In an un­for­get­table trip from Bos­ton to Nan­tucket, Rachel John­son dis­cov­ers the quin­tes­sen­tial play­ground of the Amer­i­can East Coast elite

Town & Country (UK) - - CONTENTS — SUMMER 2018 -

Rachel John­son ex­plores the play­ground of the East Coast elite, from Rhode Is­land to Nan­tucket

It’s long been an an­nual tra­di­tion for glam­orous New York­ers to es­cape the sul­try city heat by flee­ing to the cool Atlantic re­sorts of the East Coast. Which begs the ques­tion, why would the Bri­tish fol­low in the foot­steps of the Pil­grim Fathers and hol­i­day there, when, let’s face it, we have cooler Atlantic climes all year round? Al­low me to posit an ex­pla­na­tion.

If you han­ker af­ter the seren­ity of the Gilded Age, im­mac­u­late Down­ton-style ser­vice, emer­ald-green lawns sweep­ing to white sands and sparkling blue ocean, chil­dren on surf­boards, beach pic­nics, open-top Jeeps, lob­ster rolls, wooden Adiron­dack chairs and spec­tac­u­lar sun­sets, then the truth is New Eng­land does it so much bet­ter than the orig­i­nal Eng­land could ever hope to.

On ar­rival in Bos­ton, via a highly rated Nor­we­gian flight, we headed out to an Ir­ish bar for a cold Sa­muel Adams beer be­fore hit­ting the hay in the Taj ho­tel, known to lo­cals as the Old Ritz, with its bronze lifts and shoe-shine ser­vice. It stands right on Bos­ton Com­mon, where you can fol­low the Free­dom Trail all the way to the crooked old house of Paul Re­vere, he of the fa­mous mid­night ride. Then we drove to the coast to stay in the beach ho­tel to top all beach ho­tels, Ocean House, Watch Hill, Rhode Is­land, which I can sum up in a sin­gle word: wow.

Ocean House is enor­mously pretty, and pretty enor­mous, a white and yellow clap­board pile with the Stars and Stripes flut­ter­ing above. It was here I re­alised that the East Coast isn’t just about good, clean, prep­pie, pa­tri­otic fun in the Land of the Free. At its best, it of­fers a re­cre­ation of the Amer­i­can Dream child­hood, crossed with an end­less sum­mer-camp at­mos­phere. Fathers pitch at their sons on the beach, clad in a smart uni­form of shorts, polo shirts and base­ball caps; moth­ers and their mini-me daugh­ters dress in pais­ley beach­wear from Lilly Pulitzer. (There is a Lilly Pulitzer store in Watch Hill, the small sea­side town hard by the ho­tel – to put this in con­text, that’s the equiv­a­lent of hav­ing a Ralph Lau­ren in your lo­cal vil­lage.) The ho­tel has a café bar called Be­low Deck, which serves a whim­si­cal as­sort­ment of candy, cake and ice-cream, and en­cour­ages fam­i­lies to make their own piz­zas and watch movies on the beach. Kid heaven, or what?

Our next pit stop was New­port, once the favoured hol­i­day spot for the idle rich whose man­sions still skirt the coast to­day. It is a de­li­cious port, all pic­turesque streets and trolley buses, and the Van­der­bilt ‘cot­tage’, the Break­ers, which is the summa cum laude of os­ten­ta­tious vul­gar­ity. Then it was time to catch the fast ferry from Hyan­nis to Nan­tucket, a pris­tine is­land of grey cedar houses, ponds, light­houses and $40 burg­ers. The deal in Nan­tucket, the sum­mer play­ground of the wealthy, is that you don’t show off. The longer your fam­ily has been com­ing here, the older your clothes and the rustier your wooden-sided sta­tion wagon, the bet­ter. As one old­timer told me: ‘If you have a pool and new car, no­body will talk to you.’ We stayed at the Wauwinet, an inn by the sea where you sprawl on sun­loungers and some­one comes and puts a cock­tail in your hand. It is home to the cel­e­brated Top­per’s, one of the finest restau­rants in the States, where we had oys­ters fresh out of the bay, homemade breads, smoked but­ter – and that was be­fore our starters.

When ‘on is­land’, there are rules. Ev­ery­one says ‘any­thing goes’, but in prac­tice women wear white jeans (but only un­til La­bor Day, when they are banned) and men, pink chi­nos. And you have to go for evening cock­tails at Gal­ley Beach to watch the glo­ri­ous rasp­berry sun­set, lethal G&TS in hand. When we were there, as the sun de­scended be­neath the hori­zon, ev­ery­one on the beach clapped as if it was putting on a spe­cial per­for­mance just for them. This be­ing Nan­tucket, where even the light comes ex­pen­sively rose-tinted and gilded with nos­tal­gia, who the hell knows? It prob­a­bly was. Scott Dunn (020 8682 5030; www.scottdunn.com) of­fers seven-night tai­lor­made New Eng­land itin­er­ar­ies from £4,995 a per­son, based on two peo­ple shar­ing, with stays at Ocean House, Rhode Is­land and the Wauwinet in Nan­tucket, and in­cludes in­ter­na­tional flights and trans­fers. Taj Bos­ton (www.theta­j­boston.com), from £308 a room a night.


nan­tucket har­bour. top: ocean house, rhode is­land. above right: great point lighthouse, nan­tucket

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