Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Good Morning Baltimore!"

Much to my disappointment, I only had a half day in Baltimore. The weather was just not cooperating! The morning was misty, damp and cloudy, but I still had a wonderful time. Since my time was short I chose to focus on just the Inner Harbor area. There's a lot more to the city of Baltimore, but the Inner Harbor is the hip tourist district.
Cost Saver's Tip: DON'T PARK ON THE PIER. It was horribly expensive. I parked on pier 5 because I was close to the attractions and would save me time! But it cost me $24 for just 3.5hrs of parking!
Any way, on Pier 5 is the Seven-Foot Knoll Lighthouse, along with some of the high-end dining establishments. 
But just before this I had an amazing thing happen to me. I stopped for coffee and the barista offered me an umbrella to use! It was a wonderful #RandomActofKindness and really made my day! Check it out! 
It has cats in it! 😸😽😻 which I'm allergic to 😷 so it was rather ironic. 😏
After the lighthouse, I went to cross the bridge towards pier 4 and came across the USCGC (United States Coast Gaurs Cutter) Taney. As I've perviously said, my Grandfather and my Dad were both in the Coast Guard so I always love to see tributes and memorials to them. 
Next it was on to pier 4! My main point of interest was the National Aquarium, but it didn't open for another 30 minutes (10am) so I went and explored the rest of that pier. There's several shops and restaurants, so if you're planning for lunch down there don't worry! Plenty of variety. I very much liked the look of their Barnes and Noble store. It was a beautifully renovated factory! 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Museums made fun!

This week I had a wonderful chat with a family of a single mom and 3 girls( 11, 13, and 14). I had sat next to them in the Air & Space building of the Smithsonian. The girls were filling out these questionnaires and I thought perhaps they were here with their school. However, it turns out they were just here for fun and their mom types up these fill-in-the-blank worksheets before ever trip. Then they fill in the answers and if they complete them then they all get to enjoy a surprise bonus on their last day.
I thought this was truly genius and when I asked the mom more about it she confessed that it's actually turned out far better then she even imagined! When the girls were younger they spend hours of each vacation fighting, now they're working together so they can have that prize. Although she confessed that they have yet to not complete a quiz. She wasn't sure how she'd end up handling it, but she doesn't anticipate that happening since the girls are allowed to assist each other- but NOT give away answers.
I asked if it took her long to compile these quizzes. "About an hour one evening", that's it! She does 3-4 questions per museum and she's found that it's promoted team work, excitement, museum interaction and family bonding. 
The girls also seemed very excited about traveling too. When I told them I had lived in Germany they had loads of questions. They're trying to get their mom to take them there this summer, but she seemed worried about cost. I gave her a few links which could really help cut down on that and I think she's actually considering it.
All I do know, is this woman was brilliant. I can only imagine how intimidating traveling as a single mother must be. She's really inspired me and I hope to use her tricks if I ever become a parent!

DC in a Day

What can you expect from attempting to cover the Nation's Capital in a day? Well for starters, you should anticipate an ache in your feet and legs so deep that you just want to cut them off!!! But that goes without saying really. πŸ™ƒ
On a serious note, you'll have to sacrifice. It's impossible to see everything in one day. I know people who have lived here for years and still not explored ALL of the smithsonian. My recommendation is to choose the top 2 items you're wanting see (think bucket list) and chart your day around them. Then everything else is a wonderful bit of extra adventure, and we all know I love those!
On this trip I've chose the Lincoln Monument
and the Air & Space sector of the Smithsonian
Two classics. And even though I've visited them both before, they were still in my top 5 things to see again. It was really hard to not pick the US Holocaust Museum
the BEST museum I've ever visited, hands down. But it's incredibly emotionally draining, I didn't think I'd be able to recover quickly enough to enjoy the rest of my day.
The nice part of my selection is that they're right on the Mall, so it was easy to get in those much coveted photo ops.
One thing was obvious on this trip, it's an election year and capital hill is trying to get spruced up before all the camera crews show up! There was construction everywhere I turned. Kinda a bummer, but at least the weather was fairly nice. Low 50s in late February, who could ask for more? Plus the sun was out most of the day and the wind was pretty tolerable.
Photographer's tip: 99% of your selfie are going to be at the worst angle imaginable! All those talk builds- no hiding my double chin or round face, so just embrace it! 
Seriously, so unflattering! Oh well.
Walking the mall is an experience in and of itself! It's broken into 3 main sections: capital hill, the grand lawn (or museum alley, as I call it!), and monument lane. I started at Capital Hill and work my was West. But I knew I'd go back east because I saved the Air & Space Museum for the afternoon. I got to explore several of the small gardens joust off the grand lawn area- most of which have wonderful sculpture exhibits. They have everything from contemporary 
To the more traditional European garden styles: 
So a little something for everyone!
Transportation tip: the DC metro is the best in the US! Clean, simple, direct- what's not to love. But if you're just there for a day, I'd just go with a single fare card. If you're there for 3 days then get a pass, it's totally worth it. And try to avoid office hour rushes like 7-8am or 4:30-6pm. It's hard because several of the museums close at 5pm, but I would recommend just trolling around a bit more until the rush passes. Also, for those of you with more balance than myself, bike shares are available all over the city!
They could save you some ache in your feet, but be safe because DC drives don't break for tourists!
Lastly, dining. Just be prepared, it's going to be costly. Everything is tourist and politician pricing! If you're looking to splurge- Old Ebbit's Grille is just next to the White House and their burger is delicious. If you're just looking for something lite and quick, most of the museums have cafes. The fare is pretty traditional and won't break the bank. But you all know me and my love for local, so I go where the people lead me! And this trip they lead me to a Peruvian Food Truck called El Fuego. All the offerings looked good, but I went with a Pan Con Chicharon with Yucca Fries. It was delicious and very filling! 
Rest Stop Tip: bathrooms on the mall are hard to fine, but each building of the Smithsonian should have at least one per floor. Charging stations are also a rarity! I only found one bench with a plug-in within the whole Air & Space building! So again, timing is key. Also, stay off Twitter- lesson learned. πŸ™„
At the end of my day I felt pretty productive for having less than 8 hours in the city! Here are a few other sites I visited along the way: 
The Castle
The MLK Jr. Memorial 
The WWII Memorial 
The Korean War Memorial
The reflecting pool, empty πŸ˜’
The Capital Building, under construction πŸ™„ (see above horrible selfie!)
Tomorrow I'm heading to Baltimore! Look for that post. It should be excellent!