Friday, 9 August 2013

Toads Go East - Day Six

P. Town. Vibrant and gay.


We awoke to gloomy skies and all took an age to get going, despite plans to jump in the car and head off to Cape Cod. Well, we're on holiday, aren't we?

In anticipation of sitting on a sandy beach on the wild Atlantic shoreline, we packed up the deck chairs and swimming costumes and set off towards Plymouth. When we stopped to fuel the car, the payment system at the gas station bounced my credit card, which is a direct response to my not letting the credit card company know that we were going to foreign parts - if only I'd remembered! Still, the reserve card made an appearance and we were on our way. 

We crossed into Cape Cod on the Sagamore Bridge, which stretched high over the Sagamore Canal, and entered Boston's weekend playground. The road was worthy of the UK as it narrowed to a single lane each way and caused delays, so reminiscent of the A303. We had decided to dive off to the south eastern shore of the Cape so that we could visit Chatham, Massachusetts. The roads were fine but the traffic on them was ominous as it seemed to run without a break; cars everywhere. We did drive off towards the sea when we saw a sign for a beach, especially exciting as the weather had now brightened up, but we were shocked and disappointed to arrive at a grotty little parking lot that required a $15 flat fee to park. That was a little too rich for us so we were limited to a quick glance at the windy beach and white caps on the sea before we made our way back towards Chatham. The houses down there were nice, though, many proper Saltboxes, all hung with cedar shakers - that is tile hung with wooden tiles in good Cape Cod style. Back on the route into Chatham we were in a land of expensive restaurants and antique shops. We had plenty of time to study the BMWs and Mercs. in the parking lots because by now we were crawling along to some unseen junction in the distance. We kept up the crawl for about twenty minutes but gave it up just as the centre of Chatham was in view. It was choked with cars and definitely not where we wanted to be, so we dashed off in the direction of the highway to Provincetown. The traffic thinned a bit and we made progress past little creeks and inlets, all covered with boats. There were lots of private beaches and roads marked as being private, as well as yet more antique shops and, surprisingly, liquor stores. 

At Orleans we made the highway again but the traffic on that ground to a crawl, too. Here the road was lined with motels and eating places; not necessarily ugly as they nestled into the never ending woodland on either side of the highway, but so many of them! We crawled and crawled until we arrived at the part where two lanes went into one (just like driving to Devon), then crawled some more as we came across a junction with stop lights. Eventually we started to roll and completed the last 30 Kms to our destination in reasonable time. I'd fondly imagined that I'd get exciting views of the ocean through gaps in sand dunes but no such luck; until we reached the outskirts of Provincetown, there was nothing to see but trees. 

Provincetown, or P. Town as it's known, is a bit like a large Cornish fishing village; narrow roads, nice little wooden cottages and thick with traffic. We found a parking lot just a block from Commercial Street and the harbour and walked the final few yards into what turned out to be a bustling and vibrant little town. 

P. Town is a bit of a Mecca for the Gay community. A quick bit of research came up with this, lifted from Wikipedia:

By the 1970s Provincetown had a significant gay population, especially during the summer tourist season, when restaurants, bars and small shops serving the tourist trade were open. However, there had been a gay presence in Provincetown as early as the start of the 20th century with the introduction of the artists' colony. Drag queens could be seen performing as early as the 1940s in Provincetown. In 1978 the Provincetown Business Guild (PBG) was formed to promote gay tourism. Today more than 200 businesses belong to the PBG and Provincetown is perhaps the best-known gay summer resort on the East Coast. The 2010 US Census revealed Provincetown to have the highest rate of same-sex couples in the country, at 163.1 per 1000 couples.

The place was packed out with people and whilst I wouldn't assume to be able to tell a gay or lesbian person just by the way they looked, many there certainly fitted my stereotypical view. The rainbow flags and the Drag Queen in the street also went some way to convince me that this was a gay friendly place, and all the more vibrant for it. 

We had a quick paddle in the sea and then wandered up and down Commercial Street, soaking up the atmosphere and people watching, something Mrs Toad and I love to do. The arty shops were excellent and I'll assume that the Eros Toy Shop ("More toys than the Devil has sinners") was too, but the small tadpole wouldn't even look in the direction of that store. P. Town wasn't a seedy place at all and was being enjoyed by all, not just the gay community, which made the town an excellent place to be on a hot and sunny August afternoon. We were a bit fazed by the sheer number of people there and didn't do too much exploring. The centre of the town is dominated by a tall, stone tower that commemorates the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in what was to become Provincetown before they made their way across the bay to Plymouth. We perhaps should have looked at that and a few more cultural things but were dazzled with the vibrancy of Commercial Street. Anyway, who wants to do history when you can have soft ice cream and Portuguese doughnuts downtown?

Eventually we decided to make a move home as it was a two hour drive and we were all flagging a bit. The run back was a lot smoother and we made good progress. I had heard that the route between P. Town and Boston is a nightmare on a Sunday as Bostonians make their way home from their Cape cottages; having driven the route, I can well see that it would be!

Toad watchers will be pleased to note that with the prospect of thunderstorms in the night, I stowed the awning before going to bed. It won't even rain, now!

Anyway, more tomorrow, although the itinerary has yet to be established. Aren't we the wild ones?