Thursday, September 30, 2010

On the Perfect Off-Season Writer's Getaway

At least once a year, I like to go somewhere for a week, not only to get away from my work routines and my distractions at home but also to write a bit. The best of these vacations has certain characteristics. Below I describe how my recent trip to Provincetown, MA on the tip of Cape Cod, stacked up against my criteria.

The Location. Distance from home—drive up to four hours, or non-stop plane ride with no more than one hour drive at other end. Things to do and see, nice places to walk, a few good restaurants, a convenient grocery store. Interesting architecture or history a plus. Our Location: Provincetown, MA. Historic, quirky, fun,friendly. 2.5 hour drive from home. Location rating: A

The Condo. A separate bedroom and living area is a must, with a door that closes between the two. A full kitchen is preferable (stove, oven, large fridge, dishwasher). At least 1.5 bathrooms is nice. Bright is a real plus. Convenient to things but a little off the beaten track. Quiet in the morning and at night. Several choices of places to set up the laptop. Free and strong WiFi or cable internet connections. Our Condo: Eastwood A- (roadwork in the morning made the noise factor less desirable. But three good computer spots, and excellent WiFi.)

The Schedule. Leisurely, with writing time every day, long walks, one meal out, a diversion or two, time to read. Our schedule: Some variation every day, but always the aforementioned included. Schedule rating: A

The Physical Challenge. A strenuous hike, a canoe trip, cross-country skiing—something where you feel really good about your accomplishment at the end. Our Physical Challenge: A hike over the dunes to the ocean. Walking up and down hills in soft sand. Physical challenge rating: A

The Surprise. Something unexpected. Our surprise: The entire dune walk, from the hills and valleys, to the vegetation (including toadstools in this dry place), the dune shacks where some people actually lived, the vastness and seeming remoteness of it though it was so near town (we walked to it!), and finally the ocean at the end—we saw no one else there. Second surprise: Being ablet to walk down the middle of the main street with minimal traffic! Surprise rating: A

The Native Tip. An off the beaten track place known to the locals, but not as much to visitors. Our Local Tip: The cliffs at Longnook Beach, Truro. A wide, unspoiled beach, protected by high, sandy cliffs, where we watched the birds dive into the ocean for their food. Local tip rating: A

The Ultimate Relaxation. Whatever turns you on. Our ultimate relaxation. The hottub at Eastwood—after our Physical Challenge. Ulimtate relaxation rating: A

The Local Dinner. Something of the place, not too expensive, ambience. Our Local Dinner: The early bird Clambake Special at The Waterford for $18.00. The lobster was delicious. Local dinner rating: B+

The American Breakfast. One fun breakfast in a local hangout. Our Breakfast: Tip of the Tops’n. Breakfast rating: B+

The Sunset. A spot to share the end of the day—over water is best. Sunsets can be skipped on winter getaways. Our Sunset: Herring Cove Beach. Sunset rating: B (We were lucky to have cleark skies; sunset was nice, but nothing out of the ordinary. Setting was lovely.)

The Original Photo Op. We’re not talking about your usual sights (or sunsets) but something that strikes the fancy. Preferably more than one. Preferably one that is good enough for the annual holiday card. Our Photo Ops. Fences and shadows, colorful buoys, fun mirrors, reflections and shadows in a store window. Photo op rating: B+ Not sure about the holiday card, and the light was a bit iffy at times.

The Cultural Experience. An musical, artistic and or dramatic event/place that delights one or more of the senses. Our Cultural Contribution. Cubano art gallery—one of only 30 galleries in the US allowed to bring in art from Cuba. A range of media and styles. Cultural contribution rating: B+

The Social Opportunity. An arranged or spontaneous gathering with friends or new acquaintances. Our Social Opportunity. Good friends from NYC were visiting the Cape at the same time. We met their friends, ate lunch with our friends, and took a long walk. Social opportunity rating: A

The Friendly Native. An interesting conversation with someone from the area. Our friendly native: Unbeknownst to us, we crashed a staff party at a local bar. The owner of the restaurant (whose staff it was) came over to us and made us feel very welcome. Friendly native rating: B

The Unplanned Stop. Something that wasn’t necessarily on your agenda but turns out to be a real pleasure. Our Unplanned Treat: Truro Vineyards and wine tasting. 10 different wines in a very pleasant setting after a short tour. Showed up just at the right time! Treat rating: A

The Writing Output. At least two hours a day, five days out of seven. Some sense of forward movement on a project. Maybe a new source of inspiration, or an aha moment. My Writing Output: Schedule achieved; output—not as high as I would have liked. Some progress in structure. One blog entry. Writing output rating: B

[Note: More pictures to be added.]

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