Sunday, May 31, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend on Cape Cod

We went to Cape Cod! It's not so amazing considering we live about an hour away, but in reality we've only been out there one other time - before the girls were born AND it was October. So after our planned April school vacation week trip to Sturbridge Village had to be postponed because we all got sick at once, I made some plans to drag Mike out to Cape Cod for a family vacation on Memorial Day weekend.

Getting out onto Cape Cod by car is usually a trial as there are only two bridges over the Cape Cod Canal. Most people take the Sagamore because it's on the expressway from Boston straight onto the Mid-Cape Highway (US Hwy 6), but because we were headed to the Aptucxet Trading Post Museum first, we went south to the Bourne Bridge. We were traveling on a holiday weekend so there should have been terrible traffic, although Memorial Day is slightly off-peak and the weather wasn't very hot for day tripping beach-goers. We weren't sure quite what to expect, but we prepared for the worst and there was no traffic at all Saturday at mid-day. We zipped right across the Bourne Bridge, no problem. Lady Luck smiled on us!

The Aptucxet Trading Post Museum is an amazing little piece of early colonial era history. The Plimoth Colony sent two men down the coast to this location on the Cape's south side to establish a trade house with both the Native people and the Dutch traders from New Amsterdam. They hoped to make enough money from trade in local natural resources like furs to pay off the debt they owed to their corporate backers. The Wampanoag Indians introduced the pilgrims to wampum, their quahog shell beads, which were adopted by the traders as the first local legal tender in the American colonies.

The Trading Post back right up to the Cape Cod Canal, so you can jump on the bike path there or watch the boats.

The current building is a replica, but it was built on the original surviving 1627 stone foundation which you can see in the basement. Much of the "replica" building is made from wood salvaged from another 17th-century house, and the exposed beams, wide plank floors, and salt grass insulation displayed in a cut-out of the old plaster wall are amazing to see.

The site administrator, who is Wampanoag herself, gave a us a kid-appropriate tour of the property, showing the girls all kinds of neat things around the trading post like beaver and otter pelts, a ball made of leather and stuffed with deer fur, and a traditional game made with deer bones and string where you try to catch bone rings on a stick. She showed us the gardens where they are growing traditional Native crops (the three sisters: corn, beans, and squash, Jerusalem artichokes, etc.) and local wildflowers alongside kitchen and medicinal herbs like sassafras for stomach aches.

This sign was an interesting piece: it clearly attempts to celebrate Native participants at the trade house, and it does use their real names (Ousamequin instead of Massasoit, Iyanough instead of Hyannis, Nope instead of Martha's Vineyard), but then it says, "Wetamo. Squaw Sachem of Pokanoket. Consort of Wamsutta, An American queen who later bravely met inevitable defeat" and "Iyanough. 'Indeed not like a savage save for his attire.'" A relic I guess, but it's not quite the complimentary citation it's trying to be. It was important to read their names, though, and see their personal marks.

The museum contains display cases of artifacts dug up around the old foundation during an archaeological excavation in the 1920's. We had a look at the small collection of deer bone tools, Dutch ceramic pipes and kitchen ware, old panes of the diamond-patterned colonial leaded-glass windows, and some Wampanoag pump drills they used to make the labor-intensive wampum beads from clam shells. There was also a small display of the plants and animals the Wampanoag hunted and gathered in the area - and introduced to the English - during the four different seasons.

Around the parking lot is the property's quirky collection of other buildings. Besides the historic trading post, there is a Dutch windmill which contains an art gallery, the old Sagamore Information Booth which was relocated here and is now the gift shop/ticket booth, and Grover Cleveland's personal train station for his Bourne summer home, Grey Gables.

Our next stop was up Highway 28 in Mashpee, where we stopped to see the Old Indian Meeting House. It's a working Wampanoag tribal meeting house, so it was closed to visitors, but we were able to walk around and have a look from the outside.

Originally built in 1684 on the site of an even older Mashpee church (1670), the Old Indian Meeting House or Old Indian Church is the oldest Native American church in the Eastern US and the oldest church on Cape Cod. It's so old that it was moved to it's current plot from other location and remodeled in 1717!

Mashpee was one of the colonial era "Praying Towns." The Pilgrim settlers began a campaign to convert the local Native people to Christianity beginning around 1646. The towns required Native people who lived there to assimilate to European lifestyle as well as religion, but they did offer a certain amount of political self-determination, protection, and community, although that independence was slowly eroded over time. In 1833, the Meeting House became the central hub of the Mashpee Revolt led by Reverend William Apess (who was Pequot and a Methodist minister), as a protest against white intrusion on tribal land and governance.

The tribe recently renovated it, and it looks amazing. Even through the long, narrow windows, you can see the beautiful exposed beams inside. It would be a gorgeous spot for a wedding!

And then after our history lesson for the day was done, we headed over to Hyannis were we stayed in a motel I can't exactly recommend to anyone, but the girls thought there was something super fun about the door opening right out onto the balcony over the parking lot. Hey, they're cheap dates!

"Welcome to Hyannis 'Have a Fun Day!'"

Kandy Korner, Hyannis - You gotta have lots of salt water taffy.

This bear outside Kandy Korner was obviously well-loved.

Giant salvaged-metal seagull.

There is a lovely, small park with Adirondack chairs and a walking path through local artists' shops in brightly colored small fishing shacks all along the Hyannis Harbor

Hyannis is full of these little cutout photo ops for kids... this one, at Katie's Homemade Ice Cream where we had dessert after our fried clams and scallops.

The next day we up were up and out early, which is rare for us. We had a big breakfast, put on our warm jackets and hit some beaches around Hyannis. They are gorgeous beaches, and the girls went crazy scavenging for shells and driftwood (no sea glass here, alas),  even though it was incredibly windy and not too warm.

Kalmus Beach, Hyannis

The Unabomber was on the beach with us. He was trying not to get sand in his eyes.

Dunbar Point, Hyannis

After our hair was thoroughly messed up, we drove over to Sandwich, MA, to the Heritage Museum and Gardens. It's a really cool place and right at the beginning of the Cape, so it could be a day trip for us. The Lilly family, art and automobile collectors, purchased the Dexter Farm, home of an impressive old rhododendron garden, and combined the two families' collections to make this interesting and unusual museum. There is an antique carousel, the Lilly's collection of Americana folk art, a building with changing art exhibits (a Wyeth exhibit will be there this summer), an amazing collection of antique cars, and extensive gardens.

Right at the entrance to the estate you see this pretty little fountain disappearing into the rhododendrons...

... which you can see, as you walk out into the gardens, flows out into the bottom pool of the Flume Fountain! Gorgeous.

Maggie especially loved following the little paths all through the woods. Those are flowering rhododendrons, large enough to meet over our heads above the path!

Our second carousel of the weekend.

The Hidden Hollow was a collection of little garden exhibits for kids and a HUGE tree house.

They, of course, immediately went for the music garden. Another favorite was the water play garden - next time we go, we bring a towel and shoes that can get wet!

Where's Waldo?

They were getting a bit cranky around now, so we asked if they could run down this lawn, touch the front door, and race back. Maggie won. Then we got ice cream. Problem solved.

The last piece we saw was this gorgeous round barn that housed the antique car collection.

The girls called this Model T the "Touchy Touch" car because people were allowed to sit in it. My dad told me that my Great-Grandma Ruby had a car just like this and a driver's license that she didn't have to take a test for, just pay the fee! I also remember seeing my Great Aunt Annie's driver's license from the 30s that was just a piece of heavy paper with her name filled in by hand in pen.

Crazy Drivers

Gary Cooper's highly conspicuous 1931 Duesenberg

After we hit the gift shop and the bathrooms, it still wasn't quite dinnertime, and because the Cape is so lovely small, we went all the way down the lower half from Sandwich on the west end to Chatham on the elbow, just to have dinner!

If you ever find yourself in Chatham, MA, at a mealtime, I highly recommend the Chatham Fish Pier Market. It's the actual working fish pier where the boats bring the day's catch in to be processed, so it smells a bit like cod guts, but it is legit. There's a little shack with a pick up window where you can order fried seafood, lobster rolls, chowder, etc., and even if you can't grab a seat at one of the few picnic tables, you can sit on a bench and watch seals instead.

Chatham Lighthouse Beach

Chatham Lighthouse and US Coast Guard Station

The next morning, we got up, got breakfast, and got out of there. We beat the worst of the traffic out of town and still managed to have an absolutely beautiful little weekend adventure.

Happy Summer, y'all!