Hey I went to Baltimore <three weeks ago>! Matt, a childhood friend was getting married and my cousins Natalie and Paul live there so it was the ultimate excuse to jump on a plane and get out of town for a weekend of fun. In my delusional fantasy world I would have been accompanied by my +1 and taken a side trip to D.C. to visit other family, but reality laughed in my face instead (he had a mandatory class for his abroad program and my D.C. family was going to be traveling for a graduation.) It was still an amazing little trip and a much needed change of scenery even if it was not the original romantic/tourist vacation vision.
As an over-thinker, packing stresses me out to a ridiculous extreme. I have no explanation (other than a robust week of after-work socializing) for why I did not start packing for this trip until almost 11 p.m. the night before a 5:30 a.m. flight. This was not smart on my part and my neuroses only made it worse. (But I got in a last-minute pedicure, so that’s the tradeoff I guess.) Getting up at 3:00 to shower before calling a cab was downright excruciating, but thankfully adrenaline kicked right back in. My retired father offered to drive me to the airport at 4 which was sweet, but I felt I would be unable to continue my eyerolling when they insist I drive them to the airport at ungodly hours. Since I am less than ten minutes from the airport I sucked it up and called for a taxi (only to have the specific taxi driver call me back to confirm while I was in the utility closet turning down my hot water heater. Nothing like a LOUD, unexpected phone call at 3:45 a.m. while crouched down between machines.)
After finding my way to the right area of the airport (Southwest has switched concourses and 4 a.m. brain takes longer to process) I was accosted by security for having a tube of lip balm in my pocket. Apparently I was supposed to remove EVERYTHING (including paper, tissue, and lint.) By this point I was really ready to get my vacation started. Unfortunately, even in Milwaukee, you cannot get a vacation beverage at the airport before 6:00 a.m. (they will however let you sit at the bar starting at 5:00 a.m.) The flight was not full and I had an excellent boarding position so I was able to get my luggage situated and into my desired window seat without a fuss. The guy who ended up sharing my row sat on the aisle, but used the middle seat and middle tray table in addition to his own to completely spread out his work. It made me want to disturb him to get up simply on principle (you want to work on the plane, fine, but this isn’t a conference room.)
Once we landed in Baltimore I
stuffed a muffin into my face checked in with the Super Shuttle service and was on my way to the hotel. My van driver was really nice to point out a bunch of sites near the Inner Harbor that I was vaguely familiar with from my last trip, but it soon turned into him describing every building whether it was simply a store or bank. (Cool it dude, unnecessary.) I met Hillary in the lobby (they flew in the day before) and I checked in to my room while we waited for her hubs to wake up.
I thought we were going to hit up the AVAM (sparkle building!) but the boys outvoted us and we trekked over (via the Charm City Circulator – oh how I love the Circulator! And the friendly people who give advice about where/when to get off!) to Fort McHenry instead. We learned lots about famous Baltimorian Francis Scott Key, (though we sadly were not recipients of the Francis Scott Key Key) and some really undesirable abuses of power from Lincoln that somehow were left out of the movie. Even though we had to compete with 8,000 school kids it was still glorious to walk around the grounds and in and out of all the buildings (well those of us in the group who were not tied to our phones anyway.) We hopped back to the hotel for some lunch and Natty Bo bottle cap puzzles before the the guys had to take off for setup and rehearsal.
I was pretty wiped working off less than 2 hours of sleep and an abundance of fresh air, so I checked in with my cousin who was driving back from a conference in Delaware and hit my hotel bed hard for a nap. I thought I had turned my phone from vibrate to full sound when I put it on the charger but it seems I mistakenly moved it to the silent setting. I was abruptly awoken when my hotel phone rang hours later and my cousin told me they were in the lobby and we had reservations in 20 minutes. A look at my phone confirmed 17 missed text messages (WAKE UP!) and phone calls, whoops. After I threw on some clothes (no idea what the temperature was like at this point) and dragged a brush through my hair before running down to meet them. We headed over the the Heavy Seas Alehouse and proceeded to order some tasty beverages… and pretty much the left side of the menu. Natalie (amusingly dressed in a gingham shirt like the waitstaff) ate some plastic-y looking seaweed garnish and my mouth still waters thinking of that poutine. Three cheers for my amazing cousins for waking me up, getting me fed with such deliciousness, and then delivering me back safely to my hotel. Also for onion rings. I could have eaten vats of that onion ring batter.
I checked in with the wedding group to see if the the post rehearsal festivities were still ongoing and made my way over to Max’s Taphouse. Yes I am a suburbs girl but I am not automatically scared to walk city streets alone and for the most part the roughly mile and a half walk was well-lit and populated. One corner was particularly dark and while I waited for the light to change a man came up and stood directly behind me and sucked on his teeth. It was unnerving to say the least and I kept wondering if I was better off running into traffic. There’s just something stuck in his teeth, right? He is not going to attack me in front of all these cars, right? As soon as there was space between cars I ran across the street and crossed over down to the next block. Yay for wearing flats, but boo for unreasonably high curbs (what’s up with that Baltimore?) Once safely at Max’s I let the bartenders take care of me (I have been there previously and knew there is no way I can choose between the 150 different beer offerings) and ran into another childhood friend I haven’t seen in years as he waited outside the restroom for his wife. There was much mingling with the groom and two beers later our group moseyed back to the hotel (safety in numbers!)
The next morning I was able to catch breakfast in the lobby, walk a little in the Inner Harbor, get in a little reading, and then Hillary and I sat outside in the courtyard and chitchatted in the favorable weather while we waited for the boys to finish with their fancy
manscaping grooming at the barber. We walked over to Attman’s Deli for lunch and once we were sufficiently stuffed with all the meat it was nap time before the wedding (frequent napping is mandatory on vacation.) All of the out-of-towners were stationed at a hotel near the Inner Harbor for ease of tourist fun, but they chartered buses to get us to the wedding site a good 30-40 minutes away.
Crazy storm predictions meant the ceremony had to be under the tent, but it was still amazing. I really have no desire to host a wedding, but if it was really important to the other person, this is a wedding I could get behind. Everything was so personal (OMG the fantastic and funny vows) and lovely (casual nature, everywhere) and this great group of friends participated to help make it ridiculously special, including a song that turned crowd singalong. Also there were doughnuts. Wedding doughnuts freshly made before your eyes. With toppings. Oh man they were sooooo good. I almost forgot the cocktails – there were old fashioneds! Both the bride and groom are from Wisconsin. There must not be an overstock of brandy in Maryland, so the cocktails were made with bourbon and they were made STRONG. I think the abundance of alcohol also brought out some interesting conversations. Years ago I was involved with the younger brother of one of these friends. (we all grew up on the same street and we reconnected at a wedding of one of the brothers) It did not end well between us and apparently his family was just as much in the dark as I was about the abrupt ending. Hearing about his continued standoff was certainly enlightening (and a little sad he continues to be at such odds with his family, even if I still have hard feelings about the him and our relationship.) Any time we all get together there are always so many good stories about growing up to share along with plenty of teasing to go around.
I brought never-worn before sandals to the wedding and it could have been a disastrous move, but they were super comfy and it was wonderful (whew.) The party was outstanding and we were so engrossed in dancing (so much dancing) to the wild music (not a single slow, sappy song the entire night) we didn’t even notice another huge storm come through until other guests were trying to close the tent walls against the torrential downfall. Between pops of rain we were able to walk around the nature center a little bit and standing at a clearing in the woods near the gazebo overpass staring up at the sky the booze kind of hit me. I missed my brother so much and I was so sad and angry he wasn’t with us. This close crowd has been through so much together and I was so happy surrounded by them but his absence was a huge whole in my heart at that moment.
We made it back to the hotel on the last bus and logically moved the party into the lobby bar for some more Natty Bo and merriment. This extended drink-a-thon made the next morning rough for a lot of folks who were flying and driving, but I was determined to make it up to my cousins for Friday’s nap-a-thon so hungover or not (yes) I was up bright and early to meet them for the Farmer’s Market. Paul did not stay with us long as he was venturing off to meet friends to watch soccer, so Natalie and I navigated our way through picking up produce and meat and biscuits bigger than our hands. We walked back to my hotel so I could get my luggage and check out, and then we took the metro subway back to their place farther north in the Mount Vernon area. We took a selfie at some point near a whole block of stripclubs on the walk back, but I don’t think Natalie posted it. Oh well. I failed completely at photos the entire trip so I only have myself to blame for no picture of us. While she unpacked the goods, I lounged on their couch and we looked up ways to make potato salad for a cookout later that afternoon. Their smoke alarm (on their high, high ceilings) decided to be a dick and randomly beep – the landlord so nicely troubleshooted by telling them to disconnect it completely.
They took (metro bus – more public transportation!) me to another friend’s house where I delighted in eating yummy grilled meat, chatting with new people, and petting a super nice greyhound. We walked over to the Charmery and I had the tastiest salty caramel in a waffle cone made right before my eyes. So good. Although Paul had grand plans of making dinner, we were pretty full from the afternoon of eating and settled on popcorn instead. Yes, someone offered to make me risotto and we ate popcorn. That’s a shamedinner for you. We each got our OWN bowls of popcorn and settled in to watch Fargo. It was incredibly relaxing and low key and exactly what I needed after so much socializing. (Also perhaps a better ending than the last time I partied in Baltimore with them and ended up puking in the kitchen sink after mixing too much high ABV beer and gin cocktails.)
Monday morning Natalie saved me from navigating the light rail on my own and used a zipcar to drive me to the airport before going to work. Super convenient for me and much appreciated, but now I have vowed to come back to Baltimore just to get another mark on my public transportation tour punch card. (It kills me how awful and nonexistent Milwaukee public transportation is). Although the security lines were significantly longer at BWI than in Milwaukee, I was ready and made sure to get all the lint out of my pockets. After getting into a twitter war with random internet stranger about a rude lady completely blocking a restroom corridor I thought I should find my gate. About 40 minutes before they were going to start boarding they made the announcement that there was a problem with our incoming plane and our flight would be delayed about two hours. I went to get some food and while I was savoring my Chipotle (barbacoa, always barbacoa) they announced the flight was back on schedule (guess they found another plane?) GAH. I had to inhale the rest of my burrito bowl and find my place in the boarding line. After disagreeing with a fellow passenger who claimed I cannot just show up late for my spot (uh yes sir, that is EXACTLY what I can do, especially since I paid the stupid extra $12 to be automatically checked in) we were crammed into the super hot plane. The same guy who argued ended up sitting in my row after exclaiming at my desirability that “as a skinny college student I won’t encroach in his space.” Blech. It was a completely full flight so thankfully another gentleman sat between us and I didn’t even care about his spread legs (why men, WHY?) because it meant they were spread into the other guy’s space as well. It was the most turbulent flight I have ever been on and twice I nearly thought I was going to need the sick bag. (Chipotle does not sit well in a bouncy stomach. Duly noted.)
Waiting for my dad to pick me up (I am fine with asking for a favor at 1:30 p.m.) a guy sat down next to me on the bench and pleaded with me for some money. Welcome home. I spent the rest of the rainy afternoon napping in my bed fighting off the nausea. Thankfully I planned ahead and had the whole next day off as well to acclimate back into non-vacation life (i.e. load after load of laundry and putting the rest of my closet back after tearing it all out trying to pack in a frenzy) before heading back to work. Such a wonderful trip, even if it was super short and solo. I know Baltimore has its fair share of issues, but I always look at it fondly. I think continuing to visit in good weather helps immensely.
<any photos here were gratuitously lifted from FB. Thank you friends for being better at taking photos.>