Wordless Wednesday: On the Annapolis waterfront

Boat on the Bay




Walking around Annapolis, Md., on Sunday.
The water was, um, wee bit high — and not even high tide!

For more Wordless Wednesday, visit here!

A day at the olde Renaissance faire

I was a Ren Fest hold-out.

I’m not quite sure where my beef with the annual Maryland Renaissance Festival stemmed from. I thought it was geeky? Or strange? Or like a grown-up version of trick-or-treating, wandering from booth to booth with cider and asking for treats?

I don’t know. I was misled. And I’ve since seen the error of my ways — and am officially converted.

This year marked my first trip to the yearly celebration of all things medieval. We’d talked about going last year, but it never worked out. My sister and her boyfriend are big fans and frequently discussed the awesomeness of Ren Fest’s good eats, and I’m nothing if not hungry. So with that in mind, we made plans to meet up with my cousin Karen and her husband, Ben, who showed us the ins and outs of such an experience. When our buddies Mike and Bethany got there, too, our crew of eight was ready to tackle anything.

Including archery. And rock climbing.

Well, they attempted rock climbing. I’m not that crazy.

Our day at Ren Fest was marked by lots of good eats, hard apple cider and lots — I mean lots — of people-watching. Many attendees come dressed in their finery: flowing gowns; kilts; suits of armor; fairy wings. It was like stepping into a magical land. Or a “Harry Potter”-esque village. Because the festival happens every year, the structures are permanent. Before we got there, I was picturing circus-like tents and the atmosphere of a county fair.

Not so much.

Ren Fest is no joke. Jousting, shops, dining, archery, a maze — there was more than enough to kill an afternoon. I really enjoyed the joust and my “fryed” ice cream (it’s old-timey, see), and it didn’t hurt that it was an absolutely gorgeous fall day spent with family and friends. It was huge, too, and easy to get turned around. Even with the maps and texting, it wasn’t hard to get separated. And wind up in the middle of a walking “show.”

Though I’m not sure I’m ready to dress up myself, I see the appeal of being someone else for a day — and walking around with others who totally appreciate the merits of chainmail. Going from 2012 to 1514 wasn’t as big a leap as I expected . . . especially after watching “The Tudors” religiously for years.

Man, I miss that show.

So after years of dodging the Ren Fest, I finally made it — and I’m not sure why I was such a fool. I mean, how can you be unhappy while eating a crab, cheese and Old Bay-covered pretzel? (This is Maryland, after all.) And with plenty of photo opportunities, I was a happy little Renaissance-era camper.

I’m not sure you’ll squeeze me into a Queen Guinevere gown anytime soon, but the good eats and fall leaves will keep me coming back for more.

Sunflower fields forever

We almost didn’t find the field.

My mom was told sunflowers blossom every summer at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Montgomery County, Maryland, and I found the photographic evidence to prove it. We got word the flowers were planted later than normal this year, so the peak blooming season would be early August. Fine and good. We also heard the sunflowers were in a different field than in previous years, one “to the right” of the main field — check and check.

After driving an hour and a half, we arrived at McKee-Beshers. We parked near the main field. We walked “to the right” and . . . nothing. Sunlight. Weeds. Bright blue skies . . . and no sunflowers.

This was already shaping up to be an odyssey.

We made friends along our search, all of us cruising around the property with harried expressions. We parked and got out, checked and moved again. Over and over. Again and again. It’s not that big, we reasoned; surely we can find these things? How hard can it be to find an entire field of sunflowers?

A half hour later, we were still looking — and had amassed quite the caravan. A family of six, the parents loaded down with camera equipment, strollers and car seats. Two friends fresh from an evening at the nearby Buddhist temple. A mother and her two daughters, eager to snap portraits in the waning afternoon light. A man, his daughter and his elderly mother, all dressed in their Sunday best.

At our final stop of the evening — at the very last parking lot, the very last place it could possibly be — Spencer and I hopped out of the van and ran ahead to a clearing. It was 6 p.m., just at the golden hour, and we were at the end of our patience. I was sweaty and hungry. It was starting to feel like this whole thing was going to be a bust — an epic waste of time and gas. A giant disappointment.

“If it’s not here,” I said to Spence, “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

If it’s not here, I thought, I’m going to completely freak out.

Yellow sunlight poured into a clearing as we walked out of the woods and into the giant field. I held my breath as the first few stalks of green came into view, blinking to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. Seeing what I wanted to see.

But I wasn’t.

Yeah!” I hooted, spinning around to do a dance in my parents’ line of view. “They’re here! We found them!”

It looked like something out of a fairytale. Green stems and sunflowers as far as the eye can see — streaming out in the direction of the sunset, which was quickly turning the sky pink. Though many of the buds had yet to burst open, I was captivated. Totally enthralled.

The other flower enthusiasts poured into the clearing — a steady river of relief. The family of six set up on one side of the field, our group of four on the other. The mother and daughters got their pictures. The friends went for a walk.

We only had 30 minutes before the sun dipped behind a thick cloud, throwing the whole field into shade. Thirty minutes before the mosquitoes began to nip at our legs and ankles. Thirty minutes before our grumbling stomachs meant we had to break for food. We buzzed around the field like insects, snapping a steady stream of photos. My mom, enamored with sunflowers since I was a kid, was in her element — and we made those minutes count.

The sunflowers weren’t at their peak, currently sitting only about shoulder-high, but they were wild and lovely and fabulous. I’m planning to go back next summer.

And we already starred and marked their location on our wrinkled map.