Author Archives: Ben Pastore

A Day in the Vineyard (Wine Optional)

Martha's Vineyard Lighthouse

The Lighthouse at Aquinnah

Martha’s Vineyard – long the playground of New England’s elite – lies just a ferry ride off of Massachusetts’ southern coast. This iconic summer destination also welcomes flights from around the country, including those of private pilots. Thanks to the latter, (namely, my Dad) I was able to see this Norman Rockwell-esque outpost for myself. And what I found, was that it was well worth the hype.

Let me start by saying that despite its name, I didn’t have a drop of wine during my one day jitney, though not for a lack of upscale restaurants. Instead I focused my attention on the charming towns and appealing beaches that are never further than a short bus ride away. In fact, it was the efficient and comfortable bus service that in my mind gave Martha’s Vineyard the edge over similar Atlantic islands such as Block Island.

The airport is located near the dead enter of the island, and from there the island’s main destinations: Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Aquinnah, form a triangle that is somewhat equidistant in each direction. The useful Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority runs regular bus service to all corners and is by far a more economical option than renting a vehicle on your own. That said, you’re at the mercy of their timetables, so choose which means most to you.

Edgartown

Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard

Charm out the wazoo in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard

Heading east from the airport, the first destination is Edgartown – a quaint New England town sporting a wide array of restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and of course, souvenir shops. This is the gateway to the (in)famous island of Chappaquiddick and you’ll find the water brimming with watercraft come summertime. Allot at least an hour to leisurely stroll the shops and streets – more if you want that aforementioned bottle of wine. This is also a good place to catch a bus to South Beach for a fine stretch of sand with very basic public facilities onsite.

Oak Bluffs

If you’re arriving to Martha’s Vineyard by ferry, it’s quite likely that Oak Bluffs is where you’ll disembark. This charming town at the northern tip of the island is known for it’s ‘gingerbread houses’, and is a flurry of activity in summertime. If you’re into eclectic shops and colorful architecture, spending time in Oak Bluffs will leave you happy.

Aquinnah

On the Western point of the island is the tiny hamlet of Aquinnah – which is sometimes also called by its clearly-not-named-in-this-century moniker Gay Head. This section is a quiet piece of serenity marked by tall clay cliffs looking out into the sunset. There’s a decent stretch of boulder-strewn beach nearby along with a lighthouse and scenic overlooks. There’s even a small cluster of shops and restaurants (with sunset views!) near the bus stop. For a little peace and tranquility, this is a great place to come in the early evening to relax and smell the sea grass.

Conclusion

Martha’s Vineyard is a summer destination that not only is worth the hype, but handles its popularity with stoic dignity. I would heartily recommend it to anyone looking for classic New England charm, ocean views in nearly all directions, and a nostalgic sense of summers of times past. It’s as a good a place as any to while away the lazy days of summer – with or without a bottle of wine.

Aquinnah

Stop and smell the flowers in Aquinnah

Advertisements
Categories: Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay – Where Myst Meets Pandora

Supertrees1

Welcome to Pandora at Gardens by the Bay

Back in 2003, the first time I visited Singapore, the main attractions were the Merlion, the shops along Orchard Road, and the marvelous Night Safari (which are all still there and still worth visiting, I might add). When I arrived in November 2017 there was a new show in town, a massive land reclamation project called the Gardens by the Bay that is easily the tiny island-nation’s showpiece.

Located along the southern shore near the cruise ship port, this public plaza with a dose of sci-fi is a great place to wander. I myself did my wanderings late at night, when the humidity was down .3% from during the day going from 1,000% to a mere 997%. There were few tourists and the lighting was surreal, though for dining and photography, I’d also recommend coming during the day. But in the glow of the nighttime, the analogies of the title came clearly into focus.

Some of my favorite computer games growing up were the MYST series, where players must explore multi-tiered worlds of unique structures and mazes. Gardens by the Bay specifically reminded me of Riven, where you have to navigate a jungle of passages and walkways (some over the top of others). The other sci-fi analogy prompted by the scene were the jungles of the fictional planet of Pandora from the movie Avatar – particularly the phosphorescent colors at night, which are resplendent in the Gardens’ premier attraction – the Supertrees.

Supertrees2

Take a stroll on the aerial walkway for a scene out of Myst

These futuristic marvels of varying heights (25 to 50 meters tall) house many plants along with environmentally-friendly solar cells, but mostly they just look really cool – especially when lit up at night. There’s a free light and sound show among the trees at 7:45PM and 8:45PM, and if you get there before 9PM you can take a stroll on a 128 meter long aerial walkway (for about $8) for a closer look and an out-of-this-world experience. With the massive (and very chic) Marina Bay Sands hotel looming in the background, this is arguably one of the best views in the city.

Marina Bay Sands

The Mighty Marina Bay Sands Hotel – an impressive backdrop

There’s a ton of other attractions not only contained within the Gardens, but also nearby, including a rather cool helix-shaped bridge and water views of the famous Merlion. For more information, check out the official website here.

I’ve previously mentioned that Singapore is a great place to visit (See the post A Boring Place to Visit But A Great Place to Live?). With the addition of Gardens by the Bay, that conclusion has doubled, and I heartily recommend a visit here to anyone considering a trip to Southeast Asia.

Have you been to Gardens by the Bay? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

Categories: Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Following Trip Accomplice Just Got Easier

Dear readers, you can now follow Trip Accomplice through the Bloglovin.com site where you can manage all your blogs in one place. Click on the link to move forward. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Categories: Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

Day Trip to Musandam, Oman

Musandam

Cruising the Musandam Peninsula, Oman

One of the hardest decisions to make when visiting Dubai with a layover, is what to do with all that time. Dubai is a glitzy, desert-baked playground that is the Las Vegas of the Middle East. You can splash in a water park, go skiing indoors, and shop to your very last cent. But me being me, I wasn’t content to stay within the ever-expanding confines of this modern crossroad city. So naturally, I left the country and ran off to Oman.

Sharing the northeastern tip of the Arabian peninsula with the United Arab Emirates, Musandam Governate is a separate enclave jutting out into the gorgeous waters of the Persian Gulf/Gulf of Oman. With the surge of visitors to Dubai, the region has seen its fair share of tourists looking for an adventure outside of city limits.

Getting There

Oman

A dhow-eye view of Musandam Peninsula, Oman

Most day trippers arrive via an organized tour, which certainly reduces the navigation and border control hassle. There are basically two options for tours visiting Musandam – you can take a cruise out of the town of Khasab on the western shore, or the town of Dibba on the eastern shore. At the time of writing, the biggest difference is that crossing at Khasab requires official passport control, which may affect your visa situation upon return to Dubai, whereas at Dibba your passport will be checked but that’s all there is to it.

We chose a trip to Dibba since it was more convenient and more importantly, the only option available on our day in town. Our tour was arranged via the hotel desk, so I don’t exactly know with whom we were traveling since we were squeezed into another group. We were picked up at a nearby hotel before taking on more guests in our large, well-air conditioned bus. Once everyone was aboard, we set out across the narrow peninsula and into the undulating dunes of the pervasive desert. Nearing the eastern shore, we encountered the ragged cliffs of a coastal mountain range before passing through a string of small towns nestled against the emerald waters of the Gulf of Oman. Just past the border control we pulled into a baking hot parking lot and were escorted to a small harbor filled with at least a dozen dhows – traditional wooden boats configured to carry tourists to the natural beauty of the peninsula.

The Trip

Musandam, Oman

Surf and Turf in Oman

Moving northward, the view alternates between the vivid green of the sea and the washed-out stone of the rocky shoreline. In the first bay you can catch a glimpse of the ultra-posh Six Senses Zighy Bay if you’re looking for a reason to stay longer. Continuing north to the next bay, most boats will stop to serve lunch on board and allow time for other water sports opportunities such as snorkeling and rides on a banana boat (if it has one). Guests can also go ashore to laze on the sun-drenched beach. The stark contrast of the water meeting the land makes for some great views, and while neither the snorkeling nor the banana boat ride are ‘not-to-miss’ activities, it’s a great taste of coastal Arabia, and an entertaining day’s diversion.

Practical Info

Price ranges vary from the $60-$100 per person range depending on the season and availability (and whether you choose to leave from Khasab or Dibba). You’ll be picked up pretty early in the morning and count on several hours of driving between the city and the port. When your boat is not in one of the protected coves, it will be subject to the swells of the open ocean, so taking some anti-motion sickness medicine before you board is a good idea.

One last tip: Be sure to inquire of your tour agency if they will be using the same vehicle to take you both there and back. As happens elsewhere, in our case we were taken to Dibba on a spacious, well-air conditioned bus. However on the return, we were told that there was a ‘”problem” with that bus and we were crammed (not an exaggeration – crammed isn’t perhaps strong enough a word) into a tiny van with only the feeblest trace of lukewarm air circulating while the driver raced at seemingly unsafe speeds. This happens far too often to just be coincidence, so do your homework before booking. Had I not fallen asleep courtesy of the 15 hour overnight flight I took the night before, I might have really lost my cool. As it was, the ride transformed a group of relatively content tourists into a cranky, sweaty mass of disgruntled passengers. So, buyer beware…

Categories: Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: