By: Paige Cunningham St. Michaels is a small town “full of history, love, and oysters” a local explained to me. After that I was very curious to dig deeper into the history and love he was talking about. The oysters, not so much.
But first, it was breakfast time. It was the first crisp October morning and my cousin Megan and I set out on this spontaneous adventure, but we had to fill up first. Not only the car, but our stomachs. We stopped at Pirates Cove, a small restaurant on the water in Galesville, Md. We browsed the menu, and laughed at the fact that at the top of the brunch menu, it read “light fare.”
Megan ordered some sort of croissant sandwich and I ordered chicken and waffles. I love salty and sweet. Our food came and my chicken tenders were accompanied by four tiny waffles and a side of “bay” gravy. Anyone from Maryland would know that there’s probably Old Bay in the gravy if they call it that. Ironically, being born and raised in Maryland, I don’t particularly care for Old Bay. On the other hand, my boyfriend’s brother will put it on anything, including spaghetti. There are two types of Marylanders.
Once we were done with breakfast, we were on the road again. At the gas station, we decided that we’d roll the windows down while driving over the Bay Bridge, you know, just in case. Megan and I are both very cautious, so we make a good travel pair. We drove over the bridge silently because any noise could be a distraction. Once we were finally over, we turned the music up and hit the gas; we were almost to our destination. For the rest of the drive there she and I pointed out cute places that would make for good Instagram photos. Yes, we’re those girls. We saw a bright pink brick building, and we both glanced over. I was so in awe that I wasn’t paying attention to the road. “PAIGE!” Megan yelled as she grabbed onto the handle. I almost rear-ended the car in front of us. Whoops, I didn’t see the traffic light turn red, or the traffic light at all for that matter. We laughed about that on the rest of our ride there.
We were so close we could taste it. I could almost taste the salt water in my mouth somehow. We passed a Rise-Up coffee hut and I knew we were there. My cousins who live nearby are always posting about their fancy artisan coffee. The speed limit dropped to 25 mph quickly and we were faced with our next mission: finding a spot to park. I hate small towns with tiny streets just for the reason that most of the time, parking is so hard to find or you have to parallel park.
Megan and I knew that our first stop was the community center so we wanted to park somewhere relatively close. We saw this boutique with parking on the side with signs that said “boutique customers only,” so naturally, we parked there. We got out and saw signs for the pumpkin contest and followed everyone into the building. There was an elderly lady and a little girl sitting at a table at the entrance. The little girl handed us our vote slips and pencils and told us what to do. She sounded like she practiced a script, and it was quite cute. We walked into the dark and chilly room filled with the most intricately designed and carved pumpkins.
To be honest, I was not expecting what I saw. I knew there would be cool pumpkins, but these were beyond words. People put so much thought and effort into them and you could tell. We started on the left side with a slot machine. Yes, a slot machine made from a pumpkin. I couldn’t believe it either. It had the handle, everything, even coins spewing out of it onto the table, I was impressed to say the least. They just kept getting better; next we saw a fish, a haunted house, a ship, a blue heron, and a nice damask patterned one. However, it was the slot machine that got my vote the second I saw it.
It reminded me of my late Grandma Rose. She loved gambling. Every year for her birthday my Aunt Laurie and Uncle Rich would take her to Atlantic City to play the slots, and she would come home so happy every time, whether she won any money or not. Even in Ocean City when my cousins and I would play in Sportsland, she’d win us all coins so that we could redeem them for prizes. One year we all got one of those candy-shaped pillows.
Back at the pumpkins, Megan and I decided on our favorites and wrote them on our slips. We put them in the box like the little girl had instructed us to, and I grabbed a lollipop because I assumed they were complimentary. I picked up blue raspberry, my favorite. As we were walking out, a guy in a flannel shirt with a beard that came down to the first button came from one of the halls and said they were about to reveal the winning pumpkins. The slot machine ended up taking 1st place for whimsical. First place for traditional was taken by the fish sponsored by Ophiuroidea. The slot machine was sponsored by St. Michaels Crab and Steak House.
Megan and I desperately needed to find a bathroom because we drank our weight in lemonade. So we walked to the boutique where we parked and went inside, which I had a feeling was a bad idea. Megan and I are two broke college students, so we don’t have “boutique” money, if you know what I mean. Almost every boutique I have ever walked into, including the one I work at, has prices ranging from $25-$400. I also felt bad because we just really needed to go to the bathroom, and as sad as it is, some people who work in places like that will judge you based off of what you’re wearing. Megan and I weren’t in sweatpants or anything, but we definitely weren’t dressed to impress.
We browsed the store for about two minutes. After the woman looked us up and down, I finally asked if there was a bathroom. It turns out, this lady wasn’t as mean as we thought she’d be. She told us she wasn’t allowed to let customers use the bathroom but she let us, and boy, were we thankful.
After relieving ourselves, we talked to the older woman about the boutique. I told her I remembered being here a couple years ago for a wedding. We walked into this exact boutique and my uncle bought me this beautiful silver crab necklace. She showed us some of the new jewelry they had just got in and their breast cancer awareness collection they had for the month of October. She was a nice woman, and it just goes to show that you really can’t judge a book by its cover. We told her we were there for a project I was doing and she told me that I definitely had to include Justine’s in my writing.
Taking her recommendation seriously, our next stop was Justine’s Ice Cream Parlor, where you can pick from over 20 ice cream flavors, loads of toppings, and even over 20 different flavors of shakes. I wasn’t too hungry for a snack just yet, but Megan decided she wanted some. She perused each and every ice cream flavor in the case and on the wall and finally settled for Strawberry Shortcake.
She paid for her ice cream and grabbed about thirty napkins and we were back to exploring. As we were walking down the sidewalk, the wind started to pick up, and I heard another infamous Megan scream. “What now?” I thought as I turned around to see that she had ice cream all in her hair. I couldn’t help but laugh, she handed her ice cream to me and started digging through her pockets as the wind was still waving her hair around. Good thing she grabbed those napkins; who said being too cautious is a bad thing? I took it upon myself to taste the pretty pink ice cream cone and goodness. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t taste exactly like the Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bar, it even had the little shortcake crumbles in it. I stalled and said she missed a few spots in her hair just so I could eat more.
Then, I got a phone call. It was my manager. I had just started my job at Victoria’s Secret and they scheduled me for a 5 a.m. shift. My manager was calling me to tell me I didn’t have to come in for that shift, and I smiled so broadly. Our trip had just became a whole lot better, because it wasn’t overshadowed by the fact that I had to work so early.
After I hung up, we walked into an antique shop. We were greeted by this elderly white-haired man who was polishing tiny silver spoons. We walked all the way towards the back, and it felt as if we were inside Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The farther you walked it seemed like the room got smaller and we got bigger. I suppose it could have been the tiny tea party set we were standing next to, but it was definitely a small space.
I sat down in one of the minuscule chairs and gazed at the beautiful porcelain tea cups. Growing up, I’d always loved to have tea parties and you could bet your bottom dollar that all of my stuffed animals, Bitty Babies, American Girl dolls, and Barbies were invited. Except for my limited edition holiday Barbies, they had to enjoy their plastic scones from their box on the top shelf. I was never allowed to take them out of the box and play with them because my Dad said they’d be worth a lot of money one day. (The funny thing is I don’t know where they are today). The man walked over and asked if we needed anything, and we told him we were just admiring the beautiful tea set. He told us about his granddaughter and how she loves to have tea parties. Isn’t it funny how some little girls enjoy the same traditional things even now? I just found it refreshing to know that there are still little girls who love to have tea parties, play dress up, and love their Barbies.
As I got older, I had to retire from playing with my dolls, even though my mom had invested so much money into them, their clothes, and their furniture. So I passed them down to my little cousin Kyleigh. She doesn’t care about any of it though. She’d rather sit on her iPad all day and eat Cheetos. She’s five years old —— when I was five I didn’t even know what a phone was. The old man telling us stories about his grand-daughter definitely restored my faith in today’s youth. I say that like I wasn’t 12 years old not too long ago.
After talking with Jim (the old man) for a bit, I decided I wanted some ice cream, too. The strawberry shortcake was definitely delicious, but I wanted something different. After about 72 years of looking at all of the different flavors, toppings, and mix-ins, I finally decided on my mom’s and my favorite flavor, butter pecan. The pecans were just calling my name. I love anything with nuts. I got one scoop on a sugar cone for three dollars and some change. I put the dollar that the girl gave me back into the tip jar and her blue eyes lit up as she smiled at me and said thank you, and then Megan and I walked outside to sit on the bench.
There wasn’t much room to sit inside of the ice cream place because like every other store in that town, it was a really small space that probably 10 people could fit in comfortably. The girl inside the shop must have gone on her lunch break. She smiled at us and then flipped the sign on the door. As I was enjoying my ice cream that was steadily melting, Megan was trying to get the dog filter on Snapchat to work. I looked across and actually saw someone at the oyster place across from us staring, and I promptly stopped Megan because she did look really funny.
The only bad thing about eating scooped hard serve ice cream is that it’s sort of hard to eat. When you bite into it, it plops onto your nose. So all of these locals are walking by us, and I probably had this little white dot on my nose, but I didn’t care. The ice cream was so good, if I were somewhere I knew people it would be very embarrassing. It’s funny how travel takes some of your cares and worries away. It’s okay to look silly when you travel, because no one knows who you are, unless you’re famous or something. I’m not that far in life yet, but maybe one day.
I had brought my camera with us because I had to work on a photography project and we had been snapping pictures all day. Megan was my impromptu model. We found a rustic looking, yellow wall on the side of a building by the community center and jumped at the opportunity because the lighting was just right.
Then we traveled down to the water, where we had seen people all day walking to and from that direction, so we had to see for ourselves what it was all about. We walked over this little bridge where ducks were swimming, and I wished that I had some crackers to feed them.
Then we went down closer to the water and decided to take pictures by the crab house. There was a flood of people eating outside because it was a nice day. This lady came up to us and said, “My son went to Stevenson!” I’m assuming she said this because of my shirt. We struck up a conversation about how it’s changed so much over the years and how much work is being done, and all of the changes. She was the sweetest woman with cherry red hair that I wish I could pull off. Megan and I were hungry for dinner after talking to her for a bit. I asked her if she lived around there and she said she lived right near Tilghman Island. So we asked her where she thought we should eat. She suggested the St. Michael’s Steak and Crab House because we told her that we had very different taste buds. Megan loves seafood. I hate pretty much all of it. She said “It’s got something for everyone,” so that is where we went.
We walked inside and the hostess brought us to a booth near a window. The sun was just starting to go down. It was the perfect way to end the day. Our waiter commented on my journal and camera, “Are you a blogger? he asked. “I wish,” I said, and I told him I was writing a piece for my Local Travel Writing class. So he brought out the chef, Eric. He was a kind man, and for some reason I always think of chefs as mean people. I guess Gordon Ramsay is to blame for that. He asked us about our food and we told him everything was delicious. “Enjoy your night, come back and see me soon,” he said after talking with us for a few minutes.
Megan had ordered oysters and I got a steak. I watched her eat them in disgust because oysters have always freaked me out for some reason. She said, “I’ll give you $10 if you eat one,” and anyone who knows me knows that is an offer I can’t refuse. I do anything for money, well, not anything. However, it couldn’t hurt to try and I’d be $10 richer.
I put the center part in my mouth and I was done. I held my nose as I swallowed. Never again will I ever go near an oyster. Travel is all about trying new things, and either loving or hating it. At least now I can say that I tried something new. Now, just like St. Michael’s, I am full of history, love, and oysters.