There are places in the world that you ache to return to. For some it's France, for others it's Italy or the Irish coast, but for me, to my own surprise, it's an eccentric little seaside destination called Provincetown at the end of Cape Cod.
I think it must be the natural light. It's really like no place I've ever visited. Situated so far out on the extended arm of the cape that it's a cross between land and sea, its location gives the place an airy blue wash that makes mornings shimmer and evenings stretch out as night falls.
I've been coming to Provincetown now for two decades, but I still can't explain its hold on my heartstrings. I do know that each time I visit it's as though I haven't left. Cycling along Herring Cove at a leisurely pace around sunset in high summer is, to my mind, to reconnect with every summer of the past.
Provincetown has a storied history as a gay sanctuary of course, so it's used to accommodating all comers with the sympathy and good humor that come along with it. This is a town for artists, for writers and poets, but it's also a place for people who respond to the offbeat, the quirky and the beautiful.
The first thing for a first timer to resolve is where to stay. Fortunately for me that's the also easiest part. I recommend the stylish Irish American hospitality provided by Patrick Flaherty and John Jay Wooldrige at the historic, boutique bed and breakfast Inn at Cook Street.
Now celebrating its 30th successful year, the venue was taken over by Flaherty and Wooldridge in 2013 and their philosophy is to lay out a warm and inviting home-from-home atmosphere that you'll pick up on the moment you arrive.
IrishCentral isn't the only publication that loves the place, because The Inn at Cook Street recently received the Gold Medal for Best Bed and Breakfast on Outer Cape Cod from Cape Cod Life Magazine in its June 2016 edition.
Everyone knows an Irish welcome is the best kind of welcome and at The Inn at Cook Street they have found an ideal balance between hospitality and informality. Even better, guests of the Inn from June through October will receive $30 off per night for mentioning their 30th year celebration offer when booking a room.
The Inn has eight rooms, all with bathrooms and most with private entrances, and is located in the picturesque historic Art Gallery district of Provincetown. It's also surrounded by stunning Cape Cod homes that suggest backdrops for a Eugene O'Neill play (he summered here and produced his first play in the town).
Edward Hopper and Jackson Pollack, playwright Tennessee Williams, and Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Cunningham all stayed at the Cook Street house when it was a private residence, but in more recent times Flaherty and Wooldridge have hosted famous guests like comedian and actress Margaret Cho. For information or reservations, visit www.innatcookstreet.com, or call 508.487.3894.
Every corner you turn in Provincetown provides you with another arresting view. Sometimes it's just the light on the water, sometimes it's a flowering vine climbing up a charming old 19 century Cape Cod house.
Getting there is easy. I recommend the Boston Harbor Cruises fast ferry, which has the most daily sailings and the most convenient sailing times.
For getting around I recommend Arnold's Bikes, which has been selling and renting bikes to local and vacationing bicycle riders since 1937. Located in the heart of Provincetown, you can find them on Commercial Street just around the corner from famous MacMillan Wharf and the Provincetown Waterfront Municipal Parking Lot.
Finally, for a night out I recommend the dependably raucous shows at the Provincetown Art House, where Broadway legends mix it up with drag queens to bring you the most fun you'll have all summer.
Cross the street to The Crown & Anchor and check out the bizarre and utterly brilliant Dina Martina show or head across the street to the Art House and catch legendary drag acts like Varla Jean Mermam and hunky classical ensembles like Well Strung.
So go ahead. What are you waiting for? It's summer! Go somewhere different that is genuinely different. I promise you'll have the time of your life.