Like everyone who grew up in the Philadelphia area, I have an inexplicable yearning to be down the shore. The coast of Southern New Jersey is famous for one thing and one thing only--a large smattering of seaside towns, each unique and claimed as their own by families who don't actually live there. My family always went to Ocean City. The famous kid-friendly, horrifically dry (you cannot buy alcoholic beverages!) with its kitsch filled take-your-life-in-your-hands amusement rides boardwalk, town. I never gave it a second thought. It's where my family went. It's where my family has ALWAYS gone going back to the 1920's. I also never gave a second thought to the grammatical/syntax mess that is the phrase "down the shore". We don't go "to the beach", "to the sea", "to the ocean", etc. and I have no idea why. We say "down the shore" as a destination, a place, as opposed to an activity.
I never gave a whole lot of thought to the town of Cape May either until I had a conversation with my Aunt one day about beach house architecture. She has a place in Sea Isle City and suggested that I check out Cape May. My cousin and I hopped into my Volkswagen and zipped farther down the shore to the very end of everything that is New Jersey (it's Exit 0 on the Parkway) because that's what you DO when you're 17 and have nothing better to do. It was something of a revelation. The architecture is really stunning.
Cape May was the first seaside resort in the United States and in the mid-eighteen hundreds, was the premier "place to be seen". The season is simple--it was easy to get there from Philadelphia, NY, etc. by steamer ship. Things changed over the next hundred years or so, the town suffered some horrific fires and financial difficulties and by the 1970's, the stunning old buildings were being used for a variety of things--mostly boarding houses and then the 80's and the B&B revolution took over.
The town slowly found its niche once again as the decade came to a close and became known as a romantic getaway with the foodie in mind--there are dozens of great restaurants and not a single kitschy thing in sight. All except for Congress Hall (the oldest large hotel), which sat boarded up, unloved and crumbling. Fast forward to 2002, the old girl had been miraculously rescued, restored and re-opened and WOW, someone had done their homework!
Simply put, it's a paragon of chic. I wanted to find out more about who was behind the renovation and more specifically, the decoration, because if I had done it myself, it wouldn't look much different. Who was this designer--my sister from another mother? Turns out, it's Colleen Bashaw--sister of Curtis Bashaw, fearless leader of Cape Resorts Group. They have an impressive resumé and have really done some pretty miraculous things with some real estate that others have given up on long ago. Kudos to them.
This is the most recent decor incarnation of the main lobby. For me, the jury is still out. The green walls have grown on me in a Kate Spade kind of way, but I don't love the brown floral on the chairs. I do like the pink velvet center coffee table piece. This lobby is ALWAYS full of people coming and going. I have no idea how I found it empty, but I went to town with my iphone.
The main staircase is a split open affair. You are crazy if you take the elevator--it's a great way to get exercise with a pool/ocean view!
The corridor down this hall has an estate jewelry store that is always chock full of art deco treasures and my favorite, "Tommy's Folly" coffee/gift shop. Whoever stocks this little shop is a great buyer--Roberta Roller Rabbit and Calypso rule the day. Cool men's things too!
The mill work in this hallway makes me want to swoon. Ditto the light fixtures...
Far and away the single best time to visit is Labor Day week. For those who don't have school age kiddos, this is the sweet spot. There is a mass exodus on Monday morning and then you have your pick of spots at the pool, restaurant reservations and shopping without crowds. The weather is usually perfect.
You can have snacks and drinks delivered to the pool, complete with cloth napkins, which is oh, so civilized, or...
Cabanas at the beach are just a few steps away. After Labor Day, no beach tags required!
Another interesting thing about Cape May is that the beach is sort of different than in every other place, or more specifically, it's better right in front of Congress Hall. It's flat and the sand is really compact, so walking along the shore line is sort of like walking on a velvet carpet. I could do this every. single. day.
I forgot to take a picture of our room, but this one from the website looks just like it. There is something about this color blue (rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floor) that make your complexion look fabulous!
The beachy wall art is also fun...
I DID remember to take some photos of our bathroom because the grey walls are new. The color looks stunning with the carrera marble tile and the polished nickel fixtures.
This is a great demonstration of one of the things that make this hotel unique. Look at the tile around the edge of the tub. Try not to get vertigo looking at it. NOTHING in this hotel is straight. Once you get past the quirkiness and decide to embrace it, you realize that it gives a very casual vibe to a place that would be easy to take too seriously. It's a 5 star hotel, with every amenity that you could want--but it's fun loving and casual at the same time.
The perfect way to end the day is a nice al fresco dinner at The Blue Pig Tavern. Perfect weather, great background music, delicious food and wine.
Some seashells for my collection and nifty soap dishes at Whales Tale.
LAM and I differ greatly on what is the perfect seashore snack to bring home with us. He says it's fudge. He is wrong. Emphatically wrong. Chocolate filled seashells are the way to go. Period.
No trip to the shore would be complete without a stop at the Preppy Palm in Avalon on the way out. I really wish they would open another location in Cape May--there is a smaller location in Claymont in a little beach hut with much more limited merchandise, but the Avalon location is really a well edited preppy mecca.
I could have gone nuts, but limited myself to this neat horse bit bracelet and a Lilly sippy cup. I am loving this new elephant pattern! Until next year...or maybe a quick trip down over the holidays...