Care-taking and Top Picks for Falmouth, MA

My New Mantra

I’ve come to know Falmouth, Massachusetts quite well these past few years. So when it came to writing about this alluring Cape Cod destination for Discovery Map, I found it hard to limit myself to just two pages of content for Falmouth, Mashpee & Woods Hole. But I did because that’s what the assignment required. Take a look at Instagram-able Places and Eat Your Way Through Falmouth, Mashpee & Woods Hole to find out some of the reasons why you should visit this beautiful New England coastal area.

So how have I come to know Falmouth so well? I am lucky enough to have a few friends that live there, however, I haven’t been able to spend much time with them. The main reason I’ve visited Falmouth a lot these past few years–especially this past year–is because of my mom’s oldest and dearest friend. Let me call her El. She’s like an aunt/second mother/good friend to me and since she doesn’t have any children–or even many family members left in her life–I’m like a daughter to her. I love her dearly and have been happy to visit her in her little Cape Cod house (and during one visit by her bedside at the hospital) numerous times in recent history to bring comfort, aid and hopefully a bit of cheer.

Autumnal Glow in Falmouth

That was my mission this past holiday weekend when I cooked up a plan to drive my mom to Falmouth and spend Thanksgiving with her best friend. Well, like most of you perhaps, I took on too much and as I digest the events of our visit, I’m sifting through and cherishing the good moments and yes, well, letting the shit go. Don’t get me wrong–we had a lovely visit and there’s plenty to savor. But dealing with two very strong-minded 84-year-old ladies suffering from an array of health issues is a tall order. Add to that all the stress that comes with holiday gatherings–no matter how small–and you’ve got a scenario best handled by the truly robust. I must admit that’s not me these days because I have been working through my own health issues.

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Thanksgiving Reflections on a Connecticut Coastal Town Vacation

Mom and I at One of Our Favorite Culinary Discoveries of Our Trip

Mom and I at One of the Favorite Culinary Discoveries of Our Trip

Mom Enjoying Chowder in Mystic Connecticut

Mom Enjoying Chowder in Mystic, Connecticut

Thanksgiving. A time to be grateful. I practice gratitude all year long—it’s what gets me through some of the toughest times. But around Thanksgiving, it’s nice to serve up a few extra helpings.

I’m grateful for my parents still being a part of my life right now. And I’m particularly thinking about my mother who just two days ago underwent a double knee replacement at the age of eighty. The pain must have been really bad for her to have opted for such surgery. I pray that she heals well and that her two brand new knees make a difference in her life.

I’m thinking back to a trip we took together last June, the first travels we’d done together—just the two of us—in a few years. We were like two girls on the run—Thelma and Louise wannabes looking to cut loose. Mom, as my Dad’s constant companion, hadn’t been out on a fun getaway with me, her “best-est” travel buddy in years. (Plus, most of her friends have passed away, so her vacationing days are few and far between.) We’ve always traveled tons together and getting back on track to long car rides filled with constant chatter, leisurely meals showcasing regional specialities, hotel stays where we’d talk into the wee hours of the morning and shopping forays where we’d experience the best of female bonding was all long overdue. Mom and I have always shared similar tastes:  I am my mother’s daughter par excellence. So there’s little dissension about what to do and where to go; we view the world and its surroundings through a similar lens, especially when it comes to travel.

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A Heartwarming Day Trip to Western Massachusetts and the Norman Rockwell Museum

Autumnal Scene in Stockbridge, Massachusetts

I was back east recently visiting my parents in upstate New York. Mom and I had on our agenda a “day out” to ourselves, one just like the old days. To us that meant planning a jaunt to a nearby destination such as the Hudson Valley region, southern Vermont or the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, all scenic and fairly rural destinations within about an hour’s drive of my parents’ house in Troy, New York. These were the places we would travel to throughout the years, especially when I was growing up. Together we would marvel at the pastoral landscapes while chitchatting the day away. Lunch, a bit of shopping and often a museum visit were all key components of a successful day trip, the perfect female bonding experience for two gals living in a house full of men. (I grew up with five brothers, a father and no sisters.)

It was during these joyous excursions that my love for unique places full of personality and charm emerged. I could hardly tolerate department stores or malls when I was a girl and still have a hard time with them today. Yes, these trips to soulful sites full of history and tradition planted the seeds for the shopping service I founded in Paris some years later and the four books I came to write on shopping and touring in Paris and the French provinces. My philosophy is and always will be about the whole shopping and touring experience—it’s not so much about what you buy, it’s about how and where you buy it and what you learn along the way. Truth is, I’m not even a big advocate of buying, but we all do, so why not have it be something special that you’ve procured in a memorable manner?

This special day to ourselves was more challenging to organize since we don’t leave my eighty-five-year-old Dad alone much any more. With a hearty, microwavable meal prepared in advance at the ready, cell phones listed in plain site and the reassurance that his Life-Alert was in working order, we said “Hasta la Vista,” knowing full well that we’d all appreciate the much-needed time away from each other.

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Cape Cod, Cranberries and the Creation of Ever-Lasting Memories

Cranberries:  The Most Festive Holiday Fruit

Cranberries: The Most Festive Holiday Fruit

Over the weekend I made a cranberry bread to finish off the package of cranberries left over from the cranberry relish I whipped up at Thanksgiving. Both the bread and the relish were made from my mother’s recipes; although tasty, sadly neither turned out as good as hers. I’ll blame it on the altitude, at least for the baking. The not-so crisp relish was more a result of the equipment. (How can a blender do as good of a job as a Cuisinart anyway?)

None of this really mattered though, since these roundish red berries transported me back to my mother’s kitchen, to my mother’s love and to an especially memorable trip I took this fall with my mom and dad. We had decided to take a three-day, two-night road trip to Cape Cod, Massachusetts from Troy, New York, a 240-mile journey that represented a considerable jaunt for anyone but even more so for our little group since the necessity of snack and bathroom breaks required frequent stopping. Mom did all the driving, a notable feat because the first part of our travels was marked by torrential rain and relentless fog. I surveyed the road from the backseat, providing little navigational input since my mom had traveled this route countless times before.

The purpose of our journey was twofold: to visit Eleanor, my mother’s best friend, and to have fun together. This was to be my first ever road trip with just my parents and me. I think we all secretly wished it would be special.

We decided to go low-budget with our lodging and spare no expense with dining out. We checked into The Santuit Inn toward the end of the afternoon the first day, hauled my dad’s 50-pound sleep apnea machine into his room and carefully settled him in so that his plethora of toiletries were close at hand. Mom and I bunked in farther down in this boutique motel that had recently been spiffed up with a cheery cottage-like decor. We nodded approvingly to each other about the striped and flowered bed coverings and took time to admire the Cape scenes that adorned the walls. I had already met Peter (pronounced Pee-tah here), the owner, upon arrival and felt confident we were in good hands.

Dad had little time to settle into his evening news programs, since my mother and I whisked him off to the historic Dan’l Webster Inn in nearby Sandwich for dinner. Here we opted for the Tavern, the more charming part of this renowned establishment distinguished by a huge fireplace, low ceilings, wood floors and paneling. We cozied up into the red leather booths and feasted on specialities such as seafood chowder and lobster pot pie. It was the end of the tourist season and the place was jamming, surely not an uncommon experience for this inn any time of the year, particularly if you arrive for their early evening special. We had missed the discounted dinners, however, since even at this stage of their lives, my parents were never big on dining early.

Mom and I were sure we’d zonk out for a big night’s sleep after such a day of travel. But as soon as we turned off the T.V. and found ourselves in the quiet of our room, we were astonished by the loud drone emanating from my dad’s room two doors away. “My God, is that his sleep machine?” I asked my mother. Neither of us could imagine that it sounded so loud. We were horrified.

“It sounds like we’re on a tarmac with jet engines idling,” I added. “We’re going to be kicked out of here. What if the other guests hear it like we do?”

“We’ve traveled before with it and it’s never gone off so loudly,” my mom said.

“I can’t believe dad can sleep through that,” I remarked.

“Oh, he’d sleep through anything,” my mom replied.

Both my mother and I laughed hysterically and then finally miraculously fell asleep. I awoke several times throughout the night fearful that someone was going to rap on the door and complain. Thank goodness Peter appeared so kind. I was also glad it was slow season and their weren’t many guests at the inn.

Day two was to be our big day. Dad and I began early next door at Persy’s Place, one of the best breakfast and lunch spots on the Cape. They have locations throughout the region and each is known for their homemade baked goods, in particular their famous cornbread. Mom was ready to go by the time we returned, perfectly turned out in her pumpkin-colored coat and autumnal scarf. Although we drove a seemingly endless amount of miles the day before, she was all set to slip behind the wheel again today. Fortunately the sun shone brightly.

Fall Reflections on a Cape Cod Pond

Fall Reflections on a Cape Cod Pond

We took the scenic route to West Dennis where we pulled up to a little house at the edge of a pond once occupied by Maureen, another one of my mom’s dear friends. My mom had spent many visits here with her, sitting and chatting on the dock and also shopping and dining out in the area. Maureen had recently passed away, so it seemed fitting that my mom would make this pilgrimage to walk the grounds, gaze out upon the water and reflect fondly on the memory of her friend.

Dad sat in the car reading his papers while I accompanied my mother. I couldn’t help wondering what it must be like to reach an age when so many of your friends are gone.

Not one to let much get her down, my mom shepherded us through the wooded, windy roads of the Cape, pointing out her favorite haunts along the way. Neat little houses covered in weathered shakes displaying seemingly every shade of grey dotted the roadsides. Waning hydrangeas in a spectrum of faded blues, purples and pinks flaunted the last glimpses of summer, the golden light of fall casting shadows on their once exuberant bursts of color. We passed candle shops and Christmas stores galore, eateries named Captain Frosty’s and Seafood Sam’s. Large neon signs were clearly not allowed and I was delighted to see that even Dunkin’ Donuts sported a trim, wooden sign. Street signs such as Wysteria Lane, Cranberry Knoll and Pheasant Lane conjured up distinctly American fairy tale images. And there was no shortage of Native American names such as Pocahasett, Chapoquoit and Mashpee. Marshy wetlands separated brief stretches of low-lying houses trimmed with split rail fences.

Cranberry Bog

Cranberry Bog

“Oh look, there’s a cranberry bog,” I shouted as I spotted a sea of bright red berries floating on a small body of water off to my right. “It must be harvest time.”

My mother and father didn’t comment but I sensed that they were marveling at this quintessential New England landscape as much as I. We had not seen any coastline yet but I was beginning to realize that all these meandering roads were most typical of the Cape where shoreline drives were in short supply. (At least at this part of the Cape; you’ll find more coastal roads on outer Cape Cod near Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown.)

Finally we arrived in North Falmouth where we were to see Eleanor, my mother’s oldest and best friend of sixty-two years. I felt so close to her growing up that I referred to her as Aunt Eleanor. The three of us visited with Eleanor and her husband, Jim, for a while at their house before scooting off to lunch. After much discussion, we finally settled on Casino Wharf, an expansive restaurant in Falmouth Heights that furnished wide-open views of the Atlantic Ocean. I had been on the Cape for nearly twenty-four hours and yearned to see the sea. Here I got my fix. We feasted on fresh clam chowder, fish and chips and lobster salad, all delicious and perfectly accompanied by sips of iced tea, white wine and a martini for the bravest of our bunch. We laughed and reminisced until the wait staff re-entered for their evening shift. It had been more than three years since my mother had seen Eleanor, at least ten for me and neither my mom nor I knew when we’d be in the presence of this exuberant, fun-loving gal again. The lunch had been a huge success, the trip was well worth the effort. I had expressed to my mother that I was sorry we didn’t have any pictures to document our time together. She waved me off saying, “It’s just as well. We don’t look that terrific any more. It’s better to just hold on to the memories.”

The Ocean at Last!  Viewed from the Falmouth Heights Ocean Road

The Ocean at Last! Viewed from the Falmouth Heights Ocean Road

I think about all this as I nibble on my cranberry bread. I wonder if my cranberries might have come from the many bogs we passed late October. Our little trip turned out to be an ode to fall, an ode to old people, an ode to friendship. Together we had created ever-lasting memories, lobster bisque, noisy sleep machine, slow walking, belly laughs and all.

The Santuit Inn, 6 Falmouth Road (Rte. 28), Mashpee, 508-428-6433,; this neat-as-a-pin little place is conveniently located between Sandwich and Falmouth. The property is closed during the winter months, but keep it in mind for your Cape travels April through November.

The Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa, 149 Main Street, Sandwich Village, 800-444-3566 and 508-888-3622,

Persey’s Place, Rte. 28 between Rtes. 130 & 151, Mashpee, 508-477-6633,

Casino Wharf, On the Waterfront at 286 Grand Avenue, Falmouth Heights, 508-540-6160,

The Regatta of Cotuit, 4631 Falmouth Road, 508-428-5715,; we also dined at this lovely restaurant housed in a two-hundred-year-old mansion next door to The Santuit Inn.

More Recommendations

The Coonamessett Inn, 311 Gifford Street, 508-548-2300,; had it not been for my burning desire to lunch with a view of the water, we would have selected this traditional New England inn for our special get-together.

Mashpee Commons,; down the street from The Santuit Inn, you’ll find a fantastic selection of mostly high-end shopping and dining in this stylish outdoor mall.

Wrentham Village Premium Outlets,; Peter suggested we visit this huge conglomeration of outlet stores, located just off of I 495 (on our way home), sixty miles from Mashpee. This is a great rainy day trip from the Cape and a destination trip in and of itself. It’s one of the nicest conglomerations of discounted stores that my mom has ever seen. And she has done a lot of shopping in her life! We went mainstream here (how can you not?) and had lunch at the Cracker Barrel. I definitely got my east coast fill all around.

Travel Suggestion
I found the traffic on the Cape—at least Upper/Mid/Lower Cape Cod—to be tiresome. (Keep in mind that I live in Telluride, Colorado, a remote part of the country and use the gondola most of the time for transportation.) Still, it is a bit much here and the roads are quite confusing. (Be prepared to get lost a fair amount.) To me, this is one more reason to enjoy this popular east coast destination during off season which runs from November through April or at least before the heavy summer crowds come in July. A lot of the Outer and Lower Cape and smaller properties close for the winter, but most of the Upper and Mid Cape establishments remain open. There’s still plenty open to focus on much of what the Cape is known for: shopping and dining.

For more stories about traveling with parents, go to My Saratoga and Adirondack Day Trip.

And Don't Forget the Turkeys

And Don't Forget the Turkeys!

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