A Change of Perspective

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Last week I took a horse carriage tour with my Mom and sister. In all my Cape May years, that was my first equestrian enabled town tour, and it was a ton of fun.

Pulling out of the gate, for a minute or two at least, the street people point their mental fingers at you and snicker tourists under their mental breath (yes, we all have a mental breath). Or at least it felt that way in my mental head. What’s wrong with them, I live here? Maybe that’s just the part of me that at times thinks the same thing when I see others riding the carriage. Tourists.

They're not pointing of course, but street people do look at you differently. And then, two blocks down the stretch it hit me. As a newly minted carriage rider I'm looking at them differently. Propped up and clopping along at 6mph had stripped away my coat of familiarity revealing a view of town I had not completely noticed before. A beautiful, simple town that stands strong on the pillars of its history and carriage riders.

It feels luxurious to sit high in an old fashioned carriage and be pulled through a neighborhood by a horse. Add in perfect September weather and magic hour light and the feeling is downright transportive. But beyond those gracing details, the simple perspective shift — we’re the riders — changes things.

For starters, my communication habits got wacked. Normally when you pass someone you know (a familiar street person) you send a quick hey their way. Without warning, my hey was now accompanied by an exaggerated wax-on wave that stunned me by it’s sudden and autonomic appearance. It’s not a bad thing, it just left me wondering why people waxing-off from the street didn’t look as funny as I felt waxing-on from the carriage.

I also noticed that the streets; familiar surfaces normally traversed via bike, car, or feet, felt different under the carriage’s back and forth hypnotic sway. The slow rhythm decouples your mind from whatever digital distraction it was planning and instead jacks your senses into the tactile beauty of a bumpy street ride.

And how about the homes. We see them every day, right? But from the carriage, Cape May’s famous homes radiate with a pride born of heritage and preservation that is only fully apparent from the vantage point of a slo-mo, elevated ride through town.

Jamie, our guide, peppered  us with interesting facts. At first you don’t really pay attention because, well, you live here (it feels better to pretend these general observations apply to everyone). But really, we live in a town to the extent that our routines are driven by our daily priorities. In other words, there’s a lot we miss or ignore because we’re either too busy or too familiar. I had no idea that in some homes, certain old doors were made extra wide to fit coffins, allowing for Victorian households to have in house funerals. Or that way back when, official fire station plaques over your door, that you paid for, determined the responsiveness you’d receive from the local fire station should your home ever ignite in a fireball. Even knowing that these facts are repeated to countless tourists, I couldn’t help but marvel at how interesting I found them. They tell the story of Cape May.

So here's my conclusion: I don’t care if you’ve lived in Cape May forever, you will have a different sense about this town after having seen it via a horse and carriage tour. And I mean different in a 100% positive way. So take your kids. Take your parents. Take yourself. Kick back and breath and observe and relax for the 45 minutes it takes to complete this simple uniquely Cape May pleasure. And most importantly, enjoy the ride for everything that it is.

We're not kidding when we say you're family, and in particular, your kids will love the horse and carriage tour. It's a fantastic experience to share together.