City Weekends

Rick and I live in the middle.  Equidistant from Baltimore, where I work; Washington, where Rick has worked most often; and Annapolis, where we play.  It’s a perfectly nice house, in a perfectly nice community, but kind of a suburban no-man’s-land.

When we want to get into nature, we hop aboard Calypso and go.  Last weekend, we didn’t have time to go out overnight, so we used Sunday afternoon to duck into one of our favorite nearby spots: Saltworks Creek.  We inflated our water toys and explored most of the creek under paddle power.

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I spent a lot of time on my kayak, chasing the blue herons.

Then we swam in the still-cool water, napped, had a dinner of whatever odds and ends we could find in the galley, and were back at the dock before dark.  It was relaxing and rejuvenating, and a perfect way to enjoy one of the nicest mid-Atlantic Augusts we can remember.

But sometimes, I have a craving to soak up some city energy.  Frankly, weekday work in a city center doesn’t provide that.  With a soul-sucking commute at either end of my days, all I can think about is getting the heck out of there.

So, I’m lucky to be able to enjoy city life on weekends from time to time.  I grew up in Chicago, and still have parents and siblings who live there, so I visit a couple times a year.  But my parents and my sister live in the suburbs, so if we wanted city action, we’d have to make a special trip and drive downtown.  Not optimal.  Until my brother obliged our travel plans by purchasing a  condo on Lake Shore Drive.  Now we have a city base for at least part of our visits.

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My brother’s place is a few blocks from Wrigley Field, where I misspent part of my youth for the $2 bleacher seats used to cost.  And across the street is Belmont Harbor, with SAILBOATS!

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The Chicago skyline from my brother’s building.

Last year, when we visited in August, everyone we were hanging out with had a sailing bug.  We learned it’s not very hard to charter a sailboat for a few hours.  I’d never been out on a sailboat on Lake Michigan, so it was a thrill.

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What a great view to have from a sailboat!

The boat we chartered was kind of junky.  It had an engine that wasn’t quite as efficient as a hand mixer (I guess they didn’t feed the gerbils enough…) and no working instruments.  But that didn’t matter, because depth wasn’t an issue, and there were no obstructions — just get out of the harbor and go.  We had perfect wind and a great afternoon.

Two weeks ago, we decided to stay in a River North hotel for our visit, right next to the Marina Towers and the House of Blues.

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It was Lollapalooza weekend, so we just soaked up the energy of the city.  And concluded our day with dinner at an of-the-moment restaurant, next to huge open windows that let us enjoy the cool (especially for August) Lincoln Park breezes and watch the passing parade of humanity.

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary, so we made special dinner plans for last weekend.

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Look at these innocent children on August 18, 1989.

For a local celebration, we don’t have to think too hard about where we’re going for dinner: Charleston restaurant in the Harbor East section of Baltimore.  (Clearly, we were not the only ones with the same idea, because at nearby tables there were 3 couples celebrating their 39th anniversaries, and a pair of rookies celebrating their first.)  But, because we knew we were going to indulge in wine (especially if we went with the wine pairings for each of the many small courses), that meant we were NOT going to drive home.  As we did for our 20th anniversary, we got a room at the Marriott Waterfront.

Our 20th anniversary was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  We didn’t even mention to the hotel that it was a special occasion, but we got a room upgrade.  Not just any old upgrade, but an upgrade to the 2,700 square foot Presidential Suite.  270 degree views of the Inner Harbor and city, dining room for 12 people, full kitchen, etc. etc.   A VIP experience likely never to be repeated.  This time, I selected a slightly upgraded room category, and was delighted with what we got.

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Day and night views from our corner room.

As you can see, we got breathtaking views.  And you can also see a city that is much changed from the one I moved to in 1987.

Back then, parts of the land over which we looked were an EPA Superfund site.  Now, what is known as Harbor East is a hip, happening, vibrant and — yes, EXPENSIVE — neighborhood.  With my office building out of sight, behind others, I could enjoy this part of Baltimore for the escape it offers from suburban chains and highway homogeneity.  And, as we did in Chicago, and other cities we love to explore, we just took it all in.

Most of the time, when I want to escape, I think about a boat and water.  But sometimes, I want to escape into the fray of a city.

 

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