Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekend in Rockport

I was looking for an easy summer weekend getaway, to someplace I'd never been before, and I decided on Cape Ann, on the north shore of Massachusetts. I booked a whale-watching cruise out of Gloucester and had planned to stay in that town, at The Crow's Nest, rooms above the bar that figures prominently in the book and film The Perfect Storm. Then I watched the movie. Within minutes into the film there was a scene in the bar where the local fishermen are celebrating very loudly, so enthusiastically that the ceiling lamps were shaking. Hmm, rooms above the bar, I thought. I put the film on pause and called The Crow's Nest to cancel my reservation.

Instead I booked a room at a motel in nearby Rockport, and I was glad I did. Rockport is very compact, very walkable, and very charming. Gloucester is much larger, and is a largely working class town, more "real," for sure, than cutesy little Rockport, and also a place where a car would do one well.

I enjoyed wandering around Rockport, breathing the sea air and eating seafood. There was a torrential rain for a couple of hours my first afternoon, which I watched from the porch at my motel. After the rain the air was amazingly fresh and bracing, some of the best air I've ever had.

Just before the rain had started I went over to The Fish Shack for lunch, where I had a plate of the wonderfully sweet fried belly clams, a local specialty. I returned the following evening for dinner and had a spectacular 2-1/2 lb. lobster.

Helmut's Strudel, on Bearskin Neck, is a legendary local bakery-cafe, and their strudel is perfectly crispy, perfectly balanced. It being summer, I went for the cherry strudel. Bearskin Neck, which juts out into the ocean, has a dense concentration of shops and restaurants.

The Rockport Chamber Music Festival premiered its new concert hall this summer, a spectacular space with an ocean view as the backdrop. The concerts were sold out by the time I got there, but they did offer a tour of the hall.

I may have missed the chamber music festival, but I did catch some live music, a bit of Americana, a band concert in a gazebo just across the road from the beach.


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