Seaside towns along the north of Boston may draw in crowds of tourists throughout the summer months, but what happens during winter is alluring on its own. Take Rockport, for instance. In this “walking” town, wintertime allows plenty of available parking spots and the space to stroll endlessly with your partner, sans pedestrian traffic overload. Many shops along Main Street and Bearskin Neck remain open, and the water views continue to be spectacular – you simply need to dress for the occasion.
Winter is quiet time in Rockport, and also a time when a true sense of community is felt. In every pub, sandwich shop, restaurant and church, everyone knows one another. To witness this brings forth a sense of nostalgia --- and romance. In fact, things get a bit more personal everywhere, including the local B&Bs and Inns.
Emerson Inn by the Sea, located in the Pigeon Cove neighborhood, offers a spectacular dining room view of the ocean (before sunset), yet you’re warm and cozy inside, with piano tunes being played just outside the dining room, adding to the ambiance. So what if the old Inn’s floor creaks as servers walk back and forth to the kitchen. It’s all good because it’s like being home again, yet you’re a visitor.
Aside from the culinary stars on the menu (Oscar filet mignon, rack of lamb), a thorough wine menu (Emerson Inn by the Sea has the Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” for its wine list) is available, with Steltzner Napa Valley Claret (2008) to sip on while watching the ocean view from the dining room window.
Check in at the Seven South Street Inn, a cozy overnight stop where innkeeper Debbie Benn offers hospitality unplugged, and where she’s particularly known for her breakfast of unique, sophisticated and comforting courses – all with a splash of champagne -- with or without the orange juice. It is here where you’ll meet new friends at the breakfast table – ones that perhaps live in Rockport but wanted to sneak away from the business of home life. As part of Benn’s winter giving spirit, you may even walk out with a jar of spiced tomato jam – a tasty and homemade gift.
The highlight of Rockport’s culture scene year-round is Shalin Liu Performance Center, where you can catch live and satellite performances from classical concerts to jazz, pop, folk and world music concerts, to opera via satellite from The Met in New York City. Recently, Gaetano Donizetti’s “Maria Stuarda” was offered at the Shalin Liu ($32 a ticket), and a full house arrived ready to take in the Italian opera (with subtitles on the screen). What is so special about an opera via satellite? Well, the afternoon begins with a walk upstairs to the gathering of guests indulging in wine, sandwiches, snacks and champagne while absorbing the beautiful ocean view from the walled window. When the chime rings, it’s time to head downstairs to the exquisite stone design of the theater, where a pre-performance lecture is about to begin. This lecture is particularly helpful to anyone who has never seen an opera, or for anyone who wants to learn more about the background of what they’re about to view. You can learn things such as how the opera was written in 1834 for the King of Italy, but it was halted by the sensors for years. By the mid 20th century, the opera (that takes certain liberties, but is true to the intense time in history) was greatly received. The story is centered on two powerful queens, Elizabeth and Mary, who share a love interest with the Earl of Leicester, who in truth loves Mary, but is with Elizabeth for the perks of royalty (Mary is locked away indefinitely).
No doubt, Rockport rocks year round.