When you think of Victorian houses near the water, painted in a riot of pastel colors, you think of San Francisco, right? Or Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. Both answers are correct, but there is a third American town that fits this description as well.
It’s a place so idyllic, so perfect, it feels like a movie set. The only thing missing is Jimmy Stewart. As you stroll down the sidewalks, you can hear children playing cards in the kitchens and living rooms of the cottages. There are no mosquitos. Porches are not screened, and sound carries.
Kids ride their bikes to the tiny 1930 library with huge windows – that actually open – for story hour or to find their summer reading assignment.
You’ll see groups of kids roaming, with no hovering parents, to the swimming cove or to The Guzzle, which sells simple lunch fare, penny candy (now a nickel), and scrumptious ice cream cones. On the town square, near the bandstand, parents and little kids frolic on the huge, shady playground.
You’re likely to see a pick-up game of softball, with people of various ages and races playing together. Don’t forget your racquets – two free tennis courts sit across from the town’s old-time country grocery store. When you get too sweaty, simply run down the grassy lawn to the public docks, and backflip into the just-cold-enough water.
Be sure to poke your head into the tiny 1800s post office, unchanged since it was built.
Up the gravel street from the PO is the Tabernacle, built for Methodist meetings. More like a barn, with sawdust on the floor and long rows of benches, this is where free movies are shown several times a week.
The town is Thousand Islands Park on Wellesley Island, New York. Despite the word “island,” you can drive there via a bridge – but once you park your car, you won’t want or need it again for the rest of your stay. Most people tool around in golf carts.
Some residents are American, some are Canadian, some are both.
We re-entered the 21st century upon leaving Thousand Island Park, but with a sense of having our balance restored. As you can imagine, for a vintage nut like me, this place was heaven.
We thank our friends Suzanne and Todd for sharing the St. Lawrence River with us, not to mention their cottage.
PS: St. George’s Cottage is available for rent, if anyone is interested for summer 2011. An easy, seven hour drive on uncrowded highways from Philadelphia. Sleeps 11!