Discovering Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay: Colonial History, Maritime Traditions and Delicious Crabcakes:

Chesap Bay Sunset
The Chesapeake Bay is an historical and ecological hotbed on the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The area is most known for its abundance of shorelines, islands and native seafood—especially blue crab, oysters and clams. The bay was also one of the first areas in the US to be settled and saw a part in both the American Revolutionary War as well as the War of 1812. While on tour with VBT you’ll explore this relatively undiscovered portion of U.S. by visiting its small towns and villages, and learning about the maritime traditions, shell fisherman, craftspeople, and local artisans that make up such a vibrant, eclectic community.

Colonial Relics
The Chesapeake Bay was first explored in the early 1600s but the popular waterway really flourished in the 18th Maryland tour Groupcentury. Today you can visit colonial seaports like St. Michaels and Chestertown—once the second biggest port in Maryland—and explore their historic town centers, museums and learn about the way life used to be back in simpler times. Present day Chestertown still provides a window into the colonial times, which is evident in the architecture of the town’s courthouse and 18th century brick mansions that were erected by wealthy shipping merchants when the town was designated as one of the 6 Royal Ports of Entry. Did you know that a few months after the infamous Boston Tea Party, Chestertown staged its own revolt against the crown? Every year the Chestertown Tea Party Festival is held on Memorial Day Weekend and pays homage to the event with re-enactments, parades and a plethora of colonial era music and dancing demonstrations.

By Sea…
12Much of the area’s wealth was attained years ago when many ports in the Chesapeake Bay thrived with either trading or fishing operations. Today there is still a strong relationship with the water as many fisherman, boatyards and harbors dot the shoreline. The bay, of course, is also widely known for its blue crab population. The tasty crustaceans are caught during crab season, from April through December, and are often served in a variety of ways including Maryland Crabcakes. With VBT, you’ll visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, explore historic seaports and even take a ride on a skipjack and the oldest private ferry still in operation in the US in the quaint community of Oxford. One of the best ways to learn about the area’s marine history is from local fishermen who still live and breathe the ocean life everyday.

Or if by Land…
Of course the Chesapeake Bay is also ripe with amazing bicycling routes that allow you to really get a sense of the culture and landscape. You’ll balance breezy rides along the coast with lovely routes more inland past farms and wildlife refuges. The Chesapeake Bay is home to over 200 species of birds including Bald Eagles, Indigo Buntings, Great Blue Herons, Piping Clovers, Peregrine Falcons and other rare or endangered species. The rural communities away from the coastline are home to a resurgence of family farms that tend to their own land and churn out delicious products from grass-fed beef to artisan cheeses.

We hope you enjoyed reading about the Chesapeake Bay and we have given you some fun insight into this area of the east coast and are looking forward to having you join us here in 2014. For more information about VBT’s Maryland: Cycling the Chesapeake Bay ​biking vacation please click here.

Top Pastries from Around the World

A pastry is basically any food made from dough consisting of flour, water, and shortening. However, that general description can be used as the base for an almost unquantifiable amount of unique and delicious dishes from around the world. And here at VBT we know a little something about world travel. As experiencing the native cuisine in your travel destination is such a distinct part of your travel experience, we thought it would be fun to compile a list of some of the tastiest pastries from around the world.

Apple Pie (2)United States: Apple Pie
Despite the expression “as American as Apple Pie,” this dish actually originated in Europe. However, it became widely popular among American settlers in the early 1800’s, especially in Delaware, and has morphed into a distinctly American dessert often served “a la mode” with a scoop of ice cream.

FranzbroetchenGermany: Franzbrötchen
Traditionally a breakfast pastry, this dish is made from dough, butter and cinnamon and is very common in the northern part of the country near Hamburg.

Gur cakeIreland: Gur Cake
This dish which originated in Dublin—the name is derived from a contraction of “gutter cake” with an Irish accent—is made from an inexpensive mixture of bread crumbs, raisins and a sweetener spread between two layers of pastry.

KrostuleCroatia: Kroštule
This traditional pastry found on the Dalmatian Islands will remind you of visiting the fair as a child as it is basically the Croatian version of deep fried dough.

StrukliSlovenia: Štruklji
This traditional Slovene dish is typically made from buckwheat dough which is flattened, filled with either sweet or savory ingredients and rolled up, baked (or fried or boiled) and cut into slices. VBT travelers will learn to make this on our Slovenia, Austria & Italy biking vacation.

KouignamannFrance: Kouign-amann
France, of course, is known for amazing pastries like éclairs and croissants; but is also home to this Breton puff pastry-like cake made from dough, butter and sugar.  

CannoliItaly: Cannoli
This delectable Sicilian dessert consists of fried pastry dough filled with a mixture containing ricotta cheese and topped with anything from chocolate chips to pistachios.

Basque Region: Gateau Basque
This unique dish found in Basque country is made from an almond flour cake filled with pastry cream and fruit, like cherries.

Pate ChaudVietnam: Pâté Chaud
This French inspired pastry common in Vietnamese bakeries is decidedly savory and consists of a puff pastry filled with ground meat like pork or chicken.

Smith islandMaryland: Smith Island Cake
The Smith Island Cake—which is the State Dessert of Maryland—is a local spin on a traditional English torte. The Smith Island Cake typically has from 7  to 10 thin layers of yellow cake with each layer covered in either chocolate  frosting or sometimes banana, orange or coconut.

If you consider yourself a “Foodie” and would like to learn more about VBT’s special Culinary Departures on vacations to the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany or Vietnam please click here.