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Stepping back in time in Cambridge

February 8, 2010

Before being snowbound — did I mention that another 10-20″ is due to hit DC Tuesday? No? I don’t want to talk about it… — I was actually able to travel and visit yet another part of Maryland that I’ve seen only in passing: Cambridge.

Ever since I’ve known Lauren, she’s talked about showing me around her hometown and we finally got the chance. Cambridge is just over the Bay Bridge across the Chesapeake Bay, one of the oldest cities in Maryland (settled in 1684) and famous as the hometown of Harriet Tubman, Annie Oakley and Bea Arthur.

Main Street is a collection of boutiques, small restaurants and a couple of bars. Some places still have original 1950s signs hanging overhead, even if today the sign isn’t at all related to the store itself.

Like any small town with locally run businesses, it’s hard when bigger stores come to town — Walgreens closed down one of the city’s family-owned drugstore — so I liked the front-window requests to “shop local.”

We walked around the quiet downtown for a while, noticing that every store except one was closed on this sleepy Sunday. It makes sense — winter isn’t exactly high tourist season — but you still have to wonder where locals shop on the weekend. The answer, sadly, is probably Wal-Mart.

The 11,000-person population grows exponentially during the warmer summer months, when tourists descend on Cambridge for its small town charm and proximity to both the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean.

The city itself sits on the Choptank River. Tons of boats dock here and I want to go back in the summer to actually enjoy the beachfront, not be constantly running for shelter from the freezing wind! πŸ˜‰

Driving through town, I noticed a gorgeous Episcopal church and insisted on going in. I love visiting different churches, especially old ones, and seeing the unique architecture and different decorations and paintings.

Unfortunately it was locked — on a Sunday! — but we did meander into the graveyard. Because along with old churches, I also enjoy visiting old graveyards.

What a nice surprise! Well, you know, as nice as a graveyard can be. It was peaceful (okay, obviously!)Β  and filled with historic tombstones from former Maryland governors, Revolutionary War veterans and members of the Tubman family (as in, Harriet Tubman and her husband’s owners).

There are so many small towns like this scattered around Maryland’s eastern shore, so expect to see more this spring and summer when I get back to the US and the weather warms up.

I’ve really wanted to visit Smith Island lately, where locals talk in an old-fashioned Elizabethan dialect. How fascinating would that be?

And this post can’t be complete without mentioning the food. Lauren’s mom put out an amazing feast for us — thank you, Mrs. E! — and made sure we were stuffed and satisfied. She made the most incredible fresh crabcakes, the first homemade ones I’ve ever had and easily the best crabcakes ever. Just insanely good.

Crabbing is still the way of life for many people on the Eastern Shore. When I interned at NOAA one summer, I got to go out on a Department of Natural Resources patrol boat one day and talk to the fishermen. It really put a human face on fishing — on the Bay, it’s not all huge operations but instead one or two people in a small family-owned boat. The guidelines on the size of fish and crabs is also strictly enforced, which I was happy to see.

I loved spending time in this adorable town. As we drove around, Lauren could point out who lived in each home and recognized other people driving or running by. That sense of community would be the greatest benefit to living in a small town, I think, and I can’t wait to return this summer for some quality beach time and maybe even some more crabcakes. πŸ˜€

Do you live in a small town, suburb or big city? Where do you want to live? It was nice growing up in the suburbs of a big city and being able to take advantage of everything DC has to offer, but now I can’t wait to move into the city itself. Living in a MASSIVE city like Seoul, though, was too much for me. London and DC are much more my speed. πŸ˜€

21 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2010 5:21 pm

    I don’t know if you’d call Ann Arbor a big city itself or a suburb of Detroit (it’s getting so mushed together!), but I love exploring my town! I love exploring any town, really!

    • February 8, 2010 5:39 pm

      I’ve heard such good things about Ann Arbor. I wish College Park was a college town in the same way AA is… we had a huge lack of anything unique or original.

  2. Mrs. E permalink
    February 8, 2010 5:25 pm

    You are always welcome at our house and the crab cakes are a given πŸ™‚

  3. Kristin permalink
    February 8, 2010 5:30 pm

    I live in Des Moines, which is the biggest city in Iowa and the capital city… But most people from any other city don’t think it qualifies as a city because it’s so small. πŸ™‚ That’s actually what I like about Des Moines–it has a small-town feel with city conveniences. Also, there’s a growing Young Professional crowd and lots of funky, local shops and restaurants developing. I grew up in a small town, though, so I might need to go back that direction someday. I also LOVED London when I studied abroad there, though, and so who knows.

    Cambridge looks AMAZING!!!!!!! I want to go right now!!!
    Why is it so dead in the winter? What is the weather like? I’m sitting here in a snowstorm with blizzard-like conditions thinking Cambridge looks pretty good! πŸ™‚


    • February 8, 2010 5:38 pm

      Bonus points for also studying abroad in London! πŸ˜€

      It’s beautiful but cold — it was probably in the 30s when we were there. Being on the water doesn’t help matters…

  4. February 8, 2010 7:09 pm

    Wow, Cambridge looks really nice- I’ve never been there but I’d like to visit. Sometimes I think it’s nice to go to towns like that when it’s not tourist season- though nothing open isn’t awesome either.

    I grew up in a suburb, I think I always need the big city to be nearby, I’m not quite a small town person πŸ™‚

  5. Anne permalink
    February 8, 2010 7:40 pm

    Jim and I love Cambridge — it’s a great place for birding along the Choptank and at nearby Blackwater Wildlife Refuge. We saw some amazing water birds in Cambridge one fall and white pelicans — very rare for this far north — at Blackwater.

  6. February 8, 2010 9:30 pm

    You’re a great tour guide. I enjoyed the post…words and pics.

    P.S: Thanks for mentioning the podcasts. I have almost worn out my music and forgot about a good free podcast I know of that would be a nice change of pace.

    • February 8, 2010 9:35 pm

      Thank you. πŸ™‚

      Personally, I really enjoy Jillian Michaels’ podcasts ( and find them entertaining, inspirational and educational. My mom loves walking while listening to Rick Steves. Something for everyone!

      • February 9, 2010 1:55 pm

        Thanks for the suggestions. After 20minutes I finally figured out how to get Jillian on my Iphone! I bookmarked Rick Steeves for another day.

        The podcast I’m looking forward to is Vinyl Cafe Stories from CBC Radio. The host Stuart McLean is a great story teller and he also features a lot of music. Although I don’t like all the music selections I endure for the stories he tells. If you ever get a chance the best one is “Dave cooks the (christmas) turkey”. It’s hilarious.

        I used to listen to it in my car and work truck but they changed the broadcast time and my car radio died on top of that.

  7. February 8, 2010 9:42 pm

    I currently live in a small town (I guess it’s technically a city though). I can’t wait to live in a HUGE city like Buenos Aires or San Francisco!

  8. February 8, 2010 10:40 pm

    Ugh– I can’t believe MORE snow is on the way for us either! When will it ever end?!?

  9. February 8, 2010 10:40 pm

    I live in NYC now and grew up in a small town and then a small city. I really can’t decide if I want to stay in the city or move to the middle of nowhere!
    Glad you had a fun little mini trip πŸ™‚

  10. February 9, 2010 12:11 am

    Great post! Looks like a special place:-) I would love to see the Chesapeake area someday!!!
    I don’t only live in a small town but I live on a small island ( exactly how I like it πŸ™‚ However, it’s handy having the family spread out in some of the world’s great cities…(San Francisco, Buenos Aires and Sydney) so, I’m pretty lucky to have the best of both worlds I guess πŸ™‚ Much Aloha!

  11. Stef @ moretolifethanlettuce permalink
    February 9, 2010 12:48 am

    such beautiful pics, what a charming town!

  12. prettytimepiece permalink
    February 9, 2010 7:47 am

    i had no idea maryland had such adorable areas! now i want to visit πŸ™‚ i love the original 1950’s signs !

    hmmm, if I could live ANYwhere… it’d be a hard choice between a cute quirky old-fashioned-y town and a city like new york. I’d probably pick the city.

    • February 9, 2010 9:30 am

      I think like any state, there are quaint small towns and really fantastic areas, but also plenty of trashy parts haha. Just depends on where you are! πŸ™‚

  13. February 9, 2010 8:47 am

    looks like a fun adventure!

  14. February 9, 2010 12:38 pm

    It really does look like a different era. How cute.

    Atlanta is really spread out. I live in-town, but you still have to drive to a lot of parts of the city. Unfortunately, our subway system is kind of awful. But we’re about to move to a more suburban area. I would love to buy a house in-town, but I just can’t afford it right now.


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