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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An amazing 2nd week of vacation

Two tired little Kitties at the end of a long and wonderful week.

Well after the first week being a washout, we were both still in need of a holiday so were determined to make the most of our second week of vacation although we were just doing day trips from home. It was also our 3rd wedding anniversary this week so wanted to enjoy that together, as it is unusual for us to get the whole day together for our anniversary – in fact last year I was away on business so we didn’t even get the night together!

On Monday we had to take my car into the garage in Gaithersburg to get a couple of wee bits sorted on it so I had booked it in fro today knowing that Jarlath would be free to follow me in his car. Once we dropped my car off we decided to jump on the subway and head into downtown Washington to visit one of the Smithsonian galleries. In the end we chose The National Art Gallery as it was one neither of us had done and we thought it would be really chilled. We had a wander around the sculpture garden just outside the gallery as it was a lovely warm sunny day and took a couple of photos by the fountain. Then we ventured into the gallery. The building was beautiful and there was a lot of art to see but I felt it was slightly disorganized and didn’t make it easy to see the works or to find particular artists. The rooms were arranged in eras but within each section the pictures and artists seemed to be placed randomly in my eyes. I was looking for some particular works and they were not placed where one would have expected. My other criticism is the level of information provided for each piece of art. Each had a card giving the artist, media, title and date of the piece but it didn’t expand with any facts or details. Perhaps I am just thicker than the average visitor but I just felt they could have made it more user friendly for the semi-illiterate art critic like me. We only had about 3 hours before we had to go and pick the car back up so it was perfect for that time frame, so with a lovely picnic lunch eaten by the fountain outside it was a nice relaxing little day out.


Tuesday and again it was a beautiful sunny and warm day so we decided we wanted to see some sights as well as spending time outside getting some sunshine on our faces. The perfect way to do this was to hire a canoe 10 minutes from our house and paddle down the Potomac river the 4 miles into downtown Washington Harbour. What a lovely peaceful day this was. We saw a mixture of nature on the river and the sites of Washington. It was unbelievable to think that we were in the heart of a major city (almost like paddling down the Thames in Central London). We sat in the canoe and had our picnic lunch just across from the posh boats in Washington Harbour and with a lovely view of the John F Kennedy centre for the performing arts (little did I know of tomorrows surprise there). A very surreal but relaxing experience for us both. Here are some pictures:


In the evening I had my second book group. We had chosen Tipping the velvet by Sarah Waters from one of my recommendations. While it is not my favourite Sarah Waters book I thought it would be a good choice for the group discussion and a good start (as it is her first book) for anyone starting new with this author. I was mildly embarrassed while reading it again as I had forgotten quite how racy it was and I was a bit worried about what the other ladies would think of it and of me for recommending it. I needn’t have been worried while they all agreed that it was rather racy it turned out to be a very good discussion book and opened up a lot of different issues for each different person. I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and the evening was fun as Virginia had organized a cake called Red Velvet cake (to tie in with the velvet theme). It is a traditional southern cake with a cream cheese frosting and is bright red sponge and rather delicious.

Wednesday brought our 3rd wedding anniversary. It seems like only yesterday while also seeming a long time ago – if you understand that. I can vividly remember our special day in Shieldhill Castle and how wonderful the weather was for us in Scotland in the middle of September. It is also strange to think how different our lives are at the moment from then – sometimes I almost have to pinch myself to believe it is the same two people. I hadn’t bought anything for Jar (apart from a card) as we had agreed not to buy expensive gifts and I knew I couldn’t arrange anything for the evening as Jarlath had told me to keep the evening free. Well my lovely husband certainly spoilt me for the day starting with a lovely bunch of flowers and a card. Inside the card there were two tickets for the opera that night, the Barber of Seville, showing at the John F Kennedy centre for the performing arts. What a lovely surprise as we have both wanted to go and see the building and I had mentioned the opera only a couple of weeks before when we were out with Vicky. The further surprise he had organized was to have a pre-theatre dinner in the rooftop restaurant at the centre as well. The dinner was really lovely and I had a Kir royale before and a cosmopolitan afterwards. I truly felt very special getting all dressed up and being taken out for the night. I know we go out all the time but there is something very special about getting the proper gladrags on and spending time together. A further thrill of the night was using the old Opera glasses of my mothers. She gave me them just before I left to come to America and are really beautiful. I guess they are probably worth a lot of money as I think she inherited them from her parents and they are both in their original packaging but I doubt I would ever get them valued as I would never sell them anyway. Here are some photos from this night out:


Thursday and we headed off to Baltimore for a couple of days. I had arranged this a few weeks ago as part of our anniversary surprise. It was great as I used Marriott points earned from travelling with work to get a hotel room for the two nights in the heart of Baltimore. I also forgot that I had a gold card from the Marriott so we were given a 10th floor executive room and access to the concierge lounge. We had a lovely drive down in the sunshine with the roof down and arrived at lunchtime to quickly drop our bags off and head out to see some of Baltimore for the afternoon. We had brought a packed lunch again so headed down to the Inner Harbour and sat outside watching all the boats and people. We then wandered into the Aquarium. I must say I thought it looked rather small at first and the price they were charging was too high but they had actually managed to fit a lot into a very small space. It was strange though seeing some of the sealife in tanks that we have actually scuba dived with and it made us both determined to go back to scuba diving sometime soon. A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

We then decided to go out for dinner in the area of Baltimore called Little Italy as we fancied some nice, simple Italian food. Little Italy is an area of about 4 or 5 blocks which are full of Italian Bistros. The buildings also had a very Italian feel about them. After dinner we walked down towards a road called Broadway which is close to Fells Point. It had been recommended to us by the hotel and it had lots of lovely pubs and alehouses and again had a very European fell about it. The only hairy part of the evening was walking between Little Italy and Broadway as we walked through an area that I can only describe as “The Hood” and felt a bit uncomfortable while walking.
Friday and we had a full day and evening ahead of us so up fairly sharp and off out into the sunshine again. Decided to take the Water Taxi from the Harbour and go and visit some sites. The water taxi is a great idea as it is $9.00 to ride all day and it takes you the scenic route across the water to various locations around Baltimore. We decided to stop off first at Fort McHenry.
Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland, is a star shaped fort best known for its role in the War of 1812 when it successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy in the Chesapeake Bay. It was during this bombardment of the fort that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write "The Star-Spangled Banner," the poem that would eventually be set to the tune of the The Anacreontic Song, to become the national anthem of the United States.
Designed by Frenchman Jean Foncin
[1] in 1798 and named after James McHenry, a Scots-Irish immigrant and surgeon-soldier who became Secretary of War under President Washington, Fort McHenry was built after America won its independence to defend the important Port of Baltimore from future enemy attacks. It was positioned on the Locust Point peninsula which juts into the opening of Baltimore Harbor, and was constructed in the form of a five-pointed star surrounded by a dry moat — a deep, broad trench. The moat would serve as a shelter from which musketmen might defend the fort from a land attack. In case of such an attack on this first line of defense, each point, or bastion, was fortified, so that the invading army would be caught in a crossfire of cannon and musket fire.

Very interesting history and we saw a film about the history above, although we had already heard this history from a visit to the American History museum where the original flag is now kept. It was all a bit dramatic when at the end of the film they opened the curtains to show the flag on the flag pole while playing The Star Spangled Banner, so we all had to stand and face the flag. I am sure it was emotional if you were American but just a bit twee for us!
We then jumped back on the water taxi and took it to Fells Points to get some lunch. We found a lovely Irish pub on the harbor which sold Jar’s favourite German Weiss Beer and Magners cider and we had a lovely meal sitting outside watching the water taxis come and go on the water. Just sat for ages talking and I decided that I was going to give up smoking. Not sure why exactly I decided at this point other than over indulgence over the last few weeks and months but will give it a go and see how I get on. Not decided yet whether to give up completely or to go back to occasional social smoker, I think probably completely would be best healthwise (obviously!!). I will let you know how I get on with this.

Friday evening and we had tickets to go and see the Baltimore Orioles play the Boston Red Sox at baseball. They have a great new stadium at Camden Yards and that is where our hotel is based so really handy for us. Now baseball is probably the most boring game in the world to watch but it is still very interesting to go along to the stadium and soak up the fan atmosphere. It was interesting to see how some people paid good money for tickets but spent most of the game away from their seats, I guess they were off eating and/or drinking and some people were in their seats but were so busy talking to their buddies or people around them that they barely watched any of the play. Not sure I would rush back to pay money to see another one but like anything it was good to give it a go and we had fun together anyway. Some photos from Baltimore:


Well the week is nearly over so we packed up from Baltimore on the Saturday and decided to come home for the last couple of days of our vacation. Before leaving Baltimore we looked up www.bookthing.org which is basically a place where you can donate books but also get free books! I went along a bit skeptical about it (nothing is for free in this world) but they were in this case. Two rooms of a small warehouse full of books on shelves, not very organised but a RISI members dream of browsing and seeing what one could find. I didn’t have a lot of time as Jar was with me and got bored after about 20 minutes and we wanted to get back home anyway as the sun was shining. We got 12 books between us for free. There is a book festival in Baltimore next weekend which I hope to go to so I will probably take some books to donate back to ease my guilt. All the books were in great condition and most were hardbacks that looked like they had never been read.
Here are the books:

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier - lovely old copy from 1952 although once back home I realized I already had it but will donate to a friend

If I should die before I wake by Han Nolan - never heard of this book or author but it was beside one other I chose and a perfect condition hardback with an interesting synopsis

Engleby by Sebastian Faulks - favourite author of Jarlaths so picked this one out for him

The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks - I like this author and the story sounds good, a bit like Whit

The Booklovers Almanac by Robert Brittain - a bit of fun

Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding - another bit of fun

Life Support by Tess Gerritsen - was recommended this author as I like other crime authors

Marrying the Mistress by Joanna Trollope - liked previous book of hers I had read

Cat's Eyes by Margaret Atwood - author of The Handmaids tale which a lot of you guys seemed to like

The Valley of horses by Jean M Auel - picked by Jar

The Clan of the cave bear by Jean M Auel - picked by Jar.
California 2005 - picked by Jar as he is going there on business this week and is spending the weekend there on his own. I think he is going to write part of next week’s blog from his travel to San Francisco, so watch this space for that.

So not a bad haul for free.

After getting home we just chilled out and then popped open a bottle of champagne we had received for our anniversary from Kim and Andrew, to celebrate the end of our vacation.

Well Sunday is our last day of vacation so we wanted to make the most of it in the fresh air. Went out on our road bikes (well mountain bike is no good to me now!!!!) and cycled up towards the outdoors pool. As it is after Labour day we were not sure whether it would be open or not but thought it might as the sun was shining and it was the perfect day for lying by the pool. Bizarrely it still opens during the week but not at the weekends anymore! I would have thought they would still be able to make quite a bit of money when the weather is still so nice. No big loss so we decided to cycle on a bit but my bad luck with bikes continued again. Jar decided my tyres needed pumping up although I had already pumped up the front one before leaving the house. As he was finishing off he managed to snap off the valve to my inner tube. Luckily the tyre was still up but it is effectively ruined as it can no longer be blown up. Note to self, do not let Jarlath near my bikes. Set off towards home but trying out a new trail which included a bike path so thought it would be fairly mild and safe! Well I managed to get run off the path and nearly in quite a serious crash because pone stupid female decided to stop dead and turn around to the left in front of me. I have no idea how I managed to avoid hitting her but glad I did as I would have been over the front of my handlebars, as it was I ended up in the bushes with no damage to the bike or me. It was a major adrenaline rush though which made me burst out into tears as we cycled further on. Maybe I should give up cycling, what do you think? Managed to get home in one piece although it is quite difficult cycling while one is hyperventilating.

Well another week over and a great week overall for us. Xx

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