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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Heritage Museums & Gardens Rhododendrons are in Bloom

Rhododendrons at Heritage Museums and GardensOne of the most stunning events of the season at Heritage Museums & Gardens is the Rhododendron Festival with the blooming of their 10,000 rhododendrons from late May to early June. This occurrence is breathtaking in the sheer volume and numbers of these bushes. What is so exciting is the uniqueness of some of the colors and varieties. Dexter Rhododendron garden at Heritage Museums and Gardens

Charles Owen Dexter once owned the farm that is now Heritage Museums & Gardens. His life-long love of gardening led him to hybridizing rhododendrons. He raised thousands of these beautiful plants around the property that he, with the help of a landscape architect, had turned into a country estate. He was able to produce plants with heavier foliage and larger blossoms of superior color. He produced thousands of seedlings annually and was very generous in sharing them free of charge with nurseries, other horticultural gardens, friends, and acquaintances. The Dexter rhododendrons are among some of the best in the region.

Path and pink rhododendronsThe Heritage grounds are covered with rhododendrons but there is an area devoted to the Dexter rhododendrons. When you purchase your ticket to tour the gardens and museums, you can get a map showing where this area is.

Magnolias outdoor cafe at Heritage with diners under a tent and a sign.
Magnolia Cafe
On a recent beautiful and sunny afternoon, we donned our walking shoes, grabbed the camera, andheaded up the hill from out bed and breakfast to Heritage Museums & Gardens to see the rhodies. We have a membership to the gardens and have been there many times, but have never made it to see the rhododendrons in full blossom. I also had promised Charlie that, if he would go with me to see the rhodies, I would go with him, again, to see the concept card exhibit in the auto museum at Heritage. The truth is, I really wanted to see the car exhibit again and he enjoyed the walk around the gardens.

After a lovely walk, we stopped off at Magnolias, the outdoor cafe on the grounds, for a brownie
sundae. What a treat.

We hope you come to Sandwich this year and take the opportunity to visit this crown jewel of Cape Cod. If the rhodies aren't blooming, something else beautiful will be. Stay at our bed and breakfast and choose our "Sandwich by the See Summer Fun" package, we include tickets to Heritage Museums & Gardens.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cape Cod Artists Shanties Return to Hyannis Seaport

Each year we look forward to the arrival of warm weather to Cape Cod. With it comes the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities. On a recent warm Sunday afternoon, we headed down to Hyannis Harbor to check out the HYArts artist shanties that are situated along the boardwalk on the waterfront.

The small houses that are referred to as art shanties are moved to their seasonal location on the harbor in May. Artisans throughout the Cape are invited to submit an application to show their work for a specific period of time during the season. For this reason, any time you visit the area, there are likely to be different artists displaying their work. There is always something new to see, and everything is for sale. Painters working in acrylics, oils, watercolors, and pastels will be represented. There are photographers, jewelers, potters, wood carvers, fiber artists and artisans working in other mediums represented.

During our Sunday visit, we had the good fortune to come upon Laurie Goldman and Mudlark Pottery. I was immediately drawn to her lovely pottery because it reflects the beauty of the marshes and beaches of the Cape. Her work is heavily influenced by her background in whale research as a nature writer. I especially liked her mermaid series.

Laurie Goldman of Mudlark Pottery
Laurie has recently published a book entitled Into The Field Guide - A Walk on the Beach. It is a wonderful guide to all things ocean and dunes. Although the books focus is on educating young people about the natural environment of the beaches, I loved it so much that I purchased a copy on the spot to keep in our little library at the inn. I think our guests will thoroughly enjoy it and it will be helpful to them in their beachcombing while they are visiting Cape Cod. This charming book is available on Amazon and is a great gift for anyone. Laurie occupies one of the HyArts artist shanties on weekends during the spring and fall.

The park where this unique art colony is located offers stunning views of the harbor and is
Photo showing the walkway through the artist shanties on Hyannis Harbor.
surrounded by a number of seafood restaurants. Most of them have outside seating during the warmer months. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. There is ample paid parking available throughout the area.

The shanties are currently open on weekends from 11am until 5pm. Beginning June 28th, 2013, they
will be open seven days a week from 11am until 8pm through the month of August. They will also be
open during the month of September from 1-5 pm.

The HyArts Shanties are made possible each season through the generous support of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Hyannis Main Street The HyArts Shanties are made possible each season through the generous support of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District, the Arts Foundations of Cape Cod, the Cape Cod Chamber, and the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod.

While you are visiting Cape Cod, be sure to stop by the harbor and check out some wonderful local art and if you are there during a weekend in May and June, look for Laurie.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cape Cod Melody Tents' 2013 Season

One of our favorite summer season outings is a trip to the Cape Cod Melody Tent to enjoy a live musical performance. There is simply no better way to experience a concert than at this venue. For over 60 years, some of the best performers in the world have graced the stage here. This theater is one of the few outdoor theaters-in-the-round still in existence. The intimate setting has attracted patrons and performers to this venue for decades. With no seat more than 50 feet from the stage, every concert attendee is assured a great experience.

The 2013 season performances will begin with a concert by REO Speedwagon on Friday, June 21st. Other performers appearing this season are Chicago on Friday, June 28th; a double header with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs on Saturday, July 6th; Lyle Lovett on Sunday, July 7th; the great Melissa Etheridge on Thursday, July 11th; The Doobie Brothers on Saturday, July 13th; jazz trumpeter Chris Botti on Friday, August 2nd; American Idol Winner and country music star Scotty McCreery on Friday, August 9th; and Lynryd Skynyrd on Friday, August 16th.

On Saturday, August 24th and Sunday, August 25th, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons will be performing. This is my personal, all-time favorite group. Such memories their music elicits for me. I grew up listening and dancing to such tunes as "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Walk Like a Man", and "Sherry". We were fortunate to attend their performance a couple of years ago and it was indescribable. The energy under the tent was palpable. I don't think we sat during the entire show. So many people there knew all the words to all of their music, as did I, and we sang along. It was one of the most amazing and memorable concerts I have attended anywhere. The theater production "Jersey Boys" has introduced a new generation of fans to this great music.

The 2013 season at the Melody Tent will come to a close this year on Friday, August 30th with a performance by none other than Huey Lewis & The News. Their appearance is part of their 30th Anniversary Tour.

A complete list of performers with concert dates and times is available on the Melody Tent website. If you are visiting Cape Cod this summer, attending a performance at the Melody Tent is something you will always remember. It is unlikely you will ever have this kind of concert experience again. Tickets are available online from their website.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cape Cod Restaurant Week 2013 Has Arrived

For one week each year, restaurants throughout Cape Cod offer three to four course dinners at special prices. The 2013 Restaurant Week runs from Monday, May 13th through Sunday, May 19th and is a wonderful opportunity for diners to try new restaurants or just visit an old faithful. Participating restaurants have designed prix fixe menus that are at $25, $30, or $35 dollars plus tax and gratuity. The choices in cuisine include Mexican, Brazilian, Italian, French, Mediterranean, and American.

You may want to participate in the Cape Cod Restaurant Week photo contest. After you have chosen a restaurant, order one of the items from their prix fixe menu and when it arrives, snap a photo. Information about the contest and how to participate is posted on the Restaurant Week website. This website lists the participating restaurants with information about each one and in some cases gives their prix fixe menu.

Some restaurants are offering special items along with their dinners. The Black Cat in Hyannis includes a glass of wine. Alberto's Ristorante, also in Hyannis, is including a bottle of wine with their dinner or you can choose your own bottle from their wine list at a reduced price. The restaurant 400 East in Harwich is offering a complimentary bottle of wine with dinner for two. The Cape Sea Grille in Harwich Port is extending their special to a few specific dates after Restaurant Week. Call them or check online for these additional dates and times. The Dolphin Restaurant in Barnstable Village is including a glass of house red or white with their special dinners.

A complete list of participating restaurants and a map featuring their locations is available online to help you in planning your Cape Cod Restaurant Week visits. Be sure to call and make your reservations early to insure that you get a table at the places of your choice. What a great way to try something new and possibly find your next favorite place to dine on Cape Cod.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hiking in Wellfleet on Cape Cod

Marconi Beach, Wellfleet, MA
 The weather this time of the year on Cape Cod is perfect for hiking. On a recent sunny day, we decided to go for an outing down Cape. As Wellfleet is one of our favorite places to visit, we thought we would stop by the beach, maybe take a short hike, and then have lunch at one of our favorite restaurants there.

Wellfleet is about a 45 minute drive from our bed and breakfast in Sandwich. In late April, when the traffic is very light, we made it in a little less time. That is the wonderful thing about visiting Cape Cod in the spring, there is not a lot of traffic on the roads and no long lines in restaurants.

Our first stop was Marconi Beach which is located on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Cape. Off Route 6, you turn right at the sign for the Marconi Station Site. Be careful to watch for cyclists as the bike trail crosses this road just after you make the turn. Follow the road to the end where there is plenty of public parking.

This beautiful public beach is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. It is named for Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, who in 1903 orchestrated the first wireless communication between England and the United States from this area. This time of the year the beach is nearly deserted except for a hearty few like ourselves. The view from the top of the cliffs is stunning. Recent winter storms have really taken their toll on the beaches of Cape Cod, both the Atlantic beaches and the Cape Cod Bay beaches. Here, the stairway down to the beach was severely damaged and is currently barricaded to prevent access. Repairs are scheduled to be completed by the beginning of the summer season.

Next we headed to the place that was the intent of our trip, the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp hiking trail. The entrance to the trail is back down the road towards Route 6. From this direction, and just before the bike trail crossing, you turn right and travel past the National Seashore Headquarters to the parking area. The hiking trail begins at the parking lot. This is an easy 1.2 mile trail and perfect for a first hike of the season. You may want to wear a hat and use some bug spray if you are visiting in the summer. There are mosquitoes and ticks in the area.

This is a difficult area for vegetation but behind the dunes flourish golden beach heather, broom crowberry, and bear oak, and the pitch pine that is so common here on the Cape. What is so uncommon in New England and on Cape Cod is the white cedar that you will see once you arrive at the swamp area.

Pathway to the White Cedar Swamp
The first part of the trail flows downward, but not at a difficult pitch, as you make your way to the swamp. Not to fear, once you get there you will follow a meandering walkway that has been constructed so that your feet will remain dry and the vegetation will not be disturbed. Once inside the swamp where there is more moisture, you are likely to see checkerberry, mayflower, and some wild sarsaparilla, all of which love the acidic soil created by decaying leaves and other organic matter. You will feel the temperature drop slightly and the humidity rise as you descend into the swamp. The white cedars grow in the water of the pools that are scattered throughout.

Follow the walkway to the other side of the swamp where you will enter the pathway back to the parking area. This path is slightly elevated but not a difficult hike. Before you leave the area, wander  across the parking lot and take the walkway up to the  observation deck. The view of the beach in both directions is spectacular.

Come visit us at our bed and breakfast and we will provide you with information that will help you in your exploration of Cape Cod.

I am your Innkeeper, part-time chef, and artist in residence at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts