There’s a chance I drove more than an hour to go to a restaurant today. And it was absolutely worth it, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Growing up on the South Shore, the towns north of Boston were as mysterious to me as Mars. Why go north when I had beaches right down the road? But it’s hard to ignore the good things people have to say about Cape Ann, so I wanted to check it out.

Maybe it wasn’t a great idea to visit a coastal town on a Sunday during playoff season in January (it was dead) but Gloucester was a good trip. I wish I’d given myself more time to explore (we didn’t get rolling until the afternoon), but we still had a nice little walk along Main Street before a late lunch/early dinner.

Just up the hill from one of Gloucester’s many active fishing wharfs, the downtown area was impressive: A good mix of independent shops, restaurants, offices, galleries and historic landmarks. Since our daylight was limited, we weren’t able to spend too much time exploring, but I did catch a few good shots.

Boats, big and small, off Rogers Street in Gloucester.

A moderately creepy teddy-bear picnic outside a toy store downtown.

There wasn’t much to drain the wallet downtown. One store, Stuff (“Some old stuff, some new stuff”), had a sign on the door announcing it would be open whenever the owners felt like opening it. Other places, it seemed, were shut down for the winter. The Menage Gallery, however, was open and fantastic. My initial reaction on approaching the store was that it would be full of not-my-style nautical art, in the form of colorful fish sculptures. But once I saw the inside, I fell in love with the furniture for sale and for custom-order by owner and woodworker Ed Soucy. If you’ve ever wondered whether something so practical as a bookshelf or dining room table could be a work of art, places like Menage will answer that. Link:

On to lunch/dinner. I’m a fan of the Phantom Gourmet, and one of the places they’ve featured a bunch of times is , an upscale New England seafood/sushi bar on Rogers Street. I thought I’d just get a cup of chowder, but just about everything on the menu was so appealing, I decided on an entree – the lobster and corn tortelloni. It was incredibly good. The restaurant itself is really neat: On the dining room side, you can watch fishing boats come in and out of the harbor, and the tavern side (which serves the full sushi menu and select pub options) is cozy and relaxed. In the middle of the dining room, there’s a sunken, circular sushi pit, where you can sit on lowered cushions and see your meal being prepared underneath an iron sculpture of an octopus. The kitchen is under the hull of a boat, complete with a propeller. It’s a modern design that pays homage to Gloucester’s fishing industry, and a nice reminder that certain things on plates might have been swimming just a few hours ago.

After carbo-lobster-loading, the sun had really started to sink in the sky, and we wanted to see the fishermen’s memorial. A monument to the more than 10,000 men who’ve left Gloucester to make a living and never returned, the names and dates looking out over the ocean are a reminder of the ongoing dangers of the job. It’s sobering and beautiful.

Statue at the Fishermen’s Memorial in Gloucester

My next Wander to Cape Ann will be in the spring or summer, but I’ll definitely head back. This trip was a good reminder that there’s so much of Massachusetts I’ve yet to see.

Just before it fell, a red sky at night over Gloucester

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