Why leave? – Gloucester

Stage Fort Park, or at least part of it.

Oftentimes it seems like I love living in MA just because it is so easy to leave it to go to Maine or New Hampshire, or the airport. I admit that I do like to leave it, especially during the summer when Boston is impassible due to construction and tourists and because I know the greater part of my fall will be spent on the turf fields of Concord and Lancaster MA. But one fine day this August, I gave my son Nico the choice of where to spend a day and he chose Gloucester. I am not sure what his search criteria were, but after five minutes on google, he said Gloucester had a castle and was less than an hour from here, so off we go. We took his twin brother, and the Brazilian exchange student.

We put the tourist information booth as our end spot, and that led us to the crazy good Stage Fort Park on Cape Ann. Personally I think that Stage Fort Park is a very bad name for a very good park. As we parked at tourist information booth (more like a wood house than booth), we had great hopes for a beautiful day in the sun.

While I talked with the friendly tourist information guy inside,  Lalo my dog-loving son wandered out onto the big wood deck and found a fluffy friendly dog, which it turned out belonged to the tourist information officer. Yes, this park comes with a huggable dog. Incidentally, you can take your dog to the park, as long as he/she is leashed–there is even an off-leash park somewhere on the property (I admit I never saw it). I regretted leaving Katie Puppy at home.

Huggable dog. Lalo.

We were starving by the time we picked up our 3,655 brochures so no one wanted to get back into the car and go to a “real” restaurant. Instead, we paid $10 for parking at the park and walked down the hill to the seafood “shack.” This is a shack much like the famous Dairy Joy of Weston is a shack. $22 for 5 clam strips. $25 lobster roll, $6 ice cream. Cash only. A double-check of my wallet showed we were gonna have to go light for lunch if we wanted ice cream. We ordered a couple of fish sandwiches and a burger from their takeout window and waited. And waited. Fortunately it was a lovely day, and I sent the kids towards the shore to see whether we should eat at a picnic table or on the beach. Well, that beach was rocky, very rocky, but deserted…and we ate on the breakwater 4000000 minutes later once they had given us our food. We puddled about and momentarily lost our focus which means there was almost one verrrrrry lucky and shameless seagull. Almost got the burger.

Take that, Plymouth Rock. Amateurs. Seriously.

After lunch, we wandered up the hill to the very large rock. Huge rock. Guess what? Unbeknownst to us scarfers-of-bad-lunch, we were on the spot of the founding of the Mass Bay Colony. Now how this differs from that whole Plymouth Rock thing, I don’t know. All I know is that the actual physical Plymouth rock completely fails next to the massive Mass Bay rock. You could hike up the backside and get an amazing view of everywhere Gloucester. So good.

Only thing not good at this point was all the trash. What is with the people and the trash? Also who drinks Lite beer? It’s terrible. Perhaps I would also throw it on the ground if forced to drink it. I went into trash vigilante mode and piled up the junk to take back down the hill. I was feeling grrrrr-y…until the little tiny beach. The best beach I have ever been to in all of Massachusetts…yes, I am going to put it out there. Deal with it, you Chatham people.

Terrible beach. Don’t go.

I will only tell you about this beach if you promise to never ever go there. It’s mine. For a midweek summer morning, it was so quiet. Shaded by ginormous trees. Lovely soft sand, rocks to explore (but do not jump from or the lifeguards will find you and kebosh you), a quiet inlet with tide pools. Perfect. It is the perfect beach. Do not go.

We walked up towards the fort and I have to say, well, that was a disappointment. Yah, a few cannons are left and some mysterious doors into the hillside, but basically all you want is to sit in one of the benches looking at Gloucester and well, look at Gloucester. That is what we did, and we picked out our new house. It was big. Would fit 400 of our best friends. We didn’t even set tire in Gloucester town so I’ve got nothing on that.

Gloucester as seen from Stage Fort Park. As close as we got.

On our way back to the car, we walked through the very cool and very new playground. Awesome huge wooden tractors and cars. Lighthouses and pirate ships. Nico was captured by 7 year old pirates and had to be jail-broken by Lalo. Friendly funny kids and I considered briefly the life of homelessness – I could live in the little pirate ship and eat $22 fish sandwiches and live in Stage Fort Park. Only one problem: the ice man cometh. Winter. No, thank you.

Very cool playground. Until captured by pirates.

So we looked at the time and knew we had to get going to the whole point of our Gloucester trip: Hammond Castle. Nico loves a castle these days and we had to go. But first, some ice cream at the picnic benches. Which reminds me: this is the best park I have EVER been in for places to stop and sit, sit and eat, sit and view. Benches everywhere. Yes, I challenge you Jardin Luxembourg. Ha.

I find myself without further energy for Hammond Castle today. Maybe Monday. I shall whet your appetites by telling you that the owner, an eccentric inventor, had a statue made of his naked self and put in the front garden. It’s still there. Now there is a fig leaf welded onto the appropriate (or inappropriate, depending on your viewing audience). So there’s that to look forward to.

Now get thee to Cape Ann.




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