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De-Stressing On The Eastern Shore Of Maryland

It is not surprising that roses line the entrance to The Inn at Perry Cabin, a posh resort in St. Michaels on the eastern shore of Maryland because the rose is considered the most beautiful flower of all and symbolizes romance and deep passion. The Inn at Perry Cabin also displays huge bouquets of roses in the library, the lobby, at the spa and elsewhere around this beautiful 26-acre property. Many couples arrive to get married or celebrate a honeymoon, babymoon or anniversary. It’s a place where both children and dogs are eagerly welcomed as well as visitors traveling alone, like myself.

 I have chosen the Inn at Perry Cabin for a quick 2-night trip, an antidote to work burn-out. Water is soothing to me, and the Inn is located on the placid Miles river, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. St. Michaels is easy to get to from anywhere in the northeast – I don’t need to take a plane —  just a train and then by car over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to St. Michaels (the inn arranged a driver to meet me at the train and take me to the Inn).

This isn’t just any driver. Monte tell me he is an opera singer, so I insist he sing me an aria. At first he’s embarrassed – no one has ever asked him to sing in a car – but I’m a pretty determined person and so, wearing his mask, he sings to me in a rich deep baritone. He also sings in his church’s coir so together we sing gospel songs, switching off on the harmonies and then switch to and Harry Belafonte, which carries us all the way to the resort. 

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My suite in this beautifully renovated 78-room historic Inn have living room couches and chairs you can sink into, an Espresso machine with unlimited pods and a large flat-screen wall-mounted TV. The bedroom has a second flat-screen TV facing one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever plopped onto. The bathroom is complete with soaking tub, glass-enclosed shower, plushy towels, and soft bathrobes and slippers.

Amazingly, the toilet paper has been sculpted into a white rose.

With its a balcony overlooking the river, this is the type of accommodation you never want to leave;  but it’s just about two bells Navy time, time to gather by the flagpole with a complimentary glass of bubbly.

At 5pm we stand near the flagpole and toast the flag, “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” the American Navy’s battle cry during the War of 1812. The Inn was originally built as an estate for Samuel Hambleton who served with Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (and later became his friend) in the battle of Lake Erie. After the War, Hambleton ran a flag up his flagpole with the motto, “Don’t Give Up the Ship.

After the Hambleton family sold off the estate, it became a plantation, then a dairy farm, then an equestrian farm. Designer Laura Ashley took it over and later sold it to the founders of Orient Express. Today, The Inn at Perry Cabin is owned by a NYC-based investment company which is also creating a nearby sister property with all water-facing rooms and villas, The Lodge at Perry Cabin (to be completed in 2023).

Post toast, I sip my champagne in a river-facing Adirondack chair (there are scores and scores of these comfortable chairs at the Inn) and watch the boats float by. St. Michaels began as a shipyard and from here I can see the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, once the site of seafood packing houses, docks, and work boats. The gentry arrived here and built homes while the less fortunate lived near the swamps and became the Chesapeake Bay Watermen, sustaining the fishing, crabbing and oystering industries.

The thought of seafood makes me feel as though I am starving so I head for the Inn’s “Purser’s Pub” and sit outside next to a fire pit. I try the “Taste of the Eastern Shore Seafood platter” with salmon, oysters, crab claws, rockfish, and snakefish. But this is Maryland, and I’m jones-ing for more crab, so I order the most delicious crispy soft-shelled crab (with honey mustard) that I’ve ever tasted, a perfect way to end my first night here.

Just as good, when I return to my suite I see the freshly-made chocolate chip cookies they’ve left on my nightstand.

The following morning thinking of everything I could be trying: the gym, morning yoga, outdoor spin class under the trees, Chi Gung, a toning or stretch classes – but this is vacation, so instead I head directly to breakfast where I deposit my mask in the envelope on the table: FOR YOUR FACE MASK. Classy. What shall I order? Banana blueberry buttermilk pancakes? Maryland crab Benedict? The cheese and charcuteries plate? I opt for the Chesapeake Smokehouse Salmon Toast on multi-grain bread with smooth sails cheese, cured egg, radish and arugula.

If I were a golfer  now I’d head off to the Inn’s Pete Dye last designed, built and played course with all his signature elements and an HD simulator, but I am saving golf for old age. It’s time to explore St. Michaels. The bellman adjusts my cruiser bike and I head off to the three—block long town which is so close to the Inn I could have walked. Brightly-colored shops line the streets: bakeries, gift shops, coffee shops, art galleries and ice cream stores. I browse nautical clothing and St. Michael’s themed T-shirts, and then realize it’s almost noon.

The bike returned, I walk five minutes to the local Crab Claw Restaurant with a deck right on the water. I plan to gorge myself on Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and notice that on most every table is a full bucket of bright red cooked crabs. It’s $88.00 for all the crabs you can eat. Pricey. “How few crabs can you get?” I ask my waitress. “One.” I settle on a half-dozen. She returns with them after a good half-hour wait.  “How do you eat them?” I ask. “The directions are on the placemat,” she snaps and strides away. I know the restaurant is busy, but everyone else in St, Michaels has been so warm and friendly. This waitress is downright rude.  

I read the instructions on the placemat. It’s like trying to assemble an Ikea piece. Finally, I turn to the couple sitting at the table next to me and the tell me to take off the claws, pull back the apron with the knife and pull out the crab, The little wooden hammer is to crack open the claws. The crabs are easy to eat once I know how to open them and they’re delicious. I’ve had every kind of seafood all over the word, but I’ve never before had Maryland blue crabs.  I’m stuffed. 

It’s time to work off lunch, I return to the Inn and think about paddle boarding but don’t want to work that hard so I choose kayaking. The Inn at Perry Cabin has a built in kayak dock with a bar to hold on to as you enter the boat, so there’s no chance of tipping over. Pure luxury. I paddle around to the front of the Inn to the Adirondack chairs on the lawn, the flagpole and the Inn’s private dining lighthouse at the edge of the water.

An hour later I am headed towards the Inn’s spa for the “Links Massage” to ease tight muscles. It has nothing to do with golf and everything to do with pure relaxation. Ahhh.  Better, instead of requiring you to wear a mask when you are lying on your back, they cover your face in a scented light cloth and you can breathe in the fresh scent of lavender and other essential herbs. After, I head to the pool, laze in the sun and swim a few laps.

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time to head to the dock for the Wednesday night summer sailing Regatta. The Inn owns three sailboats, a French canal boat, a 55-foot motor yacht, and a Zodiac. I choose the Zodiac to view the Regatta because it reminds me of my panga trips from ships in Antarctica and the Amazon and I love speed/

I’m not a sailor but being on the river before sunset watching dozens of sailboats maneuvering around the buoys is exciting, especially while sipping a bottomless glass of champagne. On the way back, the skipper points out an egret’s nest. The male egret is sitting on top of the nest and the mother’s head can just be seen inside, feeding her three chicks.

I cannot believe it is already Saturday night, time for my final dinner at “Stars,” Perry Cabin’s fine dining venue. The night is beautiful and I choose to sit outside in a cushioned chair and enjoy the Chef Tasting Menu which includes two amuse bouches, Maryland Crab soup, Crispy Wittmare Shard softshell crab (as good as last night’s), and for my main course, Maryland crab cake with home-made pasta, I have never had such puffy tasty crab cakes –they look like puffy clouds and taste delicious.

It still isn’t over. Baked on Smith Island and along the Maryland coast is the famous “Smith Island” cake, a cake made of many thin, pancake-like layers of yellow cake separated by decadent fudge icing. The Inn at perry Cabin calls their version “Cabin Fever,” and deviates from the classic recipe, depending on what’s in season such as peach or apricot.

Here at the Inn at Perry Cabin, they bend over backwards to make your stay ideal. For the moment, I am thinking of asking them to produce a wheelbarrow and roll me back to my room. But instead, I walk back under a universe of stars. I will be leaving tomorrow after breakfast, regrettably,  because I have so much work to get done. But this two-night stay has been exactly what I need – I will head home relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to take on (with much less stress) whatever comes my way.

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