The Good, The bad, and The Vineyard

How to have a great, inexpensive holiday on an island six miles off our shores
Above the waves but below the sky, looms an island of a bygone day, Martha's Vineyard, and the wide front porch of the classic Wesley House looks out over it all.

As a young girl growing up, my wife spent every summer in Oak Bluffs at her aunt Fran Willoughby's tiny cottage three doors up "Behind Pasque Ave." from the harbor.

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"On Martha's Vineyard, mostly I love the soft collision here of harbor and shore, the subtly haunting briny quality that all small towns have when they are situated on the sea"
           - William Styron.

Her passionate love of the island brings us back as often as possible, and this year that happened once again last week where, now that her favorite aunt is gone, we stay at that grand dame of the harbor, the Wesley House so-named after the founder of Methodism whose picture postcard campground starts at the hotels back door.

The Wesley House is one of the great old New England hotels which has not changed or become yet another glitzy surrender to the base taste of traveling Americans. There is always a fresh pot of strong coffee brewing, and one can, and probably should, spend their entire holiday on Martha's Vineyard simply sitting in a rocking chair on its wide, front porch shown above which looms over the busy harbor.

We won't try to sell you any more, in fact, we secretly hope you need an overpriced Four Seasons and you are too snobbish to enjoy a real Vineyard experience where a waterfront room is only $150 a night after September 7th.

We grabbed the first Hy-Line fast ferry from Hyannis for the hour and thirty-five minute sea voyage. The cost is a bit stiff, $36 for you and $7 for your bike - because no one should ever bring another vehicle to this beautiful place.

Wesley House, 70 Lake Avenue, P.O Box 2370, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557, Martha's Vineyard (508) 693-6611 - Toll Free: (800)638-9027, website, email.

The Steamship Authority in Woods Hole and The Island Queen in Falmouth Harbor carry travelers coming from the west. The Authority only charges $6.50 a person and bikes are $3, but your car. which can only come on the Steamship boats with a reservation, cost $67.50 if under 17 feet and $77.50 if up to 20 feet long.

Arriving at the Oak Bluffs docks we lashed our rolling suitcases to our bikes and pedaled the 150 yards to the hotel. After registering we biked along Nantucket Sound to Edgartown's swank shops 9 miles away.

After spending a few hours in Edgartown, I threw my bike on the front of the superb Vineyard Transportation Authority bus for a $2. trip back to the Wesley Hotel while Pat continued shopping.

The next day we paid $3 each for a one-day pass on the MTA and visited every one of the island's  six towns spending an hour at Menemsha and ending at the red clay cliffs (shown above on right) at Aquinnah in the western end.

But man and woman does not live by nostalgia alone, and the inner man and woman needs to eat well and often, so each year we look for what's new to suggest our readers.
 

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The ancient tile doorstep at Pompadoro was the only thing we found attractive about the place. Patricia's father, Harry Twite, worked in the A&P in 1940.

The Bad
Another night, more to relax our palates  we returned to what used to be a great pizzeria.

The joint at the end of Circuit Avenue was once Papa John's and two generations ago the site of the A&P grocery store. We often ate there on Vineyard visits. In fact, the place was so kewl that two summers ago our hostess was Katie Dickson who has become one of our very best bloggers, Journo, whose work is often picked up as Op Ed pieces in the Providence Journal. Back then it was quite good.

It's called Pomodoro Pizzaria and serves what could easily be the worse pizza in North America, wait, let's not limit their scope, it may be the worse in the world. Let's assume the chef on Tueday is new, but...

I would describe the pizza crust as cardboard-like, except I don't want to demean some very good cardboard I've chewed on occasion.

The Verdura pizza failed on every count;

They wouldn't substitute Feta for Mozzarella while there was a total of three customers in the joint, two of whom were us. The Zucchini was in thick, uncooked slabs, and the sauce had all the flavor of a can of tomato puree.

Avoid it as one would the plague.

The Vineyard
This twenty-mile long island is simply wonderful. It mixes the flamboyance of Oak Bluffs with the elegance of Edgartown and the retail (albeit dry) town of Vineyard Haven.  In fact, that town is dry due to the efforts of another of my wife's relatives who was a teatotaler and its selectman a century ago. For everything else to do on the island, pick up a copy of the Best Read Guide.

Below is a glimpse of what you'll see when you visit, from the top left clockwise; Ocean Park overlooking Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod which is surrounded by gingerbread house, fishing boats in Menemsha Harbor, men scratching for clams in front of the Edgartown Lighthouse, and even the ladders are pink when this painter works on a pink-trimmed house in Oak Bluffs. Photos by Pat Brooks.
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