Wednesday, November 23. 2005
November is possibly not the best time of year to be visiting a zoo, but the Baltimore Zoo was quite entertaining nonetheless. Our first port of call was the Otter, who put on quite a show - leaping in and out of the pool and pausing at appropriate moments to strike a pose suitable for photographing. There weren't many turtles to be seen in the 'Maryland Grassland' area but the petting zoo brought back some childhood memories and there were quite a large collection of African animals, including a slightly wheezing, but still vociferous, lion and a leopard cruelly placed where he could see gazelles every day but not get anywhere near them.
We located a nearby mall to grab some lunch and there were some tense (for us) moments as it became apparent we were the only white people in the building, as we started ordering our food we were quickly categorized into the 'damn tourists' category and people stopped giving us funny looks. The food was once again both cheap and plentiful, a very satisfying feature of american eateries.
In the evening we went to an ice hockey game, the Tampa Bay Lightning visiting the Washington Capitals, tickets being a bargain $5 each. Our seats were very high up but the whole upper deck was canted at a vertigo inducing angle which made you feel like you were almost directly above the rink. The game itself was quite strange, the home team got ahead early but then hardly got a shot in for the next two periods. Tampa Bay eventually turned their dominance into goals and forced the game into overtime and then into a penalty shootout which they duly won. What interested me was the contrast between the 'outside' entertainment at the ice hockey compared to the football. Although there was stuff going on at the football, nobody much seemed very interested and, apart from the odd cheerleader and the marching band at half time, the only thing that appeared on the pitch was the two teams and the stadium was full. The ice hockey was less than half full but there seemed to be something going on at every break in play - prize draws, organ playing, videos on the big screen and even some fairly blatant 'throw lots of free stuff at the crowd' type things. Between the periods we were treated to an absolutely hilarious 'junior' game (two teams of seven year olds following a puck around the rink - it was a lot funnier than it sounds...) and an "It's a Knockout" style race in suitably funny costumes, this with adults though. In all it seems the NHL feel they have to work a lot harder for their fans than the NFL.
Tuesday, November 22. 2005
Shopping and Hooters Posted by robertc in Washington and Baltimore at 23:59
We decided to start getting down to some serious shopping today, so Arundel Mills Mall was our destination. Our main focus was sports, computer games and music, but I still found time to buy a couple of books for light reading in Books a Million - The Gathering Dark by Christopher Golden and Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire (see my entry for Wicked below). I tried to find some new CDs by bands I'd found on emusic but the shops seemed to be a little too mainstream. After lunch, and not content with just the one mall, we located another one nearby (GPS is a marvellous thing!) and headed off to that - there was a large Dick's there and I bought some bits and pieces for the next football season - including some athletic tape in team colours!
The evening entertainment was a trip into Baltimore for a meal at Hooters - it was as tacky as promised, but although the girls were built appropriately it seemed they were just as bored as most other waitresses, at least the food was OK. After dinner we went to the excellent Barnes & Noble, built inside an old power station they'd retained the original furnace structures to add a bit of character - one of my favourite bookshops, didn't buy anything though. Next was a trip into ESPNZone where I managed to be awful at the 'throw the football through the moving holes' game and nearly as bad at the basketball shooting game, but all good energetic fun for up to four players.
Monday, November 21. 2005
We did the tourist thing in Washington today. After driving to Greenbelt we got on the Green Line towards central DC, changing at Fort Totten to end up at Union Station. The station itself is quite impressive, in the style I think of as neo classical (I could be completely wrong, of course) and hasn't been totally spoiled by having a shopping centre built in it. After a brief tour round a book shop (no purchases as yet) we set off to see the sights.
Unfortunately it started raining so we decided a museum might be a bit more comfortable than a wander around the monuments, so we went into the National Museum of Natural History where we had an enjoyable time looking at dinosaur skeletons before going into the basement cafeteria for lunch. After lunch it had stopped raining so we walked up to look at the White House, where we got shouted at by a police woman for daring to attempt to cross the (completely deserted) road at a place where there wasn't an officially sanctioned crossing. It started raining again then so we headed in the direction we hoped would lead us to the nearest Metro station, but we passed a very large Borders first so went in there. This time I did make a purchase - Playing the Offensive Line by former Giant's offensive lineman Karl Nelson and a Linux Journal. We also got directions to the Metro station and, a few minutes later, were on our way back home. The evening was taken up with Monday Night Football, watching the Vikings narrowly defeat the fast sinking Packers. I also read some of my new football book and was gratified to discover that Karl Nelson agreed with everything I'd been telling my linemen to do for years
Saturday, November 19. 2005
We were booked on an early flight out of Heathrow on United Airlines, which meant getting out of bed at 4:30am At least the traffic wasn't too bad at that time! We were ahead of the rush so got our tickets and got checked in fairly quickly and had plenty of time to get breakfast before going through security (where we had our shoes searched, poor bloke looked a little upset at the smell) and into the boarding area. There was some delay because they had to defrost the plane before we could take off, but we left Heathrow only 20 minutes or so late. The in-flight entertainment consisted of a single tape with about eight movies to choose from, though it was slightly frustrating that you therefore had to wait for the longest film to finish before the tape got rewound and you could watch the next one. I watched Bewitched, Must Love Dogs, Bruce Almighty, some of Batman Begins (because that was the longest film, so always the last one showing...) and the end of Bad News Bears. Overall, not a bad selection, I thought, and the meals were reasonably edible.
Upon landing at Washington Dulles we were soon able to locate the bus stop for the car hire and, after the guy behind the counter tried really, really hard to give us an SUV instead of a car (he started off at $47 extra for the week, ended up basically trying to give it us for free), we picked up our Taurus and we were on our way. We nearly ended up back at the airport a couple of times because there were some new roads which weren't in the GPS software, but we were soon cruising along the interstate. One of the nice things about the US is the amount of space - in the UK the countryside always feels a little crowded, the roads are sometimes narrow because there's just no room for them to be any wider and everything is scrunched up close together, the US doesn't have so much of a problem there because there's so much more space to go around.
We arrived at our host's house after a few hours of pleasant driving and had some lunch while taking in the first quarter of the Notre Dame/Syracuse game and then had a trip out to The Mall in Columbia, no shopping at this early stage though, before locating the nearest Wendy's for tea.
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