outlet.

2. Go Upscale.

Oak Bluffs now has a Vineyard Vines.

Since the Vineyard was discovered by the masses in the last decade or so (much to the chagrin of the folks who have loved it for centuries), the shopping has gone upscale, especially in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven.  But even rough and tumble Oak Bluffs now has a Vineyard Vines, so don’t miss this wonderful shop painted navy and hot pink at the end of Circuit Avenue.

3. Eat an  Ice Cream.

Ice Cream on Martha's Vineyard.

Do not leave OB without an ice cream cone.  Mad Martha’s, Ben and Bill’s —  doesn’t matter much which place you choose, you will be sure to leave with that blissed out, I-am-on-vacation-and-I-just consumed-three-days-worth-of sugar smile.

4.  Visit the Gingerbread Cottages

Illumination Night is a famous time to visit this incredible neighborhood.Just behind Circuit Ave sits the neighborhood known as the “Gingerbread Cottages.”  This incredible collection of brightly-painted Victorian summer cottages was originally a Methodist campgrounds but is now on the National Register of Historic Places and is a cherished spot for visitors and residents alike.  Stroll back in time on the tiny pedestrian streets, their yards cluttered with day lillies and porches jammed with Kennedy rockers painted every color of the rainbow.

5.  Grab an iced coffee.

A visit from the Woods Hole Inn to Oak Bluffs for the day.

Plenty of choice here for the quintessential frosty coffee crammed with ice.  I went with decaf and lots of milk, and the cup in my hand kept me cool for several extra blocks of exploration.

6. Ride the Flying Horses.

Near the ferry terminal in Oak Bluffs is a 100 year old carousel.

This 100+ year old carousel is just as charming as it looks in photos.  You will see it immediately as you get off the ferry in OB, and be sure to wait for a ride — it’s worth it!

7.  The Beach.

You don't have to go far to find the beach on Martha's Vineyard.Is there anything better than a beach right next to a ferry terminal?  The Jersey Shore has nothing on this, with calm waters, a waterfront park and the shops a stone’s throw from the sand.  Feeling ambitious?  Rent a bike and ride towards Edgartown.  You will come upon the “Jaws” bridge — with kids jumping off the causeway into the tidal currents below just like they did 30+ years ago in the movie.

8.  Ride the ferry home to Woods Hole.

Ferries leave about hourly all summer long between Martha's Vineyard and Woods Hole.Nothing better at the end of a full day of sightseeing than flopping into an ocean-view seat for the cool ferry ride home.  Watch the gulls circle above the deck and feel the southwesterly breeze on your face.  Well-earned relaxation at it’s very finest.

Home from a long day in Oak Bluffs, happy to be back in Woods Hole.

Seven Great Things to Do Around Buzzards Bay

July 17, 2012 by Beth Colt

Guest Post from blogger Megan Jensen

My favorite part of being an intern here at the Woods Hole Inn is the opportunity it gives me to explore Woods Hole and Cape Cod. So when I found out part of my job was to take weekly driving tours and write about what I saw and did, I was ecstatic!

Last week I took my first driving tour along the coast from Woods Hole to the Bourne Bridge. I started at the Inn early in the morning on a hot and sunny day, and drove up along the coast to the Bourne Bridge. It’s a fun and easy drive, with lots of great places to stop, for both locals and those coming from out of town.

Here is what I saw, did, ate…and highly recommend.

1. Visit the Knob

Just a few minutes drive from the Woods Hole Inn, the Knob offers a great short walk and beautiful views of the water and harbor. There is free parking available near the knob, on Quissett Harbor Road. The path is easy to find and the small conserved forest offers two trails, both ending up at the end of the “knob.” I recommend taking the right hand path, it will take you through the forest and along the water – offering great views, sunshine and an optional stop at a small beach. At the end of the path are benches where you can sit, relax and look out onto the water.Image

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2. Stop and grab breakfast or lunch at the West Falmouth Market

As you continue your drive along the coast stop at West Falmouth Market for food, drinks and anything else you might need. When I got there it was nearly noon and very busy. They have a fresh deli – where you can choose one of their signature sandwiches or you can make your own. You can also order pizza to go. They have all the picnic essentials – coals for the grill, paper plates, and a good selection of beer. When I stopped I also grabbed a tempting looking muffin – all their bakery items are homemade each morning!

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3. If it’s a beach day head for Monument Beach

Driving along the coast I passed by popular beaches with steep parking signs (20 -30$) and crowed shorelines. While Chapoquoit and Old Silver are great beaches, I recommend continuing north into Bourne and stopping at Monument Beach. When driving north it will be on your left, and can be easy to miss. Parking is free along the side of the road, and the beach is just across the railroad tracks. There is parking if you have a beach sticker, and there are also public restrooms and an outdoor shower. I loved swimming in the peaceful harbor, and the beach is great for all ages!

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4. If it’s not a beach day stop and explore the Little Bay Walking Trails

These walking trails are a great way to spend an afternoon. Found alongside Shore Road in Bourne (before you get to the beach) there is a small area to park your car and take a walk in the woods. There is a map located at the beginning of the trails.

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5. Grab dinner at the Lobster Trap

Only one mile north of Monument Beach this restaurant is a great place to eat after a day at the beach. Lots of parking and indoor and outdoor seating – this casual seafood restaurant has something for everyone. Next door to the restaurant is a fresh seafood shop where you also have the option of buying your own food and cooking it at home, or at the beach. I got a stuffed Quahog to go, and am in love. Being from the Midwest I’ve never tried this before and loved eating my meal off of a shell.

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6. Drive across the Bourne Bridge

The last destination on my drive was to drive across the Bourne Bridge. I’ve always thought it was fun to drive across bridges (maybe a Minnesota thing?) and this one is really great. The bridge is huge and the views of the Cape Cod Canal are awesome. I also love driving back onto the cape and seeing the “Cape Cod” bushes welcoming me!

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7. On the way home stop for ice cream at Somerset Creamery

This can be done at anytime during the drive. Located in Cataumet off of Route 28A, this is a good stop on your way out or back home. The ice cream is delicious and there are a ton of flavors to choose from. I opted for the waffle cone (they are homemade and have ingenious no-drip bottoms) with ginger flavored ice cream.

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This was a great drive and can take as little or long as you would like. I suggest following the coastal roads for a better view and more places to stop along the way. Route 28A is a quick alternative however, and each stop is easy to navigate to from the main road.

This is the route I took Woods Hole Inn to Bourne Bridge.

A Cape Cod Summer

July 11, 2012 by Beth Colt

from Guest Blogger  Megan Jensen

Loving my summer in Woods Hole...

Every summer prior to this one has been a Midwest summer – long days filled with senseless humidity, mosquitos, lakeside bar-b-cues, and countless county fairs.

When I loaded up my car three weeks ago and drove across the country from Minneapolis to Cape Cod I had no idea what to expect of the summer to come.

I’ve traveled all across the US, and having just returned from a year abroad in Denmark, I was excited to once again pack up my bags and explore somewhere new.

Being on the east coast and particularly the Cape has been very different, surprising and refreshing from what I grew up with.

When I had heard about this internship from former intern Caroline Matthews, who I met while studying PR and Design abroad in Copenhagen, I knew very little about Cape Cod. I imagined Woods Hole — which sounded like a storybook village — would be a quiet, sleepy town.

However, when I got to the Cape I knew I had made the right choice. Far from sleepy, Woods Hole is a busy place with plenty to do. Filled with restaurants, an active harbor and a friendly local community – Woods Hole knows how to keep you busy.

Most mornings I wake up early to the sounds of the ships in the harbor. Walk outside my front door and the ocean is there, the smell of the sea and a beautiful view of the water.

I’ve come to love Woods Hole and feel at home here – I can’t walk down Main Street or go out for dinner without running into someone I know.

I don’t miss being landlocked at all, and the beaches here are perfect for swimming day and night. When I’m not working, one of my favorite things is to hop on one of the inn’s beach cruisers and bike to nearby Nobska or Stoney beach or take a small cruise on the Shining Sea Bike Path.

I’m looking forward to what the rest of the summer will bring and hope to share some of my experiences, discoveries and “Midwest” take on the Cape with you.

Cape Cod getaways start in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Loving life and lobster barley-pops on the Fourth of July in Woods Hole.

Glamour and answering the phone are all in a days work for Megan Jensen, the Woods Hole Inn's summer intern.

All in a day’s work for Girl Friday Megan Jensen, behind the scenes at the Woods Hole Inn.

Woods Hole's Great Harbor, across the street from the Woods Hole Inn.

The Big House on Wings Neck

April 2, 2012 by Beth Colt

Atkinson House written about in "The Big House" by George Colt.

I often get asked if I am related to the family in “The Big House” which is a memoir of life on Cape Cod written by George Colt.  The short answer is yes.  Mary Forbes Atkinson Colt was my grandmother, and George is my first cousin.  The central tension of the wonderful book is what will happen to the house, and (spoiler alert!) the great news is that it remained in my family, purchased from my grandmother’s estate by one of my first cousins.

The house was is a state of advanced disrepair when that transition happened, more than ten years ago now.  My cousin Forbes and her husband David totally renovated the place.  There are many parallels to their process and my purchase of the Woods Hole Inn, not the least of which is the vast amount of work that was needed to bring the structure up to modern building code.  Packed with family and friends all summer, I’m sure they sometimes feel like they are running a B&B.

The house is sited in the most wonderful spot on Wings Neck with incredible views of Buzzards Bay.  The porch looks over Bassett’s Island; my grandmother called it the verandah.  She also pronounced Miami “Mee-ahhmee” and made mayonnaise three syllables (“my-on-aisse”) in a vaguely french manner with a dramatic sss at the end.  She and my grandfather dressed in black tie every night for dinner, although by the time I came along this garb from another era was rather tattered, and I had a childish hunch that they were actors in a play I didn’t quite understand.   Think Arthur Miller and you have insights that you will learn more about in George’s excellent memoir.

One of the best things about moving to Cape Cod last year was that my father’s older sister Ellen was living at the Big House.  I would drive out on Sundays to visit her, and she would fill me with stories about her parents, her life, her childhood on Wings Neck.  She remembered my father as a toddler,  all blonde curls and little boy giggles, lolling like a puppy in her mother’s bed.

Aunt Ellen was more bookish, she told me, and sometimes felt as if she did not fit in with the other four athletic siblings. She loved playing the harp, and came of age as a teenager in the middle of World War II.  Her nineteen-year-old  brother Harry was missing in action for over six weeks, during which time they all thought he was dead, but he miraculously returned from the war unscathed.  I can only imagine her life as a young person in such tumultuous times.

Ellen battled cancer for 20+ years, and the rumors of her demise had been unfounded for so long, I came to feel she would be with me forever.  Even her wonderful nurses seemed prepared to be with her out on the Neck for the rest of time.

Sadly, my Aunt Ellen died in the spring of 2011.  How lucky I decided to come to the Cape when I did!   I was so blessed to get a winter’s worth of visits before she wandered up to join my Dad.  At her service, the most poignant moment was her son’s description of the nurses bathing her in ocean water so she could fall asleep with the tight feeling of salt on her skin as she had done in childhood.

So that is the short answer, and in classic Colt fashion, it’s a decent story but it’s not very short:)  If you want more about the Big House, you can see my previous post on this subject here.

Follow my blog for more musings on big houses, Cape Cod and my life on the edge of the world by clicking the RSS feed button on the upper right of this page.  Or check out my Facebook page where I post news and photos of life on Cape Cod year round.

Steady Pressure

March 8, 2012 by Beth Colt

Buffy Colt walking in Woods Hole.

My mother should write a self-help book.  With over 30 years logged as a kindergarten teacher, she has lots of great advice. My husband quoted her in our local paper this week and I have received a few calls and emails saying that her words inspired them.  She has certainly inspired me over the years, so I am going to share some of her wisdom.

Steady Pressure.  This is a central tenet of my mother’s philosophy.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, buried under a pile of obligations and work, do not despair!  Tomorrow is another day, and if you just apply steady pressure to your goals you will, like the hundreds of students my mother taught over the years, eventually learn to read, or climb Mt. Kilamanjaro, or get your inn open in time for the summer season.  Insert your problem here: __________.  Now apply steady pressure.  (Ping me in a few months and let’s see how this maxim is working for you, it’s a powerful one.)

Life is a series of sorting and collating exercises.  This gem has a lot of meaning for me.  Remember the simple sorting skills you mastered in kindergarten?   Place all the red apples in the bin with others,  move the oranges to the basket with their friends, place the bananas in another spot.  Put your coat on the coat hook with all the other children’s coats.  Keep your boots on the mat by the front door.  These exercises bring order to that first collaborative work experience (yes, I mean your kindergarten classroom) and help you start thinking about math.  But your adult work flow can be thought of exactly the same way.  Match like with like and you simplify, bring order, establish rules and systems.  Get in a rhythm, find the patterns and then refer to step one (apply steady pressure:).  At the very least, you will always know where your snow boots are.

Share the sandbox.  If you are always stealing the shovel from others, you will be isolated, lonely and bored when the other children stop playing with you.  If you were lucky and you had my mother in kindergarten, you were gently cajoled away from this, and coaxed into more civilized attitude.  Sadly, many people missed this key lesson.  The result, in it’s adult form, is hard to watch — angry, greedy and alone, these are the people who we all love to hate.  They are the staple of reality television.  To them I say, we are still here waiting to share the sandbox with you, so come on in and try again.

A Rising Tide Floats All Boats.  The slowest learner in the classroom is helped by the fastest, and buoyed along by the general skills of the group.  In my mother’s kindergarten, this meant working in groups, completing ambitious projects where everyone worked together.  To mix metaphors, think of it like tennis — you always play better with a better partner.  In business, this means you make your business the best it can be and you help your competitors improve as well.  The better you are together, the more will keep coming your way.  I certainly see this in Woods Hole, and not only out in Great Harbor where the boats all move together with the relentless tides.

Find the Farmyard.  My mother grew up on a farm, and as a teacher she developed what she called her “farm curriculum.”  She focused on the seasons, taught the kids all about farm life, even brought a baby lamb to school for a few weeks each spring during lambing season.  The benefits of this were huge.  The kids were enthralled with the information, and left her classroom with a knowledge that never gets covered in the years beyond.  Now her instincts are so in vogue!  At the Woods Hole Inn and the Quicks Hole restaurant, we are part of the “farm-to-table” movement, and because of my mother I never feel out-of-place when I visit the farms from which we source our incredible pea-green sprouts, our arugula and our fresh hot peppers.  It’s not too late for you to learn all about your local farmer; if you visit Cape Cod, the Coonamessett Farm right here in Falmouth is a great place to start.

Don’t Hold a Grudge.  You are the sum of your grudges, and they will only bring despair and unhappiness.  In kindergarten, the children were brought together, each holding my mother’s hand, crying and shouting at each other until they fully vented their feelings.  There may be no real resolution to their real feelings of hurt and betrayal, but waiting until they express, apologize (sometimes:) and it blows over kept the whole classroom open, vibrant and warm.  How great would it be if we could still do this as adults?  But the conventions of society shackle us in this effort, so take this to heart — work hard on your own feelings to air and move on from petty grievances with employees, customers and your competitors.  It leaves so much more open space for happiness, clear thinking and good work.  The benefits will be felt by all, but mostly by you.

My debt to my incredible mother inspired this, and I hope she will not mind my posting the lovely photo I took of her this weekend.  And now a few shots of Woods Hole, some from the walk we took on Sunday and others on my peregrinations later in the week…

Martha's Vineyard ferry passes Nobska Beach in winter.Ferry crossing from Martha’s Vineyard back to Woods Hole, as seen off of a wintery Nobska Beach…

One of my favorite houses on Gosnold Road.A wonderful house out on Bar Neck Road where it meets Gosnold.  Love the Cape light on broad shingles…

One of my favorite houses on Church Street, all decked out for Christmas.

One of my favorite houses in Woods Hole, on Church Street, still all decked out for Christmas…Lonely bike on the edge of the Eel Pond in Woods Hole. A lonely bike waiting in the edge of the Eel Pond reminds me of Ireland.

I never thought I would finish this blog post, but I used my mother’s advice, applied steady pressure, and look at me now!

Found Objects

December 1, 2011 by Beth Colt

Glowery day at the WH drawbridge in late November, 2011

I have been thinking quite a bit about the people who built the Woods Hole Inn back in the 1870’s.  They looked out over the same harbor, probably more big ships in it than now, but for sure ferry service plying Vineyard Sound in the same brisk and predictable fashion.  Like us, I imagine that they were happy with the way fall seems to never end on Cape Cod, enjoying the brisk wind that whistles up past the inn on sunny days and bemoaning the rain when it slowed them down.   Only about 140 years ago, these guys worked entirely with hand-tools — the grandparents of our grandparents.

So the renovation of the top two floors of the Woods Hole Inn moves relentlessly onward.  With each passing day, with every dormer rebuilt or ceiling gutted, we find clues about the people who came before us, the hardy souls who also lived here on the edge of the world.

Yesterday, a shingle was discovered.  Every chance this would have been tossed without a glance, but Bruce (one of the framing crew) noticed and nabbed it before it went to the dumpster.  Since we have no idea the exact year the building was built, this is a pretty huge clue — hard to imagine they would have re-shingled so soon, so I am going to guess August 11, 1887 is the completion date.

Shingle from restoration of the Woods Hole Inn.

I can’t wait to show this to my new friends at the Woods Hole Museum.  Other treasures emerged in the last few weeks.  One is a large piece of upholstered furniture, maybe the side of a chaise someone planned to repair?  I need to share this with Skinner to see if it has any “significance” then decide what the heck to do with it!

I particularly like this letter, part of it devoured by a nineteenth century mouse.  From what I can make out it is a super top secret, highly confidential sales pitch from a pencil vendor offering pencils at an excellent price — The Long Pencil Company of Chicago Illinois writing to Mr. Briggs (a former owner), dated September 11, 1894.  Long before email and Google Ad Words…

Another interesting scrap of newspaper was salvageable and dates from the Boston Globe in the late 1800’s:

And another interesting fragment — and we found many of these in the rafters along with the strong smell of fish as the wood was cut out:

I love that mackerel is a specialty and my clever friend Nick made me laugh by suggesting that “Stillman was easier to deal with than Griffin.”  I suspect the third floor of the inn may have been used by a wholesaler of salt-fish and he kept his labels in the attic.  He may even have stored or cured fish up there, as the smell was really strong when the beams were cut out.

And so the clues leave us with more questions than answers, but they are fascinating.  All of the building crew — from the plumber to the electrician to the framers — have gotten into the hunt.  I will let you know if we find more, and you can come next summer to see the highlights on display in the lobby of the Inn.  Here is the whole letter, in closing, in case you can make out more of it than I could.  Perhaps someone more accustomed to this old style of writing could write a translation into the comments?

Letter from pencil company 1894.

The Roof Comes Off…

November 21, 2011 by Beth Colt

Work continues at the Inn at a breakneck pace, as both my contractor and I are eager to get the place sealed up before the real cold socks in.  The Marvin custom windows take longer than you might think  — now they are saying early December.  Ergh.  But everything else seems to be going well, knock wood.  The weather has obliged, it is still a balmy 50 degrees in the daytime here.  Days are getting shorter and work starts early and finishes at dusk.

The views from the upper floors continue to astound me.  Last week the floors were still open allowing a two story view of the place:

Then in an instant (it seemed) down went the third floor, plus new stairs were installed.  I wasn’t keen on balancing the rafters like the boys, but now I can walk up there.  The structural engineer came by and liked the solid feeling that comes from all this re-enforcement.  “Stiff” he called it, while bouncing a bit on the new plywood.  I guess that’s good.

Today was a bit of a shocker as I arrived mid-morning to the roof open to the sky.   The front dormers had shed roofs added incorrectly decades ago.  No wonder the windows eventually blew out — the structure was totally compromised by hacking the roof rafters.  It had to be completely rebuilt to come up to code.  I guess the good news is that despite the expense, this part of the building will be like new.   OK, not just like new.  Actually ALL new.

It was a bit glower-y and at one point it started to sprinkle, but thankfully the weather report was accurate and there was no real rain.  By late in the afternoon, thanks to a hard-working framing crew, the roof was starting to come back together.  I love the way these guys work in concert, moving around and cooperating with so much grace.  I guess they study the architectural drawings the night before so that there is no time wasted on site.  They have a plan.  Best of all, they seem to always be smiling.  There is a joy in the work, singing and laughing.  I can feel it in the finished product.

And while our crew scurried around on our  little ant-hill, the ferries came and went carrying people to the Vineyard, many of whom didn’t notice that say, the roof is gone from that building over there.  Across the street at the coffee shop, they were serving lattes to customers who heard a bang but had no idea that a room up there was totally exposed to the harbor.   In the laboratories of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (aka “WHOI”) right next door, same thing.  Even my husband, back at his desk, totally unaware.  We are all in our own little worlds… Micro-climates…  Fishbowls…

This blog is about me sharing my small fishbowl with you:)  Happy Thanksgiving!  May your weekend be filled with the joy of a new roof successfully installed on a New England fall day.

Preparing for Irene

August 26, 2011 by Beth Colt

Woods Hole's "Eel Pond" the day before the day before...

We are preparing for Hurricane Irene.  Will she pass with a whimper like last year’s Earl, or rumble through roaring like Bob or Carol, or the dreaded Hurricane of 1938 that decimated this coast so many years ago that only octogenarians remember.

Doesn’t much matter because no one can actually see into the future (even those hurricane trackers) to tell us where the eye of the storm will pass.  And so we must go through the same rituals every season, all the stuff up from the basement in case it floods, sandbags at the doors, boats out of the water, flashlights, gasoline, duct tape, spare water, tubs filled, canned goods at the ready.

I went to Eastman’s Hardware and stocked up.  What a place!  A real, old-fashioned hardware store with knowledgeable staff and plenty of the supplies you need.  I filled the gas can and tested the generator.  Jeremy moved all the porch furniture into the basement and tied down what was too heavy to move.  We put batteries in all the flashlights and took down the flag.

The only thing missing is chewing gum, playing cards and a ball of twine:)

And so we are ready.   And then we wait.  I wandered out onto the street to compare notes with other business owners — have I thought of everything?  Is there more I can do?  I thought of the early settlers, and the Native Americans who survived on this narrow peninsula for generations without doppler radar and the constant barrage of media warning to prepare prepare prepare.  Perhaps some of them came to be able to feel the low pressure systems in their bones, or noticed how the birds get very quiet.

But on a sunny hot day like today, it’s really hard to imagine that a huge storm is coming.  And easy to think that people were caught unprepared before modern tracking and the relentless clack clack of the TV’s StormWatch!.  I guess that makes us lucky, but sometimes the anticipation is worse than the storm.

For real time pictures and news, follow my FaceBook feed at “Woods Hole Inn.”  As long as the cell sites are operating, I will be posting up to the minute news and information.  After the dust settles….

Eel Pond at 7 am this morning when I started my day.

Blueberry Zen

July 22, 2011 by Beth Colt

Coonamessett Farm on a summer's day.

Thursdays are pick-up day at Coonamessett Farm’s CSA (community supported agriculture) where I have already paid for my “share” of farm fresh veggies, flowers and fruit.  It also happens to be the day I stock up on Sippewissett Oysters (a local harvest that is a side project of Coonmessett) for the Quicks Hole restaurant, so if you want to see me in summer, you will find me over there like clockwork.

The CSA started distributing a few weeks ago and as you can imagine, summer is a little errr, can we say BUSY, for me so I have not yet had time to head out into the fields to pick my own berries as offered each week.  Yesterday when I left Woods Hole it was foggy and cold — hard to believe in the middle of what the papers are calling the first heatwave of the summer.  Seven miles inland on the rolling acres of the farm, the sun was shining and it was warm — not too hot, just perfect.

So I said, check-in be damned, I am picking some berries!  I donned a wrist band, grabbed a bucket and headed into the blueberry patch.  Surrounded by a light mesh fence, you enter through a screen door and then you are in a maze, rows and rows and rows of six to seven foot high bushes heavy with berries, many still green but the bright blue ones popping out at you like fireflies on a dusky night.  I quickly walked to the back corner to find more berries and feel alone, then worked my way backwards towards the gate.

The berries are at eye level and easy to pick.

It was the most zen hour of my week.  Alone, deep in these lush bushes, looking for berries, my thoughts erased to nothing more than reach, pick, cradle, dump.  The satisfying plunk of the plump berry in the bottom of the bucket, the steady breeze bending the trees in waves, while I reached higher for the one at the very top, the wind taunting me by pushing the largest cluster away.   A meditation on nothing more than a simple task.  My purse hanging from my arm like a vestige of some long forgotten suburban life, my feet shuffling among the fallen leaves and compost, I felt like a different person, maybe a farm girl from another century or a field worker like the ones you see in a blur while driving on the California freeways.

My bucket full and my head miraculously emptied of the everyday worries, I wandered out and gathered the other veggies — a bag of fresh kale, five spring onions still clumped with soil, parsley, summer squash, fresh flowers and more.  Still in a blueberry haze, I drove home with the windows down enjoying the way my hair blows into a huge fuzz ball with the humidity.

The haul from this week's CSA.

I paused on the lawn to snap this picture.  Another indulgence!  Get back to work, the little voice on my shoulder was shouting — but I can not shake off the clear headed feeling of the blueberry patch.  I linger.  I snap a few more of the berries on the kitchen counter and the flowers in that little blue vase I found at the Rose Bowl on another zen day many years ago.  Blueberry Zen.

Then back to work at the inn, prepping tomorrow’s banana bread pudding and welcoming guests as they check in for the weekend.  Yes, our blueberry muffins are very special this weekend — I picked the berries myself!

Locavores who want to recreate my zen blueberry experience will be pleased to know that Coonmessett is open to visitors as well, so drive on over to pick your own bucket before heading back to reality.

Musings from the Midwest

July 15, 2011 by Beth Colt

This dispatch by Casey Manning, a wonderful writer who is here with us for the summer:

“There’s something internal that breeds in those who grow up in landlocked states — something that fascinates them about water. For those who age watching blurred cornfields out of passenger windows, it’s hard to fathom the expanse of endless blue that must exist along the far-reaching coasts. For those who can’t claim a single acquaintance with a boating license, the term “lost at sea,” etched here in so many memorial park benches and aging gravestones, is both haunting and intangible.

And so when I arrived in Woods Hole mere weeks ago, Ohio born and raised, I was equally fascinated and slightly unsettled by the ever-presence of water at every turn. A cool evening spent on the bike path lent countless bodies of ponds, bogs, and marshes new meaning to what I had always clumped together easily as “lakes.”

And when, on a jog along that same path, tempting dark-clouded faith to get in a tempo run for my Falmouth Road Race training, it started to rain, something pulled me off the paved path and toward a beach. I sat mesmerized in the downpour for what felt like hours by the monstrous churning of the ocean and the dissolving of sea and sky. Like many things of terrible beauty, what sparkles on the surface merely hints at what immeasurable force and incomprehensible fervor lies beneath.

I’ve spent countless summers sunning myself on pool decks, relishing the first hint of chlorine smell on my skin and knowing won’t fade until September, splashing around in hopes that my pre-teen crush will notice, and flying past the ever-present “NO RUNNING SIGNS” that I never failed to disobey. And by the age I could stand on my tippy toes in the deep end, I thought I had conquered water in its most magical, otherworldly-blue form.

But an infinite ocean, like the myth concerning Eskimos and their words for snow, lends its reveler countless new definitions of the shade we call blue. My first summer defined on a scale, variably hued.

When I talk to friends back home (who are just as amazed as I that I’ve found myself on Cape Cod for the summer), the first thing they never fail to ask is if I’ve been to the beach.

“Of course!” I respond, giddily detailing minutes walks, breezy bike rides, and quick ferries to beach after beach after beach.

But I know what they envision — white sand and sparkling water under a bountifully blazing sun — and it no longer matches my own mind’s painted scene. For now my Midwestern sensibilities can appreciate not only the postcard-perfect calm of an ocean moment frozen in time, but the live, vicious churning that can surround; teasing to pull me in and never let go so that I too could dare to become a shade of blue.”

–Casey Manning, Cape Cod Summer 2011

Red Chair Diaries

June 18, 2011 by Beth Colt

The first red chair photo, January 2011

Becoming an innkeeper is a curious transition that starts with worrying about all the little details (do we have enough toilet paper?  Is the boiler working?) and eventually transforms to a place where the small interactions with one’s guests can make or break a year.  On that front, 2011 is a very good year.

Thus begins the tale of the red chair.  We moved to Woods Hole last year and made numerous trips to the swap shop (a wonderful institution at the town dump where you can drop off or pick up gently used stuff) and one day we found these two painted red wooden chairs.  Pretty solid, I said to my husband.  Yes, perfect for our new porch, he mused.  So into the trunk they went, paint peeling a bit, dirt crusted in the corners but a nice solid color, definitely worth cleaning up.

Six months later, in January, the small pond behind our house froze.   We decided to go skating one afternoon.   I grabbed one of the red chairs to help the kids get their skates on.  It was glowery and cold, with the light threatening to turn to actual darkness.  The pond was grey, silent, ringed with houses many of them dark in winter.  I stamped my feet to keep warm, listening to the skates whisk across the ice.  Cold and too dark now, I hustled the kids inside for dinner.  As we cleared the gear, I looked back and noticed we had forgotten the red chair.  There is sat, alone on the pond.  I snapped it’s portrait with my handy iPhone.

Later that evening, I posted the picture on Facebook as part of my photo project (“365″ – I attempt a new picture every day).  The image of the red chair ignited my FB friends and fans — I have never received as many comments.  People wanted copies of the photo, poster size.  I explained that this picture was taken on my iPhone in low light — unlikely to look very good blown up beyond 5×7.

One day in March, I received an email from a prospective guest from Santa Barbara.  She was coming to Boston to see her boyfriend and they were looking for a good place to stay.  She had seen my photos of Woods Hole on Facebook and wanted to come to the Woods Hole Inn because Woods Hole looked so beautiful (which it is, BTW).  Wow, I thought, all the way from the west coast…it really is a small online world.  She booked the room.  As we got close to the date, she emailed again.  She was a photographer, she said, and she loved my picture with the red chair.  Could she borrow it over the weekend for a photo shoot?

Well, I have to admit my first reaction was, huh? Now that is an unusual request!  That’s MY chair.   Then I remembered the swap shop.  This is not my chair at all, it is a chair passing through my life and I need to share it, I reasoned.  It is meant to be shared.   I loaded the chair up in my Prius, drove it over and parked it on the front porch of the Inn.

The red chair comes to the Woods Hole Inn, March 2011.

We had a family obligation that weekend and I left the Inn in the hands of my very competent staff.  When I came back, on Monday, the chair was still on the porch and I asked — did our guest use the chair?  Oh, I told her where it was and I think she did.  Well, did she say anything about it?  Nope, said she had a good time, that was it.  Hmmm, not very satisfying after hauling the chair across town but I brought it home and forgot about it.

About a month later, the red chair guest emailed asking for our address.  She had taken a picture with the chair and wanted to send me a copy.  She said the red chair had opened a whole new place in her work and she wanted to thank me.  I emailed back that she could just send me a digital file or post it on Facebook but she said no, she had something to send me.

Turns out our red chair guest is a professional nature photographer.  And a really good one at that.

About two weeks later a huge package arrived — what is this, I thought, what have I ordered now?  I opened the package, and there was the most incredible shot of Nobska Beach in winter, with the red chair out on the beach before the crashing waves.   I was literally breathless looking at this image, tears welled.  It was such a simple composition, both the chair and the beach so familiar to me and yet a totally fresh and new juxtaposition.  The winter waves crashing toward the grey sand.  The snow fence perfectly framing it, inviting me in.  Breathtaking.

I carried it around the inn like a teenage girl with a Justin Bieber autograph.  Look at this!  This came from our guest!  Can you believe it #@*?!!   It’s the red chair!  I put it right up in a prominent place by our guest water cooler.  I put a little sign next to it with the photographer’s website.   I emailed her a love note of appreciation.

Red chair on Nobska Beach in winter now hangs in the front room of the Woods Hole Inn.

So now, whenever I pass this picture, I think about the dialogue we have with our guests.  Sometimes it’s as simple as can I have another towel, or where is the best place for dinner tonight?  Or repetitious, yes the Martha’s Vineyard ferry is right across the street.  Or even disappointing,  as when someone is tired or grumpy.

But this dialogue always involves the give and take between real people who come to the inn with the rich back stories of whole and interesting lives.  It reminds me that we mostly scratch the surface when there are oceans of personality, talent, life experience floating underneath the rote interactions (here is your room key, breakfast is served between 8 and 10, the parking lot is right behind the building).  I wonder if we added questions like, what is your favorite color, what does the ocean mean to you and have you ever read Sartre? —  would we learn more or just scare people?  Probably the latter.

For me, the metaphor of the red chair is the invitation to come explore yourself in a quiet and beautiful place.  It is an open seat at the table of relaxation.  It is the beckoning hand of civilization, marking the edge of the wildness of nature where you can lose and find yourself at the same time.  It is the dialogue between artists and innkeepers, dreamers and shop-girls, lost travelers and those that welcome them into warm beds.  We are all – on some level — lovers of destination, landscape, color.

What does the red chair mean to you?

To read an update on this story, check out this post.

Skating with the red chair, January 2011.

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