Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Middle-Class Nantucket

With its many high-end restaurants, expensive clothing shops, and virtually no real estate for under $1 million there is no doubt that Nantucket is an playground for the 1%. However, my family and I, (solidly middle-class) have been enjoying an island visit 1-2 times a year for the past decade. Our most recent trip was a four-day excursion in early June.

How to get there
In addition to my husband, my teenage daughter and I we invited two of our daughter's friends. Round trip ferry passage for all five of us was $140 with the 10-ride discount booket. Satellite parking in Hyannis was $12 a day.

When to Go
I can say from experience that Nantucket is lovely in the spring, summer and fall. I have never ventured a winter trip. From late June through Labor Day it is extremely crowded. Fortunately for us even early June is a bit off season, since most local schools are not yet out. The weather was gorgeous during our visit, and we practically had the island to ourselves. We arrived late Sunday morning when there were still a lot of weekend visitors and we had to do some serious "WASP dodging" but, the island was virtually empty by dinnertime, and remained so through the rest of our stay.

Where to Stay and What to Eat
While on Nantucket we always stay in the heart of town at Tyrer's Guest House on India Street, where we usually have a choice of staying in a lovely room, or renting the small apartment which features its own kitchen. Having a kitchen can drastically cut down on the cost of food. We ate most of our meals at the apartment, but enjoyed two dinners out as well. One at Pi Pizzeria, and the other at the Rose and Crown. Another affordable favorite is Tacos Tacos, right by the dock. I took the girls to the grocery the night before we left and each picked out a box of cereal which they had for their breakfast while we were there. Cheese sandwiches, PB&Js, tuna salad and pasta rounded out our dining.

Visits to the island's grocery stores prevented us from having to bring all of our food from the mainland. A visit to Bartlett's farm is a definitely a worthwhile venture as well for fresh fruits and vegetables, and some good deli.

Nantucket is an exceptionally bike friendly place, and there are several bike rental venues. We always use Young's Bicycle Shop which has a simple and affordable pricing system - we rented 2 bikes for 2 days for less than $100. Almost anywhere we rode we found bike racks and there are many bike trails, as well as well-marked bike paths through town. Again, the off-season is a good time to go. We didn't have to navigate around cars in the streets, and the bike paths were quiet. Getting off the beaten path allowed us to see some great wildlife, including a seagull eating a still moving crab! 

Cisco brewery and Nantucket Vineyards A few miles out of town - just a beautiful bike ride away - is Nantucket's own Brewery and Vineyard. We stopped at the Vineyard and each had a glass of wine which be enjoyed so much we purchased a bottle of both that we tried - a blueberry-infused Pinot Gris, and a sparkling Brut Cuvee. 

Theatre Workshop (note the "high brow" spelling) is an unassuming venue in the basement of the Methodist Church. My husband and I bought tickets to see the Sunday afternoon performance of Time Stands Still. We were both awe-struck at the exceptional acting and production quality at what appeared to be a small community theater, but boy, that lead actor sure looked familiar. Turns out the Theatre Workshop is well endowed, and was able to hire New York actors, including  John Shea, best known for his role as Lex Luther in Superman. And we still only paid $25 per ticket.

The Whaling Museum features a real skeleton of a gigantic sperm whale and is a great place to learn about whaling, the tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (upon which Melville based Moby Dick), and the history of Nantucket. Although regular admission for adults is normally $17, our membership in the Massachusetts Teacher's Association provided us free admission.

Sperm whale oil was valued as fuel. This oil came from a sperm whale that washed up on Nantucket in 1997, although locals tried to save it, it ultimately died on the beach.

The top of the museum provides fabulous views

Looking out at the harbor.

Where to Shop (the best place on earth for affordable fashion)
Rich people buy nice clothes, and then hardly ever wear them. Lucky for us that they drop off their seldom- used garb just steps away from Tyrer's Guest House at the Hospital Thrift Shop. I bought two dresses, three shirts, and two sweaters for a grand total of $36. Most things look like they've been worn somewhere between 0-2 times. For clothing that still has tags the price might be in the double digits, otherwise, I expect to pay less than $10 for each item. 
From the Amano Cotton collection Pam models her $6  sweater from Nantucket's Premier Thrift Shop

Brandt Point Light is perhaps my most favorite spot on earth - a quiet beach with a working lighthouse

Our teenage daughter and her friends preferred Jetties Beach which features a snack bar, restrooms and other amenities. Children's Beach is a great place for young children - no waves, and a playground. Nantucket also has at least seven other public beaches. See a map and descriptions here

A gratuitous picture from our first trip in 2003 of our daughter waving to  ferry passengers from  Brandt Point.

A co-worker found this magnet in a car wash bay and passed it on to me. ACK is the code for Nantucket's airport (Tom Nevers Field). The code comes from letters in "Nantucket". 

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Visit to the Rebecca Nurse House - Danvers, Massachusetts

Although there were other witch trials in the 17th century, the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 are the most well-known in American history. Nineteen victims were hanged, and one was pressed to death between June and September of that year. There were others who died while in prison. Rebecca Nurse, probably the most well-known of the victims was hanged, along with five other women on July 19. She was 71 years old at the time of her death. 

Thanks to one of my cousins, I learned a few years ago that my daughter and I are direct Nurse descendants. We have been several times Salem Witch Trials Memorial, but until two weeks ago had never been out the the "family homestead" in what was then Salem Village (now Danvers). 

The Meetinghouse was not part of the original homestead. It was built in the 1980s by PBS for the film Three Sovereigns for Sarah. 

The original house

Dan, our very knowledgeable tour guide, shows us the gardens with some of the plants that would have been grown at the time.

 First floor fireplace

 The entire family slept in the one bedroom on the second floor.

Rebeccas's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great; and great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughters contemplate her fate.

This memorial marker is in the family burial site on the homestead grounds. Nurse is likely interred on this site, as witches were not allowed to be buried in church graveyards.

More information about the family at American Family History