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
My visit to Talbot County, Maryland was for the MATPRA (Mid-Atlantic Tourism Public Relations Alliance) conference in the 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 (MD), Washington DC, Philadelphia (PA), and Wilmington (DE).
The stately red brick Tidewater Inn hosted our conference and the accommodations were stellar. This luxury bed and breakfast offers 92 modern boutique style guest rooms in a historic inn style setting, complete with a convention center in the mix. Hunters’ Tavern, the onsite restaurant, is where I enjoyed cocktails at the bar with a friend. It had a fun ambiance with intriguing menu options.
The rooms at the Tidewater Inn were comfortable and tastefully appointed. I love that the historic hotel still uses brass keys; very charming! The beds feature 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.
The Charming Town of Easton
Easton is a windfall for boutique shopping and retail therapy. Some of my favorite shops were Chef and Shower (cooking), Bountiful (home), and Dwelling and Design (home). If you are looking for art options in Talbot County, consider the South Street Gallery, Troika, and Grafton Galleries.
Our MATPRA welcome mixer and opening reception took place at The Academy Art Museum. The venue was lovely and filled with impressive artwork. I was impressed with the professional staff that passed around incredibly delicious hors-d’oeuvres. Later that night, several of us from the conference went on a walking ghost tour. Easton was the perfect place for it.
We had the pleasure of dining with Chef Chris Ferrell for an exquisite meal at the Bartlett Pear Inn. The farm-to-table meal were really good, plus the coziness of the restored house was truly enjoyable. Our group noshed on a BPI Benedict (local pork belly on olive oil brioche with a perfect poached egg) drizzled with Night Kitchen’s Piri Piri hollandaise sauce. The Eastern Shore Chef Salad was topped with crispy pancetta, cherry tomatoes, soft-shell crab, and bacon crème fraîche. It was extraordinary! This was a night my palate would long remember.
St. Michaels: An Alluring Town
St. Michaels is located ten minutes from Easton and continually voted one of the Top 10 Best Coastal Small Towns by USA Today. St. Michaels’ adorable streets are filled with charming shops and restaurants. The shops I recommend mend were Dragonfly Galleria (art), The Christmas Shop, and Olivins (olive oils and balsamic vinegar).
Our group of bloggers and I familiarized ourselves with the town by participating in a local food tour called “Eating St. Michaels”. On the tour, we learned some history of the area and heard intimate folklore while we nibbled our way through the town. Foxy’s Harbor Grille served us homemade 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 amazing 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 also a famous radio personality. No wonder she did such an awesome job explaining things! The food/history tour lasted approximately three hours. We all left quite full.
The Talbot County MATPRA Conference
There were about 45 travel bloggers/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 all 6 states represented and get familiar with their destinations. Each destination had a decorated booth, tons of printed literature, 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 sun set from the Inn’s Adirondack chairs on the lawn; what a stellar view! I felt an instant calming sensation that I had never felt anywhere in the United States at this very spot.
Note: Wedding Crashers was filmed here.
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, like myself. Other buffet items included Fried Chicken, Baked Beans, Pasta Salad, and fresh fruit.
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 to the Harvest Time Tour, we enjoyed thoughtfully prepared boxed lunches from Krave Courtyard. Their chicken salad was out-of-sight!
Our conference finished with a Lunch-and-Panel discussion before saying our goodbyes. I enjoyed MATPRA and hope to be in attendance this fall in its new host city: Winchester, Virginia.
A Glorious Visit to 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.
To read about my post-MATPRA exploring Queen Anne’s County, Maryland.
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.