Archive for the ‘Maryland’ Category

Like a star-struck tourist, I approached Assateague Island National Seashore with one thing in mind: I wanted to see the wild ponies. I’d heard they could usually be seen, but not always. I was determined to stay there until they overcame any temporary shyness. Maybe I’d stay an extra night, I thought – close by, as there are no lodging facilties on the island, though there is camping. Or maybe I’d hide away in the marsh somewhere. I might even end up living and dying there, I thought, if I had to. I wasn’t leaving until I found the wild ponies.

Berlin, MD, was a perfect launch point. I checked out of the Atlantic Hotel and took scenic back roads to the coast, a short drive. From the end of Rte. 611, over the bridge I headed, finding myself soon at the ranger station, where I paid my day fee and resisted asking the obvious question. I figured they’d heard it a few too many times. I would find the wild ponies on my own.

Armed with a map of the island, indicating permissible trails and roads, I started out on my quest. Pristine and almost deserted, the island felt like it was mine alone.

My first stop was the Old Ferry Landing, bordered by sandy beach areas and walking trails through the marsh. Beyond the wooden platforms, additional trails led out to the water’s edge. In quiet peace, egrets and herons rested near inlets and on branches. I walked as silently as possible and, in seemingly mutual agreement, they allowed me fairly close.

Just down the road, the Life of the Marsh trail emerged, a wooden pathway that looped through swaying grasses and small wildflowers. Similar, but allowing access to different barrier island habitats, the Life of the Forest and Life of the Dunes trails provided more walking and resting areas. Hours passed as I almost forgot my original goal, so caught up in the wonder of hiking and photographing these amazing areas. An historic location on the east side of the central road holds the remains of a shipwreck, wooden planks weathered by the elements of nature.

The sun starting to lower, I looped side streets slowly until finding myself close to the entrance. Taunted by the exit sign, I turned around and took one last drive, back to the dune trail, then the forest, then the marsh. Campers on the eastern side settled into dinner preparations. A few people walked on the beach. The wind blew tall grasses back and forth. And the sun continued to lower.

It was as I headed once more toward the exit, my window rolled down to catch the breeze, that I heard the sound. One soft neigh, and not distant. I pulled the car over to the side of the road and listened. Again, the sound repeated itself. I was not imagining it. I grabbed my camera and quietly stepped out. I followed shrubbery alongside the road, the sound beckoning me closer. I held my breath, took cautious steps, and finally rounded a corner of brush which opened into a small clearing. And there, not one, not three, not five, but seven glorious ponies stood in the golden sun, beautiful brown and ivory tones of movement in the late afternoon. Nibbling on grass, they paid little attention to me, not approaching, yet not fearful. Content to pose for pictures as long as they weren’t disturbed.

I stood in awe for what seemed like hours, though I imagine it was only twenty minutes in all. Little by little, they edged down the road, feasting on grasses and leaves, nudging each other now and then, and soaking up the end of the afternoon sun, until they headed off into the brush and to the privacy of their island life.

What I came to find, of course, is that there is much to Assateague Island aside from the famous ponies. The hush of the silence across the marsh, forest and dunes, speckled with frequent birdsong and slight breezes, is a magic all of its own. Trails and benches are so well-blended with their natural surroundings, they almost go unnoticed. I was greatly blessed by this visit, not only with my new-found equine friends, but with a renewal of appreciation of nature. I left with a recommitment to helping support our National Park and Wildlife services, as well as some amazing memories.

If You Go:

Assateague Island National Seashore


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Berlin, Maryland, is a town where the video store sells painted gourds, the hardware center sells shiny, red Radio Flyer wagons and the bakery offers the “world’s biggest eclairs,” this proclaimed on an eight by eleven paper and taped in the front window. Quaint, charming and slow-paced, this picturesque town epitomizes Small Town America. Even the police department is cute, with a wrought iron bench and classic lampost outside.

The Main St. of today’s Berlin started centuries ago as a path connecting the Assateague and Pocomoke Native American tribes, later becoming the Philadelphia Post Road. This route provided a means for commerce travel to northern and western areas. Along this route, the brick buildings that now stand along Main St. were built. According to Berlin’s Chamber or Commerce website, forty-seven of the town’s impressive structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

You might know this town better as Hale, Maryland, Julia Roberts’ fictional hometown in Paramount’s 1999 hit, Runaway Bride. Signs of the 1998 location filming can be found without any trouble. A poster of the movie is displayed in the front window of Town Center Antiques. A director’s chair rests near the counter in the Raynes Reef Luncheonette. If you don’t recognize Berlin as Hale, perhaps you know it as Treegap, from Disney’s Tuck Everlasting.

Being fond of historic lodging, I couldn’t resist staying at The Atlantic Hotel. Beautifully restored and maintained, they offer two types of rooms: larger and smaller. I took a small room on the second floor, which was very cozy but immaculate, furnished with antiques, and not far from an outdoor balcony and chairs. The rates for the smaller rooms are excellent, as reasonably priced as 65.-75. during the off-season. Complimentary breakfast is included and the rooms all have phones and televisions. (I didn’t find Richard Gere there, but I guess a girl can’t have everything.

I happened to come through on a night when their well-respected restaurant was booked for a private party, but the hotel’s Drummer Cafe, just across the hall from the main dining room, was serving food. I ordered a crab and black bean enchilada appetizer to hold me over until the morning, when a complimentary breakfast was served, also in the same cafe. (One down side, smoking is allowed in the bar section, as opposed to no smoking in the main restaurant and other hotel areas.)

The location of this Victorian lodging couldn’t be better, right smack in the middle of town. Just a few steps away I found The Old Globe Theater, which has been turned into a fabulous combination of coffee house, concert hall, art gallery, wine bar and bookstore by owner Kate Haslett. I had the pleasure of meeting Kate, who was hard at work in the upstairs gallery, preparing for an upcoming weekend focused on art. This beautiful theater is worth a trip to Berlin in itself, aside from everything else the town has to offer.

Just across the street from The Globe Theatre, I stepped into Rayne’s Reef Luncheonette, an immaculate eatery that’s been a part of Berlin since 1901. I slid into a counter seat and soon became entralled with both the nostalgic decor and the lively political conversation dished out by Wolfgang, the owner. He admits he is considered a trouble maker by many, serving up liberal philosophy along with burgers and fries. But he sees Rayne’s Reef as an opportunity to inform and educate. It makes the visit all the more interesting.

Headed for Assateague Island, I didn’t have time to browse shops and antique stores, but this town is perfect for that. It’s also perfect for a quiet option to the hustle and bustle of nearby Ocean City, but still close enough to drive over and explore the Boardwalk and coastal restaurants. A small town option, with city attractions close at hand.

I packed my bags and said goodbye to Berlin. It was time to go in search of the wild ponies.

Photo Gallery: View Here

If You Go:

Berlin Chamber of Commerce

The Atlantic Hotel
2 No. Main St.
(410) 641-3589

The Globe Theater
12 Broad St.
(410) 641-0784

Rayne’s Reef Luncheonette
10 No. Main St.
(410) 641-2131

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I landed in St. Michaels, Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay. In a comfortable ground floor room of the Parsonage Inn, I relaxed against fluffed pillows and blue floral linens, grateful for time to relax.

I stumbled into this inn by accident, as I often do. Stopped because the door was open and the sun had already slipped below the horizon. I was greeted by Bill Wilhelm, the innkeeper, and shown a room just off the entry – large, nicely decorated and immaculately clean. Victorian in style, blue moulding around the door, windows and fireplace (set with candles only) hearth. Travel magazines in a brass rack by a wing back chair. Tiffany lamp. White lace curtains.

At Bill’s suggestion, I walked over to The Crab Claw, a leisurely stroll through the grounds of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, across the street from the inn. Passing under a raised drawbridge that once connected Tilghman Island with the mainland, I continued to the waterfront restaurant and took a corner window table with a red checked tablecloth. This is about when the confrontation began.

I stared at him. He stared at me. I stared back and so did he. It was a standoff, to be sure, so I did the only reasonable thing. I hit him with a sledgehammer. Just a little one, of course, made of wood and imprinted with the name of the restaurant. You know, a mallet-thingie. This was the right thing to do, I was assured, when face to face with a hot, steamed and seasoned Maryland Blue Crab. Once I took assertive action, of course, the staredown was over. He rolled over as any good little crab would do, shed his shell and became dinner.

I have my waitress, Judy, as well as Charlie Meyer of Long Beach, NY, to thank for guidance and instructions on the proper tackling of Maryland Blue Crabs. Judy was extremely helpful regarding menu choices, too, as other delectable options included Crab Imperial, Lump Crab Cocktail and Crab Cakes, in addition to other seafood selections – oysters, clams, shrimp and more. Seated at the next table, Charlie and his wife, Schatzie, offered excellent suggestions for additional adventures along the Atlantic Coast, having just returned from a trip to Savannah themselves. This, of course, is one of the joys of travel – meeting friendly people like the Meyers along the way.

Post-crab and pre-slumber, I returned to the inn and bootlegged the guest phone line for a laptop connection, checked email and turned in for the night. Little did I know the treat I was in for the next morning.

Bill and his wife, Char, have been at the Parsonage Inn for a year and a half, bailing out of corporate jobs and into the innkeeping role, which they find preferable. It turns out Bill is a chef who studied at the Culinary Institute in NY. The beautiful place settings at the breakfast table were my first clue that this wouldn’t be just an ordinary meal.

Fresh coffee and tea waited in the sitting room before breakfast, along with a plate of scones and other assorted homemade breads. After being seated in the dining room, small dishes of melon and strawberries were served, lightly covered with fresh cream laced with nutmeg and (yes, really) cracked pepper. Just a trace, enough to bring out the other flavors, but not enough to know it was pepper without being told. A fresh flower graced each fruit dish.

This was followed with Eggs Venetian, an egg served inside a thick slice of bread (a la Moonstruck,) with sauteed peppers and sausage. Orange juice and grapefruit juice were provided in chilled decanters. Coffee and scones seemed to migrate by magic from the sitting room to the dining room.

After a meal such as that, there seemed nothing better to do but relax some more, which is exactly what I did. I took my time getting ready to check out, read through some of the bed and breakfast guidebooks in the sitting area and visited with Bill and Char, discussing mostly photography and business. Eventually, I dragged myself out to explore the nearby business district.

Much of this charming town was built in the late 1800’s. Known as “the town that fooled the British,” this waterside village is now filled with quaint shops and cafes. Antiques, books, and ice cream can all be found along the main street. I headed straight for the ice cream, myself. Ordered a single black raspberry in a sugar cone at Justine’s Ice Cream.

As if that didn’t fill up my sugar quota, I ended up at St. Michaels Candy Company, drawn in by their quaint storefront. Here I fell, not for the sweet confections in the display case, but for some glass bottles from Spain. Four of them, in various shades of blue, green and rose. Small enough to line up in a row and to display in a window. Nice glass, pretty colors. There are more gift choices than candy choices in this cute shop, all beautifully displayed and reasonably priced. A shopper’s paradise. For those with a sweet tooth, even better.

This was a good first night for me. I love little towns and, though I can tell St. Michaels gets busy with tourists on weekends, a midweek stop held to a small town feeling.

I did not drive out to Tilghman Island, an additional eleven miles west. According to the innkeepers, that short distance makes a big difference in area feel and culture. I did drive out to take a look at the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, six miles away and the nation’s oldest operating ferry system, but took land routes back to Easton, catching Rte. 50 toward Berlin, MD.

Photo Gallery: View Here

If You Go:

Parsonage Inn
210 N. Talbot St.
St. Michaels, MD 21663
(800) 394-5519

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I chased a Chesapeake sunset tonight, heading west on a small side road along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. A new area for me, southbound along the Atlantic Coast. I’m aiming for Charleston by the end of the week, but am keeping my eyes open for discoveries en route.

Leaving Philadelphia about noon, I headed south on Interstate 95. Just over the Delaware state line, I ducked off the highway at Exit 7B and found my way to a lodging/dining establishment that I’ve longed to visit for ages, The Inn at Montchanin Village. Clearly too early to call it a day, I opted for lunch at Krazy Kat’s restaurant, part of the inn complex.

What a treat this was – wonderful decor and ambiance, great service and fabulous food. I had pan seared halibut in a coconut-lemon grass sauce, served with peruvian potatos and asparagus. It was the best meal I’ve had on this trip so far, simply melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

The waitress, Barb, was wonderful and extremely knowledgeable about the menu and the property itself. The hostess, Amy, was also very helpful, telling me a little more of the history of the building, originally the blacksmith’s shop for the village, and showing me the upstairs dining room, The Crow’s Nest, available for groups.

As an added bonus, I was fortunate to meet Laura and Adair, lunch neighbors at a nearby table. Both from the Philadelphia area, this was not their first time dining at Krazy Kat’s. And I can see why. It’s an easy drive down from the Philly area to get to this Delaware eatery. I’d think one meal here would almost guarantee a return visit. It was just that good.

Laura and Adair had other recommendations to offer for my trip along the coast, which I jotted down thankfully and am keeping on hand. As usual, most of the best suggestions I hear come from other travelers.

I was given a tour of some of the rooms by Nancy, director of sales and public relations, who kindly showed me a variety of accommodations, which run from $150. to $375. I admit to being hugely impressed. The inn is located in a restored 19th century hamlet, formerly housing workers for Du Pont powder mills. The owners have covered every base, and then some. An adorable logo of a cow and crow can be found just about everywhere, from the washcloths to umbrellas by the doorways. Bathrooms are marble (and large enough to be rooms). Linens are Frette. Fresh flowers are everywhere, inside and out. Even the smallest rooms are spacious and exquisitely decorated. This is perfection in lodging.

From there, I continued south into Maryland and drove through Chestertown, to check out The Imperial Hotel. It was a great building, with nicely furnished rooms and balconies that look out over the town’s main street. But their highly-acclaimed restaurant was closed that night and there was still some driving time left in the day, so I just did a quick tour of the quaint town and continued south, ending up in St. Michaels, MD.

This seemed to be my day to tour inns. I had notes on The Old Brick Inn in St. Michaels, but hadn’t had success getting through by phone. Nor did I have luck finding anyone there when I arrived (note: they weren’t expecting me – I’m in haphazard travel mode, as usual). I would end up getting to see a couple of their rooms the next day, which looked wonderful, but that night I headed on through town. I did a brief walkabout at The Inn at Perry Cabin, just for the luxury of seeing it. It was gorgeous, and perfectly priced for my next lifetime.

And then, as happens sometimes because of my odd travel methods, I realized the sun was already down and it was approaching eight o’clock. I still had no idea where I was going to stay. (Additional note for those who think I’m completely insane or take too many chances: I always know where the nearest city with chain hotels can be found and I never let my gas tank get low).

It was about this time that I noticed an open door at a beautiful Victorian corner building with an inviting front porch and a few open spaces in the parking lot. I parked, walked around a bit, then stepped inside.

Photo Gallery: View Here

If You Go:

The Inn at Montchanin Village
P.O. Box 130
Montchanin, Delaware 19710
(302) 888-2133
(800) 269-2473

Krazy Kat’s
Hours: Breakfast: 7-10, Mon.-Fri. – 8-11, Sat., Sun. and Holidays;
Lunch: 11-2 Mon.-Fri.;
Dinner: 5:30-10 – Mon.-Sat., 5:30-9 – Sun.
For Dining Reservations: (302) 888-4200

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