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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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





Sunday, September 13, 2009

The most expensive BBQ in the world

Our vacation has started although we don’t actually go away until Monday so thought we would have some fun over the weekend to get us in the mood.

On Saturday, Jarlath dropped me in Bethesda at my nail place to get a manicure, pedicure and eyebrow wax to make me beautiful for our holiday at the beach. It is so cheap over here to get these beauty treatments done and the whole thing only cost me $44 which is about 30 pounds for everything. It would have been at least double this back in the UK. While I was getting these done he was supposed to go to Karate but he didn’t realize that the Karate Dojo was closed for the holiday weekend. Neither of us had bothered to take our cellphones out with us as we didn’t think we would need them so he had to trail back to my nail place to let me know this as I was going to walk down after and meet him there. So Jar just ended up wandering about Bethesda and then having a tea while waiting for me without a book or a blackberry. He said it was actually quite nice not having any distraction and just being able to sit outside having some tea and people watching as he never usually gets the chance to just sit around. It is true we always think we should be reading, checking emails or whatever so sometimes it is nice when you are caught out like this and don’t have the option to do anything other than just sit and watch the world go by.
Afterwards, we jumped in the car and drove down to Georgetown to go to Washington Harbour for some lunch and more people watching. There are a lot of pretentious people on Washington Harbour as they just sail their boats in and just sit on the side where everyone else is walking or eating. They are obviously doing it just to be seen in their boats. We had a laugh commenting on everyone and eating out lunch although it was far too warm to linger much longer than an hour. Neither of us was expecting it to be that warm and did not have any sun cream on either. After lunch and a quick drink we decided to drive back into Bethesda to go to our favourite outdoor Tiki bar for another drink and a chat; again just enjoying having no deadlines and nothing particular to do or worry about.

On Sunday we asked a few friends over for a BBQ to share the holiday weekend with them and because one of the couples are coming back to the UK in the next two weeks for their wedding in November. Dawn is staying over until then so this was the only chance for us to see her before she headed back home for a couple of months. We invited Dawn and Simon and their cousin Matt who was visiting from Guernsey and I also invited Vicky as she is always fun to have at these things. Just decided to keep it small with our local pals so it was more relaxing for us both and not a chore to organize.
This is the part where it gets expensive though! In the morning we decided to load the mountain bikes on top of the car ahead of our vacation on the Monday so we would be ready to take off early on Monday morning. Then Jarlath was driving up to Bethesda to pick everyone up to bring them back for the BBQ so they could have a few drinks and just get a taxi home without worrying about their cars. So at 2.30 Jar sets off to pick Vicky up first at her Apartment complex. In he drives up to reception but fails to realize that the bikes on the roof are higher than the roof of the overpass over the driveway. My bike is a few inches bigger than Jarlath’s as I am taller so it smacks off the roof, knocking my big completely off the top of the car and smashing the new bike carrier in half. In his panic at this Jar puts the car into reverse and manages to reverse over my bike! His bike only got the top of his seat shaved off but otherwise seems to be intact. Here are a couple of photos to see the damage. So he loads the bits of my bike into the boot of the car, gets Vicky and organizes the other guys to make their own way to our house.
In he comes to the house with the words I have had an accident and takes me out to the car. I was of course concerned in case somebody and/or the car was hurt/damaged but luckily this wasn’t the case. Then he produces the pieces of my bike from the boot of the car. I was furious, not so much with the damage but with the blasé way he seemed to be about it and was making a joke out of it. He says I called him a “Fucking Idiot” (which I truly don’t remember but imagine it is true) and just walked away. I had to walk away so that I didn’t blow up at him and wanted some time to regain my composure before I could speak or deal with it. I greeted Vicky into the house and our other guests arrived and then I tried to speak to Jar but he ended up being in a mood with me. I decided to let it go and enjoy our BBQ with our friends but deep down I was fuming. The reason I was so fuming was not at the damage to the bike or bike carriers (although it will now cost about $1000) to replace everything but it was Jarlath’s complete lack of taking any personal responsibility for what he did. If I had done this to his bike I would have been all “I am so sorry I screwed up I will replace your bike, please forgive me” but he just got aggressive with me and seemed to be trying to turn it around to make it everyone else’s fault apart from his own – I was 5 miles away at the time so quite how it was my fault I will never understand. Anyway I let it go on Sunday to enjoy the day and would deal with it on the Monday.
The BBQ went well and everyone stayed on into the evening and we lit the fire up in the fire pit and sat out enjoying the evening with roasted marshmallows and the Shisha pipe. Here are some more pictures:

About 10 o’clock the rain started on so we all had to pack up and move indoors but this was quite fortuitous as we had just been discussing a dvd of Robin Williams live on Broadway that Jar and I found absolutely hilarious and knew that these guys would love. So we put that on and all laughed until we cried. Another successful night as we dispatched everyone home in taxis about 12.30a.m. a bit later than we anticipated but thoroughly enjoyable.
Jarlath knew that I would include his bike incident in my blog so he actually asked if he could write a paragraph telling it from his point of view, so here is Jar’s perspective:

It had, at the time, appeared to be the sensible thing to do. Having played tennis earlier that afternoon (Hazel won the first set 6 games to 4 and I was 4 games to zero up in the second set before we called it quits), and having jogged home from the courts, I was hot, very sweaty and saw no point in showering until a number of chores had been undertaken. The chore of which I speak related to putting the mountain bikes on top of the Audi in preparation for our departure to the beach the following morning. This task in itself is not difficult, but in the heat of the day (it was 90 degrees F) and the physical effort of lifting the bikes it was best done when already ‘exercised’!
Having secured the bikes on the car, I subsequently showered and got ready to pick up our guests for the BBQ we were throwing that afternoon / evening. I had to swing by the supermarket on my way to Vicki’s apartment (to pick up cat food!) and once that detour was complete drove over to Vicki’s at around 3.10 pm. Vicki lives in a condominium block just on the Bethesda and Chevy Chase border. I have dropped her off at the apartment on 2 occasions and the entrance to the condominium is relatively straightforward in that there is a turning circle making dropping off / picking up a simple affair. There in may lie part of the problem. As I had previously visited the condominium without having to consider ‘external’ factors, I simply proceeded into the driveway as normal. My problem became apparent very shortly afterwards.
What I had failed to consider was that with the bikes on the roof of the car, the clearance required to navigate the entrance to the turning circle would be greater than that available. If fact, I was so preoccupied with picking up our guests and getting them back to the house that I completely forgot that the bikes were on the roof. This was a short lived lapse of concentration. The noise that accompanied the bikes hitting the edge of the ceiling that formed the turning circle underpass was loud, alarming and obviously brought my attention right back to the fact the bikes were on the roof of the car. Actually, to be more precise, one bike was left on the roof of the car. And here is perhaps the most annoying aspect of this accident. It was Hazel’s bike that suffered the worst damage, her frame being bigger than my bikes and therefore standing taller on the car.
Now this is where the ‘story’ goes from bad to worse. Having realized that I had hit the roof of the underpass, in my adrenalized state, I slammed the car in reverse to extricate both the vehicle and bikes from the underpass. Only to reverse over Hazel’s bike that was now lying behind the car (in which state I am not sure and never will be). You can imagine the damage that a 1.5 tonne SUV will do to a bike. In this instance, the front wheel was bent in two, the pedal shaft and pedals bent out of alignment and the front forks also damaged beyond repair. It was a sickening experience.
Incidentally, my bike did not get away with this encounter unscathed. The entire foam surface of my seat was ripped off, and the brake handles and gear change mechanism scratched. What I think saved my bike from further damage was the fact that it has full suspension and therefore ‘squashed’ itself under the ceiling.
The next 5 minutes was spent manhandling Hazel’s bike from underneath the Audi. I was acutely aware that this could damage the underneath of the car, so I had to go about this carefully. I even managed to remove the front wheel of the bike from the frame whilst it was still under the car (thanks to the kwik-release mechanism). This was all done under the gaze of the condominium ‘watchman’ who had come out to see what all the fuss was about. The guy provided no help or suggestions as to how I might get the bike out from under the car but was more consumed with the slight scratch that had resulted from my encounter with the ceiling of the underpass. Useless bastard.
I will also add at this point that there was no ‘Max Headroom’ warning sign at the entrance to the underpass. I doubt this would have resulted in a different outcome, but it is an observation I should note.
Having got the bike out and finally stowed in the car, I was able to return to my original task which was to pick Vicki up and take her back to the house. Needless to say she was at first shocked but quickly saw the funny side of what had happened. By this time, so had I and we laughed about how I was going to have to tell Hazel about the demise of her bike.
In the meantime, Simon had called to see where I was as I was meant to be picking them up as well. Once I explained the situation, he volunteered to drive over to the house rather than me having to make 2 runs (the bike was now taking up the passenger seating).
On returning to the house, I immediately let Hazel know that I had had a bit of an incident. You will have no doubt read Hazel’s account of this discussion and I will not go over old ground. I will however say one thing. People’s reactions to these kinds of events are different and sometimes unexpected. One ‘protects’ oneself when experiencing these kinds of mishaps and I have a tendency to try and ‘laugh off’ experiences such as the one I have described above. This is neither right nor wrong. It just is.
RIP Hazel’s bike. It has been in the family for 7 years or more and I was responsible for getting Hazel into mountain biking and picking that particular bike for her. I feel the loss keenly (not that I am one to over sentimentalize inanimate objects) and find the whole episode slightly ironic in that in attempting to save a bit of time and effort so that we could get on the road early the following day, should result in such an unfortunate episode.
Jarlath Keating.


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Monday we set off for Ocean City to spend a week at the beach. I had booked us into the same place that I had stayed in July with Vicky as I knew it was well located for most of the things we would want. The journey is only 3 hours so not too bad. I decided to clear the air completely about the bike incident of yesterday so Jarlath ended up sulking for the first half of the journey until I couldn’t stand it any longer and we managed to talk it out before we ruined our holiday.
Arrived in good time and I showed Jarlath around and took him down to the boardwalk for a walk along and we did a bit of shopping. I got a new bikini for $18 as it was the end of season clear out sales and we got a few other bits and pieces as well.
Unfortunately, there was a tropical storm coming in which meant that it was very windy and in fact from Tuesday to Thursday so far (as I write this section on Thursday) we have had wind and rain that have meant that we can’t do much on the beach and it is hard work to even go outside. This has changed our holiday completely as our days were supposed to be spent on the beach, surfing, reading and generally lazing about. This always seems to happen when we go on our late summer holidays. I think the last three times we have been hit by a tropical storm which has put a bit of a damp quib on our holidays – so note to everyone avoid going on holiday to the same place as us at the same time as you will get rained on!

On Monday night we found a nice local bar called The Salty Dog and just had bar snack for dinner and several beers. Again we just had fun sitting at the bar and chatting to each other without any distractions. We also had fun putting our favourite songs on the jukebox. Jar was very romantic and put Aerosmith on which was our first dance at our wedding. During our chatting somehow it came out that I have never done a proper Tequila shot so Jar decided that this was a crime and that we would have to do a tequila shot. So lick the salt, slam down the tequila and suck on the lemon is how it is supposed to go. I didn’t quite down the tequila and Jar was laughing his head off as I daintily sipped it with my pinky in the air! So of course a bit later we had to do another one so I would do it right this time and I did. Went home a wee bit tipsy but completely relaxed and very happy. Back at the apartment complex our room looked out over the pool from the back door and Jarlath loves having a late swim before he goes to bed. Unfortunately the pool closes at 9.30p.m. but of course this did not deter Jar. He just climbed over the fence and decided to go for a swim anyway. It was quite sweet because the forbidden fruit is the sweetest and when I went out to check on him he had the sweetest big cheesy grin on his face and just waved like a child at me. He looked very relaxed and extremely happy so I went to bed and left him to it only to be woken up 5 minutes later by the clatter of the diving board and running footsteps. I jumped out of bed and opened the door to find Jarlath jumping over the pool wall and running into the apartment. You are not supposed to use the pool diving board after 9.00p.m. because of the noise it makes and I guess the danger element when it gets dark but Jar being Jar could not resist. He was laughing his head off like a small child when he got back in the apartment. I gently scolded him and went back to bed.

Tuesday and the winds were still tropical. We decided to go for a jog on the beach to see the water and to get some exercise. Boy it was difficult as the sand was very soft and it is hard to run in soft sand. We managed to do some but were both struggling so Jar decided to go into the sea and play around. He had been jogging in surf shorts so it was ok for him. The sea was very rough but looked like a lot of fun. Not able to resist the fun I decided to join him but not having my swimsuit or bikini on I ended up just stripping down to my underwear and going in like that – well it is just the same as a bikini. We just threw ourselves around in the waves and I managed to do some body surfing although it was very rough and the rip current under foot was very strong. I am always glad that I am a strong swimmer in these cases although I was slightly nervous as about 4 years ago I managed to snap my elbow after getting hit by a wave in similar conditions when I was in Florida.
After getting back from the beach we got showered and headed down to the boardwalk but the rain started pelting down so we ended up playing in the amusement arcades and just having a laugh for part of the afternoon until finding a bar to have a drink and a couple of games of pool. We had come down on the bus so then decided to get the bus back towards the apartment. The bus system here is really good. You pay $2.00 and can hop on and off all day if you want and it goes the whole length of Ocean City and comes every fifteen minutes and is on 24 hours a day. We jumped the bus back and ended up back in The Salty Dog pub – how did that happen!!? Again ended up just sitting a the bar chatting and watching the tennis (The US Open is on).

Wednesday and the weather was the same so we wandered down to the beach on the morning and Jar had a swim in the sea but it was very windy and cold so we came back to the apartment pool and Jar tried to teach me how to dive properly from the diving board. Not very successfully but at least I gave it a go. We then decide to jump in the car and drive up the coast to have a look at some of the other coastal resorts for future trips. We drove up and visited Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach and finally Rehobeth beach. They are all very nice and a bit posher and much quieter than Ocean City. It was still raining so we decided to come back to Ocean city and go somewhere indoors for our all you can eat Crab feast. We couldn’t go to the same place I had been previously with Vicky as that was outside so we just picked another one at random and decided to give it a go. It was fun as Jar had never eaten the Maryland crabs before and we both enjoyed it but you do get bored with all the cracking of shells and mess long before you would get full up. Had lots of fun though with it on a dreary afternoon.
Back at the apartments there is the Tiki bar which has a happy hour between 5 and 6 so we decided to wander in for happy hour to have a couple of drinks. Well we ended up meeting a few people so ended up there until 9.00p.m. just having a laugh with everyone. By this time we couldn’t be bothered going out anywhere so brought in a pizza and just sat and watched Federer play in the tennis.

Thursday and another dreary and very windy day. I am now starting to g0et very pissed off with this weather as all we want is a wee bit of sunshine or at least the rain to stop pishing it down! Both went into the pool again and it was bloody freezing. I dived in and thought my heart would stop as it was so cold. One good thing about it being that cold is that you just have to keep swimming lengths to keep warm so you end up doing some exercise instead of just playing around. Tried a couple of dives again but it was so cold when you came out the water that I didn’t linger very long.
Warm shower (bliss) later and we went off in the car to visit Assateague Island.
Assateague Island is a barrier island built by the sand that persistent waves have raised from the ocean’s gently sloping floor. Constant reshaping mirrors a restless origin, as steady winds continue moving trillions of sand grains, each a bit of eroded ancient Appalachian mountains.
A today I could well believe that these were formed by the winds and the wind was gusting so strongly that you could have been clown away yourself. We just drove around and got some photos of the famous assateague wild ponies.
Assateague's wild horses are well known, even to many people who have never been to the island. The "wild" horses on Assateague are actually feral animals, meaning that they are descendants of domestic animals that have reverted to a wild state. Horses tough enough to survive the scorching heat, abundant mosquitoes, stormy weather and poor quality food found on this remote, windswept barrier island have formed a unique wild horse society. Enjoy their beauty from a distance, and you can help make sure these extraordinary wild horses will continue to thrive on Assateague Island.
Local folklore describes the Assateague horses as survivors of a shipwreck off the Virginia coast. While this dramatic tale of struggle and survival is popular, there are no records yet that confirm it. The most plausible explanation is that they are the descendants of horses that were brought to barrier islands like Assateague in the late 17th century by mainland owners to avoid fencing laws and taxation of livestock.
The horses are split into two main herds, one on the Virginia side and one on the Maryland side of Assateague. They are separated by a fence at the Virginia/Maryland State line. These herds have divided themselves into bands of two to twelve animals and each band occupies a home range. The National Park Service manages the Maryland herd. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company owns and manages the Virginia herd, which is allowed to graze on Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, through a special use permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The permit restricts the size of the herd to approximately 150 adult animals in order to protect the other natural resources of the wildlife refuge. It is the Virginia herd which is often referred to as the "Chincoteague" ponies.

We also saw the various campsites located there so will definitely put that in the memory banks for a camping trip next year.
We took the long road back and drove through a place called Berlin.
Travel back into the past with a stroll down Main Street in Berlin, Maryland. The path you walk is the same as that taken by the Assateague and Pocomoke Indians well before the colonial period. Later, the path became the Philadelphia Post Road, the main route connecting the centers of commerce to the north and west. This area was part of the Burley Plantation, a 300-acre land grant dating back to 1677.
At the corner of the Philadelphia Post Road and Sinepuxent Road, now South Main Street and Tripoli Street, colonial travelers stopped at the Burleigh Inn. Here at the present day town center, memories linger of the tavern that probably gave its name to the village. "Berlin" is said to have come from a contraction of the words "Burleigh" and "Inn".
Although the village began in the 1790's, it was not incorporated until 1868, after the Civil War. The town grew and became a popular spot for tourists who enjoyed hunting and fishing on the Eastern Shore or were on their way to the small coastal town of Ocean City.
Berlin is noted as the birthplace of Stephen Decatur, the 19th century naval hero.
Berlin Today
Today the town is a wonderful example of what can be done when citizens work together for the success of their community. The renovation of the town center and the historic preservation of the commercial and residential districts are a result of the cooperative efforts of local citizens, businesses and the Town government. Berlin's beautiful tree-lined streets, Victorian town center, museum and historic homes captivate those who visit.
47 individual structures in Berlin are noted in the National Register of Historic Places and represent nearly two centuries of architectural heritage. These structures are well preserved or renovated and date from three distinct periods: Federal, Victorian, and 20th Century. The town center features mostly brick structures with compatible rooflines, proportionate window and door openings, uniform setbacks from the street, and bulkheads beneath the lower windows. Magnolias, sycamores, tulip poplars, bald cypress, and ginkgo trees add to the beauty of the town's setting. An audiocassette walking tour is available for rent at the Globe Theatre.
Located just minutes from Ocean City and Assateague Island National Seashore, Berlin enjoys a superb location and offers visitors a variety of shopping and dining experiences.
Berlin has also starred in two major motion pictures. In 1998 Berlin was the location for the filming of Paramount’s Runaway Bride starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. In the movie Berlin became the fictional town of Hale, Maryland, Maggie’s (Julia Roberts) hometown. Main Street became a “hot” set as filming was done using many of the downtown shops, not to mention hundreds of locals as extras. Then in 2001 Berlin became "Treegap", the fictional setting for Tuck Everlasting starring Sissy Spacek, Ben Kingsley, and William Hurt. Downtown Berlin was transported back to the turn of the century complete with dirt roads, horses and carriages, and period costumes.

Again the weather thwarted us a bit so we just took a drive through and didn’t manage to see much of it. We also came across The Harley Davidson garage on the way out of town so had a bit of a pit stop there. Had a MacDonald’s for lunch which we never ever do and it was ok. We both had their new Angus burger which was actually quite tasty although it was repeating on me for most of the afternoon and evening! Enjoyed looking at all the bikes in the Harley store – although I am still trying to dissuade Jar from wanting one next year. We both managed to get a couple of bits of clothing. I got a lovely pink and grey plaid shirt for the fall and a pink sweatshirt. I will take some pictures once I wear them.

Well if we thought it had been wet and windy up to now we didn’t expect Thursday night. The wind was blowing so heavily you were bent over trying to struggle against it and the rain was coming down in sheets sideways. Never ones to let a bit of weather deter us we decided to try and make it to the pub The Salty Dog as it was a Pittsburgh Steelers bar and they were kicking off the first game of the NFL that night. Unfortunately on the way to the bar I was blown over and slid in the wet and came down heavily on my knee. I ended up ripping my jeans, scraping my knee and bruising it and my hip quite badly, not to mention getting even more soaked. Struggled onto the bar to get out the rain and have a medicinal drink but it was absolutely mobbed and we could barely get a standing spot never mind a seat and with my sore knee I didn’t want to be bumped about all night. So off out into the storm again and went across the road to another bar to give it a go. It was ok, a lot quieter and we got too big stools at the bar in front of the big screen to let us have a beer and watch the game. I must say I find American football rather boring with all the stopping and starting and just want them to get on with it sometimes when they have all the time outs and stops. So watched most of the game and decided to brave the elements to come back to the apartment. Oh boy, now I have been wet and cold before but it was almost hilarious the wind and rain was that strong. Head down and just psyched myself up all the way home to get there in one piece. We were both so soaked that we had to strip on the patio before going into the apartment and were soaked through several layers of clothes. Our shoes were full of water - there is a picture of Jarlath wringing out his socks which is quite funny as you can see how wet his boxers are as well. Anyway no harm done and it was a funny end to an ok night.

Friday we thought it was getting a bit nicer but sadly the sun failed to appear again. Jar decided to brave it and hired a surf board for the day to give some surfing a go. I didn’t as my knee was playing up and I couldn’t put full leverage weight on it yet. I just sat on the beach reading while watching Jarlath get completely beaten by the sea and the six foot high waves. I wish I had a camera with me to get a photo of him wiping out as it was quite funny. The undertow on the beach is very strong as well so even just bathing in the water is quite hard work. He gave up after an hour as he was completely worn out by it so we decided to walk along the beach towards the boardwalk. It was about 10 blocks to this end of the boardwalk and then the boardwalk runs for 17 blocks so we had quite a good old walk. Decide to come back via Bahia Marina where I had visited before with Vicky. Had a couple of drinks overlooking the marina and admiring all the fishing boats, although even watching them rock up and down on their moorings made me feel sea sick.
That night we decided to get dolled up and go to Seacrets bar and club complex for a fun night out. Again Vicky and I went in July and we had a thoroughly fun time watching the live bands. It did not disappoint. It was the same rock band in one part of the complex and they really rocked again and I don’t think I have seen Jar relaxed and just dance about so much for ages. He was obviously enjoying himself very much as was I. Eventually left about 1.00a.m. for the walk home but luckily there was no wind or rain. I was having some problems with breathing as my hard was palpitating quite fast – I think it was because the bass was very loud on the sound system and the frequency of the music seemed to be affecting my heartbeat but nothing life threatening. Made it home and had a lovely night cap just listening to the waves crash on the beach and looking at the moon.

Woohoo the sun has finally arrived on Saturday. We rushed down to the beach and had about 3 hours of playing in the sea and reading in the sun before the clouds came over again and made it a bit cold. Just ended up going back up to the Tiki bar for some lunch and then just sat around the pool or on our patio reading for the rest of the afternoon – just relaxing really.
Well our last night of our holidays and despite it being a bit of a washout all week we have managed to relax and enjoy ourselves in different ways. I do feel for Jarlath a bit as this is his only summer holiday and he hasn’t really seen much sun this summer due to the amount of time he is spending in the office.
For our last night we decided to go out for a posh meal at Fagers Island. It is a restaurant, bar and music complex that sits just on the bay bridge overlooking the water. We had a lovely bottle of Pinot Noir from Napa Valley and I had clams to start (Jar had the loveliest tuna he has ever had) then I had a Filet steak and Jar had duck which were both really lovely. Then we just had a quiet time sitting out on the deck overlooking the water – a bit cold still.

Sunday and it was supposed to be sunny today but when we woke up it was still very overcast so we just decided to pack up and come home in the morning instead of spending the day on the beach.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=142203&id=626078744&l=08bf47605c
Can you believe when we got back to Washington the sun was splitting the sky and it was in the 80s temperature wise. Sods law really. So our week at the beach was a bit of a wash out and not quite what we expected or wanted but I think we made the most of a bad situation anyway. One more week of vacation left so will post the first week and photos now and off to enjoy our second week.
Love to all. Xx


Photos from Wolftrap from last week:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=142179&id=626078744&l=82e4ef8972

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Last week of summer

Well it is officially the last week of summer as all the schools go back this week and Labor day is 7th September and most of the summer season activities end then. It has been quite weird because coming back from Scotland I already noticed a drop in the temperature here. It is now only averaging the mid to high seventies instead of the eighties. It has made me panic a wee bit as there is so much I still want to do in the summer but just have not got round to it yet, guess I have been lazy or something!!!
We were both tired over the weekend from our round trip to the UK so took it fairly easy. On Saturday afternoon we went a gentle bike ride along the canal path towards Great Falls and stopped off at the side of the river for half an hour and just sat on the rocks lapping up the sunshine and watching the river run past. It was a bit of a nature trail as I say two snakes and two fawns. One of the snakes I nearly ran over with my bike and it was bright green like grass, the second snake was in the water and swam passed me when we were sitting on the rocks. No idea what type they were but I was a bit freaked as there are a couple of poisonous snakes in these parts. The fawns were very cute although I was a bit worried as they seemed to be on their own as I could not see an adult deer around.

That evening we had a night out at Wolftrap Foundation for the Performing arts. It is a national park that has a couple of arenas for concerts, shows etc. We went to see an outdoor showing of The Lord of the rings- The Two towers with the score played by a live orchestra. This involved sitting on the lawn with a picnic (and some wine of course) watching the movie on a large screen with the orchestra in front of you playing the score with a live choir behind them. It is hard to explain but it was spectacular, especially watching the Battle of Helms Deep when it got dark and it was raining slightly. You almost felt like you were there. The one weird thing was the Americans in the audience cheering at certain parts – this annoyed Jarlath, so Kim and I started to join in the cheering to wind him up even more – cruel! Oh the other strange thing was everyone running in when the gates opened to get the best spot on the lawn. I saw everyone start to run so I jogged along with them as I realized what was happening and managed to get us one of the best spots – well no one was going to argue with a large Scottish Woman were they! Jar, Kim and Andrew arrived behind me and enjoyed the fruits of my endeavour.

Here is the link to Wolftrap as it is a really interesting place. I am already watching for the 2010 schedule to go back:
http://www.wolftrap.org/
and here is the link for the Lord of the Rings
http://www.wolftrap.org/Home/Find_Performances_and_Events/Performance/09Filene/0828show09.aspx
Our picnic was a lovely selection of cheeses, meat, olives, homemade quiche and French bread.

Sunday and another lazy morning with a lie in and lazy breakfast for us both. Jar decided to go out on his new road bike (an early birthday present from me) while I decided to go and try a meditation class. It is held at my gym every Sunday and is by my Yoga teacher, Linda, from Thursday yoga class. It was an interesting experience and I managed to get a full body meditation but was not able to empty or slow down my mind. I had a chat afterwards with Joel and she said the same thing and described her mind like several Labrador puppies running around chasing a ball, which I thought was a great analogy.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at the outdoor pool reading and just having a dip in the pool. We didn’t even do any lane swimming as we were so knackered.

Previously, I mentioned that I was changing my diet to try and eat more to get more energy for exercise. Well I have been continuing with that and feel I am starting to get some benefits.
On Monday morning up early to send Jar off to work with his breakfast and packed lunch, so I decided to go to the 9.00a.m. step class again. It was great and we did a lot of circuit work but I had energy after it so I stayed on and did a second class which was my favourite definition class with Josie. I did feel a bit tired by the end but also very energized by it.

Tuesday was much of the same. I went to the gym and did 40 minutes of cardio work on the running machine, bikes etc and then another definitions class with Jocie. Again very energized afterwards.
I have been also trying to finish some cross stitch and knitting as everyone seems to be dropping babies so I spent the afternoon completing several pieces. I got thinking that I might put together some items and see if there is a market for them anywhere. It may be that there would be from next spring when all the farm and craft markets kick in again but that should give me loads of time over the winter to get some items made – if people stop producing babies and I give them all away as presents!

Tuesday evening and I tried to get a group of pals together to go to a quiz night at the Irish pub in Bethesda. Unfortunately, only myself, Vicky and Jar could make it and Vicky had a cold coming on so wasn’t feeling very smart. Still decided to meet up at the pub for some dinner to scope of the quiz night for future weeks even if we didn’t take part. It seemed very busy so I will definitely try and get a team together after my holidays over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday morning I wasn’t feeling that great so after dispatching Jar to work I had a lazy morning by going back to bed and didn’t get up until 10.00 a.m. Went up to the Mazda garage to get a couple of items sorted on the car but they didn’t get done, then visited Jar at work to have lunch with him and deliver some shortbread to a couple of the girls that helped out with our travel arrangements for the funeral. I got home and was so full of energy that I went to the gym and did an hour and a quarter of cardio and stomach work and felt really great afterwards. I did feel a wee bit guilty about going into the gym instead of running or biking outside as the sun was shining but I wanted a fairly controlled work out and with running or the bike you are never quite sure how much you are working.
We were supposed to be going out in downtown DC that evening as The Shakespeare Theatre do a week of a free show. It is The Taming of the Shrew and I was supposed to go in early get 2 free tickets and then Jar was going to join me after his work (it started at 7.30p.m.). Unfortunately, he was having a mare of a day at work so knew he wasn’t going to get away on time so we had to cancel those plans. It is on through the weekend so we may get to go on Saturday afternoon or evening if we can get up the energy for the trip downtown at the weekend (full of bloody tourists). We decided to watch the movie “W” about George W Bush instead. It was a good movie but very worrying, if true, if that was how it really was. Worth a watch anyway for you guys. I forgot to mention that we watched the movie Twilight on Sunday night. It was an ok movie but I don’t get the hype and it certainly hasn’t inspired me to read the books either and Kim has given me Twilight to read, so I feel kinda obliged to do so.

Thursday morning and my favourite yoga class and talk afterwards. At yoga we are working through 8 classes covering the 8 limbs of yoga in Ashtanga. Ashta meaning eight and Anga meaning limbs in Sanskrit. The discussion afterwards was very interesting as we discussed contentment and satisfaction with what you have now.
I then cycled down to Glen Echo park (1.5miles) to have a picnic lunch and read my book in the sunshine where in the afternoon I was volunteering to help set up the artwork for the 39th Labor day art show they were holding there.

39th Annual Labor Day Art Show
Saturday, September 5 through Monday, September 712 to 6pm, Spanish Ballroom
Our 39th annual Labor Day Art Show will feature the work of more than 100 artists from the mid-Atlantic region. Most artists have a connection to Glen Echo Park either as instructors, students or resident artists. Works will include photography, painting, ceramics, jewelry, art glass, textiles and more. The Opening Reception on Friday, September 4 from 7 to 9pm is open to the public and provides an opportunity for you to meet some of the artists, view the show and purchase artwork.


I went in at 2 and met the ladies in charge Hannah and Nancy and I was given the task of going around all the artwork and attaching the labels with the artist, name of picture and price on it. That was a cool task as I had to look at each picture individually and find the right label and attach it. It meant I got to see each piece close up and in detail. Worked doing that for 3.5 hours and got loads done. I may go back tomorrow if I have time as they said they could probably do with some more help in the afternoon. Thanks to Anne C for her comments on RISI forum which has encouraged me to seek out some more volunteering activities. I looked up some briefly and see that the two local libraries need volunteers, how cool would that be!?

Poor Jar had another long day at work so in the evening I just made us a chilled dinner together. The poor bloke has had a hard time of it lately and has been working eleven/twelve hour days for ages with some travel not helping either. We are off to the beach next week for a whole week away from it and he is not taking his laptop and I will try and hide his blackberry so he gets a complete break. We also have a second week off but just going several more local trips but at least he should get a break. I do feel very guilty at the moment as he is coming in looking completely wrung out each night but at least I am making sure he eats well from breakfast through lunch to dinner.

Friday morning started with my Barre class. Now remember when I first started going to this class I could not walk for days afterwards and there were certain parts of the class that I just could not manage before well I must have gained in fitness and strength because I managed the full class. Try this – Sit on the floor with your back perfectly straight against the wall even your bottom touching the wall. Then with your legs straight out in front of you, raise them 3 inches off the ground and hold for 3 seconds before putting them down. Repeat 16 times. Then raise your legs 3 inches off the ground and keeping them three inches from the ground open and close them 16 times. You should be using your stomach muscles to do this exercise. It is harder than it sounds. Go on try it you know you want to – Fay you are superfit so it should be no bother to you.
After class and a shower I went back to Glen Echo and did a couple more hours of volunteering at the art show. It was fun again and I think they really appreciated the extra help as they seemed to still have loads to do before the opening that night. I also managed to chat with Hannah the volunteer organizer and she is going to pass my details onto the lady at The Arts Foundation to see if there are any further volunteer opportunities they could use me for, so watch this space to see what comes of that, if anything.
Well tonight is the start of our 2 week vacation. We are off to the beach at Ocean City for a week (although the weather forecast is not great) for some sun and surfing hopefully. Then a few days at home to do some local sightseeing and museums together, then off to Baltimore for 3 days to see the harbor, aquarium and we have tickets for the baseball to see Baltimore Orioles play Boston Red Sox on the Friday night. Two nights stay at the Marriott at the ball park for nothing as I still had some Marriott points left over from my work travels – bonus!.
Well will go now and start the vacation and looking forward to some quality time with Jar and him being able to rest for once. Take care all and “speak” in a couple of weeks with all the fun of our holidays. Xx