Category Archives: Maryland

The Summer Wind – Sailing in Baltimore

Sailing Excursions in Baltimore MarylandEvening comes and as the sun begins to set. A warm glow lingers among the soft breezes drifting across the Chesapeake Bay. Late summer is the  season that sailing is at its best here in Maryland. The Summer Wind brings a new charter option to sailing in Baltimore.  

We all have our, “Happy Place.” A boat with billowing sails gliding across glassy water is that place  me. Funny that a kid who grew up in the desert loves to be on a boat. Perhaps more odd that the entire time I was in the Navy I rarely set foot on one. Now that I’m living just a short drive from the Chesapeake bay I sail as much as I can. 

Typically that means either a jaunt to Annapolis or taking the bridge over to the Eastern shore. I was thrilled to recently learn that American Sailing Tours has pulled anchor from its original home, sailing the Delaware River off the coast of Philadelphia, and docked in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor bringing The Summer Wind with them.

I’ll admit they pretty much had me at the name of this 48-foot long schooner. “The Summer Wind,”  is one of my absolute favorite Sinatra songs. 

Owner (and skipper) Tom Kirwan captained us out onto the harbor for our latest Travel Massive meetup.  As the 50-foot sails unfurled guiding us past the iconic Domino’s Sugar sign, Tom and I chatted about his life as a sailor – which started before he was even able to walk.

The Summer Wind - Sailing in BaltimoreKirwan brought The Summer Wind to Baltimore in 2015 for its first season. Today, she is the only sailboat of her class offering public sailing excursions out of the Inner Harbor. While American Sailing Tours offers the staple harbor tours and sunset sailing, what sets it apart is Tom and his crew.

There is zero pretension aboard The Summer Wind. You won’t find stuffy folks with ascots and jauntily positioned sailing caps here. When you sail with Tom and his crew you feel a true connection to people who love what they do, and where they do it. They’ll regale you with tales of Baltimore’s maritime history, fill you in on the points of interest as you pass by, and make you feel as though this were your boat. 

Relax on deck with a glass of wine. Here you’ll find comfy seating, polished wood siding, and of course some great conversation. Below decks is more seating and the head {sailor-speak for the facilities – I swear I never even used that term in the Navy, past boot camp. It’s just weird.} 

Saling Excursions in BaltimoreBe sure to make some time either before you set sail or when you drop anchor, to explore the Harbor East area where you’ll find upscale boutiques, a movie theater, and great eats. Wit & Wisdom at the Four Seasons is the perfect place for a wonderful meal or nibbles. It is just steps from The Summer Wind’s birth.  Lobster corn dogs, mesquite smoked mussels in a champagne beurre blanc, black truffle popcorn… need I say more?

The summer wind came blowin’ in from across the sea. Next time you’re in Baltimore… come sail with me! 

The Summer Wind - Baltimore

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Loews Hotel Annapolis (review)

Loews Hotel AnnapolisSome may say the journey is the destination, but where you stay along the way certainly has an impact – good or bad. The Loews Hotel Annapolis certainly falls into the former category. 

Location! Location! Location!

Annapolis is a city that was laid out with the intent to accommodate horse-drawn carriages. As such, it isn’t exactly an easy town to get around in your car. The Loews Hotel Annapolis is perfectly situated just outside of the narrow – and often congested– streets of downtown. Nearly anything you’d want to see or do here is within easy walking distance of the hotel.

Amenities

BAROAK -the on-site restaurant– is a sublime mix of innovative gastro pub and relaxing cocktail lounge with an upscale yet casual atmosphere. Where they really stand out is the skill of their house beer “sommelier” who will happily take you on a culinary adventure pairing the outstanding offerings from the kitchen with brews from around the globe.   

BAROAK head Chef Teddy's famed Bleu Mussels
BAROAK head Chef Teddy’s famed Bleu Mussels

The requisite fitness center beckons to those who want to stay on track with their wellness plan, the business center is there for those who want to get things done. Soft, indulgently fluffy robes await in your room. The room service menu goes far beyond the expected eggs and late night bites with touches of local flavor, much of it sourced from local producers. All of this lends to the luxury of the place, but honestly the best amenity is the staff.

Staff

From the minute you start the check-in process it is evident that this is more than a hotel, it’s a place you’re welcome. In most hotels staff will greet you by name at the front desk, doing the same every time you come in contact with a staff member… that is something all together different. At first I thought it was just me. Me being the VIP I think I am in my own head. Turns out they treat every guest like this. My ego may need time to recover.

Since I was hosted during this visit, I made it a point to chat with other guests to gauge the experience for others. The stories flowed with ease and enthusiasm. One family I approached was in town for a wedding with kids and dog in tow. Before they even reached their room treats for both canine and kiddos had been delivered along with extra towels, pillows, and an one those amazing robes for everyone. Seriously, the robes are awesome. Our 10 year old hotel aficionado was gifted one for her birthday and proudly trounces about the house in it every Friday night. 

Hotel staff that anticipate your needs before you even know you have them, now that is luxury.

loews annapolis marylandValue

While Loews Hotel Annapolis is a luxury property, the price point is a pleasant surprise. By no means is it “budget” but when compared to hotels on par in the Washington, DC and Baltimore area the $270 or so you’ll pay here gives you plenty of bang for your buck. 

Valet parking runs around $23 a day. That is less than what you’ll pay in a number of the public parking garages in Annapolis for just a few hours.

For Families?

The staff will go out of their way to make every member of your family feel welcomed. They really do make the place feel home. S’mores on the rooftop? Totally doable. That said, if you have a family that does best at hotels with kids-rooms or pools, know that you won’t find that here. I don’t see that as a downside, especially with all that you can do in the area, but I do understand that pools can be important.  

Hotel Info

Address: 126 West St, Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: (410) 263-7777
Website: Loews.com

Loews Annapolis – Girls Night In

Sometimes even the promise of fun with your favorite fab females isn’t quite lure enough to get you through all the prep and primping involved in a girls night out. Maybe what you need is a girls night IN? Um.. what is that? That’s exactly what I recently asked the folks at Loews Annapolis hotel. The answer has become my new favorite thing. 

Travel, I love it, but boy can it get exhausting when you’re the one in charge of everyone. From the booking to the packing, to the occasional refereeing I earn that room service wine.

Girls night in at Loews Annapolis HotelTo be honest, I’ve daydreamed of escaping to a hotel all alone just to save my own sanity. Hole up with a good book and an even better bottle of wine, that’d do it. Until the folks at Loews Annapolis reached out and invited me to come down for a girls night in with some fellow bloggers, creatives, and journalists – now pals.

Before that invite I hadn’t ever really put much thought into enlisting my friends to abscond with me to a hotel, sans kids, just to enjoy ourselves. Cue the “I coulda had a V8,” forehead slap.

What a brilliant idea. I’m stealing it!  

How to have a Girls Night In…

1. Pick a Hotel with a GOOD Restaurant

BAROAK at Loews AnnapolisYou cook all the time, a Girls Night In is your chance to have someone cook for you. Don’t settle for blah! Find a hotel that has a good -if not great– restaurant on property. This will let you indulge without the need of designated driver. BONUS, your yoga pants are just steps away in the room.

Nestled inside the modern-nautical themed Loews Annapolis is port of culinary bliss – BAROAK. What it lacks in pretension it quadruples in flavor and creativity.  Here fresh and local meet over live music and an extensive craft beer menu.

Chef Marcus Donovan – right hand knife to Chef Teddy Folkman who’s moules fromage bleu are legend – served up a tasting menu that took Chesapeake Bay food traditions and tossed them a curve.  Fried oysters topped with pickled shallots have the familiar flavor of a mignonette topped raw oyster, but with crunchy, creamy and somehow more brine that the classic. Pair that with a Scoville JalapeƱo IPA from local Jailbreak Brewery and it’s sweet, spicy, salty, crunchy, creamy, mildly hoppy HAPPY town!

Rumor has it that Chef Marcus might be turning Maryland’s iconic Smith Island Cake into deep fried nirvana – I’ll take one for the team and taste test that for ya. I’m selfless like that.  

2. Bathrobes 

That ratty robe you wear at home might be perfect for pop-tarts and lukewarm coffee, it is NOT fit for your Girls Night In! Loews Hotels know their way around a robe.  In fact, the only hotel robe I’ve ever purchased to bring home was from a Loews property {yeah, purchased… that’s it}   It simply is not possible to be anything but relaxed when donning a fancy hotel bathrobe. Go ahead, try to prove me wrong.  

3. Get Your Girlie On

Treat yourself in a little ‘beautification vacation.’ Loews Annapolis arranged for a lovely couple from a local nail salon to come in and give fabulous in-room mani-pedis. While not every hotel may be willing to go that extra mile, there is no reason you can’t make an appointment at a nearby nail studio, set up treatments at the hotel spa, or go old school and do each others nails like back in middle school. Just no freezing the bras, m’kay?    The great thing about Loews hotels in any city, is that they will go that extra mile to make your stay everything you want it to be. This is a brand that really does treat you like family when you stay. Heck, they’re even renowned for welcoming fury family members in style. {be warned if you click on this link you may die from the adorable therein}  

4. Remember Girls Just Wanna Have FUN

 Just because you’re not hitting the club, doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had. S’mores outdoors are fast becoming a hotel trend. Toss a robe over those PJs, grab that bottle of bubbly and head out to the fire pit. Hey, it’s your party you can s’more if you want to.  Not up for ooey gooey bliss? How about ordering that non-Disney flick on the hotel menu, having room service send up some pizza and wine? It’s your turn to have a good time.     It’s also okay to toss some adventure in there too. We had a soggy blast setting sail aboard the Schooner Woodwind, rain and all. Find that fun thing to do in the city where you stay, and do it. No kids, no hassles, just you and your gal pals. Most any hotel concierge will help you set up your outing.   

 

A photo posted by Lara D (@dipaolamomma) on

Now, go start plotting your escape. Not only is it totally okay for you to make time for YOU, you’ve earned this!

Tips for Viewing the Assateague Island Pony Pinning

photo credit: Bonnie U. Gruenberg
photo credit: Bonnie U. Gruenberg

At around ten years old I got the best Christmas gift any kid could ever ask for – my first horse. Well, technically she was just a hair too short to be called a horse. I loved her all the same. She and I would while away many a summer afternoon in the shade of an outcropping of trees that sprung up around a little stream carved out at the base of a leaking water tower near her stables. While she nibbled on sweet watercress, I’d read (and reread) the classic; Misty of Chincoteague.

The story of how Paul and Maureen longed to buy one of the ponies that swam across from Assateague Island, was pure romance to my preteen soul. It didn’t hurt that my pony was a Paint with a large white marking on her side. It was one of those bittersweet books that crawls into your heart and makes you somehow enjoy the sad parts as much as the triumph.

Far removed from that stream by the water tower – my horse long passed – I now live close enough for a day-trip to Assateague Island. Taking my family down there is a treat. The beaches are far less crowed than the rest on the Delmarva peninsula, nearly pristine and yes… there are still wild ponies. 

surfing off Assateague Island MarylandThe population of the herd is kept under control in part by the annual Pony Penning (now called the Pony Swim) which remains nearly the same as described in Marguerite Henry‘s classic. On the last Thursday of July the Volunteer Fire Department of Chincoteague, Virgina – aka the Saltwater Cowboys– drive the herd on a short swim from Assateague to Chincoteague at slack tide. Here the foals are separated from the herd. 

The first foal to make the crossing will be named King or Queen Neptune and raffled off at the carnival that evening. The rest will be sold at auction, the adults returning to the island to live wild and free. 

Here are some tips for viewing the Assateague Island Pony Pinning.

Information on the 2015 Chincoteague Pony Swim

Date: July 29th, 2015

Time: Slack Tide (usually between 7:00 am and 1:00 pm

Admission: To view the swim is free

Parking: (free) Chinoteague Combined School – 4586 Main Street, Chincoteague, VA 23336

Other activities on Chincoteague Island Saturday, July 25, 2015:

  • 28th Annual Chincoteague Island Blueberry Festival (9:00 AM – 4:30 PM at the Chincoteague Center)
  • 90th Annual Chincoteague Fireman’s Carnival (7pm – 11pm at the Carnival Grounds)
  • ‘Misty of Chincoteague’ playing at the Island Theater (Check the Theater for show times)

Wild Ponies of Assateague Island Just as when I was that awkward book nerd who’s only friend was her not-quite-a-horse, I’ve mixed feelings about this tradition. In my ‘logical brain’ I understand the need to control the size of the herd. Can’t have them breeding and eating themselves out of a home. On the other hand, softhearted soul in me sees a certain cruelty in breaking ‘families’ apart.  

For now I think we’ll stick to spending lazy summer days on Assateague Inland, enjoying the sun, searching for a new shell for the collection, and keeping an eye out for wild ponies.

Not that they’re that hard to spot….

Roaming the roads Wild Ponies on Assateague Island Maryland

 

For Baltimore

Join the conversation at (cool) Progeny, support Baltimore and show that we can #BeMORE
Join the conversation at (cool) Progeny, support Baltimore and show that we can #BeMORE

Like millions of others I was glued to the TV yesterday watching events unfold in Baltimore. I was also waiting for my husband to get home from his office in the heart of Baltimore I found myself fielding questions from family and friends across the globe, and talking through the surreality of it all with friends in the city.

Then the phone rang. Schools were canceling all bus service into the city, including Emily’s field trip to the symphony tomorrow.

For the first time since we moved to the suburbs of Baltimore 12 years ago, I feared the city I’d come to love.

Today I woke up in a turmoil of mixed emotions ; heartbreak, anger, bewilderment, fear, and some I don’t even have words to describe. In fact, I find myself at a total loss to understand this, to find a way to move forward with anything that feels remotely effective. 

Again I join millions watching Baltimore, searching for answers, wiping away tears. Wisdom can often found in the oddest places, and sometimes when you need it most. Today it was delivered by George Takei.

“My heart aches for the City of Baltimore, which saw riots following the funeral of 25-year old Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody due to severe spinal cord injuries.

As a Buddhist and a follower of the teachings of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I both understand, but cannot condone, the violence that has erupted. I have no easy answers for either those enraged by the continued racial injustice, or those appalled by the violent rioting and looting the whole world is seeing.

Many say there can be no peace without justice, but so, too, can there be no true justice without peace. The riots must end before any progress can be made; progress must be made so that riots have their end.

What none of us should do is remain silent or indifferent. Tonight and in the coming days, hold your children, your families, your loved ones. Talk to them, and your friends and co-workers, about your feelings and theirs, and understand the passions that underlay them. All of us in our own way care deeply about both the symptoms and the manifestations of this disease that plagues our nation and indeed the world. To recognize this shared desire for both justice and peace is the first step towards both.”  ~George Takei

If you’re in Baltimore and looking for resources, just looking to help, or in search of someplace to talk things out, please visit (cool) Progeny. This digital magazine serves as a resource for Baltimore families in good times — and hard. I am proud to be a contributor and grateful for this place to gather, share, and begin to heal.