A day trip to the Outer Cape this week is significantly differently than one in prime tourist season. No, there were no half-naked people shopping or musicians in nooks and crannies…but it was, nonetheless, a satisfying jaunt.
The drive from Falmouth to P’town took only 80 minutes—no traffic. We got a parking space easily, just off Commercial Street. Needless to say, there were no crowds.
Most stores were closed for the season, so instead of looking for merchandise, I scoped out the architecture, the sky and the sea. What went unnoticed amongst the throngs had a chance to be in the February spotlight.
The beaches were empty, quiet and peaceful. The reflecting light was addictive. It’s time like this I wish I could paint. While hunting for an open restaurant, we stumbled upon two fabulous garage door paintings… too bad we don’t have a garage at the Cape!
Who cares about finding a restaurant when you find these two beauties?
The homes of all year residents stood out with winter window boxes, icy wreaths and recycling/trash tied in neat bundles, almost like presents. Tradesmen trucks were abundant as off-season renovations were underway. It was very, very quiet.
Our next stop was Marconi Station and the Great Atlantic Cedar Swamp in Wellfleet. This is one of our all time favorites during the warmer months, and we had never been there in winter. It was sound asleep, and trees sounded like old bones creaking.
The wind had a sharp, cold edge, and the crashing waves left a white ruffle as far as the eye could see down the shoreline. A brisk walk ended up being very brisk and very short. My face hurt from the cold.
The scenic route home found us meandering on Route 6A instead of the more trafficked highway. There was time to scout out the geography as well as local commerce. One previously overlooked gem in Yarmouth Port is Parnassus Book Service, a large, used bookstore, staffed by very smart, well-read folks. More than sixty years ago, the building had been a general store; now, it’s stacked from floor to decorative ceiling with the most eclectic selection of titles.
Neither my husband nor myself could figure out how these books were organized, but that really didn’t matter. To be in the presence of all these pages was a gift. We bought two books: Louise Hall Tharp’s Mrs. Jack (a biography of Isabella Stewart Gardner) and The Great Rehearsal by Carl Van Doren(The story of the making and ratifying of the Constitution of the United States). When I’m in a unique store that’s new to me, I always ask, “What should I not leave without buying here today?” I do this in cheese shops, wine and yarns stores and am seldom disappointed. These were the two books I was told I had to get— I’ll start them next week. I’ll go back to Parnassus again and again and again. What a find!
Hunger finally set in as it neared 2 pm. We passed restaurant called “The Optimist Café”—my kind of place—but with no cars in the parking lot, I turned pessimist.
Then we found two cafes open in Barnstable. One was a fancier restaurant with more than its share of upscale cars in the lot. The other was The Blue Plate Diner. The diner was friendly, the menu was tempting, service was terrific, and I just wish I had room for the homemade blueberry pie. I’m so glad that we stopped there.
I guess this trip taught me that slowing down and having less to distract me has its advantages. This same route in July would have yielded a very different experience. Both have merit and both are needed. It’s sort of a ying/yang rhythm that keeps one in balance. I can’t wait to see it all again in the Spring.