I live in Washington, DC, a city that has had the honor of serving of the capital of the United States for more than two-hundred and twenty years. However, it’s not the only capital the country has had, a fact most American school kids know by heart. Like those kids, I remembered that Philadelphia and New York had briefly served as the capital city, but I had no idea a nearby town had the honor as well, Annapolis, Maryland. That’s not the only thing that surprised me about this colonial town as my partner and I rediscovered the city on a weekend visit.
I’m guilty of ignoring great travel destinations close to home. Sure, I’ll fly to Laos for a week but apparently driving twenty minutes to Annapolis was just too much of a challenge. That’s why I was thrilled when I was invited to spend a weekend exploring the historic core of the town, courtesy of the Academy Bed and Breakfast and other local partners.
Annapolis has a character, there’s no doubt about it. It’s a unique personality formed by its place on the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Severn River, by the United States Naval Academy located in the laid back downtown but more than anything, its character comes from its history. Walking through the ancient core of the city, it’s not hard to believe that settlements in the area date back to the 17th century.
I consider myself somewhat well versed in American history and was surprised at the importance Annapolis had in the formation of the country. I had no idea that it was the American capital from 1783-84; I had no idea that all the early Presidents spent a considerable amount of time in the city and I had no idea the Treaty of Paris was ratified in the state house in 1784. I had a lot to learn about the city and I was excited to explore.
Walking tours are a great way to learn about a new city and Annapolis is no exception. Given its age, there is a long tradition of ghost stories in and around town so we jumped on a ghost tour to learn about the city’s history in a different way. Annapolis Ghost Tours runs one of the highest ranked tours in the world, giving guests the option of a traditional ghost tour or a haunted pub crawl.
The tour was an event, there’s no better way to put it. Our guide was enthusiastic and excited about her city, her energy making the tour a lot of fun for everyone. Sure we learned a lot about the many ghosts in the city, and yes a chill went up my spine more than once but it was also a really informative tour. I learned about the city’s early history and how important it was in the country’s formation. Those facts I shared with you? They came from this tour.
The greatest part of Annapolis though isn’t a single planned activity, it’s the vibe of the city itself. We visited on a chilly but sunny spring weekend, busy with students at the Academy and boaters getting their yachts ready for the upcoming season. Even though it certainly wasn’t prime tourist season, there was an energy, a vibe that resonated with every step. I was happy. I was happy to see kids playing, for the scraggly guy playing guitar on the corner and for the chimes of a church bell in the distance.
A big part of what made our nearcation a success was the Academy Bed and Breakfast. I know what you’re thinking, they gave me a free night so I’m going to gush about how great they were. Well while both things are true, but there is not a causal relationship. I’ve long been wary of B&Bs for a variety of reasons. I guess I just can’t get past the impression I have of little old ladies running a rickety old house, shared bathrooms and teddy bears on the beds. Plus we’re gay and I’m always worried about prejudice or discrimination once we check in. But for the second time in a year I was bowled over by a B&B.
The owner, John, bought the historic house a few years ago when it was in a complete state of disrepair. He spent the next couple of years painstakingly restoring the house, keeping intact as many original elements as possible. The result is a modern but historic and comfortable property run by one of the kindest proprietors I’ve ever met. The room was the icing on the cake though. It was large with all the modern conveniences while maintaining the look and feel of a historic house. While the bathroom had a strange layout, it was huge and even luxurious. The Bed part of B&B lived up to its promises, but the Breakfast went far beyond my expectations. It must take a yeoman effort, but John prepares for each of his guests a delicious four-course breakfast that navigates the line between light and filling without erring. It gave us the energy we needed to tackle the city.
Before leaving town we took another walk around town, stopped by a local shop for an ice cream and perused some souvenirs. As I enjoyed the stroll I wondered what it must have been like to walk the same cobblestones at the formation of our country, standing next to men who have since attained near God-like status. More importantly I wondered why it took me so long to explore not only one of the forgotten colonial capitals of the country, but one of the most enjoyable.