Martha’s Vineyard in 30 Memorable Moments

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Last month we spent 3 glorious days on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Surrounded by sandy beaches on all sides, we had fun, we frolicked and we explored every nook and cranny of the island. We cooked comforting meals in a huge hostel kitchen, ate lobster rolls and lobster bisque, drank too much blueberry beer at the pub and went on ‘wild’ carousel rides in the pursuit of elusive brass rings. I visited most of the bookshops on the island, wanted to browse through the public libraries, but was able to visit only one. Here are some of the more ‘bookish’ moments of the trip, accompanied by many ‘non-bookish’ moments…

The night before the trip we discovered that it was necessary to book a ferry crossing if traveling with a car in advance. Hence, the only crossing times from Woods Hole in Cape Cod to Vineyard Haven available were at 7 am in the morning! Luckily the previous night we were staying at my Aunt’s house, only an hour’s drive away. IMG_1140 Although the ferry crossing was painfully early, we did manage to see the sun rising in the eastern sky on a beautiful, balmy day in June.

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The first call of duty upon arrival was breakfast at the Black Dog Bakery in Vineyard Haven. I opted for their delicious breakfast sandwich along with a cup of coffee…

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We strolled along quiet Main Street of Vineyard Haven before the shops had opened and the locals and tourists had started milling the streets. We took delight in noticing little inconsequential details in the houses and shops and taking numerous pictures. A few early-bird locals looked on with a mixture of amusement and scorn. We waited outside the doors of ‘The Bunch of Grapes Bookstore’ like guards outside Buckingham Palace, waiting for it to open. We whooshed in when the clock struck nine and perused all the books. The air was still hot and humid from the lack of air-conditioning…it had only been switched on a few minutes before… The store was packed with books about the sea, summer, the Vineyard, it’s history and it’s stories…

IMG_1197 When we left, we noticed the tall, quaint clock with ‘Bunch of Grapes’ inscribed on it’s graceful face.

IMG_1168 Here is the signpost of the Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven. So beautiful… now that is memorable branding! IMG_1303

IMG_1219 The highlight of the morning and in fact the trip was the Flying Horses Carousels in Oaks Bluff. There is something very liberating about riding make-believe horses even if you are an adult. The green fuzzy man depicted in the photo was very energetically plucking metal rings out of the holders as the horses periodically whizzed past the ring dispensing station. The person who picks a brass ring as opposed to the silver ones gets a free ride!

Top tip: the carousel rides are double the fun after a pint of blueberry beer at the Offshore Ale Company in Oaks Bluff 😉

In the afternoon we came back to the hostel (HI Martha’s Vineyard) and made cheese and cucumber sandwiches and ate them with hard-boiled eggs. We took a short nap in our hostel room… In the evening, we packed a few snacks, a blanket and a few beach chairs and took them to Menemshah Beach to watch a memorable sunset. Menemshah Village is famous for being the location of the fishing village depicted in the movie Jaws. The beach was humming with families, enjoying their evening with friends…

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Next morning, Little M wanted to ride the ‘horses again’. We visited the gingerbread cottages in Oaks Bluff. They were all so uniquely themed…

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We visited the Museum Cottage which was a peek into what the cottages look like on the inside. They are surprisingly small and claustrophobic.

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In the afternoon we visited Edgartown and of course ‘Edgartown Books’. It has a nice set of stairs leading upstairs and a small but good selection of books…

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We walked to Edgartown Lighthouse. Little M and her Uncle went all the way to the top of the lighthouse and waved down to us from the top.

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The lighthouse keeper (pictured on the left) very kindly lent Little M’s Uncle some special props which made for great photos! … Memories are made of these…

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The spiral staircase of the lighthouse as photographed looking upwards.

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The following morning we visited the very picturesque ruddy Aquinnah Cliffs. The lighthouse has recently been lifted and moved (by a friendly giant) further inward to avoid the perils of coastal erosion. I really love how all New England’s lighthouses look so unique.

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In the afternoon the car rode on what must be the smallest ferry in the world- the little Chappy Ferry. It took us to the island of Chappaquiddick. We visited the Japanese Mytoi Gardens. We also combed the beach of East Beach for variegated rocks and pebbles. We spent nearly one hour scouring the beach and amassed what may be several kilos of stones which are now to this day (a month after the trip!) lying unceremoniously in a plastic bag in the boot of our car (go figure!).

The trip is coming to an end and so must the blogpost. I will leave you with some random moments…

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A tube of Jane Austen toothpaste seen at Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury where President Obama visited on his trip to the Vineyard.

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A strange creature reading a book in the ‘Field Gallery and Sculpture Garden’, West Tisbury.

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A final hurrah on the ‘horsies’…

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…and lastly a small memento to remember an unforgettable trip.

A Visit to Brattle Book Shop

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One of my most favorite things to do is to visit independent bookstores. Sadly, they are a rare species nowadays. Whenever I visit a new city I try to pinpoint interesting bookstores and public libraries to possibly visit. I like to browse the shelves of these small bookstores. I like to guess the personality of the bookstore owners through the books they choose to display. One such memorable book shop I visited just recently, is the famous Brattle Book Shop in Downtown Boston.

Boston and Cambridge are cities renowned for their educational institutions. The city as a result is inundated with a rich student population. It is not uncommon to see a slightly unkempt backpacked student, reading Dostoevsky with furrowed brow on the subway. Literally everyone is reading something on the public transportation system, be it a newspaper, a library book or an e-reader.

This is a city closely associated with literary stalwarts like Transcendalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott, poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes, writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe.

Henry James talked in a satirical tone about the city and the etiquette of its intellectual class in the book ‘The Bostonians’. In more recent times the romance of the city has been captured in Erich Segal’s books ‘Doctors’ and ‘The Class’.

To bring this long-winded discussion to a conclusion- literary Boston is most-deserving of a bookstore of the acumen of the Brattle Book Shop.

IMG_1411It may be a little easy to overlook the location of the bookshop. Whilst walking past the crowd of tourists and Freedom Trail enthusiasts conglomerating on Boston Commons, you might never know that such a delightful book haven awaits you on a quiet side-street to the right. There is nothing very striking about the bookstore facade until you come upon what seems like an unused parking lot adjacent to the shop, crammed with cart upon cart of used books. They are sorted according to topic and price. Here is a shot of several dilligent book browsers. I could easily have spent the whole day looking through the various treasures. What struck me the most was that these used books were not just your run of the mill cast-off books that are often seen at library sales. Most of the books were older, vintage books which had interesting titles. Here is a closer look at some of the book carts.

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I also found some quaint painted doors which resembled book covers. When you actually enter the Bookstore interior you find yourself in the good company of shelf upon shelf of fiction books, mystery, sci-fi and the upper story also has a dedicated travel book section among others.

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I also found an excellent nook crammed with children’s books. Here is what it looked like and some of the shelved books.

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Lastly I will leave you with the spoils of my treasure hunt.

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I picked up two books by one of my favorite authors, H.E. Bates and a Jeeves short story collection. You can never have enough of PG Wodehouse in your life. I found a vintage children’s book called ‘Singing Games’ for Little M. I thought it might be fun to research some of the songs mentioned within and try to learn them together as a fun activity. Lastly I found an interesting volume named ‘Literary Landmarks of London’, that looks very serious inside but might have some interesting information.

Lastly, there is a gorgeous illustrated map of Germany. The small illustrations next to the towns and villages are just too cute.

I would love to learn about any favorite book stores you have visited on your travels. Till next time.