Monday, January 20, 2014

Kick Off the Year With Some Travel Adventures

I woke up this morning to this picture sent from my parents:
They're on vacation in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Needless to say, I'm jealous. Especially considering the view out my window is gray, snowy and slightly depressing. The good news...I will be looking at a similar landscape in less than a month. Yes, in February, I'm off to Belize for a week with my boyfriend and I cannot wait to explore the incredible caves, the Mayan ruins and the beautiful coral reefs. I am literally counting the days...I need a break from this frigid cold.

Luckily, I will get a little relief soon. Steve is going to Huntsville, Alabama, for work for two and half weeks, and he wants to fly me out for a weekend...just like we did for Baltimore. I've been looking into what's there, and I'm actually interested to see what it's like. They have some fascinating museums related to NASA and rockets, so we'll definitely check those out. There's also some great hiking trails and outdoor activities, which we can actually partake in because it will be slightly warmer than Chicago (and by slightly, I mean a good 30 degrees warmer).

I have to say, I'm really enjoying these last-minute, impromptu trips I'm getting to take. They are fun, relaxing breaks from my somewhat hectic schedule. But I also get to experience places I never considered visiting before. I am looking forward to more travel adventures this year, and cannot wait to write all about it upon my return!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Advantage of Work Travel

I've always wanted to be able to travel for work, and when I finally got into the travel industry, I thought it would happen more. Unfortunately, the kind of work I do doesn't require me to go anywhere, with the exception of one week spent training out in Colorado. At the end of last year, my job gave me some new accounts (New Jersey, North Dakota and Austin), so maybe, if I'm lucky, I will get to visit some of these places for work.

Even though I might not get the opportunity to boyfriend does. Right now, he only goes to military bases in the U.S., and I've had the chance to spend a weekend with him. However, he just informed me yesterday that in March, he will most likely move to a different team and start going to international locations, like England, Australia and Denmark. And he wants me to go with him! Of course, it's not as easy to go overseas for a weekend, but my job does allow me to work from anywhere, as long as I have internet access and a phone. So maybe it will be possible to take advantage of his situation, and figure out a way to travel with him.

What's really great is that my company is a travel-centric one, so they encourage taking trips. I'm sure they will allow me to go with him once and a while, which would be amazing! I hope that I get the opportunity to visit some incredible places, because now is the time to take these vacations, while we're young and have nothing holding us back.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Colonial Times: A Weekend in Baltimore and Delaware

Old brick and wooden buildings line the cobblestoned streets, which are filled with modern day cars. People wander from store to store, pub to pub, completely unaware of the beauty and history that surrounds them--perhaps because they are accustomed to it. But I'm not.

This was my first trip to Baltimore, and despite my preconceived notions of the place--based on my dislike for their football team--I came away really enjoying myself, and wishing I could have spent more time exploring the historical city.

My boyfriend was in Aberdeen, Maryland, for a two-week stint for work, and rather than spend the weekend alone, he decided to by me a ticket and fly me out to stay with him. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity.

I arrived late Friday evening and we headed straight for the hotel. We needed a good night sleep for the day ahead. In the morning, we got an early start and drove north over the border into Delaware. Our first stop was Wilmington, where we found a tiny, independent spot for brunch called Fresh Thymes. The food was all organic, super delicious and very reasonably priced. It was easy to see why this place was so popular. The staff was incredibly friendly, the coffee was wonderful--and there were a variety of flavors--and it had such a small-town feel, you just felt right at home.
My breakfast

Steve's breakfast
After breakfast, we drove around the city for a bit, but found there wasn't much going on. So we headed on down to Dover, a small, very historic and colonial town with dozens of buildings that played a significant role in our country's past. I'm sure everyone who lives there walks past these structures without a second glance, but I was fascinated by them. We have a lot of historic spots in Chicago, but nothing like this. I had to take some time to walk around and snap some photos.

We continued on to Milton, to the Dogfish Head Brewery, one of my favorite brewers. The venue is incredibly unique and offbeat, but that's what makes it so cool. We took an hour-long tour through the facility to see where some of my favorite beers are made. Afterwards, we grabbed a small bite to eat at the food truck stationed outside--which had items made with different beers from the brewery--and had our four free samples. We both got four different ones, so we ended up trying eight beers. Everything tasted great, I don't think there was one beer I didn't like. Most of them were 10% or more ABV, so we sipped slowly and made sure to hydrate, since we had a long drive back to Aberdeen. After a quick stop in the gift shop for some souvenirs and beer for the hotel room, we made our way back to Maryland.

On Sunday, we got up early again and drove into Baltimore. We walked around the inner harbor, which was pretty quiet so early in the morning, but very pretty. The modern architecture complements the tradition and history of the city, and I probably could have stayed next to that water all day, if only it hadn't been so chilly and windy. We made our way to the top of Federal Hill, a lovely green space that acts as a community park and overlooks the harbor. It was a gorgeous day, the fresh air, the view, the company, it all made me forget--if briefly--all the things I needed to do the next day.

After grabbing a small bite to eat and some much needed caffeine, we made our way to Fell's Point, an historic neighborhood in the southeastern portion of Baltimore. The minute we arrived, I could sense the seafaring past of this maritime region. It is home to antique stores, coffee shops, a market house, eateries and more than 120 pubs. Yes, this place has the largest concentration of drinking establishments in the city. And indeed, we did come across a lot of pubs, it was difficult to decide where to have lunch. Once we picked a place, we took a seat at a table in a quiet corner in the back. I opted for fish and chips (since the East Coast seems to bring the desire for that dish out in me) and Steve went for a crab sandwich (as Baltimore is known for its crab).

The afternoon was spent visiting more historic sites. First, Fort McHenry. This military icon played a major role in our country's history. It was here, during the War of 1812, where Francis Scott Key penned the Star Spangled Banner. The fort is surrounded by a public park and is accessible through a welcome center, which holds a number of exhibits and information about the fort. We walked through the old building of the fort, and admired the original flag that flies above the walls, a replica of the flag that flew in 1812, with only 15 stars. (Note: The visitor center is free, but it costs $7 to go into the fort.)

Afterwards, we made our way over to the Washington Monument (no not the one in D.C.). Baltimore has it's own structure that honors the country's first president. There really isn't much to see there, but still cool to visit. Then, we strolled through the exhibits at the Walters Art Museum, home to more than 25,000 pieces of art. We ended the day at the Baltimore's Christmas Village, a traditional German Christmas Market with unique vendors, great food and, of course, hot mulled wine, yum! It was the perfect way to end the day, and the weekend.

There is definitely more in Baltimore I would have liked to explore, but I covered a lot in my first trip, and was able to make it to Delaware, too! Now that's a good way to knock two states off my list.