So I'm gonna try to wrap up the vacation recap in this post. Get back to posting fun stuff like recipes and music videos and stop living in the past!
The second day we were in Dover, we decided to venture out of the warm swaddling of the casino and see Dover proper. We headed into the heart of the town, away from the strip mall and into the residential area/civic center. (You may already know that) Dover was the first state in the Union, so the center of town was positively brimming with old historical buildings, including the first State House. Most of the buildings were done in a style very similar to the dorms at UMass in Central, so I got the eerie feeling I was looking up at a transplanted Butterfield Hall. The square really felt like we had wandered into Old Sturbridge Village, except that all the old houses were actually still being used as homes and businesses. It was pretty neat to see.
Strangely, the businesses that filled the old buildings seemed to be of two sorts and two sorts only. Lawyers Offices and Bail Bondsmen. Dentists : Baltimore as Bail Bondsmen and Lawyers: Dover.
From here, we decided to drive about an hour down the coast to Rehoboth Beach, a touristy boardwalk town, to worship at a beer Mecca - The original Dogfish Head Brewery and Restaurant. It was well worth the voyage, as it supplied us with the best meal we had on the trip (OMG Turkey Lentil Soup!!!). Plus: (duh) Dogfish Head Beer(!) and a brewery tour. It was neat to see that the company started out brewing in batches not much larger than the ones we make home-brewing.
It was nice to get out there too, because it gave us the chance to walk on the beach. It's amazing how calming the ocean can be. Looking out on the horizon at sunset was when I think I finally really felt relaxed on this vacation.
The next day, after swinging back by the terminal to pick up our vacationing luggage, we headed to our final destination, Washington DC. We ended up staying in an awesome, beautiful suite at the Capital Hilton, just two blocks from the White House, which made getting to any landmark was no sweat.
I think that being in DC was both Paul and my favorite part of the whole trip. We spent the first night walking around and seeing all the monuments. Paul's favorite was the Washington Monument, Mine was the new WWII memorial. Ihad never seen it before, but it's really cool, I love how it incorporate lots of water/ fountains. After chilling in the Lincoln Memorial, we went out to an absolutely ridic beer bar called The Churchkey, which had over 50 great beers on tap. They had 2 big refrigerated rooms in a loft that they kept their kegs in, and an elaborate pipe system to pump the beer down, along the ceiling, into the tap.
The next day we went to the Smithsonian museums. We managed to see The American History Museum, Asian Art Gallery, Air and Space Museum, and Botanic Gardens. The botanic gardens were nice to do last, because you could just sit down and chill in a beautiful tropic environment and smell the orchids after a long day of walking and seeing.
5 Favorite Things I Learned/Saw at the Smithsonian
1. That the original technology for our birth control pills was developed in Worcester MA. 2. The DARPA Car. 3. That coal tar was the key to the development of chemistry, and those that understood it lead in the print industry, and causally, weapon making. 4. Apollo Anton Ohno is also a ballroom dancer. 5. The Wright Brothers Plane.
The next day, we went home. So overall, it was a pretty cool trip. We did a lot of neat stuff we wouldn't have otherwise, and had a lot of fun. I think next time we'll be a little bit more neurotic about planning our trips though. Or at least I will be.
Like I said, we were flying by the seat of our pants on this vacation, trying to plan without the aid of the internet or anything. So when we found a brochure in our hotels tourism kiosk about a super room deal at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, we decided that Delaware would be the next stop on our tour. One of the main points of the brochure that convinced us, other than the low low prices, was that this hizzy had a pool.
It's kind of funny that we ended up going to Dover. Months ago, we were joking about taking a vacation to one of those weird state capitals that nobody ever thinks about. Dover was one of the ones we laughed about particularly mirthfully, right up there with Indianapolis and Boise. So it was kind of a surreal moment when we were like, "whoa, we're actually going to Delaware right now."
Though it was tucked in the cosmopolitan strip mall that is downtown Dover, Dover Downs was actually really really nice. It had a really clean, cheerful vibe that is conspicuously absent from the casinos that we've visited in Connecticut. We narrowed down why this place felt so much nicer as we whiled away the hours playing marco polo in the pool and soaking in the hot tub.
1. DD is a non-smoking casino. This makes everything smell and feel a lot cleaner. You don't have to worry about reeking when you leave the building at the end of the day. 2. Possibly because of this, they can afford to have lots of bright, open lighting, which makes the atmosphere a lot cheerier. 3. Instead of weird ambient mood music, this casino pumps in upbeat oldies hits 24/7. I can't remember the last time I heard "Splish Splash" playing in a public place.
(PS, not what I thought the guy who sang this song looked like at all)
4. Beyond Being just a casino, DD is also an all seasons race track. In the summer, they host NASCAR races, and in the winter, while we were there, they have live harness horse racing. Having this racetrack here gives the building a purpose, and makes it feel like more than just a slot machine warehouse.
It was the part of the vacation that (Paul and I both agreed) should have come first. Mindless gambling, eating delicious food, and lots of time relaxing in the pool. I found a new favorite slot machine too: Kitty Glitter. I mostly just like it because of the really judgmental kitty on the logo:
mrow, yes I see you there throwing away your life savings, mrow
On our second day in Baltimore, we had a whole handful of interesting things we thought we could do. There was an exhibition of Andy Warhol paintings at the gallery up the street, a pop art/toy museum, The Baltimore Basilica (Americas First Cathedral), IMax movies at the Science center, Various Baseball museums at Camden Yard. We were pretty excited.
That is until we realized that ALL of the above choices, except the Basilica, were closed on Mondays. Pretty much everything fun was closed on Mondays. It was frustrating and bizarre, but it made sense. We were November tourists in a town that really only got visitors in the Summer.
But, in the true spirit of the trip, we made the most of it and decided to go on the tour of the Basilica. It was really neat, a monument to the true development of freedom of religion in America. It has a neo-classical look that was totally unheard of in catholic buildings, specifically designed to make it a distinctly American church. Our tour guide was this really irreverent quintessential New Yorker who seemed really "so over" the religious propriety of working in a Cathedral. In fact, the Cathedral itself in some ways, seemed tired of maintaining pomp and circumstance. The Sacristy had the usual holy cabinet dead center, but if you looked to either side, somebody was totally using it as an office, computers and all.
A few of my favorite quotes from our guide:
"This is a painting of the Baby Jesus. They say, he's blessing you, but I think he's just waving hi." "This Bell is one of the official artifacts that make this building a Basilica. They're only allowed to ring it when the Pope is coming. Last time he was here was 50 years ago, so they're still waiting on that." "Here's a picture of the Pope praying at this alter. He was probably thinking 'Boy this place is a dump, I can't wait to get out of here'"
She even let us touch the old vestments they had on display, which every museum worker knows is a huge no no. But an awesome no no for the inquisitive visitor.
It was a really cool building though, and it had lots of neat artifacts in it's museum, like letters from George Washington and Jewel encrusted talismans from Constantinople. My favorite part was the crypt, it was recently redone and totally architecturally awesome. Spooky!
After our cool historical tour, we were at a loss for things to do. We wandered around the city a bit, and noticed that the not-so-nice part of town creeps up surprisingly close to the nice part. It was clear that the recession had been really really unkind to this city. We also noticed that there was at a subway restaurant and at least 2 dentists offices on every block. No doctors, Baltimore only has dentists. They even have a Dentistry Museum, which was naturally closed on Mondays. Wandering around, I couldn't help but lean over and whisper to Paul "hey, Baltimore sucks."
So by 2:30, we found ourselves chillin' back in our hotel room, drinking Yuengling and watching high school kids smoke weed on the roof across the street from us.
It's so strange that you can't get Yuengling in MA. I remember the first time my New Jersey Roomate heard I didn't know Yuengling, she nearly exploded with disbelief. The next time she went home on break, she brought me a bottle. It was a nice gesture. It's a nice beer too. Pretty average!
On our first day in Baltimore, we went to the national aquarium. It really is a world-class museum. The exhibits went beyond being just informative, they were visually stunning and some were just plain innovative. They had a few that were like walking into a giant terrarium, incorporating native plants, animals and birds into the habitat. They even adjusted the climate of these exhibits, to make you feel totally immersed in the environment.
It was a fun way to spend the day. My favorites were the lion fish, the dolphin tank, and the seahorses. I had least favorites too....
If you are ever in Baltimore, I would say that this is the best thing to see. We spent the whole day there and enjoyed it greatly.
That night, we drove out to the Broadway Diner for dinner - featured on "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives"
We got an unbelievable amount of delicious food for cheap. The portions are huge, and it made me sad we didn't have a fridge in our hotel room. It's a neat place, an intersection of fine dining and greasy diner in a surprisingly complimentary way.
Paul and I got back from our trip earlier this eve. We saw the ocean, gambled in casinos, sat in a tropical orchid garden, ate many nice meals and visited new places. All without ever setting foot on the cruise ship we originally planned to vacation on.
Long story short, there was a mix up with our reservation and we never made it on to the ship's manifest. The Bermudan getaway we were set to embark on was happening on the same ship, port, day, and time in the year 2011. Even though from the start there was zero likelihood that we were going to travel on the boat, we spent 4.5 hours in the terminal being told by employees that we were "all set" and they were just finding a nicer room to upgrade us to. That's 10:30 to 3:00 with no food, spare a piece of cake we snatched from the welcome aboard reception, and little acknowledgment from the crew about what the status of our situation was. Oh, PS- they made us sit that whole time in the area they were holding people to be tested for symptoms of swine flu. Awesome.
We weren't the only ones who were unable to board. Some people were denied vacations for having a hospital birth certificates instead of a state issued one. They offered us their cabins, since they would be allowed to go, but the guest services guy told us that since we weren't on the manifest we wouldn't be allowed on board. Mind you, this was in the fourth hour of us sitting there with luxury upgrades being hinted at. If they had just told us that in the first place, it would have been a lot easier to handle. We wouldn't have wasted our day at the pier, and we could have retrieved our luggage, which sailed away without us.
We were actually very lucky though. Some people, like I mentioned, were barred from boarding, and their luggage was set to sail away with their life-saving medications or their passports in them. One family even had 6 young children let on board with both parents obstructed from entry. And because of the our real reservation was a year away, we were actually able to get a full refund, which nobody else could say, really.
I really did feel like I was in a Randy Newman song though...
So there we were, down in Baltimore with a week of vacation days, one set of clothes each, and a non-refundable two night stay in Washington DC booked for 5 days in the future. Faced with the prospect of trusting Royal Caribbean to ship our bags back (and also the prospect of them charging us a huge fee for the pleasure), and in spite of the strong urge to cut our losses and flee home for a stay-cation, we decided to make our most of our time down in the mid-Atlantic. We wanted to get our bags in person when the boat came back to port.
It made for a very unorthodox and random vacation to places we never would have gone otherwise. It was quite an adventure planning travel without a computer or the internet. And despite the bad beginning, it did turn out to be a pretty fun trip. Like I said, we did all the things that a cruise vacation invokes, just in a different place entirely.
I'll be blogging a little bit of what we ended up doing over the next few days. Like this trip, I ended up not taking pictures. It's strange when that happens.
I've been reminiscing a fair bit about Oxford lately. It might just be because I'm about to travel again, and my mind is drifting back to other places I've been. I missed it so much I even watched the terrible Elijah Wood mystery movie, "Oxford Murders" (2008) just to see the scenery.Seriously, don't ever watch it. It's awful.
This was the view from the bed in my dorm room. I always knew what time it was.
One of the Oldest and most complete libraries in Great Britain...
The world coolest Natural History Museum...
Or maybe its the impending Harry Potter film that's got me thinking of Oxford. I got to see a lot of the places they filmed there, including the cloisters at New College, where Draco Malfoy gets his from Mad-eye Mooney. Though I suppose this last film won't really show much of Hogwarts...
PS, while we're on the topic - When did Neville Longbottom get so f-ing handsome? I'm very impressed with this! Can't wait to see the film when we get back from our trip!
Paul and I watched "Penn and Tellers Magical History Tour" last night. It was a weird mix of documentary, magic show, and uncomfortably awkward personal monologue. The famous magicians go to Egypt to uncover the country's supposed ties with ancient magic. In the end, they basically conclude that the only reason we associate Egypt with magic is because magicians in the 70's drew hieroglyphs on their Aztec Tombs.
They meet a lot of street performers, including one that swallows and regurgitates snakes. But the real star of the show is the "cups and balls" illusion, that magicians have allegedly been doing since the time of pyramid wall paintings. Penn and Teller cap off the special by showing us their version of the cups and balls, done with complete transparency, right down to the clear plastic cups.
Even when they're telling you what they're doing, I still have a hard time catching them palming the balls. My eyes don't move fast enough I guess.
The weirdest part of this movie is that Teller talks!
I recently re-read all of Rene Engstrom's wonderful webcomic dramedy "Anders Loves Maria". If you haven't read it yet, you really should. It's a surprisingly complex love story of two Swedish art students and their strange social worlds. The art is really striking, and it's cool to read from the beginning and see Engstrom's style refine. I would describe it as a page turner, you (or at least I) get really invested in the characters and want them to come out of it all unscathed. It's a complete story too, with a really surprising end. The artist has a new comic "So Far Apart" that I haven't read yet, but want to soon.
Here's another classic Aardman animation. This actually might be my favorite of all their shorts, and the soundtrack has a fair bit to do with it. "Wat's Pig" (1996) is the story of twin brothers, separated as babies, and their diverging and converging lives. It's a great example of just how much in a story can be conveyed non-verbally. Only one word is used in the whole of it all.
Despite being the title character, you hardly see Wat's pet/mom pig at all. The split screen effect is creatively done too, and the sets are beautifully detailed. Claymation is so cool.
I've been getting really into bird watching again. Right now, with the migrations and whatnot, we're getting a great number and variety of birds at our feeder. Yesterday, there was a huge flock of dark-eyed juncos (which really sounds like a slur) in the yard. At least 30 of them, scratching for food on the ground. When I went out to refill the feeder, they all took flight, and it was really quite amazing.
My new favorite at the feeder is the red-breasted nuthatch. I was always fond of its bigger, white breasted cousin and his habit for going down trees face first. This little guy has a cool racing stripe across his eyes that looks just like our state bird, the black-capped chickadee.
Today is election day, and I hope that you're all taking the time to be an active citizen and vote. This is the first time in a very long while that I'll actually be going to my polling place, instead of phoning it in via absentee ballot. Probably, actually, since the first time I ever voted, at the Hubbardston Center School. I'm kind of excited to go in the little cubicle, it gives the whole process a more theatrical air.
And boy is this a benchmark year for political theatrics. So much chest beating and whatnot. There's a lot of talk about how the rhetorical climate has reached a new low. But this nifty video I found via stumble helps remind us all how name calling has been a staple of our public discourse since hardtack was a staple of our diet.
And man, they had much better insults back then. Cut through the passive aggressive bullshit and say how you really feel, John Adams. Go for the throat!