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Look what’s peeping through Cape Cod’s clouds

By Diane Speare Triant
Globe Correspondent / July 31, 2011

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Cape Cod vacation life at its best delivers idyllic days, when the breeze ruffles your hair and the sunlight sparkles on the sea. Inevitably, though, drizzly days follow, drenching the skies and dampening the spirits. If you can’t curl your toes in the sand, you can explore some of the curious and quirky spots that give the Cape its unique character:

Cape Cinema Art House Going to the movies is commonplace on a rainy day, but the Cape Cinema in Dennis is far from typical. Reminiscent of a New England village church, the interior features a vintage red-velvet curtain that sweeps back for the feature presentation. The film is often an acclaimed foreign or indie production, such as the locally shot “Chatham,’’ which gained Cape cult status a few summers ago. The theater’s wide seats draped in white slipcovers offer a good vantage point for a spectacular mural painted on the arched ceiling. In a splashy rainbow palette, 1930s artist Rockwell Kent has created a collection of swirling figures, unicorns, and celestial bodies in an Art Deco masterwork - itself worth the $8.50 admission. 35 Hope Lane, www.capecinema.com

Scargo Tower A curious cobblestone tower rises 30 feet on Dennis’s highest hilltop, above Scargo Lake. Dating from 1901, it features a 37-step spiral staircase to an outdoor observation deck, with views of Provincetown and the mainland spread below. Children enjoy the legend of Princess Scargo, the Indian maiden who shed abundant tears for her treasured pet fish who lay dying in a summer drought. Her tears are said to have formed the lake, reviving two of the fish and spawning their silvery descendants today. Scargo Hill Road

Cape Cod Canal Visitors Center Learn about the Big Dig of the 1930s that accomplished the remarkable feat of removing 30 million cubic yards of earth to construct the canal. The local wonder is 7.5 miles long, 500 feet wide, and 32 feet deep. At the intimate tourist center in Sandwich on the banks of the canal, a vintage film presents the story in all of its intrigue and detail. You can also watch real-time radar of the parade of vessels entering the canal, and then stroll out to rocking chairs on the covered front porch to see the actual yacht, tanker, or tug glide by. May-October, free. 60 Ed Moffitt Drive

Sydenstricker Gallery When this art glass shop opened in Brewster in the 1960s, the late Bill Sydenstricker’s fused-glass technique was so popular that customers would line up for first pick of the newly fired plates. The gorgeous jewel tones of the pieces - available in multiple shapes and designs - are created by stenciling powdered glass onto a clear glass plate, laying a second sheet of glass over the decorated first, and kiln-firing them on a mold for five hours. You can view the artists in action. 490 Main St., www.sydenstricker.com

Jack’s Outback II Eating breakfast out is a fine way to wait out the rain. Jack’s in Yarmouthport offers an old-fashioned spin on the meal: popovers. These air-filled concoctions of flour, egg, and milk are baked to overflowing proportions. Crisp outside, and moist within, they are especially good with a dollop of jam or as a toast substitute with eggs. 161 Route 6A (literally “out back’’ down a long driveway)

Cottage Street Bakery On the opposite side of the Cape in Orleans, this European-style bakery has popularized another confection: the French doughnut puff. Rolled in cinnamon and sugar, this cake-like muffin’s scruffy gray-brown color - and the explosion of taste it delivers - has earned it the affectionate nickname “dirt bomb.’’ 5 Cottage St., www.cottagestreetbakery.com

French Cable Station Museum Orleans houses another curiosity, surviving from the pre-wireless days of trans-Atlantic cable. Once a vital communications hub for the entire country, the station was the terminus of a 3,200-mile-long cable originating in Brest, France, and stretching across the ocean to Cape Cod. During World War I the cable was the nation’s primary link to US forces overseas; and in 1927, news of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s successful landing in Paris was first telegraphed to the tiny station for all of his countrymen to hear. The original Morse code equipment is in place, with guides demonstrating the dots-and-dashes technology. Open summer only, free. www.frenchcablestationmuseum.org

Wellfleet clock This unique clock, perched atop the First Congregational Church tower, is billed as the only town clock in the world to strike on ship’s time. The bell mechanism honors Wellfleet’s proud seafaring history, and is based on the four-hour “watch’’ duty on ships. The Middle Watch, for example, begins at midnight. Every half-hour, bells chime: one bell at 12:30 a.m., two bells at 1, until eight bells strike at 4. Then the cycle repeats. 200 Main St.

Toad Hall Museum One for the guys is a visit to Simmons Homestead - a Hyannisport bed-and-breakfast with a museum tucked behind it. The affable innkeeper, Bill Putnam, has assembled two unusual collections: vintage sports cars and single-malt Scotch. All 57 autos are fire-engine red and displayed in a succession of racing sheds collectively named Toad Hall. Putnam also guides you to his collection of 530 varieties of single-malt Scotch. His favorite? The Lagavulin from the Hebrides island of Islay, for its “peaty, smoky flavor.’’ www.toadhallcars.com

Weeping beech tree Hemmed into an alley in Hyannis is a tree of colossal proportions whose massive canopy will keep you dry while you marvel at its size. It is purported to date to 1776. But whether it once sheltered those seeking liberty or those clinging to loyalty is a matter of debate. 599 Main St.

Diane Speare Triant can be reached at dtriant@gmail.com.