A traveler’s home is her stuff

Today, I was hanging out in my kitchen when my roommate, Alex, came home after going on a hike with our friend Megan. As only roommates can do (because no one else cares enough to listen), we began chatting about the most minute details of our day.

“I hadn’t seen Megan since before I got back from vacation (about one week ago),” Alex said. “And, of course, even though I put it in my bag, I forgot to give her the bracelet I got her.”

I told her how much that drove me nuts too. I hate having other people’s stuff in my house, I hate it when people leave things behind and, of course, I hate leaving my own things behind.

I like knowing that everything I need can fit in this backpack.
I like knowing that everything I need can fit in this backpack.

Continue reading “A traveler’s home is her stuff”

New passport, same me

The average person has several coveted milestones in their life – the prom. The graduation. The first job. The wedding. The baby. For those who travel, there is also another important milestone – the first time that they must get a new passport.

Since I got my passport when I was 16 years old rather than 15, I narrowly missed the five-year-renewal mark, and instead, I got to keep my horrifying passport photo for an extra five years, leaving airport security to seriously question my identity when they saw a photographed face slightly similar to mine, only much more pimply, braced and skinny (thankfully).

However, upon my return from my trip to San Juan in early March, I knew it was time – with a bit more than six months left on my current passport, it was time to renew.

Continue reading “New passport, same me”

Lowcountry goes luxe at Palmetto Bluff

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com

With some of the best beaches in the country, combined with a laid-back, classic Lowcountry vibe, it’s no surprise that 2.5 million sun-hungry visitors flock to Hilton Head Island every year.

What many of these tourists don’t realize, however, is that there is a much friendlier and alluring hidden gem of a town less than 10 miles away.

Bluffton, South Carolina, on the banks of the May River, is filled with pre-Civil War homes, ancestral churches, locally owned restaurants and one resort community that has been rolling in praise while remaining understated.

Many resort communities have an aura of tackiness, filled with obnoxious colors, loud music and crowds. However, the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage resort, which contains an inn, cottages, cottage suites, vacation homes, a church, restaurants and a plethora of outdoor life bounded by the May, Cooper and New rivers, sets itself apart in a reposition of functioning as its own village.

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Winding, quiet streets in a centuries-old maritime forest filled with live oaks and red cedars, the classic Southern homes in the Inn at Palmetto Bluff operate as a neighborhood with amenities and activities.

Palmetto Bluff certainly hasn’t gone without recognition. It was ranked in 2014 as the No. 1 hotel in South Carolina and No. 2 in the country by the U.S. News and World Report, as well as Conde Nast Traveler’s No. 1 resort in the U.S. and No. 11 resort in the world in 2013, among many other awards.

The accommodations, which feature touches such as vaulted ceilings, fireplaces and verandas with views of the surrounding Lowcountry, are priced from $1 million to $3 million for purchase and from $425 for a cottage stay that sleeps four to $1,170 a night for a village home stay that sleeps eight for rent.

Although this does price out many visitors, you don’t need to be a Palmetto Bluff guest to enjoy some of the resort features.

The accomodation at Palmetto Bluff include an inn, cottages, cottage suites and vacation homes. (Photo: Courtesy of the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage Resort)
The accomodation at Palmetto Bluff include an inn, cottages, cottage suites and vacation homes. (Photo: Courtesy of the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage Resort)

Buffalo’s, a corner café open for breakfast and lunch across from the community chapel in Wilson Village, sits parallel to the May River, with a menu offering salads, sandwiches, pastries and bar items.

Other restaurants in the community include RT’s Market, a neighborhood general store, and the River House Restaurant, a farm-fresh eatery with a deep Southern feel.

Perhaps the biggest draw of Palmetto Bluff, however, isn’t what visitors can find indoors but what they can find outdoors in the 20,000 acres of the property. By hopping on a bike, horse or by foot, tourists can explore the Bluff trails or waterways by kayak, canoe or paddleboard.

While on the water, fishermen can drop a line for largemouth bass and bream, as well as saltwater fishing for tarpon, cobia, redfish and sea trout.

While on the water, fishermen can drop a line for largemouth bass and bream, as well as saltwater fishing for tarpon, cobia, redfish and sea trout. (Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)
While on the water, fishermen can drop a line for largemouth bass and bream, as well as saltwater fishing for tarpon, cobia, redfish and sea trout. (Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)

Palmetto Bluff also houses a 1913 60-foot antique motor yacht that is one of the last remaining pre-World War I gas-powered yachts, restored and available for tours and private charter at any time.

Back on land, Longfield Stables is home to the community’s equestrian facility, a 173-acre farm surrounded by 15 miles of trails.

Besides getting a workout outdoors, visitors can also check out the Bluff’s fitness centers, movement studio, heated horizon lap pools overlooking the May River and award-winning day spa.

No resort community is complete without a golf club, and May River Golf Club, a par-72 course, holds sand from Ohio at Jack Nicklaus Signature Course along 7,200 yards running on the banks of the May River. Golfers of all skill levels in a state-of-the-art practice facility can play at the Bluff’s course, consistently ranked among the best in South Carolina.

Bluffton, South Carolina, right on the banks of the May River, is filled with pre-Civil War homes, ancestral churches, locally owned restaurants and one resort community that has been rolling in praise while remaining peaceful. (Photo: Courtesy of the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage Resort)
Bluffton, South Carolina, right on the banks of the May River, is filled with pre-Civil War homes, ancestral churches, locally owned restaurants and one resort community that has been rolling in praise while remaining peaceful. (Photo: Courtesy of the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage Resort)

However, it’s not all about taking from the land — it’s about giving to it, too. The Palmetto Bluff Conservancy is a nonprofit organization that protects the natural resources of the property, funded by every home sale on the site.

To showcase and protect other forms of community beauty such as local artists, public art shows are also routinely held on the property in a medium that allows visitors to interact with artists, as well as blues, jazz, Southern rock, Lowcountry stomp and bluegrass artists and performers.

Although tourists looking for the laid-back, timeless feel of South Carolina tend to head to Hilton Head Island, a more genuine Southern experience can be found just a few miles away in Bluffton — and thanks to Palmetto Bluff, the same resort element of luxury found on the island can be found in the small town, too.

Palmetto Bluff

Where: 476 Mount Pelia Rd. in Bluffton, South Carolina, about eight miles from Hilton Head Island

Rates: Accommodations currently are priced from $1 million to $3 million for purchase and from $425 for a cottage stay that sleeps four to $1,170 a night for a village home stay that sleeps eight

Contact: montagehotels.com/palmettobluff/ or 843 -706-6500

The Realities of Work Travel

There’s work travel and then there’s work travel.

When we think of travel, we generally think of an undeniable, animalistic excitement – that which stinks of newness and possibility. For me, it’s that feeling that keeps me getting on plane after plane, punching in my credit card number several times a year.

However, travel isn’t like that for everyone. Some of us don’t get to get home because travel has forced us into a whole new one.

My friend was employed by a large sales company near our hometown following graduation, a great company at that with awesome pay and killer benefits. When she earned a promotion, she was informed that following a few months of training, she would be assigned a territory and she would have two weeks to move.

Upon moving to her new city, she was given a phone, an iPad, a laptop, a car, gas money, grocery money and a hotel to stay in for a few weeks until she was able to find a place to live. After a few weeks, she settled into a cushy luxury apartment in the city where she received her assignment. She has a walk-in closet and very impressive adult furniture. Not too shabby, right?

To me, her life is dreamlike. To be sent to a new, exciting city where one has no lingering ghosts. To make an enviable salary and live in a beautiful apartment. To buy your own groceries and make as much noise as you want and come and go as you please.

To someone who lives in a boring town without the means yet to move out, this is truly otherworldly.

Being as loudmouthed as I am, I eagerly conveyed my excitement to my friend. She couldn’t wholeheartedly agree.

“It’s kind of exciting at first,” she says. I listen to where she goes with this and I start to think. My friend can’t just pop over to a new, cool restaurant because she has no one to go with. There are not yet bars to frequent, friends to see or parties to go to because my friend doesn’t know one soul in the city. 

Any semblance of a life that she once knew is now gone, replaced by possibility, yes, but nothing solid in sight. In the long run, I’m sure it’s great. But when you’re bored on another Saturday night at home, now apt with possibility does this really feel?

This is true work travel.

And it also didn’t really occur to me when I was busy dreaming of what it would be like to go somewhere cool and nowhere near anyplace that I had ever been.

Travel is exciting. It’s fun and new and cool. But when you can’t go home, because you have been relocated in your travels, the novelty can wear off before a comfortable sense of familiarity can seep in.


Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Forgotten Child

I am returning from Chattanooga today. No, not Nashville, because believe it or not, Nashville is not the only city in Tennessee. It’s Chattanooga. This fact is lost on many of the people that I inform of my travels.

Chattanooga doesn’t have a great reputation. One of the smaller Tennessee cities, it’s still ranked as the fourth most dangerous statewide city in 2013, in a state already named as the most dangerous one in the nation. Plus, when compared to its bright and sparkly sister, Nashville, it’s music scene nor tourism measures up.

Even though the hilly, quiet city is no international destination, it does have some character that distinguishes it from its famous neighbors such as Knoxville, Atlanta and Nashville. Chattanooga, reminiscent of the Meatpacking District of Manhattan with its lines of historical and refurbished warehouses, is marked by a rather exciting railway and mining history.

My friend who recently relocated to the city, the reason for my visit, took me to Lookout Mountain, a scenic city attraction and the epitome of the railway and mining reputation of Chattanooga. Made up within the mountain is the Incline Railway, Ruby Falls and Rock City.

Rock City's formidable peak.
Rock City’s formidable peak.

Rock City, the premier park that brings brings visitors up the 1700 feet above sea level that is Lookout Mountain, is decorated with various festive displays within its interesting rock formations and pretty peaks. The self-guided tour is easy and family friendly with some cheap thrills along the way, including one zookept albino deer, displays within the Fairyland Caverns and a spot where visitors can see seven states from its lookout point.

At the peak of Rock City, seven states are visible.
At the peak of Rock City, seven states are visible.

The highlight of Rock City is the Fairyland Caverns, a small cave system in which someone very meticulously created elaborate displays of creepy gnomes doing storybook deeds or playing in the rocks. In the darkness of the caves and lit by fluorescent lights, it’s a strange walkthrough, especially accompanied by the upbeat Christmas music.

Rock City's Fairytale Caverns.
Rock City’s Fairytale Caverns.
Rock City's Fairytale Caverns.
Rock City’s Fairytale Caverns.
Rock City's Fairytale Caverns.
Rock City’s Fairytale Caverns.

Near the end of this twist of displays is Mother Goose Village, a circle of storybook scenes including Humpty Dumpty, Cinderella and the Three Little Pigs, all very brightly decorated and also accentuated by the festive music. It’s both impressive and daunting, like the beginning of a bad horror movie.

The other, and more standout element, of Lookout Mountain is Ruby Falls, the tallest underground waterfall in the world settled interestingly in Tennessee rather than in Mexico, Nepal or Canada.

Ruby Falls is the tallest underground waterfall on earth, hidden deep within the rock-formation ridden caverns which can be reached in a guided tour. Guides point out cutesy formations such as “Steak and Eggs,” “Fish” and “Western Sunset.”After about a 30-minute walk, the cave opens up Indiana-Jones style into a large, formidable opening where Ruby Falls is very extravagantly lit up in changing fluorescent colors.

Ruby Falls is the world's tallest underground waterfall.
Ruby Falls is the world’s tallest underground waterfall.

I asked our tour guide about the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, a much-talked-about city attraction that hasn’t been making much sense to me. The tour guide disregards with a wave of her hand. “Eh. It’s like a hotel or something.” Not surprisingly, the Choo-Choo doesn’t impress her.

My tour guide was right. The Chattanooga Choo-Choo is a former train station and now-hotel which was dubbed with the name after the catchy 1940’s song. That’s pretty much it.

I didn’t take a ride on the Incline Railway, or “America’s Most Amazing Mile,” but apparently it is the world’s steepest passenger railway and, in operating since 1895, is a National Historic Site. The blonde teenage girl working at Rock City who I asked about it said she had been there on a third-grade trip and it was “super boring.”

I think we can all agree that Chattanooga is no Nashville. It doesn’t have a lot of fancy bells and whistles or wandering country celebrities. However, holding the tallest underground waterfall in the world the ability to see seven states at once isn’t something to scoff at either.

Finding Old Florida

Being an avid reader and not a fan of winter, I’ve been diving through novels by Susanna Daniel, a relatively new author with new books on the market who writes stories depicting Miami life in an old classic Florida, before condominium developments overrode the shores and pastel cottages stuffed the neighborhoods. Her books are impossible not to get enveloped in when listening to stories of Stiltsville, a vacation “town” on the ocean off of Miami where stilt houses sit in a small community and Florideans quite literally live the dream by always scuba diving, snorkeling, grilling and fishing.

Photography Jenna Intersimone
I took advantage of Jersey’s full-fledged winter and bought a plane ticket to Clearwater, Florida, anxious to find the Old Florida that I had read about so many times before.

My memories of Florida don’t fit this description. After my great-grandmother passed when I was a kid, my mother inherited a house in Fort Pierce, Florida, a small eastern shore town riddled with toothless neighbors on gray streets. My memories of there consist of 12-hour car rides stuffed next to my sister and her dirty clothes and wading through a murky bay on the days that the rain couldn’t break the dreary heat. These days, I don’t get on a plane to head to the beach and I opt to drive an hour or two to my favorite Jersey Shore beaches instead.

However, I’m not some kid stuck in my mother’s truck anymore, and instead, I am equipped with a paycheck. So, I took advantage of Jersey’s full-fledged winter and bought a plane ticket to see my paternal grandmother who resides in Clearwater, Florida, anxious to find the Old Florida that I had read about so many times before.

My grandmother first took me to St. Petersburg, which has an old-Hollywood glitz feel probably derived from the presence of The Vinoy, a National Historic Place and working hotel built in 1925. Filled with pastel colors, brilliant chandeliers and the memories of celebrities, the place overlooks the marina and the nearby ocean. St. Petersburg is also home to The Pier, a popular tourist attraction that during my visit, was the site of many locals hanging out on the boards with their eyes closed, listening to gulls and pelicans alongside the sailboats.

Photography Jenna Intersimone
The Vinoy is a working hotel built in 1925.
Photography Jenna Intersimone
The Pier is a famed St. Petersburg destination.  

Clearwater, however, has less of the Old Florida air circulating but instead is glamorous in its own way – it is littered with skyscraping hotels, so many that it’s difficult to see the water from any part of the city. However, Clearwater’s Old Florida does exist in its tiny side neighborhoods which still house bright colors, elaborate seaside decor and sandy front yards near the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is home of Winter, the tailless dolphin from the movie Dolphin Tale. The Aquarium isn’t so much an aquarium as it is a rehabilitation center, where animals are frequently returned to the wild and the other inhabitants nurse lifetime injuries, among then Nicholas, a dolphin who was burned by the sun when he had been beached.

Photography Jenna Intersimone
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the home of Winter from Dolphin Tale.
Photography Jenna Intersimone
Nicholas is a lifetime resident of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium following his sunburn. 
Photography Jenna Intersimone
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium functions as a marine hospital.

Fort Myers was our next stop, the site of the Edison & Ford winter estate, a beautiful yard and grounds where the families entertained many prestigious guests and Edison housed his laboratory. Not far from Fort Myers is Sanibel, an island off the coast of Florida which boasts the best beaches next to its sister island, Captiva.

Photography Jenna Intersimone
Fort Myers is the site of the Edison & Ford winter estate.
Photography Jenna Intersimone
Thomas Edison hosted his lab at his winter estate.

Although Florida cannot be the laid-back non-destination that it once enjoyed before travel became commonplace, remnants of Old Florida do exist within state lines, even inside of big cities like St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Fort Myers and Sanibel.

Lucy the Elephant

“Are we going to a store?”


“A bar? Restaurant?”


“Is it outside? Do I need my jacket?”


Although I’m a seasoned shore traveler, I truly had no idea where Ed was taking us as a stopping point on our way to Atlantic City. I was offered no clues to our destination besides a lined piece of paper with a meaningless address that was only titled “Middle Stop.”

Upon pulling up to a giant elephant parked facing the Margate beach, however, the dots connected to various Weird NJ pieces I had stumbled across in magazines. We were visiting Lucy the Elephant, a six-story gimmick of a tourist attraction that has been overlooking the Atlantic since 1881.

Photography Jenna Intersimone
Photography Jenna Intersimone

Lucy the Elephant was constructed with 90 tons of tin and wood by James Lafferty, who figured that a 65-foot tall elephant would be the perfect way to bring in tourists and sell some real estate. He got so excited about his idea that he also constructed two more elephants – the Elephantine Colossus of Coney Island and the Light of Asia of Cape May, neither of which survive today. Unfortunately, Lucy wasn’t enough to bring in buyers and Lafferty sold her after only six years.

She then went on to serve as a restaurant, business office, cottage and even a bar (shut down by prohibition). However, even throughout all of her various occupations, it wasn’t enough to keep the elephant in business – she fell into disrepair and due to a new buyer interested in the land under her feet, she was scheduled for demolition in 1969 to make way for a condo complex.

Photography Jenna Intersimone
Photography Jenna Intersimone

Josephine Harron spotted the demolition signs outside of Lucy one day when she was at the beach and said to herself, “Someone should do something about that.”

She did.

Harron formed the Save Lucy Committee, which was given a mere 30 days to raise enough money to move Lucy or pay for her demolition. Volunteers fund-raised by going door-to-door, selling baked goods and enlisting local groups.

As you have probably guessed, the Save Lucy Committee miraculously raised the funds and she was moved 100 yards southwest and completely refurbished with the help of the only interested architect in the northeast area. The Committee’s efforts paid off in more ways than one – Lucy the Elephant was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

After paying $8 and hiking up the winding staircase inside Lucy, we emerged in the same area which Lafferty originally showcased his real estate parcels. Now, the cozy den houses whimsical paintings such as Lucy in Blue or The Gin Drinkers, fantastical paintings all featuring the celebrated Lucy the Elephant. We checked out the ocean through Lucy’s eyes and then further hiked up the staircase to Lucy’s summit, an Asian howdah carriage which is a replica of the original.

Photography Jenna Intersimone
Photography Jenna Intersimone

New Jersey is stuffed with oddball roadside attractions which seem to emerge in particular frequency at the Jersey Shore. At first glance, these curious sights seem not only peculiar, but pointless. And maybe they are – except for the fact that they house various degrees of history that can only be contained inside a cartoon, colorful elephant.

Photography Jenna Intersimone
Photography Jenna Intersimone



Where: 9200 Atlantic Ave in Margate City, New Jersey

Contact: 609-823-6473 or lucytheelephant.org

Cost: $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12, free ages 2 and under

Tours occur every half an hour during open hours, which vary by season

The Established Nomads of New Orleans

New Orleans is busted with so much twisted personality that it’s hard to believe that it all fits within the city’s 350 square miles. Although I got a taste of this last time I visited the jazzy little city, when you’re vacationing with your mother for a week and hopping on the most educational tours in town, you’re not going to get the full effect of the crazy that’s swirling around the rogue destination of the south.

When I finally hit Checkout on that Southwest ticket headed for for Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, I was actually a little anxious because I had already been there. Doing something more than once bores me irreparably. I like to go to new restaurants, meet new people, wear new clothes, and, of course, visit new places. I wondered if I would find enough to entertain me during four more days running rampant around New Orleans.

Dancing in the streets of Royal

Who was I kidding.

Part of the devilish charm that is New Orleans is that it is wildly obvious that even though it is a prime tourist destination, people live there. It’s clear when you spot the same character, day after day, walking their dachshund around the French Quarter, chatting up gypsies. It’s clear when you stop to tap your foot to the friendly neighborhood ragged folk band, settled nicely on their street corner and bumming cigarettes off passer-bys. It’s charming when you stop by the ostentatious Garden District and watch kids in little suits running up the steps to their two hundred-year-old house.

It’s these characters that make the city different every round.

A handsome mansion in the heart of the Garden District

There are cities, arguably, that don’t have this peculiar little feature. Their populations are made up of seasonal tourists who want to strap on their sneakers and fanny packs, make sure they brought enough sunscreen and hop on the best all-day tours in town. There are cities where the locals stay snuggled indoors, stuffing their noses up at the thought of tourists bumbling about their town.

This is not New Orleans, because many of the city’s tourists have simply turned into locals.

There was Spock, or Taylin by birth, one of the many community nomads who sold jewelry but spoke in circles. With a bandanna wrapped around his head, he told stories that didn’t make sense together but were amusing one-by-one. In his typical flat voice, he told us how he broke into one particularly rude tourist’s Mercedes in western Florida, cut a rather large square of leather, and fashioned it into a rough wallet that was now for sale on his little table along Decatur Street.

Or Chilly, a name tailored onto his leather jacket, who told us about how he told his (former) wife that he had a new car awaiting her in the driveway and when she emerged, was greeted by a broom. She proceeded to chuck the broom directly at Chilly, making for an obscene absence of his left front tooth. He left the wife, left the tooth, and he and his tiny dog, Maximus, headed south to New Orleans, where they settled in by wandering the streets and talking to anyone who would listen.

And we can’t forget the rambunctious owner of Jimmy J’s, who’s name is not Jimmy. Amongst delivering coffee and making roses out of napkins for pretty patrons, he also performed magic tricks and told diners about his haunted house in the heart of the Garden District. Another man who talked in circles, he halfheartedly explained how he, a California man, ended up in NYC, then various other cities, and finally settled in N’awlins.

The desecrated tomb of a voodoo priestess in the St Louis Cemetary

I am not alone in my encounters with personalities in the Big Easy. Before setting off, I was encouraged to seek out a dreadlocked jazz player on Frenchman’s Street by my dentist, a theatrical phantom guide at the Voodoo Lounge by a lonely neighbor and a grayed lost fisherman in Pirate’s Alley. It’s a mystery how these eccentrics found their way to the city, but it’s no surprise as to why.

Characters flock to New Orleans because they know they have found a place to belong. Los Angeles is too blonde, New York City too expensive, D.C. too active and Phoenix too quiet. But New Orleans – New Orleans is the perfect hodgepodge of crazy, embedded within the cheesy disgust of Bourbon Street, the subtle elegance of the Garden District, the haunted history of the French Quarter and the cultural mass of Jackson Square to make even the dirtiest nomads feel at home.

The magical air of Jackson Square


“You think I wanted to be married and saddled with you two brats at 25?” my dad says as we sit on a dock in Burdett, New York, at the site of Seneca Lake of the Finger Lakes. “I thought I would be hanging on the back of a boxcar headed to Sante Fe.”

The water is rolling on, its tiny waves cruising alongside white sailboats through the lake. Seneca Lake is calm, like it, too, has passed through its wildest moments.

Right now, imagining my chubby father with a smile stretched across his face in his dad jorts and holey socks holding on to a train car seems pretty funny. After he toted us to from our chosen winery of the moment to a craft store (any man’s nightmare), planning on sleeping on the couch tonight as my sister and I claim the two bedrooms in our rented rustic cabin, I know that what he says was once true.

Back in his heyday, my dad was… a lot like how I am now. He was always looking for a way to get out and cause some mayhem with his dopey friends, could generally be found hanging out at dirty bars, was never really sure who’s couch he would end up sleeping on that night and was always on his way to somewhere else. He spent hours running through forests, chasing deer and catching turtles. He says he was making $5 an hour and had a girlfriend that cost him $6 an hour.

The idea of such change, from a wild, young pseudo-adult to a responsible parent of two, scares me inconsolably. To think that my dreams of adventures of faraway places and the many memories to come with my equally instantly-gratificated friends could fall to an ordinary existence toting brats around is petrifying. I know the fear is exclaimed across my paling and silent face.

“You don’t see it now,” he says, reaching down to touch down a scurrying fish, “but you’re not always going to want that.” I say nothing. He’s right, I don’t see it now. I see the clearness of the lake and the freedom that I have stretched before me in a life with no ties to anything at all. “You’re not going to want this forever. You’re not going to want to hang out with yourfriends and go to bars. You’re going to want to go to your kids’ parent-teacher conferences and go away for the weekend with your husband.”

At one time, for a very short time, that was my dad’s life, too. He and my mother were married for ten years, which I have varying memories of us going to zoos and kid-friendly restaurants and parks. The other varying memories consist of my mom throwing hair-dryers at him and her asking me if I would mind switching schools midyear as we moved, for the first time of six, following my parents’ divorce.

Nowadays, not a lot of semblance of my father as a saddled married father of two remains. We frequently take bets on when his newest girlfriend will be kicked to the curb, I sometimes get his drunken voicemails when I wake up for work on Thursday morning, and my dad is always headed to a concert or upscale restaurant with his cigar-smoking friends.

However, the semblance of his daditude that does remain is, I guess, vehemently instilled in dads everywhere. Here we are for four days, holed up in a cabin he found via some other rich white dude. He drives us anywhere we want to go and isn’t the least bit offended when my bratty sister complains about the WiFi or lack of soda. Most of all, even though it sure as hell isn’t Sante Fe and we got here via 2001 Ford Ranger rather than box car, my dad couldn’t be happier to be hanging out on the dock of a Seneca Lake cabin with his hat over his face, chatting with his daughter.


Bob Loves Cape Cod and So Do I

Bob loves Cape Cod.

Throughout the many years that I have been attached by the hip to my good friend Alex, we have always been born beach rats, jumping on any chance we could to get on the Parkway for about an hour and head down the Shore. Never ones to stay idle for very long, we like that it only takes 60 minutes or so to get to our favorite bars, surfers, restaurants and shorelines. Her dad, Bob, however, isn’t found at our favorite Shore very often. Instead, he’s usually packing up the Cherokee and going north, headed to his true love, Cape Cod.


Brewster Bay Beach

The only memories of Cape Cod that I had prior to last weekend were from the time that Bob lent his bayside paradise to my little clan and we stuffed into my dad’s pickup truck for a miserable eternity where we drove endlessly through a monsoon to a place that, to my untrained eyes, looked a lot like Long Beach Island only a hell of a lot further away.

So, when Alex invited me to Cape Cod for Labor Day Weekend, I was actually excited to go to a place I was sure I had missed out on when I was little and only had my weirdo parents to lead me around.

Upon arriving to Cape Cod and heading to Bob’s favorite hometown breakfast joint, Grumpy’s, and getting in the line wrapping around the building, I asked Bob, among the weeping willows, bayside bungalows and locally own cafes why Bob chose to keep this home in Cape Cod when he could have one at the Shore which he could potentially enjoy every single summer weekend. Being that Cape Cod is five hours away from New Jersey, it’s definitely not the most convenient of summer homes.

“At the Jersey Shore, you get up, go to the beach, go to the boardwalk. If it rains, you can’t do anything. In Cape Cod, there’s always something new and interesting to do. You don’t need a boardwalk to have fun.”

As much as I love the Shore, I had to admit, he had a point. I would soon find, throughout my long weekend in Cape Cod, how right he was.

After a rather friendly breakfast at Grumpy’s, Alex, our friend Megan and I headed over to the Brewster Bay Beach close to Alex’s development for an afternoon hanging out in the sun. Unlike Shore beaches, it had a decidedly untouristy feel, with people fishing and riding their sailboats all around. Although this made the beach not incredibly ideal for sunning with its seaweed-filled water and quick-moving tide, it was a close destination for some much-needed sand time.


That night, Bob and his wife treated us all to a grandiose dinner at The Pearl, a picturesque yet packed restaurant tucked on the Wellfleet Harbor, where we killed some time before dinner checking out the boats and snapping sunset pics. We came across a 19-year-old who had built a boat that was sitting on the harbor, which he used to go crabbing and sell his finds to neighboring restaurants. As we chatted with this happy yet dirty kid who lived his life on his boat in his bay, I really started to wonder if these were the people who were doing life right.


Wellfleet Harbor

Later, Bob dragged us all to his favorite local watering hole, The Woodshed, which looks pretty much exactly like it sounds. It’s literally an oversized shed/bar absolutely stuffed with people dancing poorly to a live old-man band jamming out in the back.

The next morning, we decided that we would take advantage of the sunny weather and head about an hour north to Provincetown, a notoriously quirky community that’s very reminiscent of Key West with its homey cottages, sparkling water and happy people.

We first hiked the 176 steps of the Pilgrim Monument upon our arrival, a tall monument built in 1892 to commemorate the Mayflower Pilgrims’ first landing in the New World in Provincetown in November 1620. From the summer of the structure, you get a very windy yet scenic view of the Provincetown Harbor. After our descent, we headed to a local bike shop, rented some bikes and baskers and prepared for a leisurely drive to and around the beach.


The Pilgrim Monument overlooking the Provincetown Harbor

We were sadly mistaken. First, we arrived at Herring Cove, a bright and untamed beach, where we simply laid in the sand in our already-sweaty clothes and enjoyed the sunshine and sand for awhile. Then, we hopped back on our bikes and ended up delving deep into the trails surrounding Clapps Round Pond and Province Lands Road. In our beach gear and flip-flops, we were embarrassingly unprepared amongst serious bikers flying up and down the hilly course that spanned several miles.


Herring Cove

Back in Provincetown, we arrived sweaty and sleepy, but night was descending quick which meant that it was high time for Commercial Street, the “Main Street” of the town filled with galleries, boutiques, packed seafood restaurants, dive bars and drag shows. Rainbow flags flew overheard the endless train of drag queens that paraded the streets, offering advance tickets for their shows. We gave in to their clever ploys and purchased tickets for Electra at the Post Office Cafe and Caberet, who went from Lucille Ball to Cher to Barbara Streisand and Elton John.


Commercial Street

Early next morning, we got in the car and drove to Hyannis,  home of the Kennedy Compound and also the locale for our Hyannis Whale Watching tour. Although four hours to spot a couple of whales was pretty hefty for someone who hates sitting still, it was still pretty cool to spot a couple of whales and their babies and imagine the heft that was underneath the water.


A humpack whale on the Hyannis Whale Watching Tour

Cape Cod is no Seaside or bar-packed teen beach destination. Instead, it’s a subdued yet thriving shore community that never needed cheap boardwalk games to have fun because it has real, unique attractions.