Monthly Archives: April 2014

Another 5K, you say? Ah, go on then

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So, after the recent success of my 8K, I was planning to move onwards and upwards to the 10K in October.  However, the inaugural ODU Big Blue 5K came to our attention and was too good an opportunity to miss.  For our entry fee, we got to see a college baseball game the night before the race (and it’s true what they say about the excellence of college sports; we saw so much more action in this one game than in all the major and minor league ones we have seen in the past), plus a college football game after the race and as much food and beer as we could manage.  I always like it when my money goes towards things to reward me at the end of my race, rather than towards mud or paint to pelt me with during the race.

It was an uncharacteristically boiling April day, with temperatures hovering around 28c, so I was glad of the water stops along the route (although not quite as glad as the husband was to see the ODU cheerleaders along the route ….).  I finished in a time of 28:12, which is somewhere around my personal best (I’m a bit hazy on my record-keeping); I came 368th out of 1863 finishers, and 110th out of 1069 females.  A spectacular day out in all respects.

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Take me out to the ball game

Well, in the words of Barry Manilow, we made it through the rain. Our final day in Baltimore started with bright blue, cloudless skies and a strange orange ball in the sky. The husband again broke out his best Tracy Turnblad impression with a fine rendition of “Good Morning Baltimore”. The city looked amazing in the early morning sunshine and gave us hope for an exciting day ahead.

We started with a walk across to Federal Hill, which is a “hill” only in the same sense as London’s Primrose Hill, i.e. by default because it is higher (by just a few feet) than all the very flat land all around it. Still, it provided some excellent views back across the harbour, as well as some bracing winds to clear the cobwebs away. From here we ambled fairly aimlessly around the Federal Hill area, enjoying the old architecture, until we happened upon the local fire station. It’s become a tradition now (well, this being the second time) to snap a photo of the husband sitting on the bench outside any local fire station we see, and while we were availing ourselves of this opportunity today we were lucky to be greeted by one of the firemen who invited us in for a look around. Not only did I get to see his pole and his nice shiny engine, I also got a firefighter’s badge for posterity 😀

Next up, we paid a visit to some of the historic ships in Baltimore Harbour. The highlight was undoubtedly the USS Constellation, which is a restored 18th century warship. We were lucky enough to arrive just in time for the firing of the cannon, which was probably a bit of a shock to the many passers by on land and on other ships who weren’t expecting it. As we toured further down into the lowest decks of the ship, the ceilings got lower and lower, rather like in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory where Willy Wonka asks “is he getting bigger or is the room getting smaller?”. Even allowing for the fact that two centuries ago people were generally shorter, I’m pretty sure they must still have been incredibly squeezed into the nooks and crannies of this ship. We then ventured onto the USS Torsk, which is a submarine. Again this consisted of lots of rather small rooms and this, combined with the fact that it would usually spend months at a time under water, made for some very claustrophobic feelings again. I was quite glad to get back onto dry land in the end.

We meandered around the water to Little Italy where we had a lovely nibbly lunch of salad, antipasti and wine, followed up by cannoli and coffee al fresco at the harbour’s edge again. You might think that we’d had enough excitement for one day (and I would normally be inclined to agree), however today was a huge day in the sporting calendar and something that could not be ignored when in Rome/Camden Yards. It was the first day of the baseball season and the Baltimore Orioles were at home to the Boston RedSox. The excitement had been building since breakfast time and we had spotted Orioles fans around the city from early on. We dropped by the stadium during the morning where things were already gearing up, even though the first ball was only scheduled for 3.05 pm. (Really? Who schedules a game to start at five minutes past the hour? And why is the opening game on a Monday afternoon? Not that this factor seemed to be an issue as the stadium was totally packed to the rafters, as indeed was the city with all the other gazillions of fans who didn’t have tickets.) We ventured back towards the stadium once more about halfway through the game to see what all the fuss was about. Well, I can safely say that I am still really none the wiser about why anybody plays or watches baseball, however it was difficult not to find the energy infectious, especially when the Orioles hit a home run and the crowd went wild. All in all, a lovely final Day in Baltimore, a city I would be happy to hang around in a lot more.

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Good Morning Baltimore

Another day, another 24 hours of solid rain. However, undeterred by the torrents, we ventured out a little. Most of our first full day here was spent at the Aquarium where we met a giant turtle, a scarlet ibis, two golden tamarins, a pod of dolphins, a shedload of puffins and lots and lots of sharks. And some human divers. And quite a few other beasties too. We managed to spend a good three hours or so at the aquarium, without even venturing as far as the Australia exhibit, and I’m normally one who speeds around museums and the like, so I’d have to say it’s a pretty good half a day out. Anyway, who wouldn’t choose watching aquatic life over the prospect of being part of it when the rain won’t let up?

The husband did finally manage to crack out a chorus or two of “Good Morning Baltimore”, which he has done in the past every single time we’ve touched down at BWI Airport on our way to other places, but this time he could do it for real in the heart of the city itself. You’d think this would make the sun come out, no? Alas not. We mooched around a little more but there’s only so much soaking a person can take, even in head-to-toe waterproofs. Like Annapolis, Baltimore still put a smile on our faces, even in the rain, so we have high hopes for seeing it in all its sunshiny glory on our final day.

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Annapolis – Cold Rinse and Short Spin, Drip Dry

This is the first time during our travels/ vacations (must I use that word? I suppose so, which means I have been assimilated – urgh) that we have had a day of, for want of a better expression, complete torrential rain. And to the credit of Annapolis, it was still a spectacularly gorgeous town even in the deluge.   How utterly lovely must it be when the sun is out??

Annapolis, in my mind, is famous primarily for being a major port for slavery in 18th century America (an American Bristol, if you will) which, I have to say, it plays down considerably, as you would. It does have a monument to Alex Haley/Kunta Kinte (for which I urge you to google Roots, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, as it is an eye-opening book on African-American heritage and should be a standard school text). The other major claim to fame for Annapolis is the Naval Academy (“Hogwarts for Sailors”), which is much like any British University campus except around any given corner you can expect to trip over several lovely young people in Navy uniform. It’s funny, it’s pretty much exactly the same uniform as that worn by my hubby, but for some reason when it’s worn by a large group of young men all at the same time, well, it just has a different effect, if you know what I mean. A bit less milkman, a bit more Tom Cruise.

Much like Boston, Annapolis has a rather British feel, by which I suppose I mean lots of narrow winding streets and roundabouts (today I think we doubled the amount of roundabouts we have seen in the past two years). Oh and we also saw the crypt that houses the final burial place of John Paul Jones, the “first great sailor of the US Navy” who was actually born in Scotland. I don’t know why that made me chuckle, I think it reminded me of Andy Murray and the English nation’s adoption of him as their own once he got anywhere near winning Wimbledon.

So, a fleeting visit – had it been drier weather, it would be a perfect place for just sitting around the harbour and watching the world go by – but a place I highly recommend for a day to potter about.

We finished off with an evening in Baltimore, again in the pouring rain but we managed to find a pub with decent local ales, proper whisky, hooks under the bar and the Smiths on the jukebox. If it had a resident dog or cat and it was within a mile of my home, it would be the perfect drinking establishment.

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The Doors – Easter

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For me, Easter revolves around chocolate.  I don’t know why, but the same make of chocolate tastes infinitely better when it has been made into a large hollow egg shape instead of a small horizontal bar.  There’s presumably no science to back this up, but it’s just true.  Sadly, the powers that be in America have long ago ruled that chocolate with any kind of inedible thing inside it (such as a plastic toy, so think Kinder Egg or pretty much any Easter Egg) is potentially highly dangerous and therefore traditional Easter Eggs as we Brits know them are contraband!!  Living in a country that seems to pride itself on hideously unhealthy and oversized snacks, in my opinion it’s a crying shame that the one sweet treat we get denied here is the humble, innocuous Easter Egg (oh, and the advent calendar too actually, the only concession I would normally make to being festive).  So this year I again have to make do with the neighbour’s eggcellent door decoration to see me through the season.  It’s a cracker.

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