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We like a chronological order on trips to historic sites. At Plymouth, we like to start where the Pilgrims and Mayflower started --- on the very tip of Cape Cod. Here the ship washed ashore after the hurricane disabled it and swept it north of its intended route. Rudder splintered, sails shredded, masts down, midbeam fractured, the Mayflower was in danger of drifting on into the North Atlantic, where sick passengers with food dwindling would have perished from cold and starvation. Instead, current and wind pushed them onto the shallows of Race Beach. They were able to maneuver the ship around to what is now Provincetown Harbor, where crew and passengers repaired her while a small group took the shallop along the coast looking for a better location. That was when they found Plymouth Harbor. Once repaired, they brought the Mayflower on across Cape Cod Bay.
The Provincetown Ferry makes daily runs all Summer across the bay from Plymouth. It docks for 4 hours while you explore the area, then brings you back. It makes a fine day. You enjoy a beautiful cruise across the open water. You really get a bonus, because you are crossing the Southern edge of the Stellewagen Banks, the world's greatest whaling grounds. You will see numerous whales, and you may see some of them up very close. You will also see fishing boats, sailboats, a dozen kinds of seabirds, sea turtles, seals, porpoises, and dolphins.

Once docked, you need to be very efficient, because those four hours go by quickly. You want to see four things. The first of these is the tower rising above the town, the dominant feature of the landscape. This is the Pilgrim Monument, a huge edifice only two blocks from the dock. There is also a museum at the base which is worth your time. The climb to the top takes a while, but the view is spectacular, with sweeping views of Cape Cod and the surrounding ocean. On a clear day you can see Boston. Do take a jacket, however, because the wind whips aggressively across the top of the tower and will chill you in minutes.

While you're up there, look to the east and locate Race Beach. Visualize how the Mayflower drifted there from the Southeast. They first worked their way down the southern side of The Cape, opposite Provincetown, then decided there was no break, and came back around the tip to find Provincetown Harbor.

From the base of the tower you can catch the shuttle out to Race Beach. It's a beautiful beach, even if you're only going for a look. The fact that you won't have time for a swim is ok, because this is a dangerous swimming location. The current coming up the back side of The Cape races around this outer curve very rapidly, making it dangerous for swimmers, surfers and boaters. You can walk down to water's edge and see how fast the water is moving to your left. However, looking out across the water, you can imagine the Mayflower, actually caught briefly by low tide, but refloated as the tide rose again. This very beach was thus the first sight of the new world the Pilgrims had. The view at left is looking toward the beach from a boat at the distance Captain Jones tried to keep the Mayflower so she would not be grounded, so this would have been the view the Pilgrims saw that first day, except of course for the lighthouse and Pilgrim Monument in the background.

After visiting Race Beach, you want to take the shuttle back downtown and get off at the main intersection, with the dock to your right and the Pilgrim Monument to your left. After you get off the bus, a quick look around will reveal the Lobster Pot on the opposite corner. This is your required lunchtime stop. There are many other restaurants in downtown Provincetown, but you have to eat at the Lobster Pot. With the demise of The 1620, this is the finest seafood restaurant in America. Don't let the tiny corner entrance fool you. You walk in through this narrow front, pass through the kitchen, and then the building opens out to a very large main dining room and a second large facility upstairs, both with large picture windows looking out on the bay.

Provincetown, you will learn, was founded by Portugese fishermen. Much of the population and culture still reflects that. The menu of the Lobster Pot certainly does. It has many Portugese dishes. In fact, this restaurant introduced Paeia to the American diet. It's one of our favorite dishes, we've had it all over the country, and we've still never tasted it prepared as well as they do it here. We encourage you to try it for lunch. But you certainly have many tempting alternatives. The chowder, according to which critic you read, is either the best in the country or among the top five. Whatever their fish of the day is would be a good choice. Obviously, their specialty is lobster. If you think that might be a bit much for lunch, you might try one of the derivative items, like lobster roll, lobster pie or lobster salad. If you're bringing a youth group, you should stop on your way off the ferry to the Pilgrim Monument and let them know the size of your group and what time you'll be returning from Race Beach. For couples, check the wine list. They have a better selection of Portugese and Spanish wines than you find in most American restaurants.

Once you finish eating, most of your time in Provincetown will be gone, but you should have enough left to browse a few blocks of downtown. This is Commerce Street, a narrow, 18th century conglomeration of art galleries, edgy fashion boutiques, tourist souvenir shops, and other eclectic establishments. Provincetown is still a fishing village and tourist stop, but it has also evolved into quite a year round artists and writers colony, and there are some very talented people here. Just brace yourself for some wierd sights. This would not be called a conservative community. Haight Ashbury East might describe it pretty well.
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