Baltimore, Maryland was not a place I ever thought much about growing up. I doubt it was on my list of places I wanted to visit. But I married a man who was born and raised in Baltimore, where his mother and other relatives still live, so I have spent a lot of time there in the past 23 years.
John and I both went to Georgetown University, an hour away from Baltimore barring traffic mishaps (there are almost always traffic mishaps), so when we were dating, and then engaged, our visits there were frequent. And we lived in Alexandria, Virginia for the first year of our marriage, and continued to be able to make it to town for holidays and family events, or just to visit. Even after Emily was born, for awhile we made it up three times a year or more.
Moving seven people over 500 miles and paying to feed and house them for a week is a more difficult and expensive proposition. For many years now our visits have had to be limited to once a year for the most part. We have learned to avoid holidays, which are stressful and don’t make for the best visits. So now our yearly summer vacation is spent in Baltimore.
Being the thrifty homemaker that I am, I discovered Hotwire years ago and can almost always score motel rooms at $50/night, usually at the same Days Inn in Glen Burnie (just outside the city) that has become our home away from home, with its big pool (yes!) and free breakfast (essential).
Because John’s mother lives in a small rowhome and our big family can be overwhelming in such tight quarters (okay, anywhere, really!) our visits have evolved to our spending the day doing something fun as a family and then meeting the Baltimore folks either at a restaurant or at the house for dinner. They especially enjoy sharing new restaurants with us, but one evening must include crabs. Even Lorelei is happy to pull the legs off her crab and use the hammer to smash the claws. Picky William ate four crabs last night.
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is loaded with fun things to do, like the Maryland Science Center and the Baltimore Aquarium. We’ve also visited the Walters Art Museum and the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. Fort McHenry is a great historical site, and the kids enjoyed seeing the tanks at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds on this trip.
Baltimore is a Catholic town, so we also enjoy the great variety of churches to choose from when our visit includes a Sunday. We’ve most frequently visited Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, which is close the the motel we stayed at when the kids were small, but we’ve also been to St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, the Basilica of the Assumption and a Tridentine Easter Mass at St. Alphonsus.
Growing up in Tennessee, which takes eight hours or so to drive across, it’s hard for me to get used to how close together everything is up here. But it makes vacation even more fun, with access to all the attractions in D.C. like the Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo, and the three hour drive (theoretically) to the beaches of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. Over the years we have hit Wildwood, Ocean City (both of them!), and Rehoboth Beach. We drive to the beach in the morning, swim till we are tired, then walk the boardwalk before driving back to Baltimore.
The neatest thing about our visits, though, is seeing the relationship the kids have with their family here, especially with John’s paternal grandmother, who is 92, looks 72, and is in complete possession of her feisty personality. When I asked William what he was looking forward to about vacation, he didn’t even mention the pool or the beach. He said, “Seeing everybody.” It warms my heart to see the smiles on the kids’ faces when we walk into their grandmother’s house. Even seeing family here so seldom, our children have a bond with them. You would think they might “get crabby” about vacationing in the same place every summer, but they don’t; they enjoy it.
July 3, 2010