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The joys of Provincetown

Written By venus on Friday, June 28, 2013 | 10:24 PM

For years, I’d vacation in Provincetown, the special little town at the tip of Cape Cod. Provincetown always beckoned. I use the past tense; for various reasons I haven’t been able to spend time there for several years. I had been a regular, staying at the same gay guesthouse on Bradford Street year after year. I’d stay at least for a week during June. Then, in September or October, I’d be back for a long weekend even though it was eight-hour drive each way.

A typical cottage on the West End of P-town
I became good friends with the proprietor and his partner. I also met men who seemed to be there whenever I was: a Boston retiree who had been one of the nation’s earliest consumer advocates (and who loved trying to pull my pants down in front of other guests in the living room); a quiet scholar from the Woods Hole oceanic observatory; a builder and landlord from Rhode Island. A few men I met only once but found memorable: a charming couple from Quebec, a gracious young man from Boston struggling with AIDS, and a sexually overcharged man from what then was called West Germany.

In my estimation, mid-June is the best time to visit Provincetown. The days are warm and pleasant and usually sunny; the nights are comfortable. Dining at a good restaurant does not require reservations or long waits. The shops are humming but not overcrowded. But starting with the July Fourth week, all that changes. The town becomes frenetic, a carnival, for the rest of the summer. That’s fine if you’re into that; I went there to relax and unwind. 

The long walk to the Herring Cove beach
As I mentioned, I often would visit more than one week a year. One October I encountered one of the most beautiful sights in my life: a bright orange wave of Monarch butterflies sweeping along the dunes at Herring Cove. I had wished then that I had a camera, but in retrospect nothing really could have captured the experience: the bright, warming sun; the waves tumbling on the sand; the gentle sea breeze; the yellowing grasses on the dunes—and that tide of orange advancing toward me, passing around me and then moving on to places I cannot imagine.

Almost there ...

When I met my first and only partner, I insisted that we spend our vacation week in P-town. You’d love it, I told him. Once there, he agreed enthusiastically about my choice. As long as we were together, the two of us spent one week every June in my favorite guesthouse in P-town. We always took the best room: the largest one in the building, with its saggy mattress, vintage armoire and dresser, and pair of windows that invited delicate breezes at night. One afternoon on the beach I was able to persuade him to sunbathe nude as I had been doing every year.

I’d love to return to Provincetown one day, but now I must be content with my current circumstances. So here’s to pleasant times—easier times when life seemed so carefree and full of the future. Here’s to Herring Cove and Carl’s Guest House and the Lobster Pot and Fat Jack’s. And here’s to comforting memories that will stay for life.

The hike through the dunes rewards you with Rugosa roses in bloom

Herring Cove officially is clothes-only ...

… But nudity is possible when the park rangers aren't looking

The tidal pool comes in--it provides a wonderful treat

The tidal pool, located opposite the bayside of the dune, is a respite from the heat

Nudity is commonplace in the tidal pool

The side of the dunes along the tidal pool

Chris at P-town harbor; photo by Kevin McDermott

Provincetown harbor at 6 a.m.

Sunrise at the harbor from the Boathouse deck; photo by Kevin McDermott

The Lobster Pot--a must for seafood lovers. Try the cioppino

Spiritus Pizza, a must-do during the mid-evening

Race Point is family-oriented (clothing required)

The field behind the old Coast Guard boat house; photo by Kevin McDermott


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