Food, Travel, Design and the occassional wordiness

Jersey Shore (again): Cape May April 20, 2010

I’ll start with lodging. We were crunched for time before leaving for Newark and everything looked super expensive online…. so we booked the 1st available cheap sty… but that’s what it was— a total sty: Rodeway Inn (at 200 E White Horse Pike, Galloway, NJ was a horror show waiting to happen) I’d rate it at 1 out of 5. …. The owners abysmally rude and the service if available, pathetic. No hair dryers (that blows me off). The first room given to us was slept in, wet towels all over the place… obviously we requested to be changed to another room as soon as we entered the first but the lady at the desk was reluctant. The choice hotels gift card wasn’t accepted. Their ‘free continental breakfast’ included stale coffee and juice. Choice Hotels should do something about this! As for us, lesson learnt: we could have easily driven there and found something as cheap, or cheaper, but a much better place and a better location… the neighborhood of this Absecon/Galloway area wasn’t to die for either.

The first place we hit the next morning was Wildwood Beach. A neat little haven for shell collectors, especially if you can make do with broken shells. The sand was fine and dense; the waves, tame and low. Some pockets of the beach had collected water; and large shells (or fractions thereof) were abundant. We got remnants of several soft shells too…that look like micro-stingrays. Just as were leaving a group of young kids actually caught a sting ray… I had never seen one being caught on the beach using fishing equipment before and as much as I savor fish at lunch, I consider fishing gross… (get that!) So much to my husband’s dismay we ended up walking away as fast as possible…

We drove further south to the beautiful Victorian township of Cape May. I loved the architecture. All the houses were very old but none of them rundown. Some were palatial, some much smaller in size. But all of them boasted intricate Victorian designs and striking, if not unusual, assortment of colors. Most of them had matching flower beds and the neatest curb appeal. The manicured little gardens and patios basked in the pride of ownership… this looked like the kind of town, my color coded brain would love to live in. As I said before the B&Bs were expensive when we checked online…but once again, probably we could find something cheaper locally….the motor inns and lodges on the shore looked way better than the in-land lodging we were putting up at (/ with).

We reached Cape May at a rather odd time when almost all the restaurants were closed… (most open at 5 pm for dinner) and we were starving! We went to an obscure place that we found open, called the Secret Spot. Indeed one of the better kept secrets because there was no flashy crying-out-loud of how delicious the food was (fried calamari was awesome!). Resaonably priced, clean, pleasant staff and strikingly simple décor including large shells as napkin holders. Something that the staff-girl’s uncle had caught! All these tiny personal touches bring out of the uniqueness of a place and it really makes a difference to the made-in-china mass-marketed times we are living in. Each of these has a story to tell and if you’re visiting Cape May (or anywhere else with even a little pride of belonging) without enough time on hand to listen to the stories you’re probably missing it all. I always make it a point to visit local ‘festivals’ if I can….brings out the best in people, when they’re foot tapping to some country music and jostling deep fried junk food with lemonade, visiting one stall to another. Reminds me of a Boi-mela I’d never get to enjoy again… Innovations, novelty, unique flavors, if you can have your eyes open wide enough, you can see it all (with a pinch of dust, if you’re ready to take it).

Michael Demusz’s paintings were such a treat at Cape May’s 2009 Strawberry Festival that (luckily for us) was being held that Saturday. I wish I could afford some of his work, on second thought, I wish I could create them… (after Googling for his website, I came across some EZ publishing interview which talks of a ‘fine artist’ Mike Demusz who looks like Orlando Bloom… I don’t remember whether he did, was busy looking at his than him!)

My husband and I always love coming across Penn Staters especially if its away from State College and they’re really old and we can help them reminisce some of their Happy Valley days…and we met this very interesting person at the strawberry festival class of ’72 (makes him even older than my parents) and whose name I don’t remember… not very helpful info to be blogging about but hey! I enjoyed talking to him and it’s a take-home from the trip, so why not?

A literal treat at the strawberry festival was at the Cape May Crab Cake Factory stall. The freshest and lumpiest crab cakes I have ever had and you should know that if there is one vice I have, its gluttony and that for seafood beats all others! Order yours frozen online http://www.capemaycrabcakes.com or pick them up at the Ugly Mug… they were worth every buck they cost. Trust the foodie! (scroll down for more local food info)

Soon after the Strawberry king and queen were announced (Mike D. was probably the king) and the drumbeat died down we went to the Cape May beach. If there was one word for the strawberry festival for 2009 it was “fun” and if allowed 3, I’d say “loads of fun”…take your pick.

After hours of strolling on the coarse set sand beach at high tide, marveling at the huge foamy waves and collecting shells we trudged our tired gritty feet towards land. You have to understand one thing here… if I am traveling in a group and anyone of us is hungry or craving something I always keep them company, so I am always going munch-sip-crack-much-munch-sip-crack and now was time for a coffee break. We head out to have funnel cake and fries at the beach side café, Oasis. The cooks humorous and the food great! (Although this one had a killer location right on the board walk, I would still prefer Secret Spot to this joint at least for the calamari fries… chocolate drizzled funnel cakes are another story, of course)

Soon it was time for the Sunset Beach to spring to action… crowds swarmed the sands of this serene beach for a flag ceremony right before the sunset. Unlike those of Cape May or Wildwood, this one was all pebbly and a galore of excitement for me. The waves were much calmer than Cape May; up until 5 feet of the water the beach was all-pebbles, of every conceivable sizes and color… We found some perfect whites to translucent-s and some even transparent-s, shiny blacks, jaded gold-s and bright oranges that matched the sunset. We found several of Cape May’s famous ‘diamond like pebbles’… but a small note for the beach combing enthusiasts, before you fill your sacks of these natural souvenirs think of preserving the natural wonderfulness of the place and maybe leave some for your kids to come back and enjoy some day… I totally hear the fun of finding to buying, but there are always stores like the ‘sunset beach gift store’ which claim to remain open “as long as there are cars in the parking lot” —very customer friendly indeed?!?

One good touch, I learnt, to every Jersey Shore trip is to visit Barnegat on Long Beach Island at least once, no matter how briefly and we did just that (click for previous trip account). Although this time we neither dined at Antoniette’s nor stopped at Wildflowers by Cricket, we did climb Old Barney – 217 steps up and back on a rickety old yellow iron spiral staircase and had achy calf muscles for 20 hrs the next day to prove that! Thank God we had comfy shoes on, or it could be a literal pain in the butt but the spectacular view from the top was every bit worth it. They’re open 9:30 am – 4:30pm summer months and until 3:30 rest of the year (free) and charges a buck per head from April to October. I say, money very well spent.

Right out of there we lunched at Kelly’s. Except for the deep fried goods (lousy) all was good, especially salmon steak sandwich and Mom’s Manhattan chowder… (the New England one was blah! For lack of a better word). Medium priced, good hangout for a seafood craving soul. All in all, Old Barney’s always a good bet!

From old Blog



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