To the editor:
New England can be a harsh mistress. The recent blizzards are my fault. I bought my wife the best snow shovel money can buy for Christmas and romantically she returned the favor by wrapping up a superior push broom under our tree barely two months ago. We have been putting both to good use lately. We have been snowed in, lost power for a week, been in fear of a new flu and worried about our taxes and our political climate.
Why not take an overnight away from the south coast to the north coast? My wife wanted to observe birds, my hobby is geocaching and Newburyport was a prospective solution. I would like to praise the local merchants who were so kind to us but also thank the Chamber of Commerce’s website that was so helpful in identifying reputable resources enhancing our visit.
The Compass Rose Inn was listed as a great stay by all reviewers. Their website was easy to navigate and the price was right. Our suite was well-attired, warm and comfortable. We felt like we took a step back in time to an opulent era but also had all the amenities of today’s technology. After a day of independent bird watching and geocaching, we chose a local restaurant named Loretta. We were impressed from the moment we walked in greeted by Hallie and Mike until our departure, waving a satisfied goodbye, to the owner Ted Epstein. Ted loves to give directions on places to go and things to do, almost like a micro Chamber of Commerce in his own right. Thanks to an umbrella borrowed from the Compass Rose, our walk back in the rain was romantic and the warm fire in the fireplace made for a great peaceful sleep.
As we prepared to check out of the Compass Rose Inn the next morning, we expected to spend five minutes at the typical continental breakfast of hard rolls and jam included with the fare, but we were greeted by inn keeper Gloria, who had prepared an “expanded” continental breakfast — translated as a wonderful breakfast buffet with all the fixings including tasty homemade pancakes topped with more conversation promoting the multiple strengths of the Newburyport community.
Departing the inn we joined some bird watchers a few miles away at Joppa Flats Education Center. We unknowingly became part of a 17-year-old tradition, Wednesday Morning Birding, thanks to the Mass Audubon Society. After introductions and the reading of the rules — it’s OK to look at birds with other people’s optical paraphernalia and no question is too insignificant — we were welcomed with warm fellowship. But, be careful, if you inform the group that you don’t see what they are talking about, everyone will start pointing in all different directions using all sorts of descriptive bird nomenclature and you will have too much fun.
The previous day my wife’s birding had been a bust aside from seeing seagulls. Today we toured the Merrimack River estuary, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in a convoy of three vans and my wife’s Life List increased considerably in a few short hours. I was more tickled to see a harbor seal float by a few yards away with minimal fanfare, probably because it didn’t appear to have feathers, and some bald eagles were soaring overhead at the same time. Oh, did I mention birders know how to talk? I thought I was chatty but these folks are informative without being pretentious, surprisingly great listeners, full of quick wit and good humor, simply nice companions that we had the pleasure to meet today.
After farewells with our new-found birder friends, we stopped for some soup and tea at the the Revitalive Cafe. We were sipping the last of our tea, driving away from Newburyport, smiling. We just had a successful, relaxing get-away and it felt good.
Newburyport boasts a population in excess of 17,000. Initially as we drove through some crowded, snow-laden side streets, we were reminded of the unforgiving city streets of South Boston complete with trash can obstacles and confusing traffic patterns. However, if you give this densely populated community on the banks of the Merrimack a chance, if you meet the people who work hard to fulfill your simple dreams you will come away with some golden memories and maybe some new friends who will give you a reason to revisit this charming New England Coastal retreat.