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Hooked on Cod; You'll have a whale of a time in glorious Massachusetts.

Byline: NEIL MURRAY

Whales to the left of me, whales to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle... .

OK, so it's not quite what Gerry Rafferty sang, but with those giant beasts popping up anywhere and everywhere we looked, that's what it felt like on our whale-watching expedition off the coast of Massachusetts.

And with a running commentary from the deck pointing out which whales were which, and what their habits were, it really was a trip-and-s a-half.

My wife Linda and I were on holiday on Cape Cod, the elbow-shaped piece of land off the coast of Massachusetts - and we couldn't have got off to a better start.

We'd flown into Boston the previous day and had a "historic" evening in the city.

After a terrific dinner at America's oldest restaurant, the Union Oyster House, we stayed at Omni Parker House, the oldest continuously operating hotel in the US.

Interestingly, Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X used to work there, Charles Dickens was a guest and it's where John F Kennedy proposed to Jackie.

From Boston, a high-speed ferry (just 90 minutes in fact) whisked us to Provincetown, which is right at the end of the Cape Cod "arm", where we checked into Seasons, our B&B and a former whaler's house.

Provincetown must be the liveliest town on the Cape, with a mass of terrific bars and restaurants (some with great views out to sea), shops and art galleries galore.

There is also some fascinating "alternative" evening entertainment, ranging from Drag Kickball and a Peter Pansy show, to an all-nude male singing review.

By contrast, Chatham, our next stop, is quaint, picturesque and one of Cape Cod's oldest towns, having been around since 1656.

We stayed at the Queen Anne Inn, which is handy for the main street, and spent a relaxing afternoon wandering up and down.

Half an hour's walk away is Lighthouse Beach, a vast stretch of glorious sand, overlooked by the Chatham Lighthouse.

On our one day of rain we drove from Chatham to Hyannis to take a look at the John F Kennedy Hyannis Museum, which focuses on the time the family spent on Cape Cod.

In East Orleans we enjoyed an evening meal at the award-winning Joe's Beach Road Bar & Grille at the Barleyneck Inn.

Next, to reach the island of Martha's Vineyard, we left the car on the mainland in Woods Hole and caught a ferry to Oak Bluffs - and walking to our B&B, the 1870s Iroquois Cottage, we noticed just how many people were sitting outside on porches, chatting to passers-by in the afternoon sunshine.

Oak Bluffs is a bustling town that has a 1960s feel to it.

Circuit Avenue, the main street, is full of bars, restaurants and gift shops - and we were spoiled for choice over places to eat.

Oak Bluffs was the site for revivalist meetings in the 19th century and as a result its main attraction is the 34-acre Campground, where the meetings were held.

Our tour guide told us how the worshippers eventually switched from living in tents to the 300 or so wildly colourful "gingerbread" cottages.

And we were told how Clinton Avenue was named after a former New York governor, not the ex-president.

A bus tour of the island took us past the beach used in the film Jaws and we heard how Meg Ryan, Bruce Willis, Spike Lee and Lady Gaga all have places on the island.

From our next stop, Edgartown - a very smart, upmarket place where our B&B was the elegant Jonathan Munroe House - we hired bikes and made the 60-second ferry crossing to Chappaquiddick Island.

There, after a stop for picnic supplies at the tiny Chappy Store, we made for the beach and a glorious spot of sunbathing.

Back on the Cape Cod mainland, the ShoreWay Acres Resort Inn was our base in Falmouth, which had more of an actual "town" feel to it than any of the other places.

After another bike session we'd worked up quite an appetite, so quahog (stuffed clam) clam chowder and bacon and mushroom pizza in Maguire's Irish Pub went down a real treat.

That, a few beers and a good old sing-along with musician Danny Quinn, rounded off our trip perfectly.

Cape Cod? You're quite a catch.

Factfile Virgin Atlantic (www.virginatlantic.com, 0844 209 7310) flies daily to Boston from Heathrow.

More info: www.omnihotels.org www.capecodchamber.org www.provincetownseasons.com www.queenanneinn.com www.narragansetthouse.com www.jonathanmunroe.com www.shorewayacresinn.com

CAPTION(S):

SHINING... Chatham Lighthouse overlooks a heavenly beach strip SIGHTS... Left, one of the colourful 'gingerbread' cottages in Oak Bluffs and a popular whale-watching expedition off the Massachusetts coast QUAINT... Buildings have charm on the waterfront at Martha's Vineyard
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:May 20, 2012
Words:796
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