I feel like I haven’t done a day trip adventure post in a while, so I’m happy to say we recently ventured to Annapolis. Just a 45-minute drive from Bethesda, I knew a bit about Annapolis, mainly its relationship with sailing and its status as home to the US Naval Academy, but not much else. I don’t think I bargained for such a delightful day.
One thing Jeff reminded me of when we arrived in Annapolis—it is the capital of Maryland. I had a hard time believing this at first, and even after seeing the State House, because Annapolis feels nothing like what you might think a capital city would feel like. It feels less like a booming center of business and industry for the state, and more like a quaint vacation destination. Now I haven’t lived in Maryland for long, but from what I do know of it, I feel like this element of Annapolis’s character is actually exactly right.
The brick buildings and walkable cobblestone streets felt similar to Frederick, and the city’s sounds were less of automobiles and air conditioning units and more of joyful conversation and water being pushed aside by passing boats. The only thing signaling that Annapolis is the state’s capital is, as you may have guessed, the State House. But even that, with its brick walls and domed roof, perched up on a hill, felt historic and stately in a warm and friendly way.
We walked along the City Dock and the waterway called Ego Alley, sat on a bench, and watched countless boats come in and out of the harbor. Here especially, with the city at our backs, it felt like we were in the harbor of a summer vacation destination like Newport. Boating, especially when you’re merely a passenger, as I often am, is incredibly relaxing, but almost equally so is sitting and watching other boats float by. It elicits a mix of jealousy and contentment, that you know how good it feels for the boat’s passengers and you’re able to steal a snippet of it for yourself.
The majority of our visit to Annapolis was spent roaming the grounds of the US Naval Academy, which bore many similarities to your average university but also some stark differences. Because it’s July, there aren’t many students currently on campus. It did seem, however, that most of the incoming midshipmen were there, participating in training that would bring them up to speed for the start of the school year. As we walked around the campus we passed many groups of kids—I can say kids, as they were likely 17 and 18, and some looked even younger—dressed in plain white uniforms with water bottles strapped to their waists, marching to a beat being projected by a brown uniformed-leader marching alongside the group. Based on something I read in the visitor’s center, it appeared that these leaders were incoming seniors, here for the summer to train the freshman. As we watched them marching, pivoting and side-stepping, both Jeff and I were struck by the way in which the leaders were treating their groups. Instead of the boot camp-style yelling and berating I’ve seen in movies, they were supportive and encouraging, offering constructive, positive feedback. I really got the sense that they were all a team, and that instead of trying to beat the group down, they really wanted to raise them up.
Like many universities, the campus was tied together by the architecture. It felt very similar to that of many of the government buildings in downtown D.C.; giant stone blocks forming strong, clean facades. Some of the buildings did feel like they would house government offices, particularly the Memorial Hall, with its grand, marble foyer and its regally appointed meeting rooms. For a school, there did seem to be an excess of athletic facilities, but I suppose that’s to be expected at a military school. It’s also lovely how the campus is surrounded on two sides by water, and along one of those sides sits all of the athletic fields, with the exception of the football stadium. I can imagine how fresh and invigorating it must feel to be out on the practice field on a sunny spring day with a breeze coming in off the bay.
We finished our visit to the Naval Academy with a stroll through their museum. Along with a comprehensive history of the navy, the museum boasts a large collection of model ships; in the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s, British shipbuilders used to have scale models constructed alongside the full size ships, and the Naval Academy has a large collection of these. Every detail is there—even on the inside of the ships, which tiny cameras on the ends of scopes allow us to see today, but which the builders at the time must have assumed no one would ever examine. The museum also houses one of the largest collection of model ships made from bones by French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars, the scale and detail of which were simply astounding.
Finally, I couldn’t finish this blog without mentioning Old Fox Books and Coffeehouse, a bookstore and coffee shop we happened into simply because I was thirsty. After passing through the small bookstore at the front of the townhouse and getting a drink in the back, we continued onto the back patio and down into the garden, which was a sort of magical, literary oasis complete with a playhouse made from books. It was rather hot on the day of our visit, and the 15 minutes we spent in this garden were very rejuvenating.
Overall, our trip to Annapolis was lovely. While there, we happened to look up the Annapolis Boat Show, which occurs in October and presents the opportunity to tour new state-of-the-art boats for sale. If we don’t return to the city before then, I’m sure we’ll be back for that!