We drove to Annapolis during Spring break to explore the US Naval Academy’s campus where Jacob will be for a week this summer and to attend their admission information session as part of our quest to find a suitable university for him. Being in Annapolis would also allow us to be close enough for driving into Washington D.C. to visit monuments and museums. Before the trip, we hadn’t realized how much we would truly enjoy this city — its spunky people and vibrant energy — and its maritime character. We came to like Annapolis very much indeed.
Some interesting facts
- Founded in 1649, Annapolis was first called “Providence” by the Puritans who settled there. It was renamed Annapolis to honor Princess Anne, future queen of England.
- The city of about 40,000 people is located at the site where the Severn River flows into the Chesapeake Bay.
- The Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War was ratified in Annapolis, and this city became the first peacetime capital of the U.S. hosting the Continental Congress between 1783 – 1784.
- The Maryland State House in Annapolis, built in 1772, is the oldest state capitol building still in continuous legislative use, and is the only state house ever to have served as the nation’s capital.
- George Washington officially resigned his presidency at the Maryland State Capitol.
- Annapolis is the sailing capital of the U.S.
- People in Annapolis love crab. Cream crab soup is a local specialty, and it is terrific. Another seafood delicacy here is rock fish.
- The current mayor of Annapolis is a South African-born Australian-American businessman.
- Beside the Naval Academy, Annapolis is also known for its annual Spring and Fall Sailboat Shows.
Our first full day in Annapolis was a Sunday when we were going to explore downtown and the Naval Academy on foot. The day held a lot of promise for wandering around as it was a sunny, breezy Spring day without being too bright. Taking it easy that morning, we thought we would easily find a parking space downtown since it was Sunday. In our experience living in other cities except Saigon, not many people hang out downtown on Sunday mornings. Therefore, we were tremendously surprised to find downtown Annapolis packed at 10am with only one parking spot left. The whole historic downtown area with Chesapeake Bay at its center was throbbing with youthful energy and a convivial atmosphere when we, the latecomers, arrived.
Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States.
Some residential architectural spotlights
The houses near downtown and around the Naval Academy looked quite old and well-kept; the residential streets and front porches were very clean and tidy. There were gas lamps outside many of the bigger houses. One small house tucked between two larger one looked as if it could easily belong to a typical German old town.
The Iron Rooster breakfast restaurant
After walking around sight-seeing for three hours, we decided to have our lunch at the Iron Rooster breakfast restaurant. The Iron Rooster in downtown Annapolis is famous for its farm-fresh ingredients, for serving breakfast all day and for its long wait time. Passers-by were also being drawn to the restaurant by a live band playing music near the outdoor seating area. We ended up walking around for nearly one hour more while waiting for the restaurant’s text informing us that our table were available. However, I have to admit that the food was worth the wait: their Belgian waffle, pancake and bacon were excellent. The third photo shows the view of downtown from the window right behind our table.
Old Fox Books and Brown Mustache Coffee
Old Fox Books is a quaint used bookstore located on a small street full of old buildings, both residential and commercial, in downtown Annapolis not too far from the Naval Academy and St. John’s College. We saw students from both colleges at the coffeehouse inside the bookstore both times we were there. I remember getting really excited when two students from St John’s College had a lively conversation about Aristotle within everyone’s earshot. The liberal arts nerd in me always loves discussing ancient Greek philosophers and philosophical ideas.
The constant presence of the Naval Academy in Annapolis
Everywhere we went in downtown Annapolis, we saw Naval students out and about in their dress uniforms. At Old Fox Books, two female midshipmen sat right in front of us at the coffeehouse, and two male midshipmen came in as we were leaving. At the Iron Rooster, two female midshipmen sat right behind us when we first came to our table. When we drove around Annapolis, we saw Naval students jogging on the streets in droves. Here is a photo of their dress uniform I found on the Internet.
The Naval Academy told us in an email that a midshipman will be assigned to be with Jacob constantly from the time he arrives at the airport in Baltimore until the moment he departs at the gate to fly back home. This student will be wearing his white summer uniform the whole time in public.
Pho 5UP Vietnamese restaurant
In Annapolis, we found a Vietnamese restaurant specializing in beef noodle soups. Their food is close to being excellent, but the restaurant charmed us for having the friendliest and jolliest Vietnamese waiter we had ever encountered in the U.S. We ate there once and ordered take-outs for Jacob and me to have noodle soups for breakfast at the townhome. Having noodle soups for breakfast reminded me of my childhood in Vietnam and brought back some sweet memories of going to noodle soup restaurants near my grand-parents’ neighborhood with my mother and little sister.
Thank you for reading! May travelers find unexpected delights and childhood reminders on their journeys.