The bay in all its splendor

Monday Book Reviews

October 26, 1992|By John Goodspeed

THE CHESAPEAKE BAY BOOK: A COMPLETE GUIDE. B Allison Blake with Eric Mills and Jean Harper. Berkshire House. Illustrated. 304 pages. $14.95 (paperback).

AS advertised in the subtitle, this book is indeed as close to a complete guide to the Chesapeake Bay as there is. By which I mean it's a complete guide for tourists, sightseers, naturalists, hunters and other visitors to the land immediately adjacent to the bay and its tributaries -- and for swimmers, sailors, anglers, motorboaters and participants in other sports on the Chesapeake.

What other guide is there that lists both the car rental agencies at the area's major airports and the places you might find ballet on the Eastern Shore? Zoos as well as fancy grocery stores? Ferry schedules as well as traffic bottlenecks?

You get all that in "The Chesapeake Bay Book" -- plus a brief history of the region, maps showing you how to get to almost any town and village in the bay's littoral zone from almost anywhere else, good photos of the beauty spots, good #i descriptions (with phone numbers) of scores of recommended restaurants, hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns, boutiques and antique stores. That's just a suggestion of the information presented.

The book is a paragon of its sort, a veritable trove. It could use an index.

The lead author, Allison Blake, covers Annapolis and the Western Shore of Maryland; Eric Mills the Eastern Shore, and Jean Harper the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and Eastern Shore of Virginia, and they seem to have taken in every worthy location in the territory. The tone of their writing is generally upbeat, livelier than most guide books. It is not, however, a product of civic boosterism. It leaves the big cities to other guides, for example -- meaning it more or less ignores the glitzy Inner Harbor at Baltimore and the revered marble in the District of Columbia.

And it's critical in places. It notes, for example, that the Admiral Cockburn Tavern in Georgetown (Kent County) is ironically named after the British admiral who burned down the rest of the town in the War of 1812. It remarks that the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels (Talbot County) seems to be in the business of selling snob appeal. It says the service can be very slow at the Corinthian Restaurant in Annapolis. This book fairly brims with integrity.

As an occasional traveler who for half a century has patronized a good many of the enterprises listed by Ms. Blake and company, I'll note that I generally concur with the evaluations.

But a warning to tourists: Don't expect to get great beef steaks in a Chesapeake restaurant. Stick to seafood. If you don't fancy it, order corned beef on rye.

John Goodspeed writes from Easton.

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