Cape Cod I – Chatham House Rules

Monday 3 July 2023 – After an excellent fortnight spent with the in-laws in New Hampshire, we decamped to Cape Cod for a couple of days of R&R before flying home.  In theory, it’s a journey of some three hours. In practice – five hours.  Cape Cod (the name, coined in 1602, is the ninth oldest English place-name in the USA) is actually an island, separated from the mainland by a river, and there are just two bridges across on to it, so one can expect there to be some congestion.  What we hadn’t really internalised was the date and its likely consequences.  We were travelling on Saturday 1st July, and one of the biggest holidays of the American year was the following Tuesday, meaning that standard procedure was for people to take the Monday off, thereby giving them a nice long weekend.  A sufficiently large number of these folk had obviously said to themselves, “I know! We’ll go to Cape Cod for the holidays!”.

We eventually arrived to our hotel, the Chatham Bars Inn – Chatham is a town right on the elbow of Cape Cod, and its distance from the Sagamore bridge came as something of a surprise to me. I hadn’t really grasped the scale of Cape Cod – I had thought it to be a small peninsula but it actually covers 339 square miles and Chatham is some 35 miles away from the Sagamore bridge.

We drew up outside the hotel and one of the many greeters milling about outside the place asked us what name the booking was under.  Since Jane had done all the organising of this trip (same as all our trips, since she’s terrifically good at it) she gave her name, but the chap looked puzzled when he couldn’t find it.  For some reason the booking had become in my name, which was a puzzle.  But we did at least have a booking, so we made our way to our room, which was only a short drive away – Chatham Bars Inn is actually a resort, with many different bits of accommodation and facilities spread over quite an area.

It was latish, so we decided just have a room service meal before turning in.  Delightfully, the room had a kettle and two large mugs, so we added cold milk to the room service order and we were able to relax with a cup of Twining’s finest Earl Grey tea, which we’d thought to bring with us.  Regrettably, we hadn’t thought to bring gin or tonic with us, so the nice fridge in the room was to be used only to keep the milk cold.

Before we had set out to the USA on this trip, we (i.e. Jane) had only arranged one excursion for our time here, of which more in due course.  However, whilst whooping it up with the family in New Hampshire, Jane had reconnected with someone she had met at her sister-in-law’s wedding and hadn’t seen for the forty years since then – a chap called John Shea.  It turned out that he and his wife, Lynn, had a house in Chatham, and so we had made an informal arrangement to meet them whilst we were in Cape Cod.  The informal arrangement became a formal decision to meet at the hotel’s Beach House Grill for lunch on the Sunday, so off we went at the agreed time, to find it was very crowded and very busy –

and the wait for a table was likely to be 45 minutes. There was nothing for it then but to order ourselves a drink whilst we awaited our table and the Sheas.  Both turned up pretty much simultaneously after only about 15 minutes, so we sat down to a pleasant lunch and continued the process of catching up with the intervening 40 years. It was a delightful lunch, but after that, things went careering off at an unexpected tangent, and it was entirely – entirely – the fault of this man.

He is called Patrick and he works behind the bar at the Beach House Grill. It became clear from their familiarity with all the bar staff that the Sheas were good and loyal customers of this particular bar, and so Patrick made sure that we were very well served. Very well served.  It just seemed like a good idea to keep having another drink when he suggested it.  As for the rest of the day, recollection became a little hazy, but we did a lot of laughing as well as a lot of drinking before finally escaping from the Devil Patrick Gin Vortex and heading for bed.

When we surfaced this morning, we had suffered remarkably little damage beyond a spectacular bar bill, so the day lay before us awaiting our pleasure.  So we went for a walk. Obviously.

Before we set out we fortified ourselves with a good breakfast, during which I got an insight into how rich people and American service interact.  I wanted to order an omelette, which would be cooked for me as I waited.  The omelette chef was busy cooking a couple of omelettes for other people.  When he’d finished one, he offered it to the chap who’d ordered it – who turned it down because it wasn’t egg whites only and was a bit runnier than he liked.  Had I been in that situation, I would have done the Very British Problems thing of being too embarrassed to make a fuss and just eaten the damn’ thing anyway.  But he was American, this was a five-star hotel and so he said that it wasn’t what he wanted.  The chef binned it with a swiftness that quite startled me and started cooking another one, which the chap eventually decided was what he wanted.

It is clear that the Chatham Bars Inn is quite the operation and had geared itself up to provide fun and frolics throughout the July 4th holiday weekend.

One of today’s entertainments was a carnival, so we thought we’d look in on it, since our planned walking route went past its location.

There were lots of fun things for kids to do and it seemed reasonably popular and well-organised.  But there was no bar, so we decided to get on with our walk. Only joking; I really didn’t feel like having any alcohol after the excesses of yesterday.

We ended up walking some seven miles around the area, which is achingly pretty.

There are some lovely-looking houses along the route,

with some quirky details

and much evidence of preparing for July 4th.

We passed Chatham Lighthouse

Stage Harbour, with boats as far as the eye could see

and eventually wound our way back through Chatham town, which is, you guessed it, also achingly pretty.

It has a fine array of stores, some of which are really rather niche.

A park in the town called Gould Park was hosting an art exhibition, imaginatively entitled Art In The Park, which had a distinctive theme

and some wonderful work.

It was possible, should you wish, to bid for any of these items with the proceeds going towards “making Chatham a wonderful and fun place in which to live, do business, stay and visit, shop, and enjoy all the attractions of this great town.”

We headed back to the hotel to complete our walk

with just one diversion to look at the commercial fishing pier, where we bumped into the Sheas again, which was a pleasant surprise.  This gave us a chance to make further arrangements for The Big Day tomorrow – Chatham’s Fourth of July Parade.  The plan is that we will join them to watch the parade.  Since they know the area, they will know where to pitch up; and they might even have seats for us, which will be splendid.  This will be the first Fourth I’ve ever experienced and I must say I’m looking forward to  it.  I will, of course, report further in these very pages, so keep your eyes peeled to see how we got on.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was pretty nearly time for an early dinner, which we took in the hotel’s Veranda, with a lovely view

and some very traditional American advertising tactics.

After dinner, we passed another bar where people were taking advantage of the good weather

and were being entertained by a guitar-playing singer and his accompanist,

who it appears had fashioned a percussion instrument out of an old speaker cabinet.

Thus ended the day, and so we have a Fourth Of July to look forward to tomorrow, with a parade and another excursion (as I type this, it sounds like someone is having a bit of firework practice for the morrow). To find out about that, you’ll have to come back and Read All About it tomorrow. Or possibly the day after…..

2 thoughts on “Cape Cod I – Chatham House Rules

  1. Katharine Burridge

    Enjoy!!! What a beautiful place you are staying in! Chatham is a favorite of mine – as is John. Great blogging!!


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