Cape Cod: Day 2

October 7, 2022 • 9:15 am

As the map below shows, Cape Cod is a thin arm of land flexed from the southeast corner of Massachusetts. I’m staying at Eastham, not shown on this map but above the elbow between Orleans and Wellfleet. The Pilgrims apparently first landed at Provincetown, on the tip, on November 11, 1620, but established their first colony—the first English settlement in North America—further south at Plymouth shortly thereafter.

Click pictures to enlarge, particularly the panorama below

This thin peninsula, only a few miles wide, marks the farthest extent of glaciation in the area, and contains many glacial landforms and lakes dug out by glaciers. Here’s a satellite view:

In summer it’s crowded with tourists, but they have mostly gone now, and businesses are closing, leaving much of the island to its long-term residents. Many people have summer or “retreat” homes here, including Steve Pinker.  And a lot of the peninsula, particularly on the east side, is public National Seashore. People don’t usually mind you walking on the private beaches, either, so you can almost circumambulate the peninsula on the beach.

Here’s a view of a typical beachside home. You’re never far from bay or sea on Cape Cod

The dune vegetation is lovely and diverse:

A curious tubular seaweed I found at low tide:

Sea rocks:

A panorama of the shore (click to enlarge):

And ripples in the sand at low tide:

On the road, we saw two people standing by the roadside and noticed that they were looking at a giant turtle. It turned out to be a big snapping turtle that they were protecting so that it didn’t go back into the highway and get hit by a car.

We got out, too, and stood by it until  the turtle was clearly out of the roadway and heading into the woods.

Its head, which is cute, belying the fact that these guys can do serious damage with a bite, even taking off your finger

We headed up to Provincetown at the tip, which, I was told, was the gay mecca of the Northeast. (I now realize why this is where Andrew Sullivan goes to relax in summer.) I decided that I would walk around and, pretending I didn’t know of the town’s reputation, see how long it would take me to catch on. First, some views of the town.

The tower is the Pilgrim Monument, built between 1907 and 1910, with another monument below. They both commemorate “the first landfall of the Pilgrims in 1620 and the signing of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor.”

The colorful streets of Provincetown. It looked like a resort town to me, but for a while I couldn’t see signs that it was a gay mecca.

Lots of colorful shops, art stores, restaurants, marijuana dispensaries, and some psychics and crystal shops.

We had lunch at the Lobster Pot, a seafood joint that’s been here since 1979 and is favored by both locals and tourists.

A bloody Mary: half drink, half salad:

My friend Brit’s lunch: Cioppino, a seafood stew/soup, and very substantial

I wanted New England clam chowder, which was served in a bread bowl. Excellent. I much favor the New England style rather than the “Manhattan” style of chowder, which includes tomatoes.

Many people went for the lobster roll, a New England favorite. It’s basically lobster meat (and a bit of mayo or butter) heaped into a hot-dog-style bun. This one has a lot of lobster!

Provincetown Harbor:

There were indeed signs that Provincetown attracts gays (both gay men and lesbians, I’m told). Here’s one: an erotic toy shop (to be sure, these don’t cater solely to gays):

This is a more definitive sign. I was puzzled at the “tea dance” affair, but was told that this place, The Boatslip, is a popular gay hangout with dances and a swimming pool. It’s right on the bay.

The Three Sisters Lighthouses are part of the National Seashore. Built in the early 19th century, they are no longer functional, but were a trio of non-moving lights that told seamen that they were about halfway up the northern part of Cape Cod. They were moved because of erosion, and were also rendered obsolete by the development of moving lights with Fresnel lenses that were a more obvious sign of shore: Here are two of the three, the one in the foreground remaining intact.

This is the famous Nauset Lighthouse nearby, which still functions. It was built in 1877 and moved in 1923 and 1996 because of coastal erosion that endangered the structure. Erosion is a real problem here, and it really cannot be stopped.

The lighthouse features on a local favorite: bags of Cape Cod potato chips.

After driving home, it was time for a nosh.. And that means oysters,  best (and most cheaply) procured at Caroline’s Bar and Restaurant in Eastham.  At happy hour, also known as “buck a shuck” ($1 per each shucked oyster), you can eat your fill at reasonable prices: about a third of the normal price. There are also cocktail shrimp.

The Happy Hour menu.

A plate of gustatory bliss: a dozen Wellfleet oysters and four huge cocktail shrimp These oysters were among the best I’ve ever had; indeed, they may BE the best I’ve ever had. Sadly, the place is closing down in a week. Lack of tourism and of help means that many places close during fall, winter, and early spring

The end of the day: the sun sinks over the mainland, viewed from the west coast of Cape Cod.


32 thoughts on “Cape Cod: Day 2

  1. Wellfleet oysters are definitely great, but you should try my Dad’s oysters, farmed in Nantucket Bay. Pocomo Bay, to be exact. Hence the name: Pocomo Meadow oysters. Unfortunately they have only begun shipping them off-island to Neptune Oyster in Boston.

  2. Wonderful photos and commentary. I can almost smell the sea air. Second DrB’s remark on the bread bowl of chowder -yumm. I hope that Caroline’s is only closing for the winter and not for good. We have places here in Virginia that have reopened after the pandemic, but stay on shaky financial ground and have sporadic opening hours because they apparently cannot hire enough staff. I just do not understand that. Please keep the foodie pictures coming.

    1. >”. . . long ago”?

      Cod stocks collapsed on both sides of the Atlantic in the early 1990s from over-fishing. There has been a moratorium in Canada since 1992. Not to worry, though. Cod are an apex predator, not prey. Their disappearance on the west side of the Atlantic has led to larger populations of the tasty and valuable sea critters they used to eat, like lobsters and shrimp and the larvae of things like oysters and scallops. What’s more, cod are easily farmed and are more consistently available in Southern Ontario grocery stores than before the moratorium. And their feces makes good agricultural fertilizer so it’s a win-win-win.

      Not everything is gloom and doom. 🙂

  3. Are the Flagship Restaurant and Ciro & Sal’s — the joints where, respectively, teenage Tony Bourdain got his first restaurant job as a dishwasher and where he got his first experience as a line cook, before he left to attend the Culinary Institute of America — still open in P-town?

  4. Awesome! I haven’t been on the Cape in a very long time. The landmarks there are evocative of the sea and how it influences life in New England. Cape Cod is a terminal moraine, I believe. Those “sea rocks” are almost certainly chunks of rock that were brought to the Cape from many miles away, perhaps even from Canada. They rafted there embedded in the glacial ice. When the ice melted, the rocks were left behind. That common snapping turtle—a dangerous creature as I learned the hard way when I was a kid—is more recent in origin. 🙂

  5. Love good oysters. These pics, and commentary, have me jonesing for some. A friend and I once ate a whole bucket, 4-5 dozen oysters, by ourselves in one sitting. The table was covered in shells, butter, cocktail sauce, lemon wedges and cracker crumbs. We tipped very well though.

  6. That was a very nice tour. Lots of English place-names on the map, so it felt sort of familiar, even though I’ve never been near it.

    There is something to be said for visiting coastal places out of season. We love the coasts of Cornwall, Devon, West Wales and our own local coasts of Kent and Sussex; but they are 100% better without the crowds!

    Jerry, I hope your stay is peaceful and restorative.

  7. Thank you for a lovely read. You had me travelling with you. Yes – as above – all those English place names, my country put into a blender.

  8. It may be of interest to some that the painter Edward Hopper had a place on the Cape where many of his important works were made. Hopper spent nearly 40 of his 84 summers in Truro, the rolling, lightly populated stretch of the Cape between Provincetown and Wellfleet.

  9. Your seaweed is also edible. It is genus Salicornia, often called samphire. Salty and tangy, raw or cooked. Probably gone until next year: Beach pea, with lovely lavender flowers. A bit less tender than snow peas but still good: steam slightly and eat with
    soy sauce or sesame oil. And further in from the coast if no one has picked them clean are beach plum bushes growing in pure sand.Pick them around August 23 when they are wine colored, not black, to maximize the pectin, and make the world’s most delectable jam (note: domesticated beach plums lack the flavor of wild ones). I just used up the last jar I had from a few summers ago (they are highly acid and keep well) and am still in mourning. (you can use the ripe black ones for pies, or make beach plum bounce: wash and stem lots of ripe black beach plums, fill up a gallon glass jug, add one cup sugar and fill with rum. Wait a few months and then decant.You can do this with cherries and blackberries too but nothing beats beach plum bounce).

    1. The seaweed looks more like Codium to me (an alga, not a plant). Also (allegedly) edible (no personal experience), but not Salicornia.

  10. We missed each other on the main drag of P-town by about 3 months! I wanted to buy a t-shirt that proclaimed “I am proud of my gay son”, just to confuse my sons, but the spouse wouldn’t allow it. 🙂

  11. I’m loving your trip – keep the pics and comments and adventures coming! Though… again, you’re STILL MAKING ME HUNGRY!!!

  12. Sorry – separate topic here, but I think important. Tim Snyder gives a good account and prediction/analysis about the war in Ukraine and Putin. I’m a big fan of his book Bloodlands (as is our host) as well as his recent lecture series on Ukrainian history. (latest here:

    Here he delves into geopolitics but it is a very cogent argument if you’re interested.
    I have no dog in this fight and it is above my paygrade, but I present to my friends here:


  13. If you head down to Osterville (E of Hyannis) you can’t visit the classic roadhouse, Joe’s Twin Villa (Closed, alas), but you can go to Wimpy’s for great food. Oh, and look for the OYC burgee stickers plastered over the Wianno Club signs. I’m a proud member of the Oysterville YC, and one of the few members with a boat!

  14. Wonderful pictures and descriptions. Thank you for the vicarious enjoyment! It’s a relief after feeling vicariously displeased when I saw the post from Midway on the way out. I hope the rest of the trip turns out to be great!

  15. Nice to see Cioppino made it to the East coast…invented in San Francisco, just like you can find the “best” New England clam chowder in San Fran. And there’s Pike Place Chowder in Seattle- not just clam, but smoked salmon and halibut and whoa! I would eat there more often, but the line is always so damn long, I opt out.

    A good Manhattan chowder is just as good as a New England because it’s apples and oranges. Like comparing an Alfredo sauce to a Marinara: totally separate species. The Manhattan variety is also a healthy soup, whereas the New England isn’t (caloric and cardiovascular speaking). In my estimation, the New England variety is better (if made correctly), but I blame evolution for making me love its butter and cream.

  16. Looks nearly as nice as Nova Scotia! 🙂
    As for the ‘Tea Dance’ confusion, taking afternoon tea in posh hotels was always a thing in the anglophone world, and there came a fashion to dance to a band while taking tea, beginning in the late Victorian era and peaking in the inter-war period. The French claim to have invented it, and you’ll still hear the term ‘Thé Dansant’ but largely that survives because of the enormous French influence on smart London hotels. You need some aspidistras, a piano quartet if not a minstrel band, some Italian waiters and a French maître d’hôtel and you’re away. In those days it was not performed in drag, but times change.

  17. Slightly odd reading a description of your home. The Cape is a pretty amazing place. As Boston’s Florida it gets pretty crowded in the summer but now, as things calm down a bit and you can once again make lefthand turns, it’s wonderful. Thanks for sharing. Next time stop by and say hi. We’re in Brewstah.

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