Vacation log: Massachusetts 2006, IV

Last stop on our vacation was Rockport, Mass. and Cape Ann. My grandfather settled in Salem when he came to the United States in the 1930s; he used to bring my father and uncle there every summer, and we still go, in his honor and for nostalgic fun.

Once upon a time, we stayed in Danvers at what is now an office building. For the past few years we’ve been in the Quarterdeck at the Yankee Clipper Inn, but this is the last time we’ll be going there. The inn has been on a slow decline ever since the current owner bought the property in 2001. This year, we encountered a green pool, a shortage of food at breakfast, and a “For Sale” sign in front of the Quarterdeck (a separate building with terrific ocean views). In retrospect, our stay wasn’t as bad as it seemed, but it was bad enough to leave people consistently miffed. That plus the suspicion that the inn might not even be there next summer led to a weekend of exploration, and we found a new inn that we’ll be trying in 2007.

Hospitality quibbles aside, the family trip to Cape Ann is always fun. We go swimming and fishing off the rocky coastline, explore the towns of Gloucester, Rockport, Essex and Ipswich, and spend hours playing ball and basically doing nothing. Friday sees us digging into tidepools on Bass Rocks, looking for crabs to race and starfish to stick to our fingers; Saturday we head to Bearskin Neck for shopping, penny candy and the all-family bubblegum-bubble-blowing contest. (This year saw a three-way tie for the lead. I came in second to last as usual.)

The food! Every year we rack our brains for places to eat, and every year we wind up with phenomenal food. Dinner at The Rudder in Rocky Neck is easy, plentiful, and thoroughly enjoyable, and everything from calamari to stir fry is done quite well. Likewise, we fell into Halibut Point for pub food and wound up with good salads, good soup, and a good waitress. Our annual dinner at the 1640 Hart House gets better every year—our food was uniformly excellent, and the servers are starting to remember us, which is a treat.

Deserving its own special mention is Roy Moore Lobster Co. on Bearskin Neck, our standard weekend lunch and hands down the best lobster known to man. The lobsters are brought directly to this fish shack from boats pulling into the harbor, and within hours they are cooked and served with drawn butter on paper platters. No middlemen means complete freshness. Roy Moore boils its lobsters in ocean water, too, which gives the lobsters a unique flavor, sweeter than usual and flat-out delicious. I like lobster but I love Roy Moore’s lobster. Served by the cheery lobsterman surrounded by bays of crustaceans and eaten out back on wooden lobster traps, this meal is one for the ages. I want more already.

We drove home Sunday, so thus ends my travelblog. But I’m off to Paris on business this weekend, and if I find anything interesting….