There are a plethora of reasons why we need to get away from it all, if only for a few hours. We are overworked, overstressed, overweary, overextended, overtaxed, overstimulated—just plain over it. And thus, the good “doctor,” whomever that may be—a friend, a spouse, a mother, a father, a child, a healthcare provider—tells us to step away from the demanding rigors of our lives and take a day for ourselves. Coincidentally, it also happens that I showed my feature writing class the film “Roman Holiday,” a film in which Audrey Hepburn, playing a princess from a nameless country, decides she’s had enough, and takes her chances as she goes incognito for a play day in Rome. Luckily for her, Gregory Peck is there to help her secure her wishes of being a “regular person” for one 24-hour period. Ah…love and romance in Rome. The problem is, I couldn’t get to Rome. Not for a day over the weekend.
But there are nearby places to go where you can get away. St. Michael’s may not be Rome, but it is the perfect spot to let go of your cares for a few hours. Nestled on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, it is approximately one hour from Annapolis. On a weekend in the fall or spring when Marylanders are typically not heading to the Ocean City, Bethany, Rehoboth, or Lewes beaches, it’s a delightful ride on a pretty stretch of Rt. 50, especially in the fall as the leaves are turning. I could feel my worries and cares lift as soon as we crossed the Bay Bridge. Seeing the mainland of Maryland become more and more distant as the journey continued, I knew I was going to spend an enjoyable afternoon with my family as we shopped, ate, walked the streets, and talked to locals. I am never disappointed in my day trips to St. Michael’s: the town somehow has the power to welcome you with open arms and make you not want to leave.
The drive in is absolutely darling. The store-lined streets reflect a sense of care that the people of St. Michael’s feel for their town, replete with merchants and townspeople decorated for the Halloween season. There were witches on brooms hung high in the air propped up into telephone poles, hay bails with pumpkin displays outside the stores, mums and other seasonal flowers adding color and personality to the town, and doors opened wide insisting that patrons come in and peruse the goods.
My daughter and I had a great time going in and out of eclectic shops that boasted jewelry, handbags, scarves, towels, and household goods, while my son and husband shopped in some of the apparel and poster stores. There is something for everyone, including antiques, home goods, artistic boutiques, and candy shops.
Restaurants are in and about the main area, with many receiving four and five-star reviews. From classic American cuisine like that featured at Town Dock restaurant located on the water in the harbor (where we ate on the deck), to Simpatico, an Italian restaurant across from the community center, to the Crab Claw for seafood, there is something for every palate. Justine’s Ice Cream was voted best in town, and St. Michael’s Candy and Gifts is sure to satisfy every sweet tooth.
The St. Michael’s Harbor area boasts the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which charges an entrance fee, but is a working museum that kids will love exploring. Additionally, Patriot Cruises, which launches from the dock adjacent to the museum, takes guests on hourly cruises from the Harbor to the Miles River. These are all great suggestions you can do with your significant other or your family.
However, the highlight of our trip yesterday wasn’t anything nautical or historic: it was attending the Pumpkin Carving Contest at the St. Michael’s Community Center. Merchants sponsored enormous pumpkins (and I mean ENORMOUS), and talented individuals showed up between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to carve their pumpkins, each one numbered and then presented for voting. Selected judges awarded prizes, and then it was up to the people to vote. My husband, children and I scoured the place trying to pick the best one, but it was not an easy decision. The magnitude of the talent we witnessed was tremendous—and for someone who preaches to her students about the importance of creativity—I was overwhelmed by the innovation that took place in that room. In the end, I voted for the two women who carved “The Bee Hive,” and we all chatted with them about the event.
It was the first time my children had stepped foot on St. Michael’s soil, and they both enjoyed their day there. My daughter wants to know when we can go back and do some “serious shopping.” My husband and I strolled the streets and recalled sentimental times when we had been there before. I’ve already marked my calendar for “Christmas in St. Michael’s,” an event I’ve wanted to attend for over 20 years.
Part of the fun of St. Michael’s is just strolling the back streets and sneaking peeks at some of the historic homes, the white picket fences, the flowers and landscaping, and the people who reside in picturesque homes that sit on streets lined with brick sidewalks. As someone who loves the water and being near it, the notion of living in a town like St. Michael’s has a great deal of appeal to me. In fact, in my novel, “Beneath the Mimosa Tree,” the grandmother, named Vivi, resides in St. Michael’s and is an active member of the town. I put her in that location because she exuded as much warmth as the town itself does.
Perhaps when I wrote my novel I was projecting a possible future for myself down the road, imagining that I might someday be a sweet grandmother who would welcome her children and grandchildren for visits. I could certainly see St. Michael’s as a place to live in my retirement; it pretty much has everything I would need. It’s an enchantingly genial community that seems to smile at you and alleviate your over-extended self as soon as you get out of your car.