Category Archives: Massachusetts
One of the most beautiful and underrated areas of New England is the area comprised of four coastal towns, Tiverton and Little Compton RI, Westport and Dartmouth MA. It’s pretty, pastoral and quiet, but chock full of things to do ….if you happen to like food, wine and art. A real tough sell, right? Every year I swear I’m going to make it to SouthCoast Open Studios Tour, and this year I finally did. The local artists open their studios to the public twice a year, and a map is provided to drive between them all. After spending the day at the beach, I hit four or five of them. But first, lunch. A local favorite is The Bayside. You’ll never catch me sitting inside for a meal in summer, but that often means compromising on the quality of the food. Not at The Bayside! I had a salmon burger with avocado and tamari aioli, washed down with a local brew (Grey Lady from Cisco Brewers on Nantucket). I could have stayed here all day.
A hub of activity in this area is the historic district of Tiverton Four Corners….lots of cute shops, a couple of options for eating, and lots of art and antiques. The vibe here – and throughout the SouthCoast region – is understated and casual, but with a certain elegance about it.
Act like a local – buy a used book at the library’s used book sale:
Farming is a big deal here, Westport even bills itself as a “Right To Farm Community”. It’s written right into their bylaws that farms shall be allowed “to function with minimal conflict with abutters and town agencies”. It’s common to see an unattended table at the end of a driveway, with a pile of corn or other produce, and a container to leave your money. One of my favorite stops is Westport Rivers Winery, specializing in sparkling wines. Like many businesses in this region, they’re closed on Sundays so plan accordingly.
The same family owns Buzzards Bay Brewing right around the corner…..don’t miss it. If you’re looking for more to see and do in this region (as well as addresses and a map), see my Jauntful guide.
Maple sugar season – when sugarhouses all over the northeast come to life – is my favorite sign of spring. It generally runs from late February through mid April, when longer, warmer days cause the sap to run. Making syrup really hasn’t changed, it’s still a very manual process….buckets hung from trees to gather the sap, wood fires to boil the sap in rural shacks. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup; remember that the next time you balk at the price of real syrup. I’m pretty sure the ingredient list for Aunt Jemima is just high fructose corn syrup and one melted brown crayon for color.
An old-fashioned tradition that has thankfully survived is seasonal pancake breakfasts right in the sugarhouse. I had several on my short list, and narrowed it down to Williams Farm in Deerfield, Massachusetts for a couple of reasons: it was a bit closer than a few of the others, and also seemed the least likely to have a wait. I’d really like to get to Gould’s one of these days, but a wait of up to two hours is possible. Since it was already a two hour drive, and my backroading turned it into a three hour drive, I wanted to get right down to pancake-eating when I arrived.
From Worcester I took 122 north, a two lane road through the rural towns of Barre and Petersham before linking up with Route 2 (The Mohawk Trail). Once out of Worcester the route quickly turns wooded and pretty and looks much like New Hampshire. Around Petersham you skirt the northern border of The Quabbin Reservoir, at about 40 square miles the largest inland body of water in Mass and the main source of water for Boston. Its creation in the 1930s caused the destruction of four towns; cemeteries and town memorials were moved and even today you can drive down roads that once led to these towns but now dead end at the reservoir.
During maple season, if you are driving in the rural northeast and see a rough wood building with steam coming out of it they’re probably making maple syrup.
All you need to know now is….is this a pancake making sugarhouse or a non-pancake making sugarhouse? Out of the car and we breathe in the smell of woodsmoke. Inside the rustic post & beam building are rows of picnic tables and a counter where you place your order. I stuck with the basics, really good (hot, fresh & light) pancakes, their own maple syrup, and a side of bacon to cut the sweetness. Nothing about the experience is remotely fancy: paper plates, the tables are shared, and you pick up your food when your number is called. And that’s good. Fancy would be wrong here. I grabbed a bottle of Grade B (deep color, robust flavor) on my way out the door. Typing this makes me want pancakes for dinner tonight!
I made a quick pitstop in Historic Deerfield for a few pictures. This sign gives a brief history.
The village today is an outdoor history museum comprised of twelve historic buildings, eleven of which are on their original sites. There’s also an inn with a full service restaurant. The house below was a beautiful bright robin’s egg blue but it’s not as evident in the photo, because of the competing blue sky.
I plan to get back to the Pioneer Valley when the weather warms up some more. I have a list of places I’d like to visit in this Jauntful guide. There’s so much to do here once you start looking around.
A discovery I made recently is the website Jauntful. It’s an easy way to create your own travel guides and a perfect fit for this blog. I’m hopeful they will soon create a widget for WordPress like the Yelp one to the right of this post. In the meantime, I’ll embed links to individual guides as they relate to what I’m posting about. I will try to put aside my resentment at not having invented this website myself.
A couple of weeks ago I visited the village of Padanaram in Dartmouth MA; I had forgotten how beautiful this corner of Massachusetts is. Recently there’s been a push to expand tourism in the region, complete with snappy nicknames (SouthCoast! FarmCoast!) and some polished social media: Discover Farmcoast and their blog. This might be the perfect daytrip, and there is more than enough to make a long weekend out of it. I would suggest starting in Padanaram (Faunce Corner Road exit off 195, just before New Bedford), if it’s lunchtime try the Black Bass Grille. Head west along the coastal roads to take in Horseneck Beach, and stops at Buzzards Bay Brewing and Westport Rivers Winery. If you can time it right, you won’t regret dinner at The Back Eddy. Fresh, local seafood with a Portuguese slant.
A doorway in Padanaram –
The deck at the Back Eddy –
From The Back Eddy follow Adamsville Road into Rhode Island, and the towns of Little Compton & Tiverton. Tiverton Four Corners is an historic crossroads with a few pretty shops, a couple of art galleries, some of RI’s best ice cream at Gray’s, and a fantastic cheese shop. In between you’ll find rolling fields, stone walls & farm stands.
A place I’m lucky to be able to spend a lot of time in is Sandwich, MA, one of the prettiest towns on the Cape. These pics were taken from the boardwalk….I’ve decided I need to swim here at some point this summer:
A rosé tasting on the deck – Les Dauphins won hands down, although I freely admit I bought them based on how pretty the labels were.
A late spring tradition is the Fields of Lupine Festival in Sugar Hill, NH (home of Polly’s Pancake Parlor!). Spring was late this year so the flowers weren’t as abundant as in years past, but it was still pretty.
I’ll leave you with a picture of Bristol (RI) Harbor, sunset on the longest day of the year.
OK, I guess it has been for a while now. We had such a beautiful autumn in New England, it seems all of September and October were sunny and in the 70s. I started this post back in October, I’m completing it in mid-November, so the title is kind of ….off. Christmas music is now playing full time on several radio stations. I am decidedly NOT a winter person, but I really hate wishing my life away so I work hard at enjoying all seasons. That being said, I’m not above looking ahead to spring. Here’s how I do it. The holidays will fly by, January and February are tough to get through but since we will have had the longest day of the year back on December 21st, the days will now be lengthening. Did I mention that February magazines come out mid-January, and February magazines have new spring clothes in them? See how easy that was?
The snaps below were all taken in Massachusetts….Woods Hole, Concord and Sandwich. Oh – except for the one of Knight Farm, that’s in Greenville RI (and is a mighty nice breakfast destination if you’re nearby).