Sarah and I flew out to Massachusetts over Labor Day weekend to see one my friends from college get married and to see some old friends.
Earlier this year, my friend from Tufts, Mike, invited me to be part of his wedding party, and I was honored to accept. So it wasn't any sort of impulse trip that we were on. There were only two time periods that we had wedding obligations, so that left us plenty of time to see old friends and haunt some of our old stomping grounds. After a reasonably pleasant (for air travel) flight from Madison (via Milwaukee) we landed in Boston on Thursday night. Almost as soon as we landed and the skyline of downtown Boston came into view, it occurred to me how much both Boston and myself had changed. Sarah and I have been back to Boston several times since we left there in October, 1998, but I'd never felt so strongly before that the phase of my life where I called Boston home is so completely in the past. If I were ever to move back there again (an extremely unlikely scenario), it would be a new experience, and not merely a continuation of my past times there.
We made our way by public transit to Cambridge where we stowed our luggage at the home of a friend of Sarah's. Then we were off to find dinner. We ended up in Harvard Square (which has gone a long way in the wrong direction and is no longer a place worth visiting) where we had a passable meal at John Harvard's.
Friday morning we arose, picked up a rental car from an off-airport location, and then drove to scenic Chelsea to pick up a rented blazer that I needed to fit in to the wedding party scenery. After that, we drove to Somerville where we parked at Tufts and walked around for a while. The campus has changed quite a bit in the eleven years since we graduated. There are several new buildings and the students all seem very young. While we were touring the library, a librarian came out of a room and asked me, with all honesty, if I was ready for school to start on Tuesday. I explained that I had graduated ten years earlier and was just touring the old alma mater. Sarah, of course, got a big kick out that as she thinks that I've got a baby face and the librarian's actions just confirmed her suspicions.
After a walk around campus, we ate lunch at Nick's House of Pizza. Their calzones are still fabulous, even if they cost roughly 29% more than they did while we attended school there.
Because it was the Friday before Labor Day, we decided to head for our accommodations on the South Shore after lunch. It was likely that scads of commuters would take off from work early and head for the Cape, so it might take longer than usual to reach Plymouth, where we had a hotel room booked for the night.
After a relatively uneventful, and sometimes slow, drive to Plymouth we found our hotel, the Blue Spruce Motel. The Blue Spruce's primary drawing card is its price. It isn't in a scenic location (unless you consider a strip mall parking lot scenic) nor is it conveniently located. It was not unpleasantly dirty and the folks running the front desk were nice. We didn't have long to enjoy listening to the state highway a hundred from our front door, however, as we needed to get back north to the wedding rehearsal dinner, which we thought started at 17:00.
We left ourselves plenty of time and arrived at 16:30. Oops. Not only were we early, but we had the time wrong. The rehearsal didn't actually start until 17:30. So, we chatted with a guy mowing the church's lawn, and then we went for a sort of scenic drive in Scituate and Humarock where we saw all sorts of architectural atrocities: nice beachside places had been torn down and replaced with three story monsters.
Eventually, the rehearsal started. I'll save you the details except to say that we practiced the ceremony one way, promptly changed everything, and then walked out the door. It didn't really matter, though. No one really cares how the wedding party processes, or doesn't, as long as a couple get hitched somewhere during the whole affair.
Rather than participate in a cocktail hour that neither of us needed, Sarah and I drove back to Scituate and had fried clams at the Sands End Cafe before heading to the rehearsal dinner. Even the unfortunate music being made by a guy with a guitar couldn't mask how delicious those clams were. They were sweet and savory; hot and crispy; and served with a tasty tartar sauce. They were spectacular.
The next day we spent the morning walking around Plymouth. I like Plymouth and it is one of the few areas that I used to live in Massachusetts that I could see myself living again. We walked down Main/Court St. and found that our favorite Irish bar closed and that a rib joint now occupies that space. Meanwhile, a Mexican-themed place (note that I don't actually call it Mexican; that would be an insult to our neighbors to the south) that should have gone out of business looong ago remains open. The British groceries store remains mystifyingly open, with the same lack of customers and sales. The brewpub we liked is closed; the diner we liked is still open. After that it was time for a walk on the water front. Plymouth Rock is still there. One of our favorite moments of the morning was watching a man take extensive video footage of Plymouth Rock.
For lunch on Saturday we drove out to Massasoit State Park where we met some friends who live in Vermont. We met them when they lived in Madison, but after graduating from UW-Madison they moved out to Vermont where he is taking part in a family business. Her parents live in Rhode Island and they were down to visit her parents for the weekend so they agreed to meet us halfway between Plymouth and her parents' place. We had a good time reminiscing for a couple hours over food and (illicit) wine before they had to get back and we needed to start on our journey to the Cape.
We had plans to meet up with a former co-worker of Sarah's for dinner at his house on the Cape, but she wanted to see some of her old work sites on the Cape so we started a bit earlier than we needed. Along the way, we stopped at a house where Sarah rented a room while she lived on the Cape. The woman with whom she used to live was at home and we spent more than an hour catching up with her and her significant other. They have done extensive work to the house, both enlarging and renovating it, so it was fun to see the changed house.
The last time I saw the kids of Sarah's former co-worker, they were something like 7 and 5 years old. That was how I pictured them in my mind until I met a pair of teenagers when we walked in the door. The old kid is now seventeen, a senior in high school, and trying to decide where to go to college. The girl, now fifteen, baby sits and helps to run a dance school. When Sarah still worked there she used to watch the Teletubbies with the girl. Once we got over how much the kids had grown we had a very pleasant evening eating, drinking, and catching up with the whole family.
Sunday morning we took a long walk on Plymouth's Long Beach, which is one of our favorite things to do in Plymouth. It's a narrow spit of land extends two miles into the ocean with a sandy beach on one side. We walked almost all the way out to the end before time pressures forced to us to turn around and head for our car. After all, we had to leave plenty of time for lunch because we had Lobster Hut on the brain.
If ever travel to Plymouth and fail to eat at Lobster hut, you've truly missed out on the of the area's gems. We never fail to eat there if there is even a remote possibility of doing so. It's one of those rare restaurants that's so good it stays open even in the winter when the nearest tourist is three hundred miles away. If you're only going to eat one meal there, I recommend the fried scallops, the fried clams, and the lobster, in that order. We ordered fried scallops and a lobster on this trip. The scallops were heaven-sent. The lobster was so naturally buttery-tasting that we didn't even need to dip it in the melted butter vat that came with the meal. It wasn't a cheap meal, but we enjoyed it immensely.
The wedding was scheduled for 15:00 in the afternoon on Sunday so after lunch we headed north to check into our hotel room in Cohasset, where the reception would be held. We stayed at the Red Lion Inn, which had a veneer of classiness and prices designed to pinch wedding attendees. We changed into our wedding clothes, hopped in the car again, and drove off to the wedding.
At this point, I'm going to address our rental car. We put over 400 miles on that car over the course of the weekend, so we got to know it fairly well. It was a Chevy Cobalt, rented from Enterprise, that came with an option package I like to call Electric Nothing. No power door locks, no power windows, no cruise. It wasn't terribly spacious or comfortable nor was it fun to drive or pleasing to the eye. It automatically turned on the parking lights (not daytime running lights) when the car was started and those lights stayed on unless or until the driver turned them off. It had a four cylinder engine that got roughly the same gas mileage as our six cylinder Toyota Avalon does. It's no wonder that GM can't compete with the Civic and the Corolla if this is its weapon of choice. I wanted to hang a sign in the window that read "It's not mine; it's a rental" so that people wouldn't think I was one oar short of a pair and try to take advantage of me after seeing my ride.
The wedding was a wedding. It was Catholic, so we all got plenty of exercise going up, down, up, down, up down. In the end, a couple got hitched at the altar, so everyone went home happy.
Monday morning, in Sarah's words, I needed to be "dried out" so we packed up our stuff, hit Dunkin' Donuts for the sixtieth time on the trip, and headed for the beach.
Let me digress again to address our frequent Dunkin' Donuts stops. I don't remember exactly how many times we stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts, but even before we left home I planned to stop there often enough that I brought a reusable Dunkin' Donuts travel mug with me from Madison. We always enjoy mingling with the locals at Dunkins (as they are sometimes known) and the coffee is good, too.
We went back to Scituate/Humarock (another twenty or thirty miles on the car, of course), found a one hour parking spot (that we occupied for hours), and proceeded to soak up the sun on the beach. Rather, I soaked up the sun on the beach while Sarah froze various parts of her anatomy in the icy cold waters. Normally, I'm ready to leave the beach after ten or fifteen minutes, but that day I would have stayed for hours. We had been go-go-going for days so it was nice to take a couple of hours and just relax in the sun. We had lunch at the Sands End Cafe again (seafood, of course), before heading back out to the beach for some more relaxation. In a complete reversal of normality, Sarah was ready to leave the beach before I was, but we eventually packed up our stuff and headed back north in the Precambrian Chevy Cobalt.
We spent Monday night at Sarah's friend's house in Cambridge again. After dropping off the car early Tuesday morning, we caught the T back to the airport and several hours later we were back in Madison.