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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Oak Bluffs (2015)

In Washington, DC in August, sometimes we like to dream about summer getaways. Past and future. I am thinking about my time in Oak Bluffs in Martha's Vineyard. Two summer ago.

Vineyard Sound-bedazzled by pastels

In the summer of 2015, I got to go to Martha’s Vineyard twice.  Thanks to my son’s excellent summer “job” as a member of the a cappella group The Vineyard Sound, who sang for their shellfish suppers all over the island for three months.

The first time I went in June, I went with my friend Judy and stayed in Edgartown at the fabulous fancy Harbor View Inn.

They wear these proudly

But the second time, in August,  my friend Kathleen and I stayed in Oak Bluff’s…or as the tour guide put it “oh you’re slumming, huh?” The good navy blue-blazered, lobster-clad people of Edgartown might think so, but let's just say OB has a very different vibe.  Oak Bluffs has lots of “bahs.” If you don’t go to The Ritz and see Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, you are making a terrible mistake.

Pepto door and chairs
In Oak Bluffs you move from pastels to technicolor.  Oak Bluffs is essentially is fairyland full of bright gardens and Victorian gingerbread houses, a glorious center green called Ocean Park, fine dining, a sea walk and beaches to die for.  It is also a landing for the island ferry. You can see the huddled masses arrive every day. They arrive huddled, they depart heroic, heroic with tan and rest and crustacean satiety. They also serve as constant fodder for the natives.

Ocean Park

Those natives are something else. It’s as if they think they own the island or something. Which they do, most of the year. They bitch about the Presidents tying up “traffic.” Coming from Washington DC, voted worst traffic area in the country, I say what traffic? Admittedly your ice cream could melt on your way into Edgartown from Oak Bluffs on a Friday night, but what is the rush anyway? If you’re in a rush, you are still in mainland mentality.

Hail Victoria

My stay was toward the end of “the season.” My cab driver fell into a sort of silent, smiling reverie when I asked him a question. He apologized and said he can “feel” the end of summer coming.  He claimed the air feels different and the light is changing.

Iroquois Cottage

We had a great stay at the Narragansett House. After the Harbor View Inn, I was prepared for a letdown, but this place was utterly charming, rocking chairs on the porch, lush gardens, ocean breezes. We had a room in the Iroquois Cottage with our own balcony.

Margo on the Go says Go! Go once, go twice, go for the whole summer, go every summer. A little Fantasia awaits in Oak Bluffs.

Our balcony



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Oh Say, Can You D.C.?

Any good photos by H. Darr Beiser

Washington Harbor is fun now

I travel a lot, but today I only had to drive 20 minutes to find myself in a desirable destination, Washington, DC. A really nice city!  I was worried about moving to the suburbs 20 years ago when we had children.  Because I was afraid that meant I would live in the suburbs and neglect the Nation’s Capital. 

Here's why we moved--neighborhood parades

So it’s the Fourth of July and I thought I would like to go into the Nation’s Capital for my walk. Why am I walking instead of running? I had dental implant surgery last week and they said I cannot exercise for two weeks.  Something about the stitches. This is like being put on bed rest. But it turns out walking is allowed. And oddly enough I have to say you can see more things walking.

Along the boardwalk, Washington Harbor

Patriotic boating on the Potomac

So walk I did, starting at Georgetown’s Washington Harbor, which has turned into a perfectly lovely pedestrian park while I was away.  Follow the path from Georgetown and you happen upon the colorful crew members at Thomson Boat Center.  Move on and behold no less than The Watergate, followed quickly by The Kennedy Center  And sand volleyball courts that have the Washington Monument in their view.

We've got Watergate

We've got the FBI dive team

Memorial Bridge when it was open
I wanted to walk over Memorial Bridge, but Fourth of July fireworks preparations were underway and it was blocked.

So I turned around and walked to Francis Scott Key Bridge, and how fitting is that for today? 

Coffee from Malmaison with Francis

Years ago when we were driving into the city with the boys, Franky, who was then 8 or 9, said “Why would anyone want to come to visit Washington DC?” Indeed.  There’s a tendency to take it for granted. To only go in when there are out-of-town visitors. But going in means concerts and plays and tennis tournaments and major league baseball. And awesome free museums. And really nice restaurants.

Come visit. I may live in the suburbs, but I'm only five traffic lights away from Washington, D.C.

Happy Fourth!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bar Harbor Bundle

Cadillac Mountain--sunrise starts here
Toward the end, I fell into complete and utter vacation mode, and stopped posting. So here is a bundling of Bar Harbor info:

We went on the Acadia National Park Tour with Santo, who was much more positive than Cappy.  This beautiful centerpiece of the island rocks and rocks.We made three stops, the top of Cadillac Mountain, the Nature Garden (closed), and Thunder Hole, which was my favorite, dangerous crashing waves on rugged rocky coastline.  There is a little “hole” where the water gathers and spews up at you, and at high tide you can get drenched.  Or you can get pulled out to sea and drown.  Yes, this tour too had death warnings, Santo confessed that “we lose a couple of people a year up here.”

Thunder Hole-careful!

You can hike it, you can bike it, you can walk it, you can climb it, you can sit on it and meditate.  You can see for miles from the top and for smiles from the middle and you can walk on Sand Beach at the bottom.

Acadia National Park from the top

The Bayview only serves breakfast, so we did a lot of dining out. Darling little restaurants scatter the scene. Not a chain in sight. Here’s a roundup:

Paddy's Irish Pub and Grill, harbor side tables, breezy, delightful. They are heavy on bacon here—they use a bacon strip as a stirrer in a Bloody Mary. And there were bacon bits in my lobster salad. Pigs try to creep in on this island, there is even a BBQ place, but lobsters beat them up. Irish music on tape during the day, live at night.

Café This Way, so named because it is on a side street and you have to follow the arrow that points “this way.” This menu has a bit of a healthy focus. We had fried Brussels sprouts, which were sweet, and sweet potato cakes which were sweet, and sweet butter with the bread. No offense, but the restaurant was a little too sweet across the board. Where were my fries? Oh right, I had them at lunch. 

Havana We didn’t eat here but it is the talk of the town because of Obama's visit. Curious why he was all up in the rice and beans when he could have had a lobster pulled from the ocean a block away. But we know that Presidents don’t always eat at the best restaurant in town.  Witness President Clinton’s visit to Mi Nidito in Tucson. The other President who frequented Bar Harbor was Taft. We don’t know where he ate. Probably everywhere.

Bibbed at Bar in Bar Harbor

Fish House Grill Never eat at the restaurant in your hotel. Never eat at the restaurant advertising "Mom’s cooking."  Add never eat at the restaurant closest to the waterfront.  We went early—6:30 p.m. and the host wanted nothing to do with us.  Couldn't give us an outdoor table for 20 minutes. There were plenty of them. He relegated us to the bar. There we had a burly bartender who broke up Judy’s hard shell lobster with his bare hands. And the "steamahs" were great.

Mama Di Matteo’s just next to Reel Cinema.  Lovely linguine with clams atop. The absolute best chocolate pudding. We almost went back just for the dessert.

Mache Bistro a little French action, very nice and on the “upscale” side for BH. Marred by a fingerling potato failure. Unless it was supposed to be a goldfinger.  We split slow roasted pork with “bacon jam” (what did I say about pork?) and slow cooked duck confit. The smoked carrots were great.

The Reading Room at the Bar Harbor Inn. Step back to a period where patrons sit in plush gold chairs, where the maître de looks like Liberace, and where a piano player massacres beautiful songs like Here Comes the Sun and My Cheri Amour. Pretty much music-cide. And watch couples sit across from each other and not speak a word during the meal. But from our oceanfront table, we could see The Terrace Grille below on the lawn  with diners laughing and enjoying life. It was like the scene in Stardust Memories where Woody is on the dreary train  and he looks over and sees a train going in the other direction full of glamourous people drinking champagne. I had lobster pie. Don’t have lobster pie. Gilding the lily big time.

Lobster Bennies
Brunch at Two Cats Restaurant. Funky, hip, rusticky place. Breakfast only, open until 1 p.m. The porch had a lovely breeze, they had a kick-ass hot sauce. I had lobster Benedict. Fantastic. Judy had success in her search for gluten free goodness with her cheese and bacon pancakes.

Extra/Extra! We went to Reel Pizza twice. We exhausted the inventory of cinema on the island, after Wonder Woman, seeing The Promise about the Armenian genocide, or as the Turks would call it “What Armenian genocide?”


Improv Acadia, allegedly the only improv company in the state of Maine, was excellent. Four talented funsters making light of everything on the fly, and stealing the show by reenacting the meet cute story of a couple in the audience. Nothing second rate about it. Go and laugh.

Bar Harbor, this single destination has it all—mountain, sea, ice cream and lobsters. It is accommodating to the hiker, the biker, the walker, the runner, the boater, the beachcomber, the reader, the moviegoer, the 500-piece puzzle maker, the napper, the slacker. All in a little town of 5,800 residents. Part of its charm is you may see your yoga teacher at her souvenir store, or your hotel driver at the restaurant. If you want ski ball, cotton candy and roller coasters, don’t come here. But if you want anything and everything else, do.

Lichen it so far

Monday, June 12, 2017

Chicks Ahoy

A Margo and Judy Joynt

Okay, so we dressed up all “nautical” for our Acadian Boat Tour. Not realizing how alike we looked until we bought the boarding photo.

Little did we realize that we would have been better served by wearing winter parkas. It was 79 and sunny today, and felt every bit of that on land, but by sea, on a very windy, choppy day, it didn’t take long before we were freezing. The captain offered blankets to all, saying it would be the only free thing we got in Bar Harbor.

Porcupine Island

Along the way we learned that the Porcupine island which is now all trees was a big vegetable farm, and then we learned that another Porcupine island was all sheep (they can’t swim, so the joke’s on them). We learned a lot about America’s Wealthiest Citizens.  And we learned that one island is privately held and the lady won’t sell it.  And Cappy said that “the way things are going these days,” he would like to ask the lady to sell it to him for one dollar. And then with his 36 years of naval experience, he would put munitions all over the island, and…

Great! A survivalist on board.  His two-hour rap bent to the right and to the fright. He told us how kayakers would enter caves and never come out.  He told us that the Maine waters are so cold that when they call the coast guard they don’t give you the water temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius, they just tell you the number of minutes (20 or 25) you can survive in the water before you die.  And he even put a dark cloud on the lobster industry by telling us that at least once a year, a lobsterman’s feet get caught in the ropes and they are pulled out of the boat and they die.

I was wondering if we had boarded the ghost boat by accident.  This was supposed to be a nature tour.  About live things. We stopped to look at an eagle’s nest with an eagle in it. I never saw it, and I had binoculars. He told us that the female eagle will not have sex with the male eagle until it has brought her a sufficient number of twigs with which to make the nest. He tried to explain this in human terms and said it would be as if his wife told him that they had to have an addition built to the house before…And he said if that were the case, he would have a 32-room house. EEEWWW.

Egg Island--see the seals?

We saw some seals too, but they were inert. And some people saw a peregrine’s nest, but I did not.

It was America’s Wealthiest Citizens that I was most interested in. Dead or alive. Astors and Rockefellers and Vanderbilts.  They fancied summering in Bar Harbor and built large estates on the water.  And they made lots of money during Prohibition because they could smuggle liquor in from Canada. “Canada is just right over there,” the cappy said with a wave of his hand. At least he didn’t say “You can see Canada from my boat.”


In 1947, 67 summer estates on Millionaire’s Row on Frenchman’s Bay were wiped out by the Great Bar Harbor Fire. But we got to see the mmm, mmm good estate that belonged to the Campbell Soup family, and the one that belonged to the Pulitzers. Plus, we got to see an island owned by The Red Lobster family. And an island owned by JP Morgan.

What’s good enough for America’s Wealthiest Citizens is good enough for me and my pal. Summer on the ocean in Bar Harbor. 

Rocky coastline