Sunday, May 22, 2011

Brewster, MA to Sandwich, MA on Route 6A

Scene on Route 6A, Cape Cod, MA

From Brewster, stay on 6A.  For a few miles, elegant Victorian homes house art galleries, inns, offices and stores before 6A cuts directly through the egret and osprey studded Stony Brook Valley Salt Marsh preserve.  Tree branches form canopies over 6A, and more antique, gift and glass shops dot the road on this stretch, marking a well-heeled, worldly clientele.  Stop at Scargo, off Route 6, Dennis, MA, 508-385-3894, open daily 10am – 6pm, as your car crawls along a wooded dirt road, you’ll see a few cars parked near a sculpture garden and clapboard building.  This is home to notable clay artists who work and sell their unusual wares in this shop/studio. When I visited, the gallery was long on fantastical Kremlin-like pieces. Reminding me of colorful dribble sand castles, they dominated the woodsy property.  Ceramic craft collectors will love this tucked-in-the-woods find.

Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis MA
 Cape Cod Museum of, 60 Hope Lane (off Route 6A), Dennis, MA; 508-385-4477. In a week of surprises, this was one of the biggest ones.  I walked into this new but classical Cape designed building expecting lackluster only to find woa! Your MoMa!  “The museum was established to hold some of the pieces that local artists routinely shipped off the Cape,” said a docent, “and we have and have had many of the greats here.” Two main gallery rooms are sunlit and soaring – one with a ship-hull ceiling – to best reflect the 30 art exhibitions mounted each year.

Nutmeg Muffin; Underground Bakery
Dennis, MA
Next door, grab a signature “Nutmeg Muffin,” from the Underground Bakery (behind the Post Office.  Tough to find – an “insider’s” tip).  It’s dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar and OMG.  No wonder the place was packed when I walked in mid-morning.

Many Dennis establishments are located within sweet Cape Homes – even the local plant nursery and fish and chips places.  You could spend hours stopping every few yards along 6A just investigating the non-franchise boutiques and craft and art galleries. 

By the time I got to Yarmouthport – commerce gave way to a residential stretch.  Rhododendrons burst with pink blooms – popping an otherwise grey day with loads of color. New blooms are extra dramatic against the backdrop of weathered grey shingled homes – the prevalent building exterior on Cape Cod.

Stop to see the Gorey House, then....

Share a decadently awewome old-fashioned ice-cream soda at 100-year-old Hallet’s, 139 Main St. Yarmouthport,  which has been dishing out hand-mixed ice-cream sodas for over 100 years. If those wide, warped original floorboards could talk, they’d expound upon the generations of soda-fountain lovers who stopped in for a cool, creamy, sinful sip. Still in operation by members of the Hallet family, come soon for one of the best ICS’s you’ll ever draw through a straw.

Jim Ellis, Blacksmith
Coast Guard Heritage Museum
In Barnstable, I pulled into the parking lot of a trio of incongruous attractions; the Old Jail, a Blacksmith’s Shop and the Coast Guard Heritage Museum.  I had my doubts about their appeal, but was pleasantly surprised.  The jail is actually the Oldest Wooden Jail still standing in the country – built in 1690– a tiny place with original iron bars and walls carved by bored imprisoned sailors (one carving is dated 1698).  Times were harsh back in the olden days; if you didn’t go to church, you’d be sent to jail.  If you made a bad batch of bread or beer – to the stockyards with you!  Cells were called “boxes” and because it was still British in the late 1600’s, the jail was called a “Gaol.” You had to purchase your own gruel, and hope you didn’t freeze in the winter and melt in the summer.  Ten men women and children were forced into a space the size of a walk-in-closet.  I was fascinated.

Jim Ellis’s “Smithy” shop is next door.  You can see him banging away on his anvil surrounded by his iron creations.  Ellis is not into it for the money.  He just wants to “keep an old craft alive.” 

Set in the 1856 Old Custom’s House, the Coast Guard Museum is a hodgepodge of stuff (another “grandma’s attic museum) dating from 1790 to the present.  There are lots of ship models, uniforms, and a whole lighthouse exhibit upstairs.  My guide – a former member of the Coast Guard stated that the first ship commissioned by the government in 1790, the Massachusetts, “created cost overruns, setting a precedent for all government expenditures to come.”  One of the most stirring items on display was a photo of the Andrea Dorea while she was going down.  Taken by photographer Harry Trask, it shows the mighty ship, stern and propeller up and out of the water in process of sinking. Also on display is the Breeches Bouy Cart used in the rescue of the Margaret Rose, which ran aground in Provincetown in 1962..  Ralph Jones, a former Coast Guard member, trained on the bouy. “As a drill, we had to save a person from the top of a practice pole.  If we couldn’t do it in five minutes, we were unqualified to go out.”

I spent the last night on the Cape in Sandwich.  There's just too much to see in a couple of days.

Sandwich MUST SEE's

1. Heritage Museums and Gardens; click on the link for my former post

2. Greenbriar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen; which I covered in a former post

3. Sandwich Glass, 508-888-0251. When an oil painting began talking, I knew this wasn’t going to be Grandma’s boring glass-case museum.  Even the supposedly stuffy items in said glass cases moved to grab my attention.  The town of Sandwich was known for its pressed glass and in this clever, engaging museum you can see a glass-blowing demo, holographic depictions of a colonist’s use of glass in her home, and yes, glass shelves brimming with the colorful crystal that made this town famous.

4. Take Tea at ; Dunbar Tea Room; when I exit the Cape with a second layer of fat on my body, I'll blame the phenomenal Dunbar Tea Room and its scones with clotted cream.  Nuff said. If you are into high tea with cucumber sandwiches and sinful baked goods, this little cottage must be on your “places to eat” list.

Stay at Belfry Inne & Bistro
What could be more divine than an opulent Jacuzzi guestroom - sky high ceilings, deep purple walls, “church pew” headboard bed topped with high- thread-count sheets, morning sun streaming through a Michael the Archangel stained-glass window– in a former Catholic Church? Gracious proprietor, Chris Wilson completely remodeled the interior of The Abbey, carving out a world-class white-linen, locally sourced restaurant in the former sanctuary and alter space and, above, installing six guestrooms named after the days of the week.  displays delicious irreverence by assigning the “Lord’s Day” – Sunday – to the fire escape door.  All the rooms are grand and beautiful and situated around an interior balcony that overlooks the bustling Belfry Bistro below.  Just sitting down to dinner in the (former) sanctuary of a Gothic church – with its towering arched ceiling – is a lofty enough experience, but attentive wait staff and sumptuous farm-to-table cuisine live up to the surroundings. The best part about staying here; no need to worry about having a couple of glasses of wine with dinner; a grand suite awaits just upstairs. Belfry Inne;, 8 Jarves St. Sandwich, MA- 508-888-8550, rates $145-$295.


  1. I loved Scargo Pottery, the Cape Cod Art Museum, Hallet's, the Ed Gorey House & the Magic Tree!

  2. I loved the town of Sandwich. It's a great name and the town is so quaint. I was there many years ago and you have definitely created a desire in me to go back to the Cape.
    We will be leaving today and making the final plans as we travel as to where we will meet up with you. I will look forward to your stories of your trip. Have fun! - Linda Barnicott

  3. Hi Malerie-
    Have a great and safe journey! It sounds like fantastic fun and a perfect summer trip. I'm looking forward to following along as you travel Route 6!

  4. best wishes to you mal. i admire your work and i admire you! i love the cape, altho i haven't been there since 1985 (when i was 14). did i ever tell you that jack's dad did a drive about with mary's ashes in an urn, and spread mary dust at favorite family spots. he brought his cousin and his urn in a convertible and hit the highway. makes me smile to this day thinking about it. hugs to you. will be following along.

  5. Check out what happened to Hallet's on its Facebook page you'll be surprised to know a car crashed into the front of it no one was hurt other than the building you can join us in on Facebook to see our progress to put it back together Charlie


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