Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Birthday Weekend on Nantucket

Last summer for my birthday, I decided that I wanted my gift to be a weekend on the island of Nantucket. I've been to Martha's Vineyard a few times, but never to Nantucket, which is further out (30 miles) and even more posh and luxurious than the Vineyard. We were vacationing on Cape Cod anyway, so my mother stayed with the kids while Peter and I took the high-speed ferry to Nantucket and spent a fun weekend there.

I loved seeing the beauty and historic charm of Nantucket. It is such a nice place. Not so nice for me were two things: 1) I came down with a head cold halfway through our trip, and 2) I felt very un-posh at times being surrounded by so many super-posh, super-wealthy people. (Just a warning: the word "posh" is probably going to be way overused in this post. I think it already has been.) I wished that I had packed more stylish clothes! I wish I HAD more stylish clothes! I actually had a style epiphany because of that weekend: a woman of my age (31) really shouldn't be wearing flip-flops as part of an out-and-about outfit anymore. When I got home to Iowa a few weeks later, I went shoe-shopping and bought a few pairs of cute sandals that were better looking and more posh and more comfortable than flip-flops. Flip-flops are for the beach and for hanging around the yard for me now.

ANYWAY, that was a completely unexpected digression...back to Nantucket!

Did you know that Nantucket is the only place in America that is simultaneously an island, a county, and a town? It's only 14 by 3.5 miles. Even with that small size, it has its own airport. Nantucket is a national historic landmark because it has over 800 buildings that were built before 1850, which is the largest concentration of such buildings in the United States (I just plagiarized that from my guide book, but I admitted it and credited it by way of the link, so I'm good!). Another interesting fact is that there are no traffic lights on Nantucket. They're too modern and don't fit in with the feel of the island. How quaint!

We stayed at this cute bed and breakfast, The Carlisle House Inn. It was built in 1765 and was once a sea captain's house.
Our room was the top two windows on the left on the top floor.

It had a really pretty garden on the side of the property, and at night there were white lights strung up and glowing around the bushes and trees. It felt a little like A Midsummer Night's Dream

And do you know what was kind of cool? We stayed in Room 30, and right across the way was Room 31. The reason that was funny was because we were there to celebrate my birthday, and I was turning 31. Ha ha! I love it when little things like that happen!

One of the first things we did after we got to Nantucket was to go on a bus tour of the island. It didn't take very long since Nantucket is small. The bus tour guide was funny. She said that July is a better month than August for natives like her who work on the island because August is when the New Yorkers come and they tend to be pretty demanding and obnoxious. Ha ha! The New Englander in me thought that was great (and true!).

We saw the oldest house on the island, the Jethro Coffin House, which was built in 1686. That's old!

Shingles are popular on Nantucket. They're practically/actually mandated on many structures. 
This shingled windmill was pretty!

Even some of the churches are shingled.

These are some of the other sights we saw on the bus tour:

This was someone's garden. Wow!

This lighthouse is right by what is possibly the most exclusive golf course in the country. It's only open to certain Republicans who own a home on the island (I think?)--according to the tour guide, they wouldn't even let Bill Clinton play there when he was visiting. If that's not partisan snobbery then I don't know what is!

The downtown area is really nice. The streets are made from cobblestones--and many of them are the original cobblestones that were placed there centuries ago! I thought that was so cool. It was like walking on history itself. And the sidewalks are of course brick, not pavement or asphalt. What else for this dignified place?

The storefronts are all brick with shutters. And the shops are very nice (which is reflected by their prices!).

I was happy to find a great bookstore--Nantucket Bookworks, which I will definitely return to whenever we go back. And there was a good pharmacy on Main Street where I found some great soaps and bath products. Only at places like Nantucket would shopping in a pharmacy elicit some nice unique finds! I didn't go in any of the hat studios though. Because, you know, I don't do hats. And I'm not a man.

I spent a lot of time in the downtown area because I liked it. It had neat little alleyways and pretty views.

I got a kick out of some of the street names. Easy Street...yeah, you think?! Seriously, many of the people who vacation/summer/live here are the richest of the rich. I'm talking people like the billionaire chairman of Google and his wife (Eric and Wendy Schmidt), and Tommy Hilfiger (the king of preppy!), among others. There were lots of very posh-looking people with European/Russian accents too. If you think you're doing well financially, just go to a place like Nantucket for a slice of humble pie. Wealth is such a relative thing!

The houses in Nantucket are really pretty and many are historic. They are required to conform to strict standards and have certain features and look a certain way. In that sense Nantucket felt a bit like a dictatorship. It must be the influence of the Russians (just kidding!).

I liked the double stairways up to the front door on this house. Plus this house is just so New England and reminds me of my hometown of Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

A bunch of the houses have cute names.

"The Beehive"...could they be Mormon? Probably not, but we wondered.

Just a few more shots from wondering around:

Even the trashcans are cool! They're designed to look like old ship barrels.

I thought it was neat that in a number of places along the sidewalks, tree roots rise up underneath and they just build over it without uprooting the tree. Nantucket really doesn't like to destroy anything old. Which I think is awesome.

That's me! (In my unstylish flip-flops!)

One of my favorite things was going to the Nantucket Congregational Church, where we climbed 94 steps to the steeple to get 360-degree views of the island and ocean.

Tons of boats! 

The man who was volunteering at the church that day was really nice and he asked us a lot of questions about tithing and how it works in the LDS (Mormon) Church. Other churches are fascinated and inspired (and, as he said, a little envious) of the way the LDS Church has the money it does and how it's able to operate so well in part because of that. It's because of the faith and sacrifice of full tithe-payers all over the world! It was neat to share the principles of tithing with him. I thought it was funny and a little ironic that we were discussing tithing in Nantucket, of all places.

The church was built in 1834 and I loved its big beautiful windows.

A few final random things:

Check out this cool old house on stilts over the water, with a real live seagull perched on the chimney, no less.

How I love porches like this!

This was in someone's basement window at street level. I thought it was cute.

Unfortunately we didn't get to the beach at all during our stay, so we'll have to do that when we go again someday. Nantucket is supposed to have fantastic sunsets over its beaches.

It was a good weekend! We ate some delicious seafood, went on a fun ghost walk/history tour on Saturday night, met some very nice people, and enjoyed the unique, beautiful, and historic place that is Nantucket. I wonder if I can top all of that for my birthday this summer? That would be tough to do!