Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Whirlwind Trip to Baltimore

I want to complain about my trip, I really do. Trekking through the airports all day is never a very appealing task; especially when you are due to arrive at your destination at 1 am. Despite my daring the airport, airline and crew to make my trip miserable, they just wouldn't cooperate. The airport staff, even the ones who normally just give you a barely audible grunt were amazingly friendly. People were helpful, even the general public didn't seem all that irritated to be herded through the lines like cattle; I suppose that was because we weren't being treated as such.

The hotel however, did find ways to disappoint. This is my second stay at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel. The rooms were adequate, the bed linens were some of the best I've found in a hotel yet. When the bed linens are the bright spot, you know it's not a good sign. Suffice it to say they completely twisted around the reservations such that they had our reservation cancelled at one point. Upon arrival, the long hallways to reach your room seem infinite. I was there two nights, and both mornings I woke up to the chants of protestors. They were close enough to be heard in the room, but not nearby enough to interpret beyond a repeated chorus of "What do we want?" Not a fault of the hotel, I understand, but an annoyance nonetheless. Overall the hotel was probably quite nice about ten years ago, and the upkeep has been just adequate. It was not worth the rate of over $300 per night. Internet access was inexcusably atrocious, but I digress.

Regarding restaurants and meals, the bar at the hotel was moderately priced, had a reasonable selection and the burger I had was good. The view from the bar area was lovely, overlooking the harbor. Some of my traveling companions had dinner at Windows, the restaurant in the hotel, and came away unimpressed. The hotel is attached to a shopping area, with several other stores and restaurants located just across the street on the harbor. The attached area has a variety of chain fast food eateries, so there are plenty of places to grab something on the go. I did have one excellent meal, our group went to Ruth's Chris for dinner one night. This was the location where my husband and I first acquired our addiction and have been happily scouting out other locations around the US. I strayed from my usual Creme Brulee and had the Pecan Pie for desert, it was truly outstanding.

This wasn't my first trip to the area, so I skipped on the tourist spots this time. Two that are worth noting however are ESPN Zone and the National Aquarium. ESPN Zone is similar to a Dave & Buster's but with more emphasis on the sports theme, including TV's with nearly every game on the planet blaring at you. Not my sort of place, but popular enough to mention, plus the building is architecturally interesting. The National Aquarium is well worth visiting, it's one of the nicest I can recall seeing in my travels. I suspect it's as close to literally swimming with the creatures of the sea as you can get and not wear scuba gear. My last visit there was at least 4 years ago, but I was told it is still just as beautiful.
Photo from the National Aquarium Website, showing a Southern Stingray.

It was a quick trip, an enjoyable one at that, but after being beholden to the schedules of airlines, restaurant reservations and hotel housekeeping I appreciate being able to hop in my car and go on my timetable.

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