Making lunch memorable – holiday edition

Christmas ornament from the Belair Mansion in Bowie, Maryland
Christmas ornament from the Belair Mansion in Bowie, Maryland

I love meeting a friend for lunch. I also love exploring places I have never been. So why not combine the two and elevate the simple lunch to a mini road trip?

My friend Craig and I like to take trips to nearby towns that we hear about either, in Craig’s case, the local news, or, in my case, while listening to my local traffic and weather reports on WTOP(…on the eights!)  The only rule we have is that the town we visit has to be new to both of us. Our last trip was to Waldorf, Maryland. We thought it would be fun to explore old town Waldorf and find a Waldorf salad. We were unable to find either. We did, however, find ourselves having a wonderful time.

A couple of weeks ago we went to Old Town Bowie in Maryland and decided to look for a Bowie knife. Luckily we did find Bowie’s old town but the knife was never found. And yes, we are aware that neither the salad or knife is indigenous to Maryland, we just thought it would be a fun twist.

When we mention these trips to people we get either one of two reactions. The first is a blank stare followed by a look questioning our sanity. The second is a smile and appreciation for doing something just for the fun of it. The people with the second reaction, those are our people. I mean, what is the difference in exploring a town you have never been to while on vacation miles away and exploring a town nearby? Really, just a few hundred bucks in airfare and not being gone so long as to have to hire a dog sitter.

We stopped at the visitor center, toured the caboose in the parking lot and had lunch at Old Bowie Town Grille. Afterwards we visited Belair mansion. Belair mansion is famous for breeding race horses, most notably two Triple Crown champs. This spoke to Craig’s own history, having lived for many years in Saratoga, a town in upstate New York known for horse racing. We also learned that  a Levitt Town was built on the land surrounding the mansion and its stables. This spoke to my own history, growing up on Long Island where another of the original towns Levitt and Sons built is located. That would be Levittown, New York. Neither of us knew we would stumble upon our own personal connections to a place we had only heard of in passing. We ended the day stopping off at Mama D’s Cocoa Delights, a lovely confectionary where we chatted with the owner and candy maker.

It was also on this trip that I found a lovely Christmas ornament in the mansion’s gift shop. It now sits on my tree, not far from my home ornament. And next year, when the memory of Bowie is a little fuzzy, our adventure together will come back when I lift the key out of my ornament box and place it on the tree.

All in all we spent only four hours, including driving to and from, on our little adventure. We met interesting people at the Grille and at the mansion. And I would like to think a life-long friendship with a woman who makes the best almond toffee I have ever had in my life (though she might not remember our visit the same way.)


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