Winter sun is a commonly used phrase. People want to get away from the cold when the moody skies are testing their patience, driving them to hot beachside resorts. But on my recent trip to the USA, winter sun meant a beautiful, energetic beachside town in the midst of Winter. I introduce you to Provincetown in the infamous Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where flocks of Americans migrate every Summer.
Cold, windy, grey, rainy and stormy seas is probably what comes to mind when you think of a beach holiday during Winter. That’s at least what I always remembered from my visits to Great Yarmouth in the UK, where my dad grew up. But au contraire, we were lucky enough to witness the sea with only a whimper of a ripple on its glossy surface. Skies were blue, and it may have been cold but when the sunsets are that vivid, it’s all worth it.
Provincetown has the extraordinary ability to remain happy and lively even when it’s eerily quiet in its Winter months. Its time to shine (oh, the pun) is the Summer, and you immediately notice the lack of people and the missing restaurants when you choose to take a trip here at this odd time. I say ‘missing restaurants’ because a lot close for the season, including a sushi place we were looking for that frankly, I believe sprouted legs and walked off somewhere to sunbathe. We could not even see it, and we stood exactly at the address, entrusting Google Maps probably a tad too much. Spooky.
Despite this, I loved Provincetown for its enthusiasm to make the most of itself. It gave the distinct impression that it doesn’t just put on an act for the Summer months, but rather it is truly that friendly and getting on with their unique way of doing things; the influx of tourists appear simply as a means to share their every day lives.
Granted, I don’t have the summer comparison, but the way the locals were towards us, you would have thought it was Summer. They were some of the friendliest people I’ve met, from the camp delight of a man at Bayside Betsy’s (I blushed when he called me “pretty lady”. I think my boyfriend noticed.) to the woman in the sex shop Toys of Eros (sex shops were everywhere and this one was very historically educational – we had to take a peek).
Provincetown essentially has one long road where most of its shops and restaurants are, Commerical Street. In a place as small as this, it points towards a sense of community. The lighting of the lobster pot tree was something Alan and I were intrigued by – and sure enough, lobster cages came together to create the shape of a Christmas tree (or, well, pyramid if you’re going to be less festive about it) decorated with fairy lights and toy lobsters. The locals gathered and sang Christmas carols while a couple of people with the help of a crane mounted a sea-themed decoration on top of the Christmas tree/pyramid (the star on the tree, essentially. I have no pyramid comparison) and turned on the lights.
It was such a lovely thing to be part of. One person would start singing a carol, and everyone else followed suit. I’m pretty sure in England, you would get looked at like a nutter. Possibly less so the nearer to Christmas, but this was still November! Witnessing people spotting each other in the crowd, little children running and hugging their relatives and families and friends enjoying themselves over this quite weird event was really touching and really drew you in to the small town feeling of togetherness. And maybe you wouldn’t get that so much in the Summer with the tourist take over.
The weather was actually fantastic with us, and even if it wasn’t, it’s a refreshing thing to walk on a beach in Winter time. It’s peaceful and somehow very raw and real – you’re taking the beach for all its seasons and characters. Seeing something different from the perfect, flawless sunny disposition in the summer attracting crowds, the seaside becomes all that more special.
I’ll always be a beach bum loving to build up a tan of course, but it’s like the cycle of trees: vivid, lively green in the Summer and fiery oranges, yellows and reds in the Autumn. I even love the look of the dramatic, bare trees in the Winter. What I’m saying (or trying to say) is you may have a favourite, but can appreciate it for all its personas.
And hey, isn’t that the way we should be thinking of everything? Looking at things, people, cultures from a different angle and appreciating them for what they are? I’ll leave you with that deep, philosophical nugget.