A love affair with Orleans-a Cape Cod Photo Essay
Online only: Expanded story, plus more photos of Orleans!
With coastline along both the Atlantic and Cape Cod Bay, the town of Orleans offers spectacular natural scenery, and the community’s fascinating history is inextricably tied to the sea. Orleans is also known as a mecca for art, culture and fine dining. For two days in September of 2016, photographer Charles Sternaimolo and I explored the town, from Main Street to Nauset Beach, Rock Harbor to the rotary, and everywhere else in between. We met artists, farmers and business owners, and plenty of folks just enjoying the scenes. We hope you enjoy this photo essay on the town of Orleans.
The Orleans Cultural District—where Main Street meets Route 6A, and the surrounding neighborhoods—is a popular area to shop, stroll or enjoy a meal. To the east of 6A, one can savor a burrito at The Corner Store, browse summer reading titles at Main Street Books, and admire the charming exterior of the recently renovated Orleans Whole Food Store. Visitors can also make a beeline to Honey Candle, a colorful shop with a wide selection of candles, all made from beeswax. “Beeswax is the noble side of candles,” says Agostino DiBari, the shop’s owner. “There’s no animal fat, no petroleum and nothing that can hurt you. It’s a beautiful material to work with.” Beeswax candles, DiBari adds, burn cleaner and longer, and a 3” by 6” rolled candle might burn for 80 to 90 hours. Another positive? “By promoting beehives, you’re promoting the environment,” DiBari says. During our visit, a handful of bees buzzed around the shop, drawn in by the sweet-smelling ingredients. This is a regular occurrence, DiBari says, and the shop owner held the door open patiently so each could safely depart. A native of Italy, DiBari once made molds for ceramics, but today he makes molds for his candles. His designs feature birds, shells, pumpkins and pinecones in yellow, cream, green or red. Another design depicts Torre del Mangia, a 14th-century tower in Italy that bears an uncanny resemblance to Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument. What does an Italian candle maker from Eastham think of Orleans? “If you love the ocean and the brightness of the light,” DiBari says, “this is it.”
To the west of Route 6A, we visited the Artist Cottages of Orleans Market Square—just behind Hot Chocolate Sparrow. Artists can rent the shacks to sell their work either for the summer, or just a weekend. The cottages are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, first on weekends, then daily in the summer season. The cottages are colorful, the artists are friendly and informative, and a spirit of camaraderie and community runs throughout. We chatted with several artists, including photographer Roberta Anslow. “I’m a fan of the ocean so I do a lot of seascapes,” says Anslow, who shoots only using natural light. “I love Orleans,” she adds. “There are two great beaches—Nauset and Skaket—you have the best of everything here.”
Another Orleans artist, painter Lanae Pink-Fox is also inspired by nature. She enjoys the artist cottages and Orleans in general. “It’s very relaxing,” she says. “There’s a lot of culture here. You’re standing in the middle of the ‘cultural district.’ They actually put a sign up last summer.” Fellow artisan Megan Dugas of Eastham offered a similar sentiment. “It’s a great artist community,” Dugas says. “It’s very peaceful here.” A jeweler, Dugas handcrafts wire necklaces, rings and other pieces using copper, sterling silver and various gemstones. She follows a free-form approach to her work. “It’s therapy,” she says. “I just go into a zone when I’m creating. I never know what I’m going to make when I sit down to make it—and all these creations come out. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Just across the street from the artist cottages, one can access The Cape Cod Rail Trail, a hugely popular attraction. Running all the way from Dennis to Wellfleet, the trail winds through Orleans for several miles along the path of the former Old Colony Railroad. Need a snack? Hot Chocolate Sparrow on Old Colony Way is a sweet spot for coffee and confections. They have ice cream and chocolates, too, as well as apple blossoms, almond cream cake and other homemade creations.
While in town, we made two stops at Nauset Beach, which runs north to south along Orleans’ Atlantic coastline. The beach is huge, and it’s a fantastic area for walking, picnicking and surfing. We met Jack Griffin and Nicole Dardia, two Barnstable High School students who regularly surf there. “The waves make it a lot of fun,” Dardia says. Just over the crest of a dune, we watched a camper make its way to a section of the beach that allows drive-on visits. The driver stopped to deflate the tires before heading out across the sand. Nauset Beach is also well known because of the many shipwrecks that have taken place off its shores over the years, with vessels being tossed against shoals and shore by the powerful surf. Recently, the beach has also been in the news for another reason: shark sightings. Liam’s Clam Shack, a burger stand at the beach, has some fun with this scenario, offering t-shirts depicting a picture of a smiling shark extending an invitation: “Let’s do lunch.”
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