Monday, June 4, 2012

A Summer In Cape May

Last summer Marc and I had a lovely visit to the beautiful seaside town of Cape May, New Jersey. If your travels have never taken you to the Jersey shore, this is a trip you must make!

Cape May has the largest collection of Victorian homes in the United States and is amazingly beautiful. These houses, built between 1880 and the early twentieth century, are characterized by elaborate "gingerbread" moldings and decorative woodwork, big front porches, interesting architecture, and beautiful colors. The houses are often called "painted Ladies" by those who adore this beautiful architectural style.

There are many, many wonderful B & B's everywhere and there are great antiques shops, gift shops, fudge and ice cream shops, galleries, and restaurants and cafe everywhere!

The very best way to get around is by bicycle. Thought cars are allowed in the town, there is not a lot of parking, so many people walk or ride bikes. We took our bicycles with us from home, but they can easily be rented from vendors all throughout town for a small hourly or daily fee. Most of Cape May is flat so there are not a lot of hills to maneuver which makes it a leisure bicyclist's dream!

The streets are wide and lined with a canopy of huge leafy trees offering shade everywhere. There is a downtown shopping area which is a old-fashioned main street pedestrian "mall" where cars are not allowed. This area is just full of wonderful curiosity shops, clothing boutiques, antiques markets, and outdoor cafes. We found it a great place for people and dog watching!

There is a giant old seaside hotel called Congress Hall that overlooks the ocean. It is a colossal structure with tall white columns and an interior that is casually elegant. It features a wonderful grill and restaurant and some cute shops on the ground floor that sell local artisans work and upscale home decor and gifts inspired by the sea with shell motifs and mermaids.

Marc and I visited over the 4th of July and it could not have been a better time to visit beautiful Cape May!

The whole town was emblazoned with American flags and festive red, white, and blue bunting billowing from porches and railings. Red and white geraniums bloomed from concrete urns and hanging baskets flourishing in the constant breeze scented with salt water.

One of the things I remember most vividly was a huge Independence Day Community Cookout held out front of the Congress Hall Hotel. There were giant white tents set up with grills loaded down with hamburgers and hotdogs and a big buffet line filled with baked beans, bbq ribs, potato salad, and homemade ice cream cones for dessert! I certainly could not imagine a place that was more a slice of Americana - so much like a Norman Rockwell painting I just couldn't stand it!

We have visited Cape May twice now - both times in the summer. Our first visit was cut short because my dear grandmother was ill and dying and I had to get home to see her. This second time was like a bittersweet return visit with a dear friend.

We stayed in a lovely B & B called the Twin Gables. It was snugly situated on a quiet side street and was just wonderful - a true slice of heaven! Our innkeeper Regina and her two well behaved dogs were the perfect hosts. We enjoyed a well appointed room full of Victorian antiques and bric-a-brac that I had to resist from quietly slipping into my suitcase!

My favorite memory from Twin Gables was the amazing screened in front porch, its' wide boards painted a glossy battleship grey. Here we would rock for hours in vintage wicker rockers and enjoy afternoon tea and amazing breakfasts served by Regina herself. Her omelets, freshly baked blueberry muffins and fresh fruit in the morning were simply amazing! One afternoon I witnessed an elderly gentleman visit with a flat cardboard box full of fresh straw and blueberries. Those treats of course ended up on our breakfast trays the next morning!

Our vacation was capped off by a half-hour long incredible firework display over the ocean, fired off from a huge barge floating just offshore. As dusk set in it seemed the whole town assembled on the beach with quilts, blankets, and folding chairs to witness the spectacle!

If you come beautiful Cape May - and you must - it seems that anytime of the year is a good time to visit. While the summer is idyllic, the autumn and Christmas season appeared to be wonderful times as well. The events calendar was filled with holiday craft shows and Christmas house tours as well as horse and buggy rides. Whenever you visit, you will surely fall in love with Cape May!

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