Cape Cod Winter Weekend
Copyright © Judith Shaw
We’ve just come back from a weekend on Cape Cod that had a lot of firsts: It was our first mini-vacation with our grown daughter; our first visit to Wellfleet on the outer Cape; our first foray into AirBnb, and our first little holiday with our dogs, Tilly and Luther.
Let me take it one piece at a time. I’ve been on a trip with Jess, an adventure vacation swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean. She’d been there before and knew what to do, so I just followed her lead. I didn’t do so well with the swimming part, but the dolphins and daughter were terrific.
Anyway, this trip was different. Ron was with us, and so were the dogs. No physical prowess was required, just walking on the beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore and drowning in the amazing beauty, peace and quiet of Wellfleet.
In mid-December the outer Cape is dead. Beaches that in summer swarm with water babies are deserted, and we walked for hours without seeing another human face. We saw plenty of non-human faces. Harbor seals playing in the surf lined up beyond the little break to stare at us. I don’t know what they found so interesting, but stare they did, for as long as we stood there watching them watch us.
Jessica’s plan is to buy a property to rent out during the summer and use for herself nine months of the year. “It’s my favorite place in the world!” is her theme song and, after seeing Wellfleet, I can understand why.
Seals are the only marine mammals on view in winter, but from spring through fall, whales gather in the sea off Provincetown. I can’t wait to welcome them back to Cape Cod from the Provincetown point.
Finding a place to stay was my first foray into the world of AirBnb. As first-time guests we needed a Verified ID to prove we were who we said we were, but we passed the test (whew!), clicked the “Submit” button and were confirmed as legitimate.
Our choice was a three-bedroom house on a secluded wooded block close to town and beaches. We messaged back and forth with Josh, our host, who said yes, the dogs were welcome, and he’d send us all the info we needed to get in and manage the house.
A gracious, well-loved multi-generational home, the house was better than its AirBnB description. It was comfortably furnished, lots of books and music, and a kitchen with everything we might need to cook anything we could imagine. I especially liked the doorframe with children’s heights penciled in. Our host’s height was last recorded when he was twelve years old.
Although the Cape Cod tourist season was more than over, we’d been assured that local restaurants would be open for business. Not so. Our choice boiled down to two toxic-looking pizza parlors and a bakery that only served breakfast.
Fortunately Wellfleet Center has a well-stocked-with-interesting-stuff grocery store, so on our first night, totally ready for a hot meal, we bought the makings of pasta and a serious salad. The smoked salmon I’d brought as a possible breakfast delight made a satisfactory start to a very satisfying meal.
We cooked and dined in every day and, aside from a toaster that only toasted bread on one side, the meals were all we could wish for. Pancakes and eggs for breakfast, leftover pasta transmuted into pasta salad for lunch, good cheese and even better crackers, and succulent roasted chicken. Perfect. I discovered a line of vegetables roasted in olive oil that livened up our Spartan dinners. Cippolini onions, asparagus, and roasted tomatoes.
The dogs were a stitch. They settled in quickly and moved on to a game of musical beds. Tilly in Luther’s bed was easy. Luther in Tilly’s, not so much.
Luther’s been to the ocean often, but this was Tilly’s first time. The waves terrified her. To us they looked small and harmless but, remember, Tilly’s eyes are only about six inches above the ground.
When the first wave broke over her feet, she just stood on the sand and trembled. In a few minutes she had it doped out and seemed to know, by listening, how far up the sand each wave would come. Then she could decide whether or not to get wet feet.
As well as the beach walks, there were raised paths through Wellfleet’s salt marshes. Beautiful, but haunting.
People used to live there until the land became unstable and the houses had to be moved. On Cape Cod you don’t move to another house. You move the house.
We spent our last Cape Cod evening in Provincetown, where the Mayflower made landfall in 1620. The Pilgrims chose to settle in Plymouth instead, but many “firsts”—such as the Europeans’ first encounter with Indians and the signing of the Mayflower Compact—happened in Provincetown.
The main street is lined with meticulously restored Victorian houses, most with shops, galleries and wonderful restaurants on the ground floor. One advantage of seeing the town in December is that you can actually see it. During the summer, sidewalks (and sometimes the streets) are so crowded it’s hard to see anything.
Our last day on the beach. A flock of parasails slowly drifted past, courtesy of onshore breezes blowing against the dunes.
As I watched them, the bare outline—maybe only the premise—of a murder mystery snuck into my mind. I wrote down what I could of the plot and put it at the end of the queue. I’ll have to live to be a hundred to write all the books on my list.