June 25, 2003

Cape May Visit. Just returned

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 3:31 pm

Cape May Visit. Just returned from a long weekend trip with friends to Cape May, Jersey’s oldest seashore resort. The town is noted for its Victorian Homes, beautiful beach, great dining, and lots of places to shop. The Christmas season is special in Cape May. While other seashore resorts are pretty well buttoned up for the winter, during Christmas season Cape May comes alive, at least on the weekends. The streets, shops, and restaurants are full of people bundled up against the cold wind that whips in off the ocean. And the local residents as well as the proprietors of the many, many Bed and Breakfasts decorate the Victorian mansions beautifully.

Our plan, to the extent we had one, was to eat too much, drink too much, spend too much money, and have lots of laughs. The trip was a success on all counts (although it will be salad and soft drinks for me for the next week or so).

We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and it seemed as if we were the only “tourists” in the town. We walked down a deserted Washington Street Mall, the place where most of the activity normally takes place. We wondered if we had the whole Cape May Christmas Thing wrong, but two of our number had been there before during the Christmas Season and assured us that Friday and Saturday would be different.

Fortunately, our favorite saloon, The Ugly Mug, was open, with plenty of places to sit. We were all hungry and settled in for cocktails (having already gotten a head start upon arrival with brought-from-home champagne and chilled Finlandia Cranberry Vodka on the rocks) and copious amounts of heavy-duty pub food. We topped it off with hot “Apple Knockers,” made with Lairds Applejack (a product of New Jersey), cider, “natural flavors., and an apple slice.”

Now, fairly well oiled, we took a walk to (oy!) a liquor store to pick up some wine for the BYO restaurants in town that we planned to visit, and while we were there we spotted Smirnoff Green Apple Twist Vodka – something new. Well, after the Finlandia cranberry and Laird’s Apple Knockers, this seemed like a natural for a nightcap or four. It was excellent. All you need is a glass and some ice.

The next day, marked the beginning of the influx of people that culminated with the place being mobbed. Being somewhat ragged around the edges from the night before, we went for a “Fisherman’s Breakfast” (read, big) at a local restaurant called “Dock Mike’s.” The pancakes are huge and out of this world.
We then did the real tourist thing and took the trolley (actually a bus that looks like a trolley car) tour of Cape May to learn about its rich history and architecture. The tour was nice, but I think I may have learned a little more about mansard roofing than I needed to know. The tour also included a visit to the Emlen Physick Estate. Two ladies, dressed in Victorian garb and completely in character as Emlen’s mother and aunt, took “their visitors” (i.e. tourists) on a tour of the mansion. Usually, the theme of the tour is the mansion’s architecture, but during the holidays, the place is all done up in preparation for a Victorian “Christmas Dinner,” and the tour focuses on a typical Victorian Christmas (typical for seriously moneyed folks in the 1800’s, anyway). The ladies say cute things like, “Isn’t it wonderful how we can now eat vegetables during the winter, and they are as fresh as they can be. I just ‘love’ the new canned vegetables, don’t you?”
Naturally, we spent what seemed to be endless time shopping in cutesy little shops and even attended a Christmas Craft Show in Cape May’s Convention Hall, which collectively proved two things to me: One, I think I have finally hit the wall looking at Christmas doodads, and two, people positively swarm to look at and buy Christmas doodads. I had assumed that a couple dozen or so little old ladies would attend the craft fair. Wrong! Within thirty minutes of opening, Convention Hall was absolutely packed. Go figure.
In order to escape the crowds in the main part of town, we took a shot for lunch at a place about a mile or so from all the action, and what a find it turned out to be. It is called “Yesterday’s Sports Heroes Café.” It is a sports fan’s paradise. It boasts the largest public display of Babe Ruth memorabilia in the world. Customers are greeted by a life-size talking Babe Ruth robot that periodically tells stories about his life (the Babe’s life, not the robot’s). There are signed jerseys all over the place (each a game jersey e.g. Joe Dimaggio’s), a zillion baseballs, all signed, mitts, bats, and even stadium seats. No description could do it justice. You have to see it to believe it. Even the bar is covered with laminated, presumably very valuable old baseball cards. Not surprisingly, there is also tons of signed Mickey Mantle stuff. The bedazzled patrons can even touch the handles of the Babe’s and Sammy Sosa’s bats. An extra bonus…the food is great!

Dinners: Our Friday night and Saturday night dinners were also first class. Friday was Cucina Rosa and Saturday was Godmother’s (we tend to gravitate to Italian restaurants). Both places are BYO, but curiously one can buy wine at either place, but only wine made in Cape May from grapes grown in Cape May county. On Saturday, we decided to give a $26.00 bottle of Cape May Winery Merlot a try. I am a strong advocate of the Garden State, but California need not worry that New Jersey will put it out of the wine business. (Query: Does an ordinance that prohibits Cape May restaurants from selling wine unless it is Cape May wine violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution?) I’ll think about that another time. In the meantime, I’ll bring my own, thank you.
On the long ride home on the Garden State Parkway, we listened to the soundtrack from “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” the story of the Funk Brothers, without whom there would be no Motown sound as we know it, and about whom nothing much was ever said for far too long. I have not seen the movie yet, but my cousin Jack has, and he has written a great review on Yakety Yak.
All in all, it was a great getaway, even if I returnedf overfed, overspent, overtired, and slightly bleary-eyed. Tomorrow, back to the grind.

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