St. Michaels, Maryland

Friday, June 02, 2017

This past week I enjoyed the Memorial Day holiday weekend in St. Michaels, Maryland.  Yes same surname as mine, Michaels, but no historical blood ties. This port side town is not only charming but also holds fascinating history and some famous nearby residents. It was a wonderful escape from the heat and city scene of bustling haze of Miami. It was also a great opportunity to revisit early American history.

Maryland is one of the original thirteen colonies of early American settlers escaping England in the 1600s hence the rich history and British influence in names.  This town's name was derived from the Episcopal church established in 1677.  The nickname was recorded a century later and was recounted that when the British wanted to target the town with cannonballs from their seaside ships to prevent a militia from forming, the town dimmed their lights and hung lanterns in the trees beyond the town. The cannonballs would overshoot and the town was spared.

Historic home in St. Michaels, Maryland
St. Michaels is located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, two hours east of Baltimore.  Like Miami it is surrounded by lots of water--the bay, creeks, the ocean. Boating, yachting and water events are popular activities along with waterfront dining. With its close proximity to the nation's capital, famous politicians own homes in the St. Michaels area (Easton, Royal Oak are nearby cities). They include Donald Rumsfeld and former Vice President Dick Chaney.  Given its prominent location along the water, Talbot county consists of mostly wealthy families. Many residents are either business owners or have retired to the quiet life by the bay.

Standing on a major bridge I could see land across the bay. Ahoy there! Sure enough I learned that ferries are another mode of transportation to cross the bay to reach another port instead of driving the 45 minutes to connect to land.  One day I took the Oxford Bellevue ferry to visit Oxford, a town of 600 residents. The cost was a mere $5.00 round trip.

A 15 minute ride from port of Easton to Oxford

The first sign to welcome me to Oxford
 One does not need a car to get around. Riding a bicycle or even walking, one can cover most of the small city. A marina, restaurants, and small homes fill up the tiny island. I loved to see the old homes with the white picket fence and the flower gardens. So many colorful geraniums filled flower pots and rose bushes throughout the island. A slice of Americana.

Home with white picket fence, colorful garden beds and American flag
The allure of this small, quiet town compelled me to slow down and take the time to smell the roses. A grand opportunity for reflection. Just the relaxing vacation that I needed.
Christine Michaels smells red rose bush Oxford Maryland
Christine smells the red roses
 After walking about and absorbing this historical chapter of American history, it was time to take the ferry back to Easton.

For dinner we visited the historic main streets of Easton and dined at Scossa Italian restaurant.  Across the street was the old courthouse. In the center are American flags, lined with wooden benches. On the right side of the lawn is a statue of  Frederick Douglass, one of my favorite heroes in American history.  

Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in Talbot County, Maryland he was a major figure in the abolition movement and the first African American to hold a high U.S. government rank. Born a slave, Douglass learned that reading and writing well were powerful. His tenacity and creative solutions to learn to read enabled him to discover the meaning of "abolition" upon buying his first anthology at age 12. 

After escaping slavery, he took the name "Douglass" after a character in the poem The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott. He became an excellent orator and his fiery speeches and writing skills made him the most prominent African American abolitionist. He met President Lincoln three times and was a Republican. Douglass did not support radical abolitionists like William Garrison and John Brown. When Brown wanted to plan an armed slave rebellion, Douglass disapproved of it and distanced himself from activities regarding the extremists.  Through speech and writing
he was powerful in a major movement in American history. I'm reminded of the saying "the pen is mightier than the sword". 

Frederick Douglass in his 30s

In 1872 the Equal Rights Party nominated Douglass for Vice President of the U.S. Though he was nominated without his knowledge and did not campaign, this made Douglass the first African American to be nominated for the post.

Easton is a great city for raising a family or family vacations. There is something for everyone. Sailing, jet skiing, taking a ferry, crabbing, fishing--you name it.

For lunchtime we headed to historic St. Michaels along the waterfront.

Foxy's is a favorite casual place for bar bites and beer and drinks.  It also has the best outdoor seating. The Lighthouse restaurant next door is newly renovated and under new management. The large windows overlooking the bay often make it the safer option without the worry of the unpredictable weather pattern. Same view without the cold or rain.

Seafood, especially oysters is the major industry for St. Michaels. By the late 19th century, most households had at least one person working in fishery, either tonging oysters or working in shucking houses.

Plenty of restaurants to choose from that offer oysters and great seafood such as lobster ravioli, crab, mussels and more.  The most popular is Crab Claw restaurant on the waterfront. I did not try it yet. There is also Hunter's Tavern at Tidewater Inn (loved the Lobster in zesty lemon risotto). My favorite restaurant to date is Limoncello, a (relatively new-opened Nov 2016) fine upscale Italian restaurant. While not on the water, the food, service and ambiance were excellent!

Easton, Royal Oak and St. Michaels are approximately an hour and a half away from Baltimore-Washington International airport (BWI) in Hanover, Maryland, without traffic.  Avoid driving there Friday after 3pm and returning Sundays.  Everyone heads to the east coast on weekends and traffic is very heavy. 

Stop at St. Michaels for a quiet, relaxing getaway with water views and activities all around you and enjoy fine dining, as well as a slice of history.

by Christine Michaels
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