8 Oct 2012 - “Thank you for your reservation request at The Carlisle House Inn for October 6th. However, we have a two-night minimum stay requirement on weekends in September and October. Please us let us know if it will be possible for you to stay for two nights.”
The answer was no. With our New England itinerary being so compacted, two nights at Nantucket was out of the question. The above email was just one of the more polite responses to a uniform request that I sent out to 4 or 5 Nantucket establishments from Sydney when organizing our New England trip. Most didn’t bother emailing me back. Despite feeling decidedly unwelcome, however, our curiosity was still piqued enough to visit Nantucket for the day.
“You can get a high speed ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket, which will get you there in 45 minutes. It’s $77 per person return.”, advised Jill, our host from The Captain’s House Inn. “You’ll need to book, though, as it’s Columbus Day Weekend.”
(Sigh) That blasted weekend again. Columbus Day Weekend is known for being particularly hectic for Cape Cod. Known as “the last hurrah”, it’s when Summer officially ends for the Cape and Autumn begins, signaling the hibernation of many businesses until the following May. But no sooner had we given Jill the go ahead to book our spot on the high speed ferry that she returned with the bad news - we could leave on the 11:00 am to Nantucket but would not be able to get a return until 7:30 pm.
“There’s no way we can stay in Nantucket for all that time. That’s too long!”, Peter said. “Are there any other options open to us?”
“You can always fly there.”, Jill said. “The flight time is only 20 minutes in a small aircraft and the cost is $139 per person return.”
“We’ve come this far and it’d be a shame to miss out on seeing Nantucket." I said. "Flying is only slightly more than the ferry and we can come back at the time that we want.” Peter agreed and reservations were made.
A Tin Can With Wings:
Within an hour, we were parking our car at the airport in Hyannis - can’t beat the $9.00 all-day parking. Rocking up to the Island Airways counter, we paid for our return flight and proceeded to Gate 1, where we sat awaiting our flight with only other 6 passengers. At 11:30 on the dot, they called for us to board our aircraft, a toy-sized Cessna. Or as I like to call it, a tin can with wings. Bravely climbing up the steps to the aircraft and buckling ourselves into child-sized seats, the pilot introduced himself prior to take off. Flying over an expanse of water from Hyannis to the island of Nantucket, our 20 minute flight dragged on for an eternity. My Father had died in a plane crash over water on a Cessna such as this. I tried hard not to imagine what the last moments of his life might have been like. With clenched jaws, my heart palpitating and on the verge of tears, I focused on the navy baseball cap of the lady in front of me. Sensing my anxiety, Peter held my hand for the remainder of the flight.
“Oh God, this airport’s like a zoo this weekend.”, remarked the pilot when we landed, referring to the number of private aircrafts leaving Nantucket airport. Being the end of Columbus Day Weekend, everyone was deserting the Summer cottages to go back to their permanent homes for the Winter. This made Peter and I even more curious to check out this much coveted playground for wealthy Bostonians and New Yorkers. Jumping into a taxi just outside airport arrivals, it took no more than a 10 minute drive into town.
Meaning “faraway island” in Wampanoag (native American tribe), Nantucket is 30 miles south of Cape Cod. Growing rich from whaling in the 19th century, it experienced a rebirth over the years as a summer getaway for the rich, famous and infamous. While the local population only totals about 12,000, it virtually triples over the Summer months. With historic buildings lining its tree lined streets, it is the only place in the United States that is a National Historic Landmark. “Pretty” is an understatement.
But pretty as it was, there was one thing that disturbed us about this town on this particular weekend. It had the unmistakable air of a carnival winding down. Dozens of people were wheeling their small luggage down the town’s narrow streets towards the ferry, shops had 40-50% off their merchandise in the desperate hope of clearing it, and shop assistants and servers at restaurants had the disinterested demeanor of those that only had their jobs for the summer and would never have to lay eyes on you again. Ever.
Having said that, with three hours to kill, we planned on a leisurely stroll around town - or “laning” as the locals call it - a relaxed lunch and a visit to the Whaling Museum. All achievable as the town is so compact. While the boutiques and home shops were gorgeous and quaint, and I was tempted to spend some money, I reminded myself about the minuscule Cessna that we were flying back on and managed to resist without too much difficulty.
Dining In Nantucket:
“Jill suggested that we have lunch at Cru.”, I said, referring to a new restaurant located at the end of Nantucket’s pier that had been receiving rave reviews.
“Nah, let’s give the Galley a shot.”, Peter said. Lisa, our taxi driver had told us about a supposedly great restaurant by the beach that had 50% off their entire menu since they were closing for the Summer. She did add that it was located another 15-20 minute walk from town. Each way. Nevertheless, we’re always ready to accept advice from a local so we decided to try the Galley.
Arriving at the restaurant after our trek sweaty and hungry, we saw that the parking lot was bursting at the seams with SUV’s and other assorted luxury vehicles. Great sign for the restaurant, bad news for us. I didn’t like our chances of getting a table. Nevertheless, we were relieved to be finally inside.
Walking up to the man behind the reception and requesting a table for two, he responded with, “The wait is one hour.”
“We can’t wait one hour. We only have two and a half hours in Nantucket and we have a flight to catch.”, Peter said.
“There’s nothing I can do for you.”, said the man with feigned politeness. “People have booked months in advance to eat here today.” At that moment, some locals that he obviously knew also turned up without a booking. An air kiss here and back slap there, he told them he’d see what he could do for them. This made our blood boil.
Looking around us, this restaurant had the air of a private club, where women had the compulsory mane of long silky hair, expensive dentures, navy blazer and designer purse, while the men sported khakis, deck shoes, Ray Bans and an air of practiced nonchalance. Like a sorority group that we didn’t fit into, they were the “us” and we were the “them”. Fish-out-of-water notwithstanding, we were not ready to be fobbed off. We accosted another one of the front desk people, a lady this time.
“You can sit on one of the outside tables if you want.”, she said. With tables set right on the edge of the deserted beach, the surroundings were breathtakingly beautiful. We agreed.
“But I have to warn you,” she quickly added before we had the chance to settle. “Our kitchen is incredibly busy and you will not get your food for another hour at the very least.” This stopped us on our tracks. “Why don’t you think about it and let me know when I get back.” Hugging and air kissing a few more ladies en route to the front desk, she was off. We had been duly dismissed.
“Peter, we don’t have the time to wait an hour for our meal. Let’s just get the hell out of here. We’ll only get ourselves more and more frustrated.”
Finally acquiescing, Peter followed me out of the restaurant. What followed was a 20 minute walk back to town in near silence. We felt like we’d been booted out of a private party, one in which we were not welcome. This was the second time I had felt this way about Nantucket, the first time being when I couldn’t get an accommodation booking for one night.
Our subsequent lunch was a rather forgettable one in one of the tourist traps around town. Coming out of the ladies room, Peter had a Chardonnay waiting for me at the table. “Just a little treat to take the edge off.”, he said.
Feeling flat as we took the taxi ride to the airport, we agreed that we wouldn’t be in a hurry to return to Nantucket. While others may have had far more pleasant experiences to ours, we felt like outsiders from the get go. On returning to The Captain’s House Inn at Chatham, there was an email waiting for me on my laptop from a nephew in Boston. It read:
“I've heard wonderful things about Cru on Nantucket. It opened just this past summer and everyone has been raving about it. Might be worth a look.”