Rockport Sunday dawned a lot cooler than the horrendously hot & humid temperatures of the day before. It was wonderful; overcast but no rain and nicely cool cool COOL! Naturally, we headed down to Bearskin Neck, cruised the shops and had a cuppa clam chowdah. We actually had more of a goal than just walking; a friend of the family was contemplating the renting of a little apartment above one of the shops on Bearskin Neck and we were meeting her there to take a look at the place. It's a little apartment but way cool with a metal spiral staircase leading up to a loft and a balcony which looks out on not one but TWO ocean views! That's right. Since the place is on the Neck, there is ocean to the left and ocean to the right. Pretty snazzy. She said she wants the place and, after her references are checked, she should have the place by October 1st.
We proceeded to have lunch at a place called The Greenery and let me tell you that it's the worst meal we've EVER had in all the years we've been coming to Massachusetts. All we got were clam chowders and onion rings; the chowder looked literally like someone opened a can of clams, added some (grey) diced potatoes and poured 2% milk over it, heated it and served it to us. As for the onion rings -- they appeared to be beer-battered (which I love) but didn't TASTE like it -- they tasted funky and the oil could LITERALLY be wrung out of them. We know. We did. 3 bowls of chowder, 2 orders of onion rings and one side of fries: over $33. Offensive! But at least they had a guy singing and playing guitar who was very good; acoustic versions of Paul Simon's "Hearts and Bones" and (believe it or not) "Midnight Train to Georgia". Maybe the establishment was having an off day food wise or maybe we should have stuck to the breakfasts (which everyone around us appeared to be having even though it was past 1pm). Who knows.
The lowering grey sky seemed appropriate for a trip to Gloucester; setting of "The Perfect Storm". Oddly enough, I has visited Massachusetts (and Gloucester) in September 1991 -- only a month or so before the huge hurricane or "perfect storm" hit Gloucester. When we enter Gloucester, we always drive right past The Crow's Nest bar which was featured so prominently in the film (of course, the interior was a set in the movie but. . .) and today's trip was no different. I've never been inside the bar but always drive by The Crow's Nest on every visit to Gloucester. That and the well-known statue facing out to sea which commemorates all those who go down to the sea in ships. This time, however, we didn't stop in Gloucester (even though I'm dying to pick up one of those Cape Pond Ice Company shirts which the crew of the Andrea Gale wore in the film). We had another Gloucester destination in mind: a medieval stone castle right on the shores of Gloucester Harbour.
Hammond Castle was built by John Hays Hammond Jr. in 1926 as a wedding present for his wife. It is filled with medieval, Renaissance and other artifacts from Hammond's collection including a stone bishop's chair, tapestries, paintings, sculptures, suits of armour and Hammond's favourite of ALL his collection: a skull reputed to belong to one of Columbus' crew. It's magnificent and Hammond's wife didn't want to live there. Typical. Hammond is the holder of over 800 patents and worked on projects from radio-controlled torpedoes and boats to early television, radio and stereo equipment. You can tour the castle on your own (without a tour guide) which is nice but I must warn you that it's very tricky to actually get there when the castle is open. After Labor Day, the castle's hours are only Saturday and Sunday 10am - 4 pm. But it's definitely worth the effort. And don't forget to check out the drawbridge.
After Hammond Castle, we decided to give Salem another go now that the record heat and humidity were gone. So, we popped over on our broomsticks and toddled along the shops. In the Trolley Shop, I bought myself a nice little black Salem hoodie which you will probably see me wearing when the weather gets a little chillier around here. But it was getting late and time to think about dinner.
It was then off to Essex where we ate at Lewis'. In the past, Lewis' usually had a day's special of pasta with fresh mussels but not this time. So, I ordered a variation of what I had at The Village Inn Saturday night; only this time the shrimp, scallops and haddock was baked in the oven a la Athenian (a garlic butter with oregano and feta cheese crumbled on top). I took a gamble ordering this but was most pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was; particularly the shrimp which worked extremely well with the garlic butter, oregano and feta flavouring. I'm gonna have to whip up some shrimp this way at home sometime. But now it was well past dark and we headed back toward Rockport.
Sunday night in Rockport is when they roll up the sidewalks. All the weekend tourists have left and one can walk along the closed shops with only a few other people in sight. I went out once again and stood on the end of Bearskin Neck where the sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks filled the darkness and the cool ocean breezes whipped past me. Well, tomorrow morning it'll be time to take my leave so it was off to bed.
Monday morning dawned cool and sunny. Before starting off on the long drive home, I walked down once again past all the shops and out onto the Neck. A few shops were open so I peeked in and managed to buy myself a blue Rockport jacket (which you will ALSO probably see me wearing in a month or two). But then it was finally time to say goodbye to Rockport with all it's idyllic memories and head for home. I can't think of anything I'd least like to do. But at least I can hold on to the promise of the next trip when, after the long long drive I will once again step out of the car onto the quiet Rockport roads and say, "I'm back, Rockport. And I sure missed you."