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Travel Notes

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s hard to keep up with blogging while traveling, not to mention spending the day (last Wednesday) attending your brother-in-law’s memorial service and associated activities just before traveling, and spending the two days in-between catching up on various other things before heading out of town. I should read a little and go to sleep now, but here we are, finishing our first half-day in Nantucket, and I figure I should say something.

Let’s see. We left Seattle early Saturday morning on JetBlue’s non-stop flight to JFK, spending Saturday evening and yesterday visiting family. Joel had been down in North Carolina visiting a friend. He flew up to LaGuardia yesterday morning to join in a family lunch, then we drove him to JFK so he could catch JetBlue’s evening non-stop back to Seattle. (But his flight was delayed almost 2 hours, making for a long wait at Kennedy and a 3:00 AM arrival (east coast time) in Seattle this morning.

After we dropped Joel at JFK yesterday, when we were driving back through Queens to the suburbs, we saw the MetLife blimp in the sky. No surprise, given that we’re in the midst of the US Open tennis championships. But it made an interesting contrast to the zeppelin we saw in Seattle just 48 hours earlier. On Friday, we went out for a quick dinner before coming home to pack, and as we exited the Arboretum to get onto 520 (a major highway in Seattle), there was this long, narrow object in the sky, not that far from us and not that high. A blimp! A blimp? Well, sort of. But it didn’t really look like a blimp. It did say “Farmers” on the side. A quick search on my iPhone and we discovered that it was indeed not a blimp. It was a real live zeppelin run by Airship Ventures, whose calendar shows that it’s giving tours in the Seattle area from August 23 to today. Flights start at $375 per person.

What’s the difference between a zeppelin and a blimp? Zeppelins have solid frames; blimps are essentially big balloons. This particular zeppelin is really big. There’s a great chart here that you should check out. You’ll see that it’s a little longer than a Boeing 747, a lot longer than a blimp, still more longer than the space shuttle, and a giant squid — forget it — no comparison.

Well, anyway, that was one New York highlight. Today we headed back to JFK to fly JetBlue to Nantucket. Speaking of big, we took the largest plane here ever. We’ve flown Cape Air’s Cessnas from Boston, seating maybe 10. And we’ve flown on US Air and Delta from New York on two-engine prop jets. But JetBlue is using an Embraer 190 two-engine jet that seats 100 and feels like a regular commercial jet airplane. The overhead bins are large. You can board (at JFK) from a standard jetway rather than going down to the tarmac and up on a stairway that’s part of the plane (but here in Nantucket, they have to roll up some funny ramp to get you down to the tarmac, since there are no jetways). It just feels like a regular commercial flight.

We were on the right side, looking south and into the sun. As we headed east over Long Island Sound, I had good views of eastern Long Island, the two forks, Shelter Island in-between. But soon there was just the Atlantic. Some ways into our descent, I got a view through the windows to the left and quickly guessed the island we were looking at was Martha’s Vineyard. I could only see the eastern end of it, but there was that familiar site of the little bit that looks like part of the island until you see a tiny channel separating the two and realize it’s an island in its own right, Chappaquiddick. I can’t look out at the island — or see it on a map — without thinking of Ted Kennedy. Maybe if I visited one day, I could see it for what it is and break that terrible association.

We were well south of Martha’s Vineyard, and well up in altitude, suggesting that we weren’t going to be landing straight into Nantucket airport. And sure enough, we continued eastward parallel to the southern shore of Nantucket, turning north and then back to the west only after we had flown past Nantucket’s eastern edge. This made for some pretty good views, once we turned, of the eastern shore looking north all the way to Great Point. Then more views of various Nantucket landmarks, and then we were down.

A big plane made for a big baggage claim process, in contrast to what we have experienced in the past, when the few checked bags arrive at the terminal more or less as we do. Eventually we had our bags, headed off to a taxi, and on to the inn. Our taxi driver, who has lived here since the ’70s, wasn’t too impressed by Hurricane Earl. He couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. Many a winter storm is worse. Yet, news crews had poured in a couple of days ago to interview the natives about it. I questioned him further about the winters and he admitted that he didn’t much like them. Too cold. Nothing to do. But he didn’t seem too interested in doing anything about it.

Once checked in here at the Wauwinet, we headed off on the hourly shuttle into town, to renew our acquaintance with the usual shops — the tourist shop where Gail buys her ACK stickers; the more upscale tourist shop where Gail buys her annual calendar; the crafts store that has the best Nantucket baskets, signed by the artists; the home furnishings store* that always has fabulous dishes and bowls and where we would go first to fill our island home if that day ever comes; the tiny shop down by the wharf where Dok Kim sells his unique handbags, available only there and in his winter shop in Palm Springs; the jewelry store specializing in Nantucket trinkets where we get just that. New this year, we finally walked into the Grand Union supermarket right by the wharf to see what fresh foods were available here. Our final stop was Mitchell’s Book Corner, the most delightful of bookstores, where we felt guilty that we had already loaded up on e-books for our iPads and Kindles. Then a walk past several of our favorite restaurants to check out their menus, on to the shuttle, and back to the inn, just a few minutes too late for the daily sherry and port. Then again, we had treats back in town, on Straight Wharf, at Nantucket Ice Cream and Juice Guys, so we had no complaints.

Dinner, as always for our first night on Nantucket — which is always Labor Day — was here in the inn at Topper’s. There’s a new chef this year. As much as I enjoyed our previous meals here, I might just have liked this the most. I started with the Lobster & Crab Cakes, Smoked Corn, Mustard Sauce, Jalapeño Olives. For the main course, I had Fish & Chips, Chips, Chips: Potato-Crusted Halibut, Lotus Root Chips, Potato Rings, Pomme Paille, Deconstructed Tartar Sauce. And dessert, which I don’t see on-line, so I’ll have to try to re-create it myself, was simply called Cookie Dough. It had a dollop of cookie dough, a similarly shaped dollop of white chocolate and walnut that was described on the menu as a truffle, plus two chocolate chip cookies just under an inch in diameter and a little shooter glass filled with vanilla milk shake. Perfect. Oh, speaking of shooter glasses, our amuse bouche was the most sublime tomato bisque. It was white, giving it the look of vichyssoise, so I half expected it to be chilled, but it was warm, and wonderful.

That deconstructed tartar sauce was a work of beauty. A yellow smear of, um, I don’t know what, some oil-based thing, and four little piles spread out along the smear — tiny little minced pieces of egg yolk, capers, minced pickle, and minced red onion. On the other side of the plate was a smear of pureed peas.

I could say more, but it’s nearly midnight and I have to quit. More treats await tomorrow.

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Categories: Food, Restaurants, Travel
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