Quoted from Baltimore's 5:30 newscast on Friday 9/9/11: "Both Washington, DC and New York City have been threatened with terrorist attacks and Baltimore is right in the middle of them! Stay tuned to see what measures have been taken to keep our city safe this weekend."
I'll be the first to admit that most Cleveland news channels are over the top dramatic in an effort to boost their ratings, but somehow Baltimore manages to take it to a whole new level. Is Baltimore between Washington and New York? Absolutely, but so are 230 miles worth of other cities including Philadelphia and the entire state of New Jersey.
Nevertheless, this newscast and the recommendation of a few friends and family made us change our plans about heading to Washington this weekend for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I thought it would be touching to attend the memorials that are planned but as a mother it also felt a little risky. So, we opted to head out early Saturday morning and explore our own city instead. And I'm so glad we did because it was a spectacular day and a reassuring reminder of just how lucky we were to end up here because this place is just...well...it's very US. I don't even know how else to describe it.
We started off at Bob Evan's for breakfast:
Owen endlessly flirted with our waitress and kept stealing food from my plate. He said thank you or "dank du" to EVERYTHING. He was so charming, in fact, that they decided to take his meal off of the bill and give us coupons for free meals next time. With a face like this (his, not mine) and a pleasant mood, I often find it hard not to give the boy his every wish.
Next, we set out for Baltimore's Inner Harbor but first we made a slight detour at the special request of our Aunt Char and swung by Charm City Cakes, a cake shop so awesome it was worthy of 10 seasons of reality television on Ace of Cakes.
Let me apologize for the quality of this photo in advance. You can probably tell it was taken from the inside of our car, and well, that's because the area was a fun mix of row houses and small corner shops but it looked a little....rough, and I was too much of a candy ass to get out of the car alone and start snapping pictures.
Questionable neighborhood or not, these guys are rock stars when it comes to cakes. And just when I thought I'd have to start up a new savings account to one day TASTE one of their cakes I read that they've released a line of affordable cake pops! Fabulous!
Next up, the National Aquarium in the Inner Harbor and I'm here to tell you that the National Aquarium is like ten thousand gallons of awesomesauce! So much so that we opted to splurge and become members for a year as opposed to buying a one day pass. I mean, Owen isn't even 2 years old and he couldn't get enough of it. It's like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for all things aquatic. The first exhibit you see is the giant sting ray pool which remains visible through most of the aquarium. They have everything from tiny minnows to massive whale fossils, and a rooftop rainforest. My favorite was probably the giant pink octopus. I cannot recommend it enough if you are ever in the Baltimore area, or even if you're not in the area and want to make plans to crash on our couch after a long day at the aquarium we're totally cool with that, too.
Again, I must apologize as my photos do not even begin to do this place justice. I was focused more on paying attention to and capturing Owen as opposed to the exhibits because, you know, we can go back anytime, but Owen's first impression can only happen once.
The view of the aquarium from Pratt Street:
The 35 foot waterfall that greets you at the entrance:
This was Owen's first face -to-face encounter with fish that day and it introduced his theme for the day-- lots of pointing and shouting "WOAH!":
Crossing one of the horizontal escalators and looking down on the ray pool which was by far Owen's favorite exhibit:
The rooftop rainforest which also offered great views of Downtown Baltimore and the harbor:
Owen and Jon walking through the multi-level shark tank. Owen was equally freaked out by and fascinated with sharks. He wouldn't let go of Daddy's hand:
The dolphin show! I will never forget the look on Owen's face when he heard the dolphins "speak" for the first time and realized a dolphin sounds an awful lot like the squeaky noise he makes every time he sees a monkey. Needless to say, he now makes it whenever he sees a dolphin as well:
Our last stop at the aquarium was the jellyfish exhibit which was kept dark to show off how bright a jellyfish actually is. This is the last photo I managed to take before the battery died on my camera:
And just for kicks, Owen and Jon inside the massive jaws of a shark:
And it isn't Baltimore if there isn't a little crab:
Our next destination was traveling Baltimore's Inner Harbor just outside of the aquarium, and despite having a dead camera I did manage to get some really fun photos with my iPhone. So many, in fact, that this is going to have to be a two part blog.
Stay tuned to see why it's so easy to fall in love with this city!