After a few weather-bound weekends at home, there was nothing that sounded better than throwing a duffel in the car and winding along the highway to someplace entirely new. But we only had 24 hours, so the destination had to be about an hour from home, and small enough to explore in a day.
Enter Annapolis, little harbor city of cobblestone streets, fantastic seafood, and about ten square blocks — all just a stone’s throw from Washington. The description “quaint coastal town” doesn’t conjure the hippest imagery, but with St. John’s College and the U.S. Naval Academy within city limits, the numerous Irish pubs there aren’t exactly empty on a Saturday night. I’d never been to Annapolis before, but its eclectic mix of adorable and rowdy ended up making it the perfect D.C. escape.
If you follow my lead and arrive around lunch, it’s the perfect time to induct yourself into Maryland society with a crab cake sandwich and a frosty mug of beer. With sun-warmed faces, we headed to the waterfront, where the boats were docked — and one was already bedecked for St. Patrick’s Day. (I thought it a good omen that one couple was so relaxed that they’d sacked out on the pier, despite the February chill.)
Back in town, I was drawn in by a little shop advertising Turkish treasures. (I spent two amazing weeks there one summer, and then a year of college studying the language.) The proprietor was more than happy to hear of my trip to Turkey, and talked excitedly about the landscape of Kapadokya, the origin of various Turkish names, my college professor (who he knew), and how the Mediterranean is much more swimmable than the Atlantic. I was charmed by his effusive stories, and when he finally urged us to look around, I was even more impressed by the glass lanterns, hand-painted bowls and lush carpets.
But the best was yet to come, for we stumbled upon Harry Browne’s during our downtown wandering. Having read about the restaurant only on a questionable website in my haphazard prep for the weekend, I’m not sure what compelled me to insist on it for dinner. But what a fortuitous choice that was! Any skepticism faded as each part of the meal made its way to the table. They plied us with warm foccacia and olive oil, and generous goblets of chardonnay. They wooed us with the peppery arugula salad, studded with apples, Parmesan, and candied walnuts. We were fully won over when they brought us tiny, unexpected dishes of orange sorbet. By the time the entrées rolled in — surf (seared sea bass) and turf (braised short ribs au jus) — we were putty in their hands. If it was possible to fall deeper in love, however, that happened during dessert. They offered Smith Island cake, a many-layered confection I’d recently read about (here’s the Maryland-specific story). And then there was the warm chocolate tart with peanut butter ice cream, which was supremely rich but somehow sublimated into chocolate-flavored air when you took a bite.
Fortunately, walking aids digestion, and the town was transformed at night. The streets were filled with frolicking midshipmen and other revelers, and we joined them in footfall on the cobblestones.
Clouds rolled in the next morning, which was greeted with coffee and granola-peach muffins from The City Dock. But they couldn’t dampen the magic of Annapolis, and we continued to wander, shop, and laugh as if it were the sunniest day imaginable. I’m already planning a return trip.