Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Travels to Martha’s Vineyard

September 11th, 2020
Martha's Vineyard

Picture this. I am choosing corn at the Chilmark General Store in Martha’s Vineyard when who should sidle up to me and complement me on my corn choosing skills but one of the island’s most prominent summer residents. Yep, Barack himself. Barack’s so impressed with my natural talent that he invites me over for a barbecue at his and Michelle’s place by Edgartown. Michelle’s making a salad, we get talking- I tell her I love her podcast on marriage. Eventually, the two of them ask me to be their BFF’s. Then I wake up.

Martha’s Vineyard is that kind of an island. It ticks every box for me, including boxes I hadn’t thought of, like do famous people come here? Is there a small chance I might see one? The island is full of well-known, interesting people, who  largely keep to themselves in their multi-million dollar estates. But a girl can dream. (Stretch is sadly celebrity challenged  – not only do I have to point out famous people to him, I then have to explain why they are famous- #IamJob)

Amy Schumer, Dan Ackroyd, Spike Lee, Oprah, Larry David, Billy Joel, Carly Simon, Mike Wallace, Diane Sawyer, Seth Meyers, Lady Gaga, Meg Ryan and Geraldine Brooks amongst others come to relax, be on the down-low, avoid stalkers like me. I’m thinking we can all party on down in my next dream. Maybe one of them suggests,  say Amy or Larry, that I  missed my real calling. I should do stand-up, and they’ll back me. 😂😂😂

The island is very under-stated. You’re more likely to see a  Woodie than a Ferrari. And it’s big – flat in parts, hilly in others, with six distinctive towns- Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and up island (meaning to the west) Aquinnah, Chilmark, Vineyard Haven and West Tisbury. It’s full of sandy beaches, Victorian houses, wildlife sanctuaries, evocative lighthouses and open vistas.

I loved this island when I last visited forty years ago – as a mother’s helper- and I love it still.

Stretch and I stayed at the charming, old-fashioned Charlotte Inn in Edgartown.

Our bathroom used to be a guest room so Eloise here was very happy.

The inn has sweet gardens, reading porches and a delicious, more formal restaurant The Terrace.

Plus, the hotel’s location near several great cafés, restaurants and bike rental shops made everything easy. And when we wanted to go up island, we’d put our bikes in the back of our big red rental truck (yes literally) and head west.

Behind the Bookstore is a good, casual restaurant

although they can be  bit persnickety about coffee orders…

I think it’s always nice to know a local -Our old friend Jamie –

has been coming to the island on and off for thirty years. He gave us the inside track on lobster rolls, romantic meals and farm stands, of which there are plenty.

The Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company in Oak Bluffs has the best lobster rolls, says Jamie, a clear connoiseur – the rolls come with candied lemon peel, bacon, celery for crunch and no mayo. I don’t like mayo. And The Lookout Tavern in Oak Bluffs, which has the best sushi on the island by far, their lobster rolls are superlative,  full of  knuckle meat, no tail meat- and you can get it with no mayo, which makes me very happy.

For a bit of candlelight romance Jamie votes for Detente in Edgartown. Or, for a more rustic feel, go to  The Outermost Inn  in quiet Aquinnah. It  sits on lovely, rolling hills near the ocean, with osprey nests in the distance. Magic.

In terms of farms, Jamie is loyal to the Grey Barn and Farm in Chilmark near his house. Martha’s Vineyard  is a largely self-sustaining island, full of farms, fishing and year-round residents.

It’s not a preppy enclave, says Jamie. it’s full of educated, likeminded, openminded  people.

Apart from eating and drinking, Stretch and I explored. We caught the  bike ferry from the fishing village of Menemsha

to Aquinnah…

(that microscopic dot in photo above- that’s Stretch practicing safe social distancing)

kayaked in Chappaquiddick…

Learned about sea critters

and then before we knew it, it was time go home …

and dream of next summer…

September, 2020