Change of Scenery, St. Michaels

12 Sep

wpid-wp-1442063822708.jpgYesterday afternoon our house was a mad scramble. We packed as much as we could the night before. In the hurry to get on the road before rush hour there seemed like dozens of almost forgotten things to grab and stash. Despite our best efforts, we still got snarled in traffic. One of the two cars hit the start of commute traffic on the Capital Beltway. Both ran into weekend beach traffic on route 50, the road that would lead us most of the way out to the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

A month or so ago we booked this vacation. Our family has been through a lot in the past year. The fact that we could pull off the necessary logistics was a welcome sign of something approaching normal.

Andrea used to stay in houses on the Cape and elsewhere growing up. I traveled as a kid all over the Caribbean. Neither of us was quite sure how one finds places to rent that aren’t hotels or even B&B’s. When we were younger, our parents just seemed to know people. Maybe it was a friend of a friend making an introduction to someone with a Summer rental. At any rate, planning such trips involved as much luck as opportunity. That may explain why our families kept returning to these out of the way spots, year after year.

I never really appreciated the islands I got to visit growing up. I think back on them now with a good deal of yearning. Often there was no electricity and little running water. My childhood self found these trips boring if not a burden. The food was weird, none of the diversions I was used to were available. When we went into town for supplies, the shops were all small and odd-looking. The local scenery surrounding it all was completely lost on me.

As an adult, these are exactly the kinds of places I treasure. They were never as primitive as they seemed to my eight year old eyes. We had plenty of food, even junky snacks that were usually forbidden at home. We really were quite comfortable enough. The draw was, and still is, the difference from home. More than the scenery, it is the shifting away from the every day routine and its replacement with an entirely slower, more relaxed pace. Often there is something unique, some particular culture, opportunity or startling vista. Those take up only a small part of any given trip compared to the overall shift in mentality these getaways encourage.

Andrea and I knew what we wanted for a family getaway but had no idea how to find it. Even with a limited travel radius–we are doing better but not so good that we can pop for air fare to some place truly remote–we weren’t sure how to locate the hideaways that dot the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. Not surprisingly, the Internet provided the answer. Neither of us are up to using AirBnB, especially to book something for the whole family. It turns out there are other services, though, that have taken the place of the friend of a friend who has some place great to rent.

We arrived after about two and a half hours on the road yesterday. We drove straight through without a break. We had both dogs in tow, part of the benefit of a rental house and staying somewhere within driving distance. Everyone felt wilted. Seeing the Lodge in person immediately perked us all up.

The pups took to exploring the spreading green spaces around the house. The Lodge sits on about 16 acres, with a private dock, plenty of green and even a bit of forest. The older dog nosed around the boxwoods closer in while the puppy tore around like his butt was on fire.

The boys and I explored the house. The owners left a welcome sheet with some instructions on taking care of the house during our stay and some suggestions. On the way in, we passed through a very charming main street in the heart of St. Michaels. The owners offered some personal suggestions of places to check out and where best to get supplies to stock the kitchen. While I familiarized myself, the boys staked claims on the upstairs bed rooms.

After everyone had a chance to stretch their legs and catch their breath, we hopped back into one of the cars for the drive back into town. On our way in, we guessed that the sidewalks might rolled up at an early hour. We were not wrong. Thankfully, the local restaurants keep later hours. Dinner was in a bit of a tourist trap, one of the pubs on the main drag. The food was good all the same. The place was quiet and relaxing.

As we walked along before picking our dinner spot, we saw about half the town. Tons of touristy little shops but all with an architectural charm that is very distinctive of the area. One of the boys remarked that all the shops look like homes. Odds are many of them were originally. We saw plenty of side streets for exploring including one that leads down to a maritime museum that we’ll definitely check out while we are here.

We managed to catch the local grocery before it closed. I think we were all still a little worn out from the trip. We didn’t go crazy on snacks and such though I did avail myself of their mix your own six pack display. Instead we may have under shot a little, with not a very firm idea of what was in the house’s cupboards. This morning, as an example, while we had picked up coffee, we realized we should have also grabbed some sweetener. Easy enough to amend next trip into town but would have been nice to manage it on that first stop at the grocery.

Today broke a bit gray, with the promise of rain. The weather thankfully held off through breakfast and the early morning explorations of the dogs. Right as I settled in with my coffee and morning reading in the sun room off the master bedroom, I started to hear a patter on the skylights. Glancing out onto the deck that wraps around the house, I didn’t see any drops.

There is an immense tree that shades one corner of the deck. The owners placed a cafe set under it and hung some lanterns from its branches. For a bit, I thought the tree was full enough that we might be able to sit out despite the rain. As it continued to fall, the drops finally made their way through the foliage and start puddling on the boards. It has been raining on and off since.

How easy to be disappointed at the weather. Didn’t we come here to be out and about? Last I checked, Andrea and the boys were relaxing in the family room, with the TV providing some background noise. I think it is enough that the decor is pleasantly different from home. A glance out the window reveals far more green and at certain angles, a glimpse of the bay, even if it is a bit gray.

For me, at least, the change of scenery invites a change in state of mind. My habitually restless gaze slows. There seems to be more time to take in the charming little secrets of this place, both the careful appointments inside placed by the owners and the natural beauty that surrounds us on all sides. I am sure we’ll brave the weather, hopefully it may even brighten before we leave in a few days. For now, this is enough.

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