MATPRA Conference in Talbot County, Maryland
Sometimes, you are immediately intrigued with a destination just from driving into the town. As I arrived at the Tidewater Inn, in Easton, I knew that I was in for a real treat. Easton, located in the Chesapeake Bay’s Talbot County, Maryland, was both charming and welcoming. I wanted to plant myself inside of a coffee shop or browse the darling shops on the main street at once.
Hello Chesapeake Bay
I visited Talbot County, Maryland for the MATPRA (Mid-Atlantic Tourism Public Relations Alliance) conference this fall. Talbot County is comprised of Easton, Saint. Michaels, Tilghman Island, and Oxford found on the Chesapeake Bay in the Eastern part of the state. This is the heart of the Eastern shore with over 600 miles of shoreline, located just outside of Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, DC; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Wilmington, Delaware.
The stately red brick Tidewater Inn hosted our conference and the accommodations were stellar. This luxury bed and breakfast had 92 modern boutique style guest rooms in a historic inn style setting, complete with a convention center setting. Hunters’ Tavern was the onsite restaurant where I enjoyed cocktails at the bar with a friend. It had a fun ambiance with intriguing menu options.
Upstairs, the rooms at the Tidewater Inn were comfortable and tastefully decorated. I love that the historic hotel still uses brass keys; how charming! The beds featured pillow-top mattresses, which helped me to sleep like a baby. I was also a fan of the European linens and customized toiletries. The Tidewater Inn is pet-friendly, always a plus in my book.
Easton is a windfall for boutique shopping. Some of my favorites shops were Chef and Shower (cooking), Bountiful (home), and Dwelling and Design (home). If you are looking for art options, there are plenty of interesting choices in Talbot County: South Street Gallery, Troika, and Grafton Galleries.
The MATPRA welcome mixer and opening reception took place at The Academy Art Museum. The venue was lovely and the artwork, impressive. Best of all, the professional staff passed around incredibly delicious hors-d’oeuvres. Later that night, many of us went on a walking ghost tour. Easton was the perfect place for it.
Our group had the pleasure of dining with Chef Chris Ferrell for an exquisite meal at the Bartlett Pear Inn. The farm-to-table foods were scrumptious plus the coziness of the restored house setting was an asset. We noshed on a BPI Benedict, local pork belly on olive oil brioche with a perfect poached egg and Night Kitchen’s Piri Piri hollandaise. The Eastern Shore Chef Salad, topped with crispy pancetta, cherry tomatoes, soft shell crab, and bacon creme fraiche, was extraordinary. It was a night my palate would long remember.
Inviting St. Michaels
St. Michaels is located ten minutes from Easton. It is continually voted one of the Top 10 Best Coastal Small Towns by USA Today. St. Michaels’ adorable streets were filled with charming shops and restaurants. The shops that I preferred were the Dragonfly Galleria (art), The Christmas Shop, and Olivins olive oils and balsamic vinegar. Olvins’ tastings were fabulous and their inventory was impressive.
Our group of bloggers and I familiarized ourselves with the town by participating in the Eating St. Michaels Food Tour. On the tour, we heard some brief history of the area and heard intimate folklore while we nibbled our way through the town. A stop at Foxy’s Harbor Grille gave us Orange Crush drinks and a fresh tuna dish, all with a fabulous view of the waterfront. My favorite stop on the tour was Awful Arthurs Seafood Company, a family run business since 1975, that had delicious Oysters, Blackened Tuna Bites with Wasabi Cream Sauce, and Jumbo Crab Balls. It was a surprise to learn that our Eating St. Michaels Food Tour operator and the owner was a famous radio personality. No wonder she did such an awesome job explaining things! The tour lasts approximately three hours and we left quite full.
The Talbot County MATPRA Conference
There were about 45 travel bloggers or journalists in attendance for the MATPRA travel conference and about the same number of destinations. The conference opened with Keynote Speaker Andrew Nelson from National Geographic Travel and the Media Marketplace followed. The Media Marketplace allowed us a chance to visit with destinations from six states and see if their city would be a good fit for us. Each destination had a decorated booth, tons of literature about the area, and representatives to answer questions. One booth offered mini Christmas trees and another, paper George Washington masks, which we all got a kick out of. Of course, it goes without saying that meeting so many wonderful people was one of the greater highlights of the marketplace.
Talbot County Adventures
While at MATPRA, we spent our afternoons on mini FAM trips, to familiarize ourselves with a certain area. There were five choices: exploring St. Michaels on your own, Sail and Sip St. Michaels, a Culinary Tour of Oxford, Eating St. Michael’s Food Tour, and Tour Tilghman. Afterwards, we all met up to have cocktails at the prestigious Inn at Perry Cabin. White-gloved servers passed excellent hors-d’oeuvres, such as canapés and fresh seafood. We watched the sunset from the Inn’s Adirondack chairs; what a stellar view! I felt an instant calming sensation that I had never felt anywhere in the United States at this very spot.
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
We were treated to a festive Maryland Crab Fest dinner at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Musicians played live music as we ate hoards of food and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Tables were set up for us to hammer the crabs ourselves, although attendants were on standby for those who needed a little help. Other buffet items included Fried Chicken, Baked Beans, Pasta Salad, and many other delectable sides.
The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has 18 waterfront acres, 10 exhibit buildings, and is ranked #1 in the area on Trip Advisor. It offers tours from 90 minutes to 4 hours long. Also on the property is the Hooper Strait Lighthouse, circa 1879. Boat rides were available for scenic river cruises.
More MATPRA Fun
Day two of the conference included more of the Media Marketplace and another afternoon FAM trip. I took part in the Harvest Time Tour, which gave us an in-depth look at the agri-tourism trend. Buses drove us to visit Wye Grist Mill (a working mill since 1682), Councell Farms (a farm stand and pumpkin patch) and Triple Creek Winery, located in Cordova. The most interesting thing that I learned was that the mill produced flour that fed George Washington’s Continental Army during the American Revolution. On the ride, we enjoyed thoughtfully prepared box lunches from Krave Courtyard. Their chicken salad was out-of-sight!
Thank You, Talbot County
You could say that I am now a huge fan of Talbot County, Maryland. I cannot believe that I lived six hours away, in Charleston, West Virginia for 44 years, and never once visited the Chesapeake Bay. There is so much to see and do, plus the waterfront has a tranquility that is second to none in the United States. I hope that you will visit these cool towns in the future.
To read about my pre-MATPRA adventures in Delaware, click here.
To read about my post-MATPRA exploring Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, click here.
Talbot County Photo Gallery:
Special thanks to the MATPRA conference committee, Talbot County Maryland CVB, and all of the above-mentioned sponsors for hosting myself and other journalists in your beautiful part of the country.