Martha’s Vineyard

Earlier this summer I crossed another item off of my bucket list. I have always wanted to visit the New England islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. To experience what has drawn the local population of the nearby mainlands to summer at these challenging to get to destinations. Because we love traveling by train and wanted to experience the ferry ride from the mainland to the island(s), we were limited to visiting only Martha’s Vineyard. We went on Memorial Day weekend and the ferries from the mainland and the ferries between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket were not in service yet.

For a four-day weekend, Martha’s Vineyard served up plenty to do to fill our days and nights. The island is small enough to drop your bags in one location and see the rest of the island from wherever you choose to make base camp. Since we knew nothing about the island, and didn’t really know anybody who did, we chose the town based on the accommodation that drew us in. And for our wants and needs we chose well.

We began our journey on an Amtrak train from New York, arriving 3 hours later into New Bedford, Rhode Island – the suggested port for easiest access to Martha’s Vineyard. The sun was beginning to set as we neared the island and the air was crisp and clear with a hint of sea salt. Having no idea where we were going we relied on one of the many island buses lined up along the end of the dock ready to take the ferry passengers to their destination of choice. Driving by a spot on the island used to film part of Jaws, we made our way to our lodging for the weekend, The Charlotte Inn, in Edgartown.

The sun setting as we approached Martha's Vineyard on the ferry.

The sun setting as we approached Martha’s Vineyard on the ferry.

The Charlotte Inn in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard. Lodging at it's finest.

The Charlotte Inn in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. Lodging at it’s finest.

The stay at the Charlotte Inn was a treat in itself. We could have easily spent every hour of our trip at the Inn and been content. Service is definitely job 1 at this place that has been owned by the same couple for over 40 years. They bought a dilapidated old hotel and spent years creating a homey, warm, inviting space that is full of character. In the ensuing years the owners bought four surrounding buildings, turning them all into uniquely, spacious, comfortable rooms. Every room has a library of interesting books and comfortable seating – indoors and outdoors. The immaculate condition of the Inn and the rooms was as I could as I have experienced anywhere.

The old carriage house, one of the buildings at the Charlotte Inn, providing beautifully unique lodging on MV.

The old carriage house, one of the buildings at the Charlotte Inn, providing beautifully unique lodging on MV.

The collection of books in our room, sitting on the steps of a stairway to nowhere.

The collection of books in our room, sitting on the steps of a stairway to nowhere.

The main building houses several sitting rooms, one with a roaring fireplace that we finished our days in, sipping on a cocktail, reading our books. The Inn’s restaurant, appropriately named The Terrace for its old world terrace look with French and Italian accenting, is a high-end dining experience of American cuisine. The owners live on the property and still work the reception desk, unloading delivery trucks, and walk the property to make sure their guests needs are being met. But our favorite part of our whole stay was our regular visits with the mascots of the Inn, the brother and sister Golden Retriever duo, Nicky and Bailey. They have free reign of their owner’s property and were always up for a good belly rub.

The Terrace restaurant at The Charlotte Inn - a fine dining experience of American cuisine.

The Terrace restaurant at The Charlotte Inn – a fine dining experience of American cuisine.

Nicky, the Inn Mascot enjoying a nice pat on the head while sitting in her favorite chair.

Nicky, the Inn Mascot enjoying a nice pat on the head while sitting in her favorite chair.

As for Edgartown, one needn’t leave this little village to be fulfilled. We started every day with a coffee or tea from Espresso Love, 3 blocks from our hotel. Then it was back to Main Street to make our way through the local independent bookstore, the boutique shops and the gallery showcasing local artists in a building that is 250 years old with original flooring and used to be a boat making building. For lunch we headed across the parking lot to take in some fresh seafood at the Seafood Shanty where we could watch a specialized mini-ferries transport 3 cars at a time from the Edgartown port across about 100 yd channel to Chappaquiddick Island – of famed Teddy Kennedy history.

The newly opened gallery selling works of art from local artists, housed in a 250-year old boat house.

The newly opened gallery selling works of art from local artists, housed in a 250-year old boat house.

Two mini ferries take turns taking vehicles and people back and forth between Edgartown and Chappaquiddick Island.

Two mini ferries take turns taking vehicles and people back and forth between Edgartown and Chappaquiddick Island.

As enjoyable as Edgartown is, there are other island destinations that are worth checking out. On Sunday morning, we rented bikes and made the 3-mile ride down to the long expanse of beach at Katama Beach (aka South Beach). The island is full of bike paths – from flat paved easy level trails to off-road dirt trails for the experienced rider. I’m sure in high-season Katama Beach is full of beachgoers – but on this weekend it was isolated and we enjoyed a nice private stroll before heading back to town on our bikes.

My daughter walking the Katama Beach, on the southern edge of Martha's Vineyard.

My daughter walking the Katama Beach, on the southern edge of Martha’s Vineyard.

Another option to getting around the island is to rent a car. The rental places stock all kinds of fun rentals, from Jeep Wranglers to Mini-Cooopers to Mustangs and Camaros – and even a Ferrari or two – all convertibles of some sort. We ordered a Jeep Wrangler, but were given a Mini-Cooper – which was way roomier than we figured and even my 6’3″ husband squeezed into this snazzy little car. Two-lane roads wind around the island linking all the little towns together. With the wind blowing in our hair, we headed out to our first destination:

The little Mini-Cooper we rented to tool around the island!

The little Mini-Cooper we rented to tool around the island!

Chilmark – we headed directly to the north end of town to the fishing village of Menemsha, where we stood in line at Larsen’s Fish Market to order up a plate of fresh lobster – literally. You are given a freshly boiled whole lobster on a paper plate and a small cup of drawn butter, and not enough napkins. If you’re lucky enough to score one of three picnic tables, it’s a big help – it’s a messy undertaking getting at that sweet fresh lobster meat, but oh so worth it.

No respect! - as we 'patiently' waited in the long line for our freshly boiled lobster.

No respect! – as we ‘patiently’ waited in the long line for our freshly boiled lobster.

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Aquinnah – situated on the farthest point on the west end of the island, this area is known for its untouchable clay cliffs, and for the Gay Head Lighthouse – no access is allowed to either. One of the first whaling ports in the US, this raw windy corner of the world has to be amazing for storm watching.

The clay cliffs of Aquinnah, on the western tip of Martha's Vineyard. They are protected and untouched by man.

The clay cliffs of Aquinnah, on the western tip of Martha’s Vineyard. They are protected and untouched by man.

The Gay Head lighthouse, used as a marker by some of the country's earliest whaling boats.

The Gay Head lighthouse, used as a marker by some of the country’s earliest whaling boats.

After a pit stop back at the Charlotte Inn for a rest and change of clothes it was off to dinner in the center of the island, at a working farm that doubles as an Inn with a fine dining restaurant, just outside of West Tisbury. The Lambert’s Cove Inn is tucked back into the deep woods of the island on a tight windy road that would be a tight fit for two cars to pass each other.

The next morning we hopped into the Mini-Cooper to check out the two remaining main towns on the island before catching the ferry back to the mainland:

Vineyard Haven – located on the northern tip of the island, this is one of the more populated towns on the island and similar to Edgartown has a few main streets lined with boutique shops, another great independent bookstore and wonderfully unique restaurants like the Waterfront Market. This is also where most of the larger ferries port, especially the ferries carrying vehicles.

The Bunch of Grapes independent bookstore in Vineyard Haven on Martha's Vineyard.

The Bunch of Grapes independent bookstore in Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard.

The outdoor time clock in front the bookstore - "Time to read"

The outdoor time clock in front the bookstore – “Time to read”

Oak Bluffs – the largest town on the island, is home of the country’s oldest working merry-go-round and a collection of quaint gingerbread houses creating its own little unique neighborhood, covering several blocks. There is a large green space across the road from the port to sit and relax while waiting for your ferry. A great town to stay in for a younger family.

The Flying Horses Merry-Go-Round at Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.

The Flying Horses Carousel at Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard.

One of the many 'Gingerbread' houses creating a unique neighborhood of these quaint small colorful houses.

One of the many ‘Gingerbread’ houses creating a unique neighborhood of these quaint small colorful houses.

Martha’s Vineyard is a long way to go from most parts of the country, and not easy to get to from anywhere. I certainly understand why most people who go there, plan to stay for an extended period of time, many for the whole summer. Understandably a great draw for people who love to write, read, paint, love seafood and long walks. Sounds like heaven on earth to me!

Check my most recent food review post for reviews on island restaurants.

Check the Global Gallery to see more pictures from Martha’s Vineyard.

Springtime Spreads – Phoenix, KC, Naples (FL), NYC, Martha’s Vineyard – part 2

Picking up where I left off, leads me to share our dining and drinking experiences from NYC and Martha’s Vineyard. ‘Our’ being whoever I can bring into the ‘foodie’ fold. It’s not hard to find takers.

As I curl up in my big comfy chair, laptop where else but in my lap, sipping a Manhattan created loosely from the Manhattan on Felidia’s of NYC cocktail menu – I resurrect the tastes of the delectable cuisines that have passed my palate in recent months. Okay, enough fluff talk – time to get down to the details:

NYC:

I lost count a long time ago, as to how many NYC restaurant reviews I have posted – but the one thing I have not lost count of is how many negative NYC restaurant reviews I have written – 0! And that is not because I have chosen not to write those reviews, it is because I have not experienced any sub-par dining experiences in NYC. That is remarkable seeing how many restaurants exist in this magnificent city – but it is that competition that keeps all of these restaurants on their shoe tips, trying to out-create each other, but yet knowing when to reign it in so their dishes remain edible enough to entice customers to return.

Tavern on 51, New York Palacelooking for a great place to end the busy day or grab a night cap? This is the place. In the New York Palace hotel, the ambience is inviting, the seating plush and comfy, the drink menu expansive, and the drinks mind-altering if you imbibe too much in these tasty beverages.

Tavern 51 at New York Palace. Check out the fun cocktail menu - lots of 'bourbon choices'.

Tavern 51 at New York Palace. Check out the fun cocktail menu – lots of ‘bourbon choices’.

Billy’s Bakery –  across the street from the newly opened Whitney Museum on the west side of lower Manhattan, this ‘bakery’ is a great place to grab a tasty and generous breakfast and a great cup of coffee while watching the lines grown while waiting for the museum to open.

Billy's Bakery serves up a great cup of coffee, as you sit and watch the action at the Whitney Museum across the street.

Billy’s Bakery serves up a great cup of coffee, as you sit and watch the action at the Whitney Museum across the street.

Via Carota – when you think of a fun dining experience in NYC, this is kind of place you think of. Interesting dishes served by waitstaff who ask you what kind of foods you like and creates a dining experience based on those tastes. Even with the place overflowing with people, they are willing to make any drink or any dish to fit your palate. A must return!

Roasted quail with garlic and rosemary served on a bed of mushroom and bean risotto.

Roasted quail with garlic and rosemary served on a bed of mushroom and bean risotto.

Ray’s Pizza – truth be told Famiglia’s has our favorite late night pizza, but in a pinch if one of these pizzeria’s can not be found, Ray’s can feed that 2 am hunger. The flavors and quality of toppings are good, the crust can be a bit dry and crunchy – hard to fold and eat proper NYC style.

Never short on ingredients - Ray's is a great late night pizza spot after a night of hitting the streets of NYC.

Never short on ingredients – Ray’s is a great late night pizza spot after a night of hitting the streets of NYC.

Extra Fancy – what a fun unique display of menu choices, in a neat boutique style setting, in Brooklyn. There is a large cool bar inside and an outdoor courtyard in the back dotted with trees. And the food trumps the setting – must tries are the oysters, deviled eggs and fried brussel sprouts.

Deviled eggs topped with trout roe is a tasty way to start off an evening of tasty seafood dishes at Extra Fancy in Brooklyn.

Deviled eggs topped with trout roe is a tasty way to start off an evening of tasty seafood dishes at Extra Fancy in Brooklyn.

Martha’s Vineyard:

A place that has held a place high on my bucket list, Martha’s Vineyard, met my main expectations of being a place rest and relaxation, but the restaurants did not disappoint. My next post will be about the activities available in all the quaint little towns dotting this amazing island, but for now I will focus on how we were able to keep our belly’s full and our thirst sated.

Atlantic Fish and Chophouse – a recommendation from our concierge at the Charlotte Inn for great drinks and great food. Such a good recommendation we made return visits. Sits on the waterfront, with great seafood choices and refreshing and flavorful drink choices. A happening bar come the evening hours.

One of the most interesting and unique cocktail menus was found at Atlanta Fish and Chop House on Martha's Vineyard in Edgartown. Like this Manhattan served with a bacon garnish.

An interesting and unique cocktail menu at Atlanta Fish and Chop House on Martha’s Vineyard in Edgartown. Manhattan served with a bacon garnish.

The Seafood Shanty – sit upstairs, on the deck if you can. We sat at the bar and had a blast watching the bartenders going 100 mph serving up drinks, beers, wine and food – professional waitstaff and who have fun at their jobs. The seafood is fresh and they have their own twist on certain faves like the lobster rolls.

Two things draw people to a restaurant - ambience and food. Come watch the bartenders do their thing, sit outside on the deck overlooking the bay, while taking down one of their amazing lobster rolls.

Two things draw people to a restaurant – ambience and food. Come watch the bartenders do their thing, sit outside on the deck overlooking the bay, while taking down one of their amazing lobster rolls.

The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn – a quiet indoor garden-like setting, the knowledgeable but patient professional waitstaff, serve up a dining experience that I’m guessing is not replicated any where on the island. And the chef serves up a menu that has us putting The Terrace on our must revisit list.

Fine dining at The Terrace at The Charlotte Inn in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard. These lamp chops were so tasty they didn't need the mint sauce.

Fine dining at The Terrace at The Charlotte Inn in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. These lamp chops were so tasty they didn’t need the mint sauce.

Larsen’s Fish Market – now obviously when you are this close to the sea where lobsters abound – all you have to take notice of is there is not a restaurant, 1-star to 5-star, that does not include a lobster dish on it’s menu. But Larsen’s is where you go to stand in a long line to get a whole fresh lobster to eat at one of the few thrown together picnic tables or barrel and upturned crab traps. Doesn’t get much better than that!

A full lobster served up fresh at Larsen's Fish Market in Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard.

A full lobster served up fresh at Larsen’s Fish Market in Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard.

Lambert’s Cove dining – another fine dining option in one of the many quaint little towns that dot Martha’s Vineyard. Lambert’s Cove is an Inn, that sits at the end of a very long and winding narrow road to a beautiful little working farm setting that many of the menu ingredients come from.

Halibut with a panko crust served on a bed of mash potatoes and a light creamy sauce at Lambert's Cove Inn, Lambert's Cove, MV.

Halibut with a panko crust served on a bed of mash potatoes and a light creamy sauce at Lambert’s Cove Inn, Lambert’s Cove, MV.

Waterside Market – while waiting for our ferry to arrive to take us back to the mainland we searched out a breakfast spot in one of the little quaint towns we had yet to visit on Martha’s Vineyard – Vineyard Haven. We walked the streets, and came upon a market, that sold high quality, beaucoup flavorful dishes that you ordered at the counter. A fun little find!

Tex Mex breakfast consisting of two sweet corn cakes on a bed of housemade pico and topped with black bean hummus, two eggs, avocado at the Waterside Market in Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard.

Tex Mex breakfast consisting of two sweet corn cakes on a bed of housemade pico and topped with black bean hummus, two eggs, avocado at the Waterside Market in Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard.

With so many of these restaurants being so busy, all the time it’s often hard to get a reservation short-notice – which can be tough when you don’t know your schedule. We have taken to sitting at the bar, that is first come first serve, and are learning to enjoy this dining experience even more – as you really get to watch the place in action – dining and a show all rolled into one fulfilling evening out.

New England fall colors

To continue on with the road trip theme from my previous post, today I will take you on a journey to New England. I am 50-years-old and this is a trip that has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember – even before I could drive. Fall is my favorite time of year: I love the crisp fresh air and the vibrant hues that fill that air. I love wearing worn out jeans, cozy baggy sweaters, and boots made for hiking – my favorite fall activity, besides sitting by a roaring fire reading a good book and sipping a glass of wine.

My first annual road trip with my daughter took place two years ago. My daughter is a lover of fall and all the activities mentioned above as well, so this is a trip we sank into with ease and intent. It was an easy first trek, with my daughter living in NYC. I flew into JFK on a Friday and she met me at the airport where we rented a snazzy black Camaro to help us navigate the back roads of Vermont, New Hampshire, MaineMassachusetts and back to New York.

New England

We set out at Friday afternoon rush hour, which meant in our first 3 hours we made it all of 10 miles. But we persevered with good music, a hot cup of Starbuck’s Chai Tea and great classical music – rock and pop. We were in no hurry this weekend, and in the dark of night we finally made our way to the Windham Hill Inn, in Townshend, Vermont. A quaint Inn tucked into the hilltops of Vermont off a windy two lane road. After checking in, we climbed two flights of stairs up to our one-of-a-kind room and fell into our comfy king bed, with a fire roaring creating a low glow paired with a soothing warmth.

The Windham Hill Inn - our room was the triple windowed upper level.

The Windham Hill Inn – our room was the triple windowed upper level.

We awoke to a beautiful sight. A light rain was falling, but it didn’t dull the vibrant colors that filled the hillsides spreading out in every direction from the Inn. We raced downstairs, oh that’s right we weren’t in a hurry – we ambled downstairs to find a hearty breakfast menu fill with amazing food choices to fill our bellies and energize us for an adventurous hike around the grounds of the Inn. Apparently most of the other Inn’s guests were adverse to a little rain as we had the hiking trails to ourselves. We slipped and slided our way along the wet and leaf ridden paths, giggling as we looked for the colored arrows guiding our way as if we were on a treasure hunt.

The rolling hills of Vermont alight with vibrant fall colors

The rolling hills of Vermont alight with vibrant fall colors

Upon our return to the Inn we took up residence in front of the main house fireplace and read while warming our hands around a mug of cider. This left us sufficiently relaxed and ready for our next excursion – a massage in the refurbished barn on the grounds of this old estate, that also housed more rooms and a rustic one room spa. There was only one thing left to do after a day like that – take a nap!

Our room at the Windham Hill Inn, Vermont

Our room at the Windham Hill Inn, Vermont

Waking refreshed after an hour of deep, unfettered sleep, we changed and made our way down to the dining room. But first we made a stop at the two-seater bar and ordered up a couple of Manhattan’s – I’m a bad influence on my daughter, but it’s fun to share passions. Another hearty meal of New England fare, and we were down for the count after all that fresh air and exercise, a relaxing massage and the warmth from the fireplace food and drinks. We awoke to a sunny day, and after a lighter breakfast we headed out to explore other paths around this Vermont countryside Inn.

By mid-morning we hit the road to our next destination – the White Barn Inn, Kennebunk, Maine. We wound our way through the New Hampshire countryside, popped into the lower quadrant of Maine and took in the sights and sounds of Portland, shrouded in fog. We indulged in a lobster roll – not quite what I thought it would be. It’s like a lobster salad on a soft white bun – a little less mayo and a lot more lobster would’ve better suited my tastes. We walked through the streets of this quaint historical town, watching a big cruise ship takeover the harbor.

Checking into the White Barn Inn, Kennebunk, Maine

Checking into the White Barn Inn, Kennebunk, Maine

After our bite to eat it was time to head on into Kennebunk – which sits across the Kennebunk River from Kennebunkport – home to the Presidential Bush families. The White Barn Inn is a sister Inn to the Windham Hill Inn in Vermont, but they were very different experiences. The White Barn Inn is right on a main roadway through Kennebunk, within walking distance to the ocean. We stayed in a single level cottage, but had our meals in the main dining room at the Inn.

After checking in at the Inn, we headed across the street to walk the grounds of a working Franciscan Monastery – lush and quiet with lots of little private praying areas. Then we made our way down Beach Avenue, which appropriately took us to the beach. We walked along the seaboard, feeling very out-of-place because we had to be the only people there without a dog. We decided that somebody should offer a ‘rent-a-dog’ service for those of us just popping in for a quick visit. It was so fun to watch the dogs frolicking around in the waves, chasing after balls and sticks and their masters.

The waves crashing into the beach along the Kennebunk seaboard - could that be the Bush compound in the background??

The waves crashing into the beach along the Kennebunk seaboard – could that be the Bush compound in the background??

Back at our room we changed and headed over to the main house where we tracked down the sitting room. It had a roaring fire (seems to be a New England theme) where we sat and read for a bit, but then our eyes settled on a glass chessboard. We grabbed a glass of complimentary wine and settled into a heated competition of chess moves while we waited to be called to our table for dinner. Of course we had to dine on live Maine lobster! It was sweet and oh so delicious.

The restaurant at the White Bar Inn serves up their live Main Lobster all decked out

The restaurant at the White Bar Inn serves up their live Main Lobster all decked out

After dinner we returned to our room where a bottle of champagne was sitting on ice in our sitting room, the fireplace at the foot of our bed was stoked and lovely music playing softly in the background. We settled into bed with our glasses of champagne, our books and chatted about the highlights of our trip so far. It wasn’t long before the long day of driving and fresh ocean air found us fast asleep.

In the morning we enjoyed a wonderful complimentary full meal breakfast in the main dining room. Our time was ticking away and we had to have the car back to New York by evening, but first a stop in Boston to see my niece/my daughter’s cousin on her dad’s side. We took Highway 1 as far south as we could trying to stay as close to the ocean as we could, but eventually we had to pop over to the main highway to get to Boston in time for lunch.

This was my first time to Boston and my daughter’s second. What a an amazing engineering wonder Boston is – the way it winds around the waterways connecting different parts of the city. We wish we would’ve had more time to stay, but we figured Boston is a destination spot that someday we will take a road trip to and spend a long weekend in and around the city and down to the Cape maybe even Martha’s Vineyard. It was a beautifully sunny crisp fall day and I can see why so many people fall in love with this city. The food was great and the streets full of life, but in a very different, more laid back way than the busy streets of NYC.

It was a weekend chockfull of miles, great eats, vibrant fall colors and a multitude of new memories. As we wheeled the road weary black Camaro back to its stall at JFK, we proclaimed a new-found desire to repeat this kind of weekend to a new destination annually – at least. Thus endeth our first annual mother-daughter road trip!

Taking a pit stop in fog shrouded Portland, Maine on our New England road trip

Taking a pit stop in fog shrouded Portland, Maine on our New England road trip