Sparklers in the Summer Sky: Boston and the Beach

2602-36Booming sounds rattled the windows of the corner suite at the elegant Lenox Hotel on Boylston Street in Boston’s vibrant Back Bay neighborhood. The coveted view from our hotel window overlooked the Charles River. Through the large panes of glass we saw bursts of constant color exploding above the historic rooftops of Newbury Street and Beacon Hill. Adrenaline soared through our veins as my family and I ran out into the streets to join the crowds.

It was the Fourth of July and the whole of Boston seemed to be sparkling with the city’s fireworks display. The frenzy of the legendary “Boston Tea Party” gripped the crowd, as teams of people scurried through the streets. Yet, upon reaching the Boston Common, we marveled at the tranquility that befell this public garden. A sea of people lay on blankets, heads back, dreaming away, as the Boston Pops Orchestra’s live concert played punctuated pieces as each firework display filled the sky. Actually performing at the Hatch Shell Stage not far away on the Charles, the Boston Pops performance was broadcast on enormous speakers so that all of Boston could enjoy the show. And oh, what a show it was.

4th of July has always been a favorite holiday for me. I usually hit every out-of –town fireworks stand, carefully reading the labels of what terrific explosion each stick of dynamite will display. After picking out all of the big stuff, I fill up my cart with sparklers, firecrackers, and smoke bombs to make certain we have extra fire power after the main acts have sizzled to the ground. Always searching for the best fireworks show, I must say that Boston’s is the best. This intimate, historic city is enveloped by its annual patriotic display of star spangle banner explosions.

555The summers in Boston are lovely, with the chic cafés of Newbury Street filled with students from the numerous nearby Universities. The hilarious Boston Duck Tour amphibious vehicle waddles through the street taking families for a dunk in the Charles and then touring along the famous Freedom Trail. Red-coated pre-revolutionary war soldiers enact the British occupation as they beat their drums beneath the white cupola and grasshopper weather vane of the famous Faneuil Hall. And surrounded by flower carts, mimes and jugglers entertain the spectators in front of the festive Quincy Market.

My family enjoys spending a day or two in Boston in the summer, and then we head out of the city towards the ocean. There are so many intriguing seaside towns to explore. Extending 70 miles into the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Cod peninsula has 300 miles of scenic coastline. From Sandwich to the tip of Provincetown, there are bustling harbors where fishermen haul in their nets tumbling with fish, quaint New England cottages, and dramatic stark white light houses towering over rocky cliffs. The islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are the most popular destination points on the Cape.

Martha’s Vineyard seems to lure us back again and again. Sometimes we choose to visit the island at the end of the summer when the crowds have gone. There is an amazing transformation that occurs at the end of August. A cool breeze blows in across the water and the heat of the summer begins to dissipate.

Surrounded by water, the magic of a Martha’s Vineyard experience begins with the mandatory ferry ride. After a mesmerizing car ride through the colonial villages south of Boston, we board the ferry at Wood Hole for a 45-mintue trip across the white-capped waters. The wind whips our hair across our faces and we bundle up in light jackets to fight the breeze. Arriving at the jewel of New England’s shores, we are a mere five miles of the southern coast of Massachusetts. With miles and miles of seemingly endless beaches, Martha’s Vineyard has a thriving culture and a rich historical past.

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The Island has six towns to explore, each with a distinctive flair and various traditions. Edgartown is the largest town with its quaint boutiques and numerous bars and restaurants. It is known for its whaling traditions and its active fishing harbor. It gained notoriety during the Chappaquiddick incident when Senator Edward Kenney drove off the bridge. A tragic event occurred here also when pilot John F. Kennedy, Jr. crashed his plane off its shores killing his wife and her sister. It has, however, been the favorite vacation spot for many of the rich and famous including President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton, David Letterman, Carly Simon. Spike Lee, Walter Cronkite and many others.

Formerly known as the “Cottage City,” the Vineyard town of Oaks Bluff offers the most night-life on the island. Its colorful gingerbread cottages line the harbor where cafés and clubs are filled during the summer season into the wee-hours of the morning. At the tip of the island are the stark clay cliffs of Gay Head where the 150-year-old lighthouse stands guard. This is the town where Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis maintained a home until her death. We enjoy a ride to this remote point of the island for its serenity and sweeping views of the ocean from the cliffs.

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There are Fourth of July celebrations held in Edgartown that may not be as thrilling as the one in Boston but are a colorful and festive way to spend the night. The town rolls out its colonial heritage with a parade through the streets during the afternoon. The skies light along the shores as the sun sets over the waters.

There are many wonderful little guest houses and inns throughout Martha’s Vineyard. One of the most romantic spots is the Throncroft Inn (800/332-1236) in the town of Vineyard Haven. It is proclaimed to be the place for lovers. Rose petals are sprinkled across the beds at night and hand written notes from the staff are left throughout the day in your room. On a cool summer evening the wood fireplace is lit for a private dinner on your room’s balcony overlooking the wooded grounds. In 2005 Traveler magazine rated Thorncroft Inn as the “Best B&B in America.” Reservations are difficult to get here so plan way in advance of your visit.

There are direct flights to Boston from New Orleans now offered on Jet Blue. Other major airline carriers offer flights into Nantucket Island where idyllic beaches line the shores. Art and antique shops, seafood restaurants, and cultural performances are all a part of the island experience in Nantucket. Great whaling ships and pleasure boats can be seen from the island’s harbor. The cobblestone streets are lined with 17th-century original lamps adding to the charm of the New England seaside cottages.

The lure of the Cape Cod islands in the summer is calling. Bring some sparklers whenever you go to streak through the sky as you run barefoot along the beach. I always do.

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