Monday, July 19, 2010

Safari #8: An Oasis

This summer, I've been waiting for my moment to exhale.  It finally happened yesterday.  For nearly the entire day, I felt like a kite floating in the sky - so free and relaxed that I was ready to let the wind take me anywhere.

Crane Beach, a wildlife reserve and recreation area in Ipswich, is a rare gem.  White sand, tide pools, and sand bars abound as far as the eye can see.  The beach front itself is nearly 4 miles long, making for wonderfully long and peaceful walks.  While some areas of the beach can get a little crowded, there is plenty of room to spread out and find some solitude.  I found mine while taking a walk along the shore.  The lapping waves pushed my thoughts into exactly the right place.

Fellow safari travelers, Crane's is T accessible.  Before summer's end, make a promise to yourself and visit.  Your only regret will be leaving Crane's at the end of the day.

Some Helpful Tips:
  • Getting to Crane's Beach.  Catch a Newburyport/Rockport line train from North Station to Ipswich.  From the Ipswich train station, take a CATA shuttle to the beach.
  • Facilities - Crane's offers food service from burgers and hot dogs to salads and made to order sandwiches.  The concession stand accepts cash and credit cards.   Restrooms, changing booths and showers are also available. 
  • Pets - dogs are not allowed.
  • Cost - if you drive, it is $25 to visit, including parking.  Walk-on visitors pay $2.  The shuttle (mentioned above) will drop you at Crane's, so your entry fee would be at the walk-on price.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Safari Style #2: What's Your Secret?

It's always easier to dress yourself when someone else does all of the thinking for you.  Therein lies the rub of vintage shopping - with so many styles from different periods in time, where do you start and how do you choose?  What is the secret to vintage style?  Allow me to humbly whisper in your ear.

First, my shopping mantra: (1) find what suits you (and remember that not everything will), (2) use your imagination, and (3) don't be afraid to try something different.

Next, my deck of cards.  Pull any of these to keep the heads turning and the masses guessing.
  • (Updated on 7/16/10) Dame (68 South St., Jamaica Plain) - forgive my french, but this place is f*cking fantastic.  Upon walking in, you can tell immediately that the owner has impeccable taste and an eye for details.  What makes Dame even more extra special?  Local clothing designers and artists also sell their wares in this store.  I'm going to start making monthly trips to JP just to make sure I don't miss anything.  I left the store with a 60's era romper (score!) and vintage filligree earrings from Germany.  My bank account had better watch out.
  • Raspberry Beret (Porter Sq., Cambridge) - a quirky, fun and colorful mix of clothing is to be found here.  Vintage items range from the mid 60's to the late 80's.  It also includes contemporary items.
  • Second Time Around (Newbury St., Back Bay) - a good place to start if you're new to consignment shopping.  I can't tell you how many Banana Republic tops I've scored here and at nearly 75% off the original price.  Why pay $68 for a top when I can get it (barely worn) for $18?
  • Poor Little Rich Girl (Imman Sq., Cambridge/Newbury St., Back Bay) - lots of vintage style in the form of clothing, jewlery, and hats.  The vintage items in Inman offer mid-50's to the late 70s, while the shop in Back Bay has pre-1950s items.
Know of more vintage shops that I haven't mentioned?  Share them here and spread the wealth.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Safari #7: Islands?

"Islands?  What islands?" is the response of many Bostonians when you tell them that you recently visited Boston's Harbor islands.  Yes, the harbor does have islands - 30 in fact - that are a combination of national parks, wildlife reserves, privately-owned areas, and publicly accessible recreation areas.  Opened to the public in 2006, the Harbor Islands boast a wide array of activities for the adventure seeking Bostonian.  And the best part?  They are only a short ferry ride away.

My latest safari took me to Spectacle Island, one of the harbor's largest,  for a Sunday afternoon beach outing.  The island has a pebbly beach, boat docks, a visitor center with restroom facilities, Jasper White's Summer Shack (limited menu available), and free jazz concerts on Sunday afternoons (making the timing of my visit perfect).  The Adirondack chairs along the visitor center's open deck are a nice place to take a break from the sun,  drink a cool beverage, and listen to jazz and seagulls.

It's hard to believe that this little oasis has a sordid history (which you can learn more about on one of the island's free guided tours).  Once a horse disposal facility and garbage dump (sailors used to navigate their way through harbor fog using the islands' stench as their guide), this island was converted into a national recreation area and green facility.*  The transformation is quite a sight to behold.     

Some key points to remember:
  • Sunblock - just in case you forget yours, the rangers will provide it to you at no cost.
  • Leave No Trace - while the island provides restrooms and other facilities to make your stay more enjoyable, it is your responsibility to remove whatever you have brought to the park including garbage.
  • Return Time - when you purchase your ferry ticket, you will need to indicate what time you would like to return.  While it's possible to return earlier or later than your scheduled time, you will be on standby.
The Harbor Islands are easily accessible via public transportation.  Take the blue line to the Aquarium stop.  On the Columbus Park side of the Marriot Long Wharf Hotel, you'll find informational kiosks, ticket booths, and the ferry docks.  For more information, visit

*Historical information obtained from