Single Mom Traveling: Central Valley, Costa Rica

The phrase ‘single mom traveling’ does have a lovely ring to it, but upon my daughter’s birth, I was utterly devastated by the thought that it would be impossible to continue my traveling ways with my child. But like the seasons- thoughts, possibilities and people change. After a year and a half of settling into motherhood, I discovered that traveling as a single mom with my nineteen month old by my side, was not impossible after all. Our very first trip was to Costa Rica for 35 days. We visited five different locations starting with the Central Valley, then on to the Caribbean Coast, the Northern Central Valley and finally to the Pacific Coast. We encountered many hours of travel, new places to adapt to and unforgettable memories.

I think that traveling remains in a child’s psyche and shapes their character in a conscientious and positive way. I saw it first-hand how truly positive the experience was for my daughter Natalia and I plan to continue traveling as much as we can. Natalia was ecstatic when we would finally arrive to our new destination after hours of travel. She would check out our new home and say “Natalia’s house” and we would both gracefully ease into every new destination and travel situation that we encountered.

The Central Valley was the first place we settled for seven days. I wanted to see where in Costa Rica we would possibly like to settle down for a year or two in the future. I would be teaching and dabbling in real estate and Natalia would be getting a bilingual education and basking in the sun. I was pining for the beach, but I did not want to limit my options to just the beach. Most of the jobs in Costa Rica are in the Central Valley and I wanted to get to know the Central Valley first hand so that I could compare my experiences once I ventured out to the coasts. I also wanted to see what would be more enjoyable as well as practical for the both of us, with a good job market, good schools and a kid-friendly atmosphere. I would then decide on the best option for my toddler daughter- discovering life and growing, and for me- a teacher, world traveler and fun-loving single mother.

The Central Valley is a massive area with many cities including San Jose, Heredia and Alajuela. When I was researching these cities, I was getting advice from people and from the internet to avoid them. I have never been to Central or South America. I did not want to overwhelm myself with a big Central American city, while I would already be overwhelmed with my small travel companion. If I were traveling single or with friends, I would gladly check out the big sprawling cities, but with a child, I felt that I should be more low-key. I wanted a homey small town feel with a two bedroom place and a kitchen so that Natalia and I would get acclimated to living daily life in the Central Valley like the locals.

We chose a small village in the country hills called Pan de Azucar which means ‘sugar bread’ in Spanish. Pan de Azucar is in the outskirts of a cozy little town called Atenas. Atenas has a central park in the center and is surrounded by quaint family run businesses and restaurants called Sodas. Atenas has a simple cathedral, Tico-style residential homes and rolling mountain ranges in the background. It is a mellow town, with kid-friendly shops, including a candy shop, toy shop and a delicious bakery right across from the park. It had treats that Natalia loved to eat, like the carrot bread. Atenas also boasts that it has “the best climate in the world”, which was the deal breaker for me. There is something very wholesome and exclusive about the “best climate in the world” and I wanted me and my baby girl to experience it.

After many dedicated nights of research, I found a cozy two-bedroom house on-line through a comprehensive website that rents vacation homes by owner. In my opinion, when staying for longer periods of time and traveling with children, a home type of environment is the best option. The property where we rented our house is Japanese owned and is called ‘Casa de Megumi’. In Spanish and Japanese, it means ‘House of Blessing’. ‘Casa’ means house in Spanish and ‘megumi’ means blessing in Japanese. Finding a Japanese run vacation rental in Costa Rica was a great coincidence for me because of my recent Japanese-oriented past. I lived in Japan for a year and a half, was pregnant in Japan for five months, and it was the last place I traveled to before going to Costa Rica. Since I have a profound fascination with all things Japanese, Casa de Megumi was automatically kindred to me. Moreover, once I got to know the earnestly helpful owner of the property, Hisano Bell, a Japanese woman from Yokohama, I knew in my gut that Casa de Megumi was the right place for us to start our Costa Rica adventure.

Hisano became like a travel guardian-angel for us in the Central Valley. Even before we arrived to Costa Rica, Hisano and I were in constant contact. She had all sorts of provisions made for us, like getting our groceries before we landed. When I sent Hisano my gorcery list, I forgot to put coffee on the list but Hisano provides local Costa Rican coffee for her guests; I did not even have to worry about that. On the evening we arrived, we enjoyed a traditional Tico meal that Hisano arranged for us with the cook at Casa de Megumi. Hisano’s thoughtfulness was endless. She would even drive us into town occasionally and offer knowledgeable travel tips, like where to exchange money for the best rate. That is what I call Japanese service and hospitality. The Japanese people pride themselves on how well they serve others. When I was living in Japan, I learned a lot about providing sincere quality services to my clients, students and anyone I chose to help, paid or not. These same qualities of good service that I observed in Japan were the same qualities that Hisano shared with us. The coincidence of Casa de Megumi was a true blessing.

Come to think of it, more coincidences followed at our stay at Casa de Megumi. I view these coincidences as omens or as indications that even though I was traveling to an unknown land with a child all alone, these omens were like familiarities along our journey, to make us feel secure and like we were on the right path. I am a huge fan of Paolo Coehlo’s philosophies and I am spiritual, so for me the pleasant coincidences at Casa de Megumi were magical and welcomed at every step.

On the Casa de Megumi property we stayed at Casa Verde, a pristinely clean and newly remodeled two bedroom house with all the amenities, access to fertile gardens with avocado trees, magnificent central valley views and a sparkling pool. Hisano lives in Casa Grande, the other house on the property with her family. I was totally enamored by Hisano’s mother. She is an elderly woman with graceful mannerisms and always dressed in traditional Japanese regalia. Natalia and Hisano’s dog, Jon-Jon were pretty much inseparable during our entire stay at Casa de Megumi. It felt like we had an automatic pet upon arrival and it was heartwarming to see my daughter creating a bond and caring for an animal. She had many more opportunities to be in contact and care for animals throughout our trip in Costa Rica. Animals and pets are part of an integrated and populated mix in Costa Rica. Kids love animals and that is one major reason that makes Costa Rica so kid-appropriate and fun.

One of the perks of staying at Casa de Megumi was getting to know Hisano’s family and having the traditional Japanese dinner at Hisano’s house. Hisano prepared an array of tempura, miso soup and mochi for dessert. Hisano offers this unique hospitality to guests who stay at Casa de Megumi for three nights or longer. It was a an exquisite treat to be in Costa Rica in the tropical mountains, having a traditional Japanese meal with a Japanese family, overlooking the vistas of the lush central valley- an experience of a life time really.

Another striking coincidence at Casa de Megumi was when I was looking for a trustworthy and good- hearted babysitter to care for Natalia, while I would be out interviewing or working at home. Hisano introduced me to Stella. As soon as she said the name ‘Stella’, again it brought up Japan in my mind. My delightfully dynamic Australian roommate in Japan was named Stella. Stella took great care of me when I was pregnant for the first five months. She went with me to every doctor’s appointment and to emergency rooms in the middle of the night if I thought there was something wrong. She was always watching out for me, buying delicious food and always being there for me and my little bump during our fun and crazy times in Tokyo. It was a striking coincidence to hear that Natalia’s potential babysitter in the Central Valley would be named Stella.

The Costa Rican Stella was not only Natalia’s babysitter but also the cook at Casa de Megumi. Stella makes traditional Tico meals with rice, beans, salad and a protein and an incredible vegetable soup. When guests at Casa de Megumi don’t feel like cooking, they can order a casado from Stella. Her food was fresh, authentic and made with love. After eating Stella’s homemade food, meeting her and spending some time with her, I knew she would be great with Natalia. She conveniently lived across the street and she would come over with her grand-daughters and care for Natalia while I was out interviewing or busy working at home. When Stella was unavailable, her daughter who was also coincidentally named Natalia and who was also a single mom, came to help out. Having Stella and her family over and getting to know them, instantly made me feel part of the community in Pan de Azucar. We were getting to know the locals and it made the adapting process familiar and easy.

Natalia and I would go out for long walks along the country road and we would meet the local farmers and spend time with them while they grazed their cows. At first we would get timid waves but eventually the locals got used to us taking walks, snapping pictures at every turn and going to the few markets in the village. We also took the 80 cent local bus on occasion down to the town of Atenas. After a while the faces on the bus became more familiar and friendly, and easy to converse with. Everyone was extremely helpful on the bus. If I had too many bags, Natalia and the stroller, people would carry my stroller in for me so that I could settle us in quickly and be on our way. On the whole, people in the Central Valley love children and are extremely respectful, helpful and tolerant of mothers and their children. I would have to say, the majority of venues in Central Valley that we visited were child-friendly. In my experience and from what I have read, mothers traveling with children are a priority in Costa Rica. Natalia and I felt very welcomed and cherished in all the parts of Costa Rica and particularly the Central Valley.

I had one great concern before going to the Central Valley with Natalia and that was, should I rent a car? I did a lot of research that said a car is not necessary. This may be true if you want to stay in one location, like the beach town Samara, where everything is accessible by foot or by a bike ride, but in Atenas, a car was definitely necessary. I was a little weary of this because of the serpentine roads that are at times unpaved or inches from cascading cliffs. For a single mom with a 19 month old in the back, it did leave a little lump in my throat. After all my research, I decided to ask Hisano about whether I should rent a car. Renting a car in Costa Rica can be quite expensive because of the insurance, which is usually as much as the car rental itself. Hisano said that maybe the better and more economical option would be to just hire a driver; and she recommended her driver Carlos. Carlos was extremely reliable and a total blast to chat and tour with. It was actually more economical to hire Carlos and his car than to rent a car and it was an ideally comfortable situation for us. Carlos took us everywhere our hearts desired, equipped with a safe car seat for Natalia. I spoke both Spanish and English with Carlos because he is bilingual. He is a local and has immense knowledge of the area. He gave us impromptu tours and treated us to some very good ginger candy.

The places that Natalia and I both enjoyed in the Central Valley were the Doka Estate Coffee Plantation and Butterfly Garden, and the renowned Zoo Ave. At the coffee plantation we took a tour, learned about coffee production, ate a delicious traditional Tico lunch and after lunch we visited the butterfly garden, all for under thirty dollars. Natalia loved the Butterfly Garden and she was very well-behaved and attentive when mommy was indulging in all the coffee knowledge and in all the coffee. Carlos even gave Natalia chocolate covered coffee beans. I know this is not as tolerable in the US, but in Costa Rica I have spoken to people who mix a small amount of coffee with milk and give it to their toddlers on occasion. I thought ‘when in Rome…’ and allowed Natalia to enjoy some coffee treats. I associate it with allowing Natalia to drink chocolate milk once in a while. She experienced no adverse reactions just a purely good time.

Zoo Ave is another place that fascinated us both. It is not a traditional zoo but a very large refuge for local rescued animals. Zoo Ave is high in the mountains with exotic animals like pumas, monkeys and sloths and thousands of exotic plants. Natalia took a long nap after discovering all the animals while I sat and took in the sights and jungle sounds. Across the street from Zoo Ave is a well-renowned resort called Resort Martino. I researched and visited the resort and it seemed pristine. Resort Martino is kid friendly, fifteen minutes away from the airport and another great option to consider when staying in the Central Valley with kids.

The Central Valley of Costa Rica was truly a picture-perfect first destination to settle in before hitting the beaches. The Central Valley had many fun activities that kept us busy discovering, but in a relaxed atmosphere at Casa de Megumi, which was safe and perfect for my daughter. In the afternoon, I would go on a few interviews in Heredia and Alajuela or we would take an excursion with Carlos or we would play at the pool. In the evenings, we would have our neighbors over or settle in for the night having dinner, skyping with our loved ones, bath time, story time and bed time; just like at home. We would wake up in the early morning and go straight to the hammock to take our time waking up and to take in the sounds of exotic birds and roosters, to be enveloped in pure nature and to enjoy the best climate in the world. Pura vida.

Our next stop was Manzanillo de Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast. This was the second part of our Costa Rica journey. A kindred spirit of mine came to join us on that leg of the trip and I will get more into that in the upcoming third part of this article series called Single Mom Traveling: Manzanillo de Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

A Woman Traveling & Living Solo in a Van – Why?

I am a 50 year young, God loving divorced mom of one adult son. I have spent most of my
life working far more hours than I should. I am very responsible and have always worked
myself to the ultimate (& at times ridiculous) to build other people’s businesses… and I
have been pretty successful at it! At the same time, most of my life I have been a single
parent, so though I made a decent income compared to many women in my shoes, living on
one income and paying all the bills solo, I didn’t have anything extra for savings. Often I
felt like I worked from can ’til can’t, and the only thing that kept me going was the ongoing
motivation to provide a good home and environment for my then “growing up” son.

I have gotten burnt out from time to time amidst the mad crazy pace of management and
business life, but I’ve always ended back in the rat race due to the responsibilities and
demands of being a single mom for the most part. Since my son is now grown and a man on
his own, after my current corporate management “gig” is over (I plan to make that happen
before my next birthday) I will then fulltime and travel using my van as a home base while
supporting myself primarily through my online businesses, occasional consulting and
speaking engagements, and my true passion: writing.

How did I come to discover this free (& honest) nomadic gypsy spirit that lives inside of
me? First, I always have been drawn to small spaces inside, and wide open scenic vistas
outside; love nature, love scenic beauty, love exploring, love uniqueness and discovery of
all kinds. I loved every movie I saw with the actors living in a well kept RV or travel
trailer… actually, although I don’t remember the names of the movies, those are the “clips”
that live in my head: an older woman with a bird on her shoulder sitting at the table of the
nice travel trailer she lived in since her husband died, she was happy and at peace though
others didn’t understand her choices. Another movie I remember vividly was about 2
women who traveled the country heading to Canada (with breathtaking footage along the
way). An unhappy waitress who joins them along the way has a very unique personalized
(too pink and frilly for me but cool nevertheless) travel trailer that she just gives away
without thought when she meets the “man of her dreams”. (What????? Don’t give that
away!!! What was she thinking???) As long as I can remember I have been drawn to the
gypsy life, from the travels to the ornate cozy gypsy wagons, travel trailers, and small
RVs and campers to the biggest perk of all: Independence and Freedom to live life
outside the “societal box”.

When my now adult son was from the ages of 7 to about 14, we often went camping in
various places on many weekends. Not having much money for extras, we also vacationed
as campers. Two of our most memorable vacations camping, were at The Great Smoky
Mountains NP in NC & TN and at the Shenandoah National Park in VA.

I guess where the casual weekend camper took on a whole different mode was in the
whole pre-Y2K frenzy. I found my natural survival mentality becoming more and more
immersed in the preparedness and survival aspect of it all. At that time I thought, “Hey
whether Y2K brings on anything difficult or not, the bottom line is I am living week to
week, what if something catastrophic happened in my life; how would I take care of my
son?” I was supposed to receive $100 a week in child support for many years but long
story short (not worth writing or talking about) I never did. I pursued it for a while
through the courts and child support agencies. But after their not securing anything
worthwhile, the state agency wanted me to sign papers to pay for their costs in finding my
ex “once again” to make him comply! I gave up! Things were very different back then with
the courts and compliance. So I didn’t look to anyone else but myself (& God) to help me. I
ended up buying a $1000 travel trailer and fixing it up so that no matter what happened
we would have a roof over our heads. I didn’t talk about it to people because I knew that
if one didn’t follow the societal guidelines of a big home with a white picket fence or at
least a nice apartment, people thought you were out of touch with reality! But when my son
reached 16, we moved out of our nice luxury apartment into the 24 ft. travel trailer when
they were enforcing a rent increase from $600 to $700 a month (which was pricey for SC
in ’98).

I found there was a beautiful resort campground near the infamous Charleston gardens
and historic antebellum homes on the outskirts of Charleston, SC not too far from my job
as a purchasing manager for a national high-tech manufacturing company. I spoke with my
son (who was always very adaptable and always ready for a new adventure) about how
much I could save. I took him to the beautiful resort campground with a large lake, White
Ibis and Blue Heron nests right behind the area we would be parked in, and beautiful
amenities all housed in cedar wood buildings. On top of all that we were only a couple miles
from where the islands and swamp areas merged with the ocean and all of it in the up and
coming area of town with trendy and new shopping areas and restaurants. We stayed
there over a year. We thoroughly enjoyed it there and I was able to save enough money to
fund much of his first year of college as a result of the reduced costs. After I moved
back to upstate SC, and to a new job we were in not so beautiful grounds and it wasn’t
nearly the same experience, but still worked out fine for the time.

There were a lot of things I learned about myself between the Y2K revelations (and the
time period thereafter) and moving from the beautiful grounds to not as nice facilities in
SC as I was saving monies for my son to go to college. I found that people were generally
pretty enjoyable to get to know. I loved that everyone seemed to be on the same level
when out in the camping world… whether doctor or janitor, people were people without the
normal dictates that society normally labels people with. (That’s the way it should be
everywhere in my opinion!) As far as the travel trailer, I adapted very well to the small
space and made it homey and enjoyable just as I had prior to our apartment.
I remarried during my son’s last year of college and moved out west. Unfortunately, it
became a bit of a nightmare. About 2 1/2 years ago I found myself in a crazy, dangerous
situation and as a result left my now ex husband, and traveled back across the USA by
myself in a 97 Dodge Dakota with a truck camper. I literally left everything behind and
was very short on money. That was right after “Katrina” so gas was high (about what it is
now!) so I only stayed in a hotel one time in 3 months and stayed in camp sites about 5 days
total. Most of the time I stayed overnight at Walmarts and Flying J’s and while still in the
west; at a few Casinos. I always tried to park near other RVers so I wasn’t out there
isolated. One time at one of the casinos there was a man picking up a vehicle for someone
at the casino and saw me step out of the back of the camper and started flirting with me,
soon followed by trying to talk me into he coming in to the camper with me to “visit”. He
kept “nicely” trying to work his way into the camper. I finally got in a few words and told
him “my husband” was due back any second, “no thanks” and went back in and shut the
door. It was at night and I was going to go into the casino to use the restroom and maybe
get a bite to eat. I decided not to take the walk to the casino with him out there. I was a
little uncomfortable but the story about a husband to return any second seemed to do the
trick.

I found everyone other than that man, to be very kind and genuine to me and I never felt
threatened other than him. I did feel scared a few times until I found everyone so kind to
me. Even when there were more truckers around me than RVers, they seemed to be more
protective of me than threatening in any way. I do think that a woman traveling alone
should make sure she is not isolated if at all possible for safety reasons. When I go
fulltiming I will be using my van instead of a camper or RV that is more conspicuous. Being
in a van, I feel more comfortable to park in more areas as it is so unassuming as compared
to a camper or RV. Even if I go out of the van I can use the driver side door to exit if I
feel it necessary, so no one will know I am basically living in the van unless I feel
comfortable enough with others for them to know.

A few safety targeted suggestions especially geared for women:

If possible park near other campers/RVers/ travelers at campgrounds, Travel
Centers (IE: Flying J’s), Walmart or Casinos.

Consider an inconspicuous (stealthy) rig/vehicle. (I personally prefer a van
specifically for this reason.)

Once you locate your spot to park don’t go in and out of your rig any more than
necessary.

Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself, especially when boondocking/dry
camping. (IE: If like myself, you have magnetic business signs on a white van, remove
them before you arrive to where you will park.)

Although we have free choices in life, some choices may speak what you don’t really
mean to say. So be aware of your clothing. If you wear daisy duke shorts and a top
exposing your naval and hips and/or a neckline cut “way down to there”, you will most
likely draw attention to yourself that is not safe for you!

Be prepared for emergencies so you don’t have to unnecessarily exit @ night: Keep a
portable “potty” of some kind in your rig. I have a non-flushable Reliance Hassock
Toilet that uses disposable bags.

If you have windows in the “living spaces” in your rig, as I do in my van, make sure to
prepare your vehicle to reveal as little light as possible. (IE: Apply a dark tint to the
back windows, additionally cover them with shades, etc.. Also, put some kind of
divider between the front and back of your rig or put sun shades on the windshield
and side front windows to keep anyone from being able to see into your living areas.

Keep the noise level way down. If you watch TV or listen to music, use earphones.

Stay aware of the sights & sounds around you. Know where you are parking and what’s
near your parking site. Also, only use one side of your earphones so you can hear if
someone comes near your vehicle.

Have some kind of protection available. I am personally not one to carry a gun, so I
have pepper spray handy just in case. Have you ever been sprayed by that stuff?
OMG!!! It is definitely effective enough to buy you the time to get safely away if
needed. Keep a cell phone charged up, with service in range and within your reach if at all
possible.

Most important of all: Exude confidence (not arrogance) that you are where you are
supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to be doing. If you give off fear and
uncertainty, that will most likely concern others around you. However, if you smile and
wave and give off confidence in who & where you are, that will go a very long way to
keep you safe and alleviate suspicions of passers by.

I have now lived and traveled in several “portable and mobile” dwellings (travel trailer,
pick-up camper and van) for various reasons, as well as enjoyed camping and the
community that stems from campers, frugal travelers and RVers. I have always loved the
freedom the portable lifestyle offers. For many years (since the pre Y2K days) I have
been the member of RV, Camper Van & Boondocking online groups, browsed newsletters
and own tons of related books. Now my spare time is filled with preparing to go back out
there, but this time for an extended time period, maybe forever… who knows? From
building businesses online to making preparations with the basic gear needed, including a
few extras like a laptop with a long battery life & a cell phone with national coverage, to
sprucing up my 97 GMC Safari Van to ready it for travel, and yes even finding cool
products to live well along that venue… My eyes sparkle and a smile settles deep within as
I get closer and closer to my life becoming more and more mobile/portable and less
dependent on the normal bricks and mortar of society. I am preparing with anticipation to
the soon coming day that I take my life full time on the road. By my 51st birthday you may
pass me down the road, or maybe we will sit next to each other at a little mom and pop
diner in a quirky little town… or just maybe we will meet each other at a planned get
together with others of like mind along the way! I look forward to it! See you along the
way…

By: Brenda Curtiss of http://www.LordandCurtiss.ws

Rockport Massachusetts – A Sparkling Coastal Gem

Rockport, Massachusetts, known as the “Crown Jewel of the Massachusetts Coastline,” reflects the sparkle and charm of its generous, well-lit carets in the mirror-clear waters of its shoreline and beaches. Facing east is Front Beach, an active, popular spot on Sandy Bay. Off Thatcher Road you’ll find Long Beach-a well protected and lengthy stretch of inviting ocean-teased sand. Located on Beach Street between Main and Granite, Back Beach provides a breathtaking ocean view as you bask in the radiance of its near-white sunlight. Known for its quiet solitude, Cape Hedge Beach at South Street invites you to leave all else behind. A convenient walk from town, yet private and somewhat secluded, is Old Garden Beach-a rather small, intimate and welcoming retreat. For all those who cherish the benefits of reflexology, Pebble Beach (at the end of South Street) is completely covered with smooth, round pebbles and stones. Here, you can walk safely and healthfully, rejuvenated and renewed from the seaside stroll.

Thatcher Island’s Twin Lighthouses, built and first lit in 1789, stand tall as the longest surviving multiple lighthouses on the entire U.S. coastline. Built in 1835, the Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse announces the entrance to Rockport Harbor. Its stalwart beam can be sighted easily from the end of downtown Rockport’s Bearskin Neck. As in many historical seaside communities, lighthouses play major parts in both factual and legendary reports and accounts.

Rockport is home to many charming Bed & Breakfast / Inns. For example, as a guest at the Seven South Street Inn B&B, you’ll enjoy friendly, warm hospitality in a calm, relaxed atmosphere. At the Old Farm Inn located on Granite Street on Cape Ann’s rugged coastline, you’ll find yourself surrounded by five acres of lush green landscape enhanced by plentiful birch trees and flowers. Nearby is the breathtaking coastal terrain of Halibut Point State Park. Or, you may prefer The Inn on Cove Hill in the center of town. This historical site was built in the late 1700s and provides its guests with vivid memories of its colorful past.

Nestled on Pigeon Hill Street is one of Rockport’s major attractions-the Paper House, built in 1922 by Elis F. Stenman. A mechanical engineer and designer, Mr. Stenman’s paper house project began as a hobby. Although the paper was intended for insulation, the entire structure and its furniture were constructed of paper.

Located on Bearskin Neck, the well-known fishing shack has become one of the world’s most famous and easily recognizable structures, especially to artists and arts enthusiasts.

Artists and photographers are plentiful among Rockport residents, and many more visit frequently to capture the brilliant coastal color scheme enhanced by the crisp, pristine New England seaside sunlight. A stroll through town will delight art lovers, as galleries abound displaying works from a multitude of artistic schools and styles-all depicting the awesome splendor of this jewel-lined, charismatic coastline and community. Main Street is home to numerous galleries, including An Artful Touch, Anderson Gallery of Fine Art, Ken Knowles, Mercury, and Mosher. On Bearskin Neck, you’ll find the Kanegis, R. Lerch, and Muse galleries. Also located on Main Street is the Rockport Art Association, devoted to the preservation and development of the visual arts.

The new Shalin Liu Performance Center, named for its generous donor, will be the creative home to many excellent, exciting and innovative performances, including those of the highly acclaimed Rockport Chamber Music Festival, led by Artistic Director David Deveau since 1995. This new venue will facilitate new additions to the festival, such as a jazz series, world music performances, children’s concerts, and extended educational partnerships with local schools.

The story of the Windhover Center for the Performing Arts on Granite Street is truly one of artistic innovation. In 1967, Herbert and Ina Hahn bought the last remaining farm in Pigeon Cove, two miles north of Rockport. In less than a year, they transformed the land and buildings into a beautiful miniature New England village-a performing arts camp for teenage girls. The camp was named “Windhover,” the title of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins about a falcon airborne and hovering against the wind, symbolizing man’s soaring imagination and art’s spiritual quest. Windhover became a non-profit foundation in 1983, and in 1986 completed the transition from arts camp to performing arts center. Along with focusing on creating dance and dance/drama reflecting the community, Windhover Dance Company is devoted to re-constructing and performing the works of two pioneer choreographers in the field of modern dance-Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman.

Rockport restaurants, famous for their splendid waterfront views-especially at sunset-serve fabulous fresh seafood, as well as a varied menu to please many palates. The Greenery at Dock Square offers a gorgeous harbor view along with a versatile menu, excellent grilled fish and lobster, and delicious homemade desserts. At Brackett’s Oceanview Restaurant on Main Street you’ll choose from a large menu while enjoying the refreshing ocean breeze. Ellen’s Harborside, located on Historic T Wharf with its panoramic view of Rockport Harbor, serves highly acclaimed chowders and seafood, as well as Tender Pit BBQ Ribs. Also, along with your meal, Ellen’s is currently offering your favorite wines and spirits. (As history tells it, back in 1856, the “Hatchet Gang” organized by Hannah Jumper, a spinster and seamstress, ran the “demon rum” out of town. This event left Rockport a dry town until April, 2005, when a vote by Rockport residents overturned this 149-year-old “tradition.” At present, several Rockport restaurants are licensed to offer alcoholic beverages along with meals.)

Of course, after lingering over food and drink at seaside, you’ll want to stroll through town and browse in its many unique and enchanting shops. At Bearskin Neck Leathers you’ll be delighted with the large selection of fine leather goods, including jackets, handbags and footwear. Nearby is Earth’s Treasures, with an appealing display of international products such as handcrafted jewelry, Himalayan salt lamps, incense, candles, gemstones, books and CDs. Then, visit the Blue Gate Gardens on Main Street where the florist and greenhouse provide the very finest choice of plants and flowers.

The two main early industries of Rockport on Cape Ann were fishing and the stone quarry business. This rock-bound cape, once host to countless ship wrecks, now warmly welcomes visitors as its treasured guests-whether they arrive by land, by sea or hydroplane. You really must visit soon! Until then, this sparkling jewel glistens from the golden crown of its sunlit beaches, teasing you toward a taste of its rocky, rugged legends; smooth sifting sand; cool, soothing sea tides; and its own very special brand of New England coastal charm. General source: Rockport Chamber of Commerce (a division of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce): Travel Guide for Gloucester & Cape Ann, MA, 2006-2008.

Copyright 2008 – Ellen Gilmer