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Category Archives: Musings

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.

Twitteratti at WoHo Tweetup

May 15, 2011 by Beth Colt

Silver Stills entertains a standing room only crowd at Quicks Hole (@QuicksHole) on Friday night.

I will be the first to admit…a few months ago I did not really “get” Twitter.  What was that crazy feed of posts and who were all these people posting?  What was with the “#’s” all over the place and why were people so comfortable with the outrageous statement?  It all seemed totally crazy to me.

Then, I got hooked.  Hooked on the chance to cross all social and geopolitical boundaries to find people with like interests — like the thousands who adore “#CapeCod” many of whom might visit just once, or come only once a year.  Hooked on the connections I made with real Cape Codders,  twitter moms, foodies, locavores and news junkies who were living their lives in quiet obscurity just like me.

Last month, I decided to cross an invisible boundary and organize a tweetup.   A tweetup is an opportunity for people on Twitter to meet each other face-to-face, to turn anonymous social media relationships into real friendships.  Since Twitter is populated with early adopters, many of whom (like me!) live for social connections with others, the opportunity to deepen that relationship by putting a face to the funny series of 140 character tweets that you have come to admire is enticing.   Add free lobster crostini at Quicks Hole on the first warm Friday in spring, intriguing.  Silver Still (fabulous local folk duo) playing on the water-view deck with no cover?  Sold!

I will admit that I fretted — will anyone come?  I tweeted and tweeted like a veritable red breasted robin in springtime in hopes of getting the word out.  I re-tweeted the clever posts of my new found #capecod friends.  I created a hashtag to mark my tweets, #wohotweetup, and entered a dialogue with several other twitterers who were committed to coming to the event.  I got name tags at Staples, checked on the lobster crostini, double checked the free wifi in the restaurant and then I waited for the party to start.

My first sangria at the Quicks Hole tweetup.

What a pleasant surprise awaited me.  Tweeps from Hyannis mingling with Twerps from Martha’s Vineyard as the sun set over Woods Hole harbor and the Cape Cod draft beer flowed from the tap in pitchers…  Incredible.   See, despite all the people who pass through here, Woods Hole is not thought of by Cape Codders as a destination.  I mean, for people to drive from Centerville or take the ferry back from Martha’s Vineyard for a pitcher of beer and a great sunset…well it is unusual because each of those places has its own incredible decks from which you can enjoy the very same sunset.

There were some highlights.  I met Paula @CapeProducer who organizes the annual “Geek Girl Camp” and recently did a great job re-launching the Falmouth Bed and Breakfast Association website.   I met Todd and Beth Marcus (@CapeCodBeer), Alecia Lebeda (@AleciaLebeda) the mind behind the magic of FCTV, Jason Peringer, the sassiest massage therapist on Martha’s Vineyard (@MVmassage) and Mike Nunez (@mike_nunez) a cool guy who commutes onto MV.

Tweetup conversation can get a little technical and ahh, OK… geeky.  Mike and Alicia had a long conversation about bar code scanners and then mixed it up a little as they compete against each other as the “Mayor” of the Bourne Bridge on FourSquare.  These are advanced topics.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, don’t worry, you will soon enough.  I am just glad I got to be there to witness all the fun.  Thanks to the crew at Quicks Hole for making it happen and giving us such a great spot to hang out.   Comments below encouraged — if you give me your twitter name you will get a personal invitation from me for the next one…  And if you are coming to the Woods Hole Inn on a Friday afternoon, look forward to more hangouts at Quicks Hole all summer long.

@CapeCodBeer with @CapePruducer at the #WoHotweetup May 13, 2011.

@AleciaLebeda and @Mike_Nunez battle over Mayorship of the Bourne Bridge!

@Mike_Nunes, @MVMassage and @AleciaLebeda hang at Quicks Hole tweetup.

Gotta love those pitchers of @CapeCodBeer!

Did you say #FREE lobster crostini? Only for the twitterati:)

Afternoon light rakes across @QuicksHole as “Silver Stills” plays us into the warm spring evening.

Spring is Around the Corner

March 18, 2011 by Beth Colt

Spring is coming to Woods Hole

I know it’s getting warmer because I have forgotten to put my slippers on three mornings in a row.  Now, when it’s really cold outside, my kitchen floor feels like ice and there is just no way that I can “forget” the slippers that wait under the radiator for me with their soft lambswool lining.  I went out yesterday with no scarf or hat.  And the time change means its light until well after 6 pm.  So, it’s coming, my dear friend called spring.  Maybe not here yet, but soon.

Yesterday was gorgeous, sunny calm no wind, and all of a sudden the streets of Woods Hole came alive with people.  St. Patricks Day green was observed on many, and the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Black Dog was packed with business owners and new friends.

I took another photo walk this week, and here are my spring-is-around-the-corner photos:

Secret beach, with public access looks gorgeous even on a chilly day.

Witch Hazel (NOT Forsythia as originally stated) starting to bloom near the pond. This morning there was a tiny frost but it has recovered.

Winter Walks

January 17, 2011 by Beth Colt

 

Woods Hole Inn guests Douglas and Mary enjoy a quiet moment at the end of the jetty on Stoney Beach.

It’s been cold here — oh yeah, it’s winter — but we still give our walking tour of Woods Hole in whatever kind of weather, because Woods Hole is dramatically beautiful 24/365.

Douglas and Mary came up from NYC for a four day getaway.  They took me up on my offer to see the “secret spots of Woods Hole” and we wandered out the front door of the Woods Hole Inn on a sunny morning to explore.  I took them down Water Street, over the drawbridge and past Woods Hole harbor.  I told them all about the history of this little village at the edge of the sea, about the whalers, how the harbor was especially protected like Nantucket’s, the clearing of all the trees up the hill for building ships, the way sheep used to graze everywhere, the coming of the railroad and the industrial age here, then the arrival of scientists from Harvard and the importance of the industry of science to the last 100 years, and finally the development of tony Penzance Point and the turn to a luxurious summer retreat at the edge of the world.

We walked up Bar Neck Road and peered at the Penzance guard gate and the manicured (even in winter!) hedgerows of the mansions out there.  Then we walked to Stoney Beach where Douglas and Mary walked out the jetty, gazed out at Buzzards Bay and embraced.  It was such a romantic spot, I snapped the photo above then quickly turned away to give them a little privacy.  Standing out on that rocky jetty, thrust into the ocean so calm, it looked as if they fell into a magical spell, bathed in the spotted light of the water with the positive ions of the ocean’s atmosphere washing over them.  I defy you to not feel relaxed in this sublime spot.

It was especially clear and I was able to show them the windmills of Falmouth and the railroad bridge over the Canal at the top of the Bay.  In the other direction, you could see to New Bedford and imagine the joy of a fisherman heading out to sea on a calm day like this one.

We continued up Gardiner Road and peeked in at the hidden beaches, then up the hill on Buzzards Bay Avenue, densely wooded now and more for houses than grazing sheep two centuries later.  Back on School Street, we paused at our third view of the Eel Pond where a man was rowing a boat through the ice — crunch, crunch — to get to the gammed houseboats frozen together in their protected spot by the shore.  We stopped at the Woods Hole schoolhouse and reflected briefly on the storied history of science as well as the instincts of this village to preserve this old building.

When I left Douglas and Mary back at the Inn, I gave them a copy of Susan Witzell’s charming “Walking Tours of Woods Hole” for further study.  I imagined them poring over it back in their room — or perhaps just taking a well-deserved nap.

Douglas and Mary, guests of the Inn, on our winter walking tour.

Views to the Eel Pond on our winter walking tour, winter 2010-11.

We watched a man crunch his rowboat through the ice on the Eel Pond to get to the houseboats. I learned later he was one of the caretakers. Note the submerged boat to the right of the houseboat cluster -- that will be a project come spring!

The Woods Hole school house is now used as a preschool and in summer, houses the Children's School of Science, an amazing program that has existed here for 100 years.

One of many posts from guest blogger Caroline Matthews

July 1, 2010 by Beth Colt

Summer in Woods Hole.  Long evenings where the light lingers past 9 p.m.  Steady ocean breeze from the Southwest.  Cocktails on the stern of a wooden boat in seersucker suits and floppy hats.  That’s what it looked like to me from the glossy magazines.

I am excited to share my many adventures with you as I wander in and around Woods Hole.

In my 22 years of relentless travel, somehow I had never made it to this corner of the world.  I’m from Texas and like to explore with not much more than a backpack, a Lonely Planet guide and my Nikon D80.

Needless to say, I jumped at an offer to come to Woods Hole for the summer and explore.  They told me they needed “marketing advice” which is fine since I just earned a BA in PR and journalism.  But what I really came for is the chance to do a little more urban archeology:  What makes this place tick?  Why do people return here year after year?  What is the real Cape Cod?

In my first week I spent a majority of my time wandered the village of Woods Hole.  Two words: absolutely stunning. There’s a surplus of great seafood just waiting for a dash of cocktail sauce. The people are so unbelievably friendly— I certainly have made a friend for life with one of the locals who grew up North of here in Chatham.

Literally only a stones throw from the inn, Stoney Beach provides some of the best sunset views in the area. It never seems to be crowded once the darkness pours in over the horizon-- perfect for peaceful reflection.

My favorite thing to do so far is to borrow a bike and head down to Stoney Beach for some amazing sun set shots.  Nothing makes me happier than to feel the weight of my camera in my left hand as the shutter closes in and out.  In a blink of a second, I’ve got it— a moment that I will remember forever.

Even though Woods Hole is technically a village, there certainly isn’t anything sleepy about it.  The nightlife is great. There’s awesome live music almost every night and tons of people to meet, even out on the streets.  The ferry horns sometimes get me right up at 7 a.m., but I certainly don’t mind.  It just means I start my day with a swim and a bike ride.  There’s just nothing like that.

I may only be here for six weeks, but I look forward to sharing my perspective with you.

Brangelina come to the Woods Hole Inn

May 26, 2010 by Beth Colt

Justin Bieber eat my dust:)

Are you ready for your close up?

Just like producing a movie, at the Woods Hole Inn we are crafting great vacations, one customer at a time.  Every movie begins with a great script and the Woods Hole Inn is no different — our script calls for us to make you feel pampered and welcome the minute you walk in the door.

I started my career in Hollywood, managing a group of actors and producing a few movies.  I don’t want to make my career sound too glamorous because it wasn’t — thousands of people like me toil behind the scenes as part of the grist that turns the Hollywood mill.  But I did learn a thing or two about star treatment that I use everyday in running the Woods Hole Inn.

I like to welcome guests the way I would welcome the star of my film onto set the first day — smiles, warmth and plenty of free bottled water.  I like to clean the rooms imagining that Oprah and her entourage might walk in later tonight.   I like to train staff to show off their knowledge of the local scene as if they were job interviewing for locations manager on “Jaws.”   I hope breakfast comes out feeling “Like Water for Chocolate”  and your pillow top reminds you of James Bond.

These are hard things to achieve and we don’t always get there.  Has there been a bad day when the electrician made a mess right before check-in, the phone rang too many times to answer and a guest waited at the front desk feeling more like Rita Wilson than Tom Hanks?  Yes.  Now you know why Bruce Willis throws temper tantrums in his trailer when the coffee is cold — even on a movie set with a staff of hundreds, mistakes happen.  So we apologize and try again.  Most of our customers are much, much more amenable than Bruce (visit the inn and I’ll share a few hair curlers for you).

In any case, nothing makes us happier than getting it right and I want to quote an email we received last night, because I think we succeeded in making this couple feel like Brangelina:

“My wife and I just finished a three day stay at the Inn and I can’t stop talking about it to anyone who will listen. From the second we walked through the door at 28 Water Street the warmth we were greeted by, yourself and the Inn, captured our hearts forever. I cannot say enough about the cleanliness of the room and the efficiency of the staff.

We have stayed in Woods Hole before, but by far the location of the Inn is far more noteworthy than any other places we have stayed. We found it a complete luxury to drop our car off with the valet and not have to think about getting around for the rest of our stay. The area restaurants and attractions all within walking distances on the scenic main strip of Woods Hole, as well as Quicks Hole located in the same building.  Talk about convenience.  Not to mention the activities you planned and executed for us (ferry tickets waiting for us, wine chilled in our room, walking tour of Woods Hole, massages at Bellezza Day Spa) all completely flawless in their delivery. The things you said were going to be done, were done.

How can I write our happiness with the Inn with out mentioning Sara the Breakfast Queen. I can’t express to you enough what a pleasure it was to wake up at our leisure, walk down the hall, open the breakfast room door to find the smell of freshly brewed coffee, homemade breakfast treats, and Sara’s smiling face. To say the breakfast she prepared for us each morning was delicious would be an insult. The word just doesn’t do enough credit to her skill. We especially liked the Linguiça and Asparagus bread pudding. I can still taste its’ warm flavorful goodness.

We have spent the last few days figuring out excuses for us to return to the Inn and believe us it’s not hard, if we could come every weekend we would!  Again, Thank You for all of the wonderful memories we were able to take with us in celebrating our 5th year of marriage. We hope to see you soon!”  — guest from Worcester, Mass.

I feel like Sally Field’s did in her famous Oscar speech  — “You like me, you really like me!”  We live for this kind of feedback, and I am grateful to my tremendous staff for another star turn.

And when Brad and Angelina actually arrive?  We are ready for you.

The Big House

February 13, 2010 by Beth Colt

Cover art for George Colt's memorable memoir about 100 years in the life of a Cape Cod summer house.

Author George Colt (“The Big House”) will be speaking in Falmouth on March 1st.  He is staying at the Woods Hole Inn that night and has offered to breakfast with guests and sign copies of his wonderful Cape Cod memoir over our gourmet coffee and chef Sara’s sweet delights.

George is my first cousin and the characters who inhabit his book are my family.  The now-famous “big house” out on Wings Neck belonged to my grandmother Mary Forbes Atkinson.  And it is my father who (along with George’s father) once dominated the tennis scene there, my Aunt Mary who taught the young Colt boys to fish, my Aunt Sandy who died so young of cancer that she left a baby boy who grew up as my defacto brother.  See, it’s close stuff.

Having a memoir-ist in the family is a scary proposition — will we like how we are described? — but George supplies such insight, affection and humor that I found his book touching, revealing and a wonderful page-turner (and I know the ending!).   I look forward to my boys being old enough to read it.  They will laugh and cry along with the countless others who have enjoyed the book, all the while learning more about than I can possibly remember to tell them about our eccentric family.

So consider coming by  the Woods Hole Inn on a cold day in March.  I like to think of the Inn as a new kind of “Big House” where book lovers can wake from a restful sleep and then congregate over the kind of gourmet breakfast that my grandfather used to make (without his habit of using every pot and pan in the kitchen).  We keep spares of George’s book around so if you can’t come in March, feel free to come later and extend your stay to finish it.  It really is a great read.

George Colt lecture and reading at 7 pm March 1, 2010 at Falmouth Academy.  Breakfast with George on Tuesday March 2nd at the Inn approx 8  – 9 am.  Interested locals also welcome for coffee and a bite, just call us so we will have enough pound cake for you:)

Sippewissett Pound Cake with blackberries served at the Woods Hole Inn.

POST SCRIPT – This post is so popular!   Many people have asked me what the Big House looks like now.  I visit it regularly to pay respects to my Aunts Ellen and Mary who are often there.  So here is a glimpse of the renovated house, saved from the wrecking ball by my lovely first cousin and her husband.  Still the steep roof and the commanding views of the Bay, with all the charm of my grandparents and less eel grass insulation and mice:)

The Big House on Wings Neck as she is now.

Memento Vivere

October 12, 2009 by Beth Colt

Memento Vivere…Remember to Live.

“Memento Vivere” was tattooed on the arm of a friend who died unexpectedly last month.  Like he was trying to send a posthumous message to the rest of us… And so it was I embraced the carpe diem of it all and wandered off the beaten path this week in Woods Hole.

Ahh, the fall weather on Cape Cod is so unbelievably sweet.  I walked in the full moonlight around on Harbor Hill Road and back into town at School Street.  It was about 10 pm on a quiet Monday night and once I was on Harbor Hill I did not see a person or a car until a got back into town.  The crickets were singing to me, moonlight filtered through the leaves and a soft warm breeze followed.  Magical, zen, very in the moment.

Jon Kabat-Zinn lives in Woods Hole, with his family, and if you have read any of his books (“Full Catastrophe Living” or “Wherever You Go, There You Are”) you will recognize the splendor in a moment like that one.

So I share a few fall photos of Woods Hole.   This is from the Great Harbor where the ferries pass daily to the Vineyard, looking back across the water at our little town.  Windy day, but not cold yet.

The Woods Hole Passage, they call it, and it is one of the most treacherous crossings on the eastern seaboard — currents of 4-5 knots pull industrial sized buoys sideways at peak tides and the narrow channel is peppered with rocks the size of small islands.  A boat a day goes on the rocks here in the summer and there is a Coast Guard station around the corner to service all the rescues needed.  Through these waters pass huge yachts, old wooden racing boats called “Twelve Footers” and “Knockabouts,” Hinckley picnic boats daytripping to Quicks Hole and fishing boats of all shapes and sizes following the striped bass and bluefish.

And this is Hadley Harbor in the off season.  A short boat ride from Woods Hole, through the Woods Hole Passage, any local charter fisherman can take you there.  Empty and undeveloped, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Memento Vivere.

Woods Hole = Harvard Square of Cape Cod

September 2, 2009 by Beth Colt


So, I guess I am not the only one who thinks the academic buildings of Woods Hole make the whole place feel a little like Cambridge on Cape Cod. And frankly, since I often refer to Cambridge as “utopia,” when you mix utopia with great beaches and the positive ions of the ocean air, I guess you get…um… nirvana?

Harvard professor Louis Agassiz was an important force in the development of the Marine Biological Laboratory back in the 1880s. And along with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, there have been countless Harvard grads living and working here for the last 125 years. The MBL is billed as the oldest private laboratory in the country and it is famous for serendipitious scientific encounters such as the meeting of Franklin Stahl and Matthew Messelsen which resulted in the first replications of DNA. And lots of other cool stuff like that including all the research for Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”

There are two or three Nobel prize winners living right in this little fishing village. So if you are into science, walking around here is like being on the red carpet at the science Academy Awards: “Look, there’s Brad Pitt, err … I mean Osamu Shimomura. He’s married to Angelina Jolie, I mean … He won the Nobel for harnessing the natural power of luminescence found in jellyfish.”

Follow this link to the journalist who claims, “I like to think of Woods Hole, in Falmouth, as the Harvard Square of Cape Cod.” She has a number of nice photos there too.

But remember, the “nirvana” you may experience with those positive ions, the great beaches and our wonderful ocean views is not really science. To me, it’s more like art.

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