Saturday, March 27, 2010


Our daughter-in-law, Marylee, invited us to accompany her and our grandson Ian to the National Aquarium in Baltimore yesterday. They had bought a family membership and got two free tickets to use for guests. And she thought of us! Matt, meanwhile, was driving to North Carolina to meet with a client there.

We met Marylee and Ian at a Loyola University parking lot near I-83 and rode with them through the cold rain to Inner Harbor. Marylee was kind enough to drop me off near the door since my dogs were barking, as they say, from a lot of standing and walking the day before as I volunteered at the church. The rest of the group continued down the street to a parking garage as I waited inside, marveling at the "Maryland waterfall" re-created in the lobby, complete with stone walls, trees, plants, and fish.
When they arrived, we checked the stroller and began our visit. Ian was fascinated first by the floor-to-ceiling "bubble tubes" that periodically emitted a burst of air through the water, creating tall plumes of bubbles. Then we moved up through the core of the building on a series of escalators and ramps, until we reached the top, where a re-created rain forest housed beautiful (and noisy) birds. On the way we saw plenty of interesting sea creatures.

A major feature of the aquarium is a huge pool with stingrays and other fish in constant motion. In the pool also were divers, inspecting the fish and feeding them. In another area, ramps carry you past a 360 degree channel live with all sorts of fish (divers, too) whizzing by as if they were on their way to a fire.

We stopped at the museum store, and Ian went home with a big blue shark. With the rain having stopped, we hot-footed it to the Panera café across the street and had some soul-warming hot soup and sandwiches. Interestingly, we were seated next to four French dudes who were speaking their native tongue. I was able to detect a word here and there, but I learned no state secrets by listening in.

Susanne and I waited on the corner while Marylee and Ian went to get the car. We whizzed back to pick up the Box and headed to Matt and Marylee's house in Perry Hall, where most of us fell asleep! Only Marylee stayed awake, conducting business on the phone and doing some laundry.

Around five, Matt showed up, having driven fourteen hours or so in the last 24 hours. He regaled us with stories of his trip, including a list of fast foods and energy drinks that he had consumed while traveling at warp speed. He impressed his clients in North Carolina by correctly identifying the Lester Breininger pieces in the client's redware collection. Lesterware is everywhere!

Once Ian turned in for the night, we ordered from a local tavern and enjoyed a late dinner, staying up late to talk about home improvement, real estate, and investing. When learning that we are secretly rich, Matt tried to get power of attorney, but we're way too smart to fall for that.

This morning, the Box took me down the road to Dunkin' Donuts for bagels and muffins for everyone. When I got back, Matt made coffee, and we enjoyed breakfast. Soon enough, we headed to a nearby church to watch Ian participate in a tots' play group, where he ran, jumped, climbed, bounced, slid, threw, caught, rolled, and broke -- bubbles, that is. It's fun to see him in action.He was still going strong when we took our leave and headed home with a stop at Ikea. We picked up some plants, place mats, a lamp shade, and other highly-necessary items. We skipped the lingonberries.

Our last stop was at Hunt Valley, Maryland, where we sought a bite to eat. Every car in Maryland must have been there! We searched and searched for a parking space and finally found one about a half-mile away from yet another Panera. Susanne has a panini sandwich and black bean soup. I (always looking for something new) had the same tomato soup and chicken salad sandwich I had the day before.

Our appetites satisfied, we climbed back into our little silver friend, Susanne at the wheel, and made the rest of the journey home to Harrisburg.
The "Maryland waterfall" greets visitors at the door.
Ian and a new friend check out the bubbles.
Ian watches the stingrays swimming.
Beautiful scenes of underwater life abound in the aquarium.
Divers observe and feed the fish.
Selecting the perfect souvenir.
On the way to the car, we pass the vessels
docked at the harbor.
We were able to resist these goodies
at the Panera café.
Ikea offered this cool shelving unit -- it might look
good in our basement family room some day.

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