Frantic In The Mid-Atlantic

Trip Start May 01, 2003
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Trip End Sep 01, 2003

Flag of United States  , Rhode Island
Sunday, June 29, 2003

June 17 (Day 48) DC-New Market, MD-Annapolis, MD
We were supposed to travel to New Market for an overnight stay at a small antiquing town northwest of Baltimore, as we drove north from DC, the rains began to fall more steadily and the prospect of a rainy day trapped in a small B&B with nothing but antique shops nearby sounded less appealing, so we drove on to Annapolis for an overnight. Annapolis was for a short time the capital of the fledgling US, and the town has tremendous character, as the home to the US Naval Academy. Its naval heritage carries over to its residents, all of whom seem to own a sailboat. The city dock was crowded with beautiful boats, even as the rains poured down. We covered the girls with raincoats, boots, and hotel towels and waded out into Annapolis, treating the girls to a hot chocolate to warm them and window shopping in the cold rain. We decided to go for a true local dinner and drove to Mike's Crab House for a steamed crab dinner. For those who have not had the pleasure, you are given a mallet, your table is covered with paper and a pile of whole crabs (steamed with Old Bay spice) is dumped in front of you. You then proceed to crack, hack and stack the shells of the crustaceans while picking the crab meat from every nook and cranny, washing down your efforts with a local beer. For Kirsten, it was too much effort and too many innards to be enjoyable.

June 18 (Day 49) Annapolis-St. Michaels-Oxford, MD
We walked the Capitol area of Annapolis in the morning as the weather cleared briefly and then traveled across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, across the top of the Chesapeake to the eastern shore of Maryland. Here the quaint fishing towns of St. Michaels, Cambridge and Oxford are nestled along the eastern shore of the bay. We wove our way in and out of small inlets southward through the famous town of St. Michaels, whose streets are lined with boutiques and restaurants. Our goal here was the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which highlighted the shipping and fishing industries which have shaped this area. The girls clambered in and out and around old sloops, tug boats and lighthouses, all refurbished by the Museum. We then moved south again to Oxford, a picturesque village along a river which empties into the bay. We stayed at the Robert Morris Inn, and the girls enjoyed playing in the narrow ribbon of sand along the river bank, chasing the mallards into and out of the water, and watching the children from a nearby yacht club race their sunfish in the setting sun. The feel of this town was very relaxed and the atmosphere was more than just a lazy summer afternoon. We gathered that the tranquility lasts year-round here.

June 19 (Day 50) Oxford, MD-Lewes, DE-Montchanin, DE
We woke to pouring rain which stayed with us across the Delmarva Peninsula to the beach community of Lewes (pronounced Lewis), Delaware. We traversed the peninsula on local roads, weaving through farmland which abruptly opened up to coastline. The rains stopped just in time to let the girls pull out the beach toys and splash on a beautiful community beach. They basically had the beach to themselves and were thrilled to stretch their legs and coat themselves in sand still wet from the torrential rains of an hour ago. We drove the quaint streets and admired the tasteful development of this community, which was what we had hoped the Outer Banks would have been. From Lewes we headed north on scenic Route 9 through wetlands and wildlife preserves to Montchanin Inn in the Brandywine Valley of Northern Delaware. Along Route 9 we encountered the huge juxtaposition of the cooling towers of a nuclear facility looming over these wetlands; it was an imposing and unsettling sight. As we arrived in Wilmington and our destination for the evening, we stayed at what was supposed to be a top notch small luxury hotel called the Inn at Montchanin Village. Service was horrible, rooms were nice. 'nuff said. Don't stay at this property unless you enjoy abuse from the hotel staff.

June 20 (Day 51) Brandywine Valley and Bucks County, PA
The rains poured down on a biblical scale as we took in the sights in the Brandywine Valley, which straddles the Delaware/Penn border. This area is chock-a-block with revolutionary war-period homes, quaint villages and Dupont money. The Duponts are huge patrons of the arts and the per capita museum ratio is the highest we have seen in our journey. Lucky for us we have a day of museum hopping scheduled, as the rain came down in torrents from the moment we awoke. We went to Frank's Place for breakfast, which was in all of the guide books for its famous "griddled muffins", so of course we had to go. Isabelle broke something the minute we sat down at the table and that put us in the penalty box with our waitress. She must have "lost" our order on the way to the kitchen and it took 50 minutes for pancakes with two hungry girls melting down the entire time. So it got our morning off on the wrong foot. We then had a whirlwind day of museums around Doylestown, PA, including the Brandywine Museum (focus on NC and Andrew Wyeth (native sons of Brandywine), Longwood Gardens (Dupont's personal, massive arboretum), Mercer Museum (incredible collection of 18th and 19th century industrial equipment) and James Mitchener Art Museum and Library. Highlights for us were Jocelyn and Isabelle among massive orchid collections and rose gardens at Longwood, some phenomenal Wyeth paintings and a wonderful art bookstore at the Brandywine Museum. We then spent the night at a wonderful B&B called the Barleysheaf Farm, although the rains prompted only a brief visit to the sheep paddock from Jocey and Izzy.

June 21-22 (Days 52-53) Princeton, NJ
We left Bucks behind and traveled the Delaware river shore, visiting the small towns of New Hope, Lambertville and Frenchtown, stopping briefly to see where Washington crossed the Delaware during the Revolutionary War. From there we made the short drive to my alma mater, Princeton University, to visit the campus and celebrate Kirsten's birthday. We stayed at the Nassau Inn on Palmer Square, directly across from the campus. The Inn is convenient to campus, but that is about all it has going for it. The rains continued off and on throughout the weekend, but were intermittent enough to allow us to visit the old stomping grounds. I had not been there in ten years, and the campus had changed significantly. It was difficult finding my freshman dorm, which had been surrounded by new structures. The soccer fields which were visible from my dorm window have been replaced by new dorms, so time marches on. Nevertheless, the girls enjoyed running through the campus before Kirsten's birthday dinner at JB Winberies on the summer solstice. Sunday, we had a leisurely morning breakfast, toured the Princeton Art Museum (with its extensive Asian collection, for Kirsten) and strolled through a summer solstice street fair being held on Nassau Street.

June 23-25 (Days 54-56) Southold, Long Island, NY
We headed for the North Fork of eastern Long Island to visit with our friends Ken and Maggie Burke and their nine month old daughter, Lucy, and Portuguese Water Dog, Henry. The drive through eastern NJ, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens along the Belt Parkway was familiar territory but we do not miss the horrific traffic in the NY metro area. We drove through the parkway system which carried us to the eastern reaches of the island, heading up the north fork to Southold, a land of vineyards, sod farms and quaint shoreside towns. We had initially intended to stay for two days with the Burkes, but so enjoyed our time we extended our stay for another day. The girls loved spending time with baby Lucy and Henry, and we enjoyed our time with Ken and Maggie, getting caught up and touring the beautiful countryside, eating wonderful meals and drinking great wine. Of particular note was our inaugural stay in the "Duck House", a guest house which Ken built by hand and Maggie decorated. The cozy cottage was stocked with more amenities then most high end hotels, with a view of the inlet filled with waterfowl. As if the birds outside were not enough, the walls of the Duck House were filled with Ken's collection of duck prints. A beautiful beach was a five minute walk from the house, and the views of Long Island Sound and the south fork were incomparable. We could have spent another week, given the Burke's hospitality and the special slice of Southold we experienced. As it was, we ran out of time to vineyard hop, play golf and explore the eastern end of the island.

June 26-27 (Days 57-58) New London, CT-Cranston, RI-Newport, RI
We drove to the eastern end of the North Fork, to catch the auto ferry from Orient Point, NY to New London, CT. The girls enjoyed the 90 minute boat ride over Long Island Sound. From New London we took a short 45 minute drive to my sister, Jessica's, house in Cranston, Rhode Island. We were hooking up with my sister, brother-in-law Ray and nephews, Christian and Keegan, to caravan down to Newport for an overnight of family time. This was our first time in Newport and we were impressed. We spent our first day in the downtown area, strolling Thames Street with its stores and restaurants, swimming in the Hyatt's pool and grabbing a quick meal for eight. A local treat is called Del's, which is a frozen lemonade with bits of lemon rind mixed in. Both adults and children enjoyed Del's. The next morning the Reilly family headed back to Cranston (we would see them next week on Martha's Vineyard). We had a busy day, hitting the Museum of Yachting for a whirlwind history of the America's Cup, the International Tennis Museum, a drive along Bellvue Avenue and the astounding row of mansions built by shipping magnates in the 1800s and 1900s and, finally, a sunset walk above the cliffs on the north side of Newport Island.
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