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Category Archives: Travel

Daytrippin’ Again and Again

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It is the season. To get in the car and head out looking for new places, and enjoying the weather.

The red buds are in bloom. So are the Kwanzan cherry trees. I have to head out to Brighton Dam to check on the progress at the azalea gardens. Maybe tomorrow we will do that.

We did get out to a few favorite places, and a new one.

We hit the Hawaiian Shaved Ice place on Liberty Road. Just northeast of where Wards Chapel meets Liberty Road. Had one absolutely awesome egg custard shave ice.

We went looking for Carhartt shorts. To National Harbor, no less. There is a Carhartt store there (go figure, a very traditional work oriented clothing company in a tourist destination). This was our first visit to the evolving tourist spot. We had an excellent lunch at Rosa Mexicano, and then slogged our way home through downtown DC. It made us remember just why we retired, and don’t regret that commute every night. By the way, the fish tacos at the restaurant. Amazing.

Spring is our favorite time to hit the back roads, enjoy the scenery and venture into previously unexplored sections of the tristate area.

Any suggestions for places to go?

Parts Unknown

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OK, I admit it. I am an Anthony Bourdain fan. Love the series of travel/food shows. We tend to record and watch TV shows of interest, in the winter, when we can’t spend time outdoors in the evening.

I record all the past episodes and watch them when we finally collapse after a day of putting our house back together. Last night, one of my favorite countries, France, was highlighted, or should I say, a city we once passed through on our travels.

Marseilles.

Our gateway to a week in Provence. The part of the world that influenced my cooking for the past 15 years. We flew into Marseilles (no customs at arrival, that was something) and boarded a bus to travel to Arles.

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Followed by Avignon.

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Nice after a night in Monte Carlo, to board a sailboat.

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A week sailing the Med. This was a major vacation. One to celebrate my 50th birthday. A life changing trip. Which hooked me on markets. Fresh food. Good wine.

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Bourdain’s shows get deeply into culture. Not just a surface look. They make me dig deeper into cuisines. Look for restaurants. Like now, when my husband wants to try the Ethiopian restaurant in Burtonsville.

I didn’t really make any resolutions this year, but maybe I should have. To resolve to travel a bit more. To try to find authentic ethnic fare. To expand my cooking capabilities. After all, I certainly am not getting any younger.

Where do you want to go? What foods inspire you? What cuisines would you like to try, if you could?

Me, I just would love to find a market that features spices, like Arles.

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Opening Doors

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And discovering the world.

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In two days a blogging friend who also volunteers with me at the Conservancy is leaving on a one YEAR trip around the world. Something many of us dream of doing. She is starting in Istanbul, one of my absolute favorite cities that we visited during our travels in the past.

I am following her family’s journey on their web page. I admire their quest to travel the world with only a backpack a person. Husband and Wife. Three girls. Their nanny.

Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

Travel to places where they speak a different language. Eat different foods. Live their lives in totally different ways than we do.

Their journey reminds me to dust off my bucket list. Look for those things I want to do, but haven’t yet. I’ve done quite a bit of it, but there’s always more mountains to climb. Seas to sail. History to discover.

In the meantime, those grounded items on my list keep getting checked. The garden. Check. The house in the country. Check. That radio tower for my husband. Getting closer.

First prize for my heirloom tomatoes at the fair. Sometimes I think it’s unattainable. The weather keeps conspiring against me. But, the search and the challenge is what keeps us going.

I wish Lisa and her family fair winds and following seas. We will be following their adventure, and maybe planning a dream trip of our own.

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Totally HoCo

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Continuing my discovery of places to take friends and relatives in Howard County, I want to highlight a fairly new asset to those of us connected to the internet as a source of things to do, places to visit, and people to see.

TOTALLY HOCO.

An online calendar chock full of activities for fun, learning, arts, and so much more. For example, this week. Did you know you could meet the (in)famous COLONEL GATEWAY at a Meet and Greet this Wednesday. One of the whimsical aspects of living here. Finding those characters that bring the personality of an area to life.

You can find lots of inspiration in this calendar.

But, that’s not all you can use to find ongoing events most weekends. If you do have guests, and even if you don’t, you can count on having some unique experiences in the area.

How about a Yappy Hour? Or, maybe an outdoor movie in Old Town Ellicott City? Both are standard spring, summer and fall events at the Wine Bin.

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Yappy Hour starts this weekend. Movie schedule should be coming soon. We discovered the Wine Bin at one of the Saturday morning markets last spring. Some of the nicest people there. Also, a great selection of wines and beer.

The markets on Saturday morning are also one really great way to start the day. They open the first weekend in May. Breakfast pizza anyone? Music. Barbecue. Strolling Old Town and taking in the atmosphere.

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Other options for things to do that don’t cost an arm and a leg? Second Saturdays at Mt. Pleasant site of Howard County Conservancy and third Saturdays at the Belmont site. Free events.

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Visitors in May. If they are here the first weekend in May, you must take them to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. There is no easy way to explain how popular this festival has become. It is now huge. The largest and longest running festival of its kind in the United States.

Just keep Totally Hoco in your bookmarks to see so many options for getting out of the house without leaving Howard County.

America’s Main Street

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Second in my series of posts on where to take visitors to Howard County. This post focuses on one of the two historic roads that travel through the county. US 1, the original “Main Street” from colonial times onward in the development of the United States.

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Inspired by the book I found at my mom’s a while back. I decided to head out yesterday and document some of my favorite places, present and past, along the stretch of US 1 from Savage to Elkridge. Including Jessup, the third location located in our county. As usual, I will include some of my favorites to get breakfast, lunch or dinner, to keep my recommendations in line with my locavore tendencies.

US 1 isn’t the prettiest road in America, but for those of us born and raised here before the advent of super highways, it was certainly familiar to us for trips and for services. I lived within a few miles of Washington Blvd, in Baltimore. From a business standpoint, there were many places we frequented using that road. I even worked for a while after college in a bookkeeping and tax accounting business in Elkridge. Proximity to Baltimore and Washington. Elkridge was a convenient midpoint.

But, I am going to start with Savage. You could easily spend many hours with friends in Savage. One of the mill towns. It is home to a very significant historic landmark, the Bollman Truss Bridge.

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The bridge is adjacent to Savage Mill. Restored and now a destination. Home to a few spots I enjoy, like the Bonaparte Breads and Renata’s Tasty Bites. Renata is only there a few days a week. Her savory pastries are awesome. I discovered both these vendors at farmer’s markets. Bonaparte at the Dupont Circle market, and Renata at the Owen Brown library market.

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The Mill also has many shops to browse. Check out the Family Game store. For those inclined to work off those pastries, outside you can partake in Terrapin Adventures.

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On the river side of the mill, there are walking trails. You can walk across the Bollman Truss bridge.

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North of the Mill, Savage Park has wooded trails and is also connected to the Patuxent Branch Trail, which can be hiked all the way to Lake Elkhorn in Columbia. This is a very popular site in the summer, and parking can be a bit tricky. For us, we like to go there in the off season.

Getting back on US 1 and heading north, you pass through Jessup. Lots of wholesale food companies here. Including a newly reopened seafood market, which used to be Franks Seafood. Now, according to our friend HOWCHOW, it has become Wild Seafood, but still retains many of the former employees. Getting fresh crabs here, to serve to out of town guests, is another great thing to do.

Breakfast or lunch at the only Food Network covered “Diner, DriveIn or Dive”? Can be had at R&R Taqueria. If you have any relatives that are fans of the show, you can take them for some of the best grilled lamb tacos we have ever tasted. Or, maybe breakfast like their huevos rancheros or chilaquiles con huevo. Numerous times we stop and grab tacos to go. One of us staying with the car in the adjacent lot while hoping a legal spot by the Shell station opens up. We have been warned not to leave a car in the crowded strip mall lot. It may be towed.

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R&R is technically in Elkridge, as Rte 175 is the dividing line for Jessup/Elkridge. Yes, hard to get in to the deli sometimes. This is our second gas station favorite in the county. The other one is Town Grill in Lisbon, that I mentioned in my previous post. Don’t count out these small family owned sites. Way better than a Taco Bell taco.

Further up just before crossing the Patapsco River into Baltimore County, turn right onto Levering Avenue to head back to the Elkridge Furnace Inn. Civil War History Marker just before the parking lot.

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The Inn itself is now a fine dining establishment, where we tend to celebrate major milestones. They also have afternoons teas periodically, and are open for lunch. A good place to celebrate a special event with out of town relatives. OR, for history buffs they often have suppers with a speaker, like the upcoming 150th anniversary Lincoln dinner.

And, speaking of the Thomas Viaduct. The B&O railroad, so important in the development of this area, is highlighted again in the Patapsco State Park area reached from just across the county line by way of South St. $2 a car to enter. The Viaduct looms ahead of you as you enter, the oldest multi-arched stone railroad bridge in the world.

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There are miles of trails in the park. My favorite is the loop to the Swinging Bridge and back. Half in Baltimore County and half in Howard County. This park, when I was growing up, was the location for school picnics, for reunions, for birthday parties and much more. River Road unfortunately was never fully restored after Hurricane Agnes, but it is still a walking trail for those who love the river as much as we do.

If you’re lucky you even get to see the commuter trains on the viaduct, proof that when it’s built right, it can last for centuries.

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US 1 may be a hodgepodge of many “flavors”. It still inspires us to get out on those lesser traveled roads. I haven’t even touched on Ellicott City, or the other national road in the county — US 40. More to come this weekend.

Happy traveling!

Spring Visitors

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Just a while back, the local online papers, Columbia, Ellicott City and Elkridge Patch asked readers to recommend places to take out of town visitors to Howard County.

Want a locavore take on this? I thought of so many great places not included on their list. After all, how could you not recommend Clark’s farm? Or Larriland? Or Brighton Dam? Or Oella? Or, the other dozen I will cover in some future posts.

Let’s start with Clark’s Farm. Adjacent to Centennial Park. The walk through the Enchanted Forest Tree Maze is worth the price of admission. As well as the petting zoo, the wagon rides, the “Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe” and much more. Nora and Martha have made this place special for children, and adults who carry that sense of whimsy found in those old fairy tales.

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I did a post the day I visited the farm in April 2013. The farm is open April through October.

My second favorite springtime place to take friends is Brighton Dam. On the county line. The azalea gardens are legendary. Part of the Triadelphia Reservoir land, the 5 acre gardens are the place to go in late April and early May. The water authority, WSSC will publish a news release on their home page that documents status of the azaleas. You can picnic below the parking lot on the downstream side of the dam. The gardens have trails that work well for strollers, but a little tricky for wheelchairs. Still, this place is full of couples, families, individuals, bird watchers, photographers, and those just wanting to take a stroll on the beautiful spring days.

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It doesn’t get much better than this.

Moving on to May, strawberry picking at Larriland. A trip to this family owned farm is a real treat. Weekends there will be wagon rides, food, things for the families to do. We go out to Larriland at least six times a year. We do strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, tomatoes and apples. Sometimes more. Like flowers. Or beets. After picking fruit, we head up to the Town Grill to sit outside and eat their wonderful messy barbecued pork.

Berry picking. We love to do. Bring them home. Clean them. Freeze whole berries to add to a glass of white wine, and it feels like spring no matter when you have them.

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Finally, in this post, head over to Oella. Walk the Trolley Trail. Visit the Banneker Museum. Have lunch at BricknFire Pizza, at the Breadery.

Pick up Angus beef steaks at JW Treuth, a traditional butcher shop just down the road from the Breadery. Wander the tiny roads that lead down to the Patapsco. Just across the river from Old Town Eliicott City. Which will be the subject of my next post later this week.

Oh, and if you want cherry blossoms? Howard County has those too. Check out Blossoms of Hope events. And, we haven’t even made it to summer yet. You have lots of exploring to do.

Home for the Holidays

Yesterday we took a trip back to my husband’s home town. Mainly because we hadn’t been there in 18 months, and we wanted to check in on some things (and buy some of his favorite kielbasy). Most of the family is gone. Moved, passed away. A few friends still in the area, but not many.

It’s a deeply depressed coal mining town. We found my husband’s old house on the market again. Like hundreds in the area. We were lucky to sell it quickly 12 years ago when my MIL moved to a retirement community in Pottsville.

The cemetery. Covered in fog and snow. Too wet, windy and cold to try to take pictures. We were there to check on the gravesites, before paying our yearly maintenance fee to the man who the church uses to maintain graves for those who are no longer local. The cemetery is on a huge hill outside of town. At 1800 feet elevation according to our GPS.

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This picture, taken last year shows the wind turbines installed on the ridge. Yesterday we couldn’t see them, the fog was so thick.

As for getting that kielbo, we forgot that Kowalonek’s gets really crazy at the holidays. Lines out the door, through the parking lot and around the corner. Not our idea of what to do in the rain and wind. We decided to head south to Manheim and look for fresh kielbasa at the Roots Country Market and Auction.

We found some at Hummer’s meats. A three pound ring of fresh, not smoked kielbasa. It almost is as good as his hometown version but not quite. We also picked up some of Hodecker’s celery, a real delicacy harvested in the fall and early winter. The web site is from the Bed and Breakfast at the farm where the celery is grown.

Some of that celery went into stock tonight. The leaves were frozen for later use.

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We took the back roads up and back. On the way up, we stopped at the Peters Orchards to get some gifts like this one.

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Cranberry salsa. Made in PA. Peters carries a nice selection of hot pepper jellies, all sorts of jams, honey, syrup and much more. They are open year round and are on the way to Carlisle on Rte 94. My husband couldn’t resist the molasses cookies either.

All in all, on a rainy blustery day, we had a good time, even though traffic was awful on the way home. I have to admit, I don’t miss that commute in really bad weather up I-81.

Now, off to bake cookies and other goodies using things I picked up at the market.