Yesterday, Dustin threw me another of his surprise, spur of the moment, “Let’s go spend the night in a hotel and take a day-trip…”  –and this time to Baltimore!  I guess we were made for each other, because, my reaction is always, “Fun –Let’s go!”  I like to know ahead and plan, and look forward to things, but this way I don’t have to wile the time away waiting for a special event to happen…I get instant gratification!  (Yes, I know, that is a problem with our age –which could be another whole post of its own –but never mind…Let’s keep to the topic at hand!)  So, once again, I had about twenty minutes to pack my bags, and then after the evening church service, we headed straight to Baltimore.

This time however, it was not just any hotel…the Hotel Monaco, with four stars, and for a great deal at that!  I don’t know if any other Hotel Monaco guests ever ordered Domino’s Pizza, but we did!  We also took pictures of the things all the bigwigs just kind of brush by –like ornate ceilings, the decor of our room, and the beautiful balcony.

Complimentary bathrobes to use...and only $90.00 if you want to keep it!

We spent the day EATING, of course, among other things…you have to take advantage of the scrumptious food big cities always offer.  We went to Potbelly’s sandwich shop for lunch which was delicious.  We both had their Italian sandwich with lots of toppings.  We also tried their Southwest chicken soup.  Leaving there, we did some walking and sight-seeing.  Lots of places were closed, it seemed on Mondays (at least in the winter), but we still got to know the city to some extent.  We walked around the Inner Harbor seeing several historic ships and a submarine.  We also saw the Flag House where Mary Pickersgill sewed the Star-Spangled Banner.  We ended off the day in the Little Italy part of town, at Vaccaro’s Italian Pastries, a specialty Baltimore is famous for.  Here Dustin ordered a Belgian waffle topped with delicious, light  and fluffy ice cream, whipped cream, and walnuts and strawberries;  I, on the other hand, could not get away from their éclair.  O dear heart, hast thou known a morsel more lovely?  It was about eight inches long by four inches in diameter, and the majority of that space was creamy, smooth custard!  The pastry itself was very good, obviously fresh and homemade, and it was topped with a thick layer of chocolate icing.  Then, upon removing it to a plate to serve it to us, they drizzled chocolate syrup over the whole plate and sprinkled powdered sugar over it!  I could only eat half!  I brought the rest home, and ate a few more bites, and maybe tomorrow I will take the remainder to work and share with my friends…they must be friends, too, for me to share my éclair with them!  It was a wonderful day!

A Lightship
Potbelly's Sandwich shop

Baltimore skyline

The Flag House

Vaccoro's Italian Pastries

A Good Day!

IKEA What?-Part I

Many of you have probably never heard of that funny word–IKEA.  Actually, it’s Swedish: what it means exactly I have no idea.  I guess I could look it up somewhere and give you the definition, but that’s not quite the point of this article!  All I know is that it is a mega furniture store that Andrea and I have this strange and sudden liking of.  You say, “a furniture store?  Why would you care about that?”  That is an honest question!  I still despise furniture stores.  I can remember going to Art Van or Oak Express as a kid with my parents, and just waiting what seemed like days while they picked something out to their liking.  To me, there is nothing more of a bore than furniture shopping–until we found this IKEA place.

After finishing my freshman year in college, I was home for the summer working at Discount Tire in Lansing: my workplace from the time I was in eleventh grade until my last summer at home before graduating from Fairhaven.  I picked up the Lansing State Journal one morning before work, and saw in the Local and State section an article about a huge new furniture store that was having its grand opening that day in the Detroit suburb of Canton.  The description of it sounded interesting, and they were offering free breakfast for all of their customers that day.  I didn’t have much thought about it again until a few months ago…

As a young fairly newly-married couple, Andrea and I love taking little one or two day excursions on our days off.  Sometime last November, we took a trip south into true country-ville (anywhere south of Brogue).  About fifteen minutes past our church is the Mason-Dixon line separating Pennsylvania from Maryland.  We crossed the line, and drove along the Susquehanna River until we came to I-95, reportedly the most traveled highway in America.  South would take us to Baltimore, and north would take us into Wilmington, Delaware.  I thought to myself, “I’ve never been to Delaware.  Let’s go there!”

Don't worry about it, there's not much here.

Well, let me tell you, there is nothing in Delaware.  Nothing beautiful.  Not much in the realm of history–except it being the first state to ratify the Constitution.  No, we just drove around for an hour or more in an out of run down Wilmington neighborhoods.   After getting a bite to eat (without paying any sales tax…one nice thing about Delaware), we left the state, probably never to return!

I felt somewhat defeated.  We drove all of this way to eat at a chain restaurant?  I had to find something else to do before the day was finished.  Out of nowhere, that newspaper article from four years earlier came back to me.  “I wonder if there is one of those IKEA stores somewhere near Baltimore,” I thought.  I found somewhere with internet access, and it looked as if there were one in Aberdeen, Maryland–about 40 minutes from where we were in Delaware.  Off we went–and guess what?  There was no IKEA in Aberdeen; the address we had was probably for their warehouse or something.  I stopped somewhere to ask, just in case.  “No, not here.  It’s in White Marsh: about 30 minutes away!”  Oh well.  Now I was even more defeated.  It’s dark, and here we are 90 minutes from home, not having done much but drive all day, and we couldn’t even find the goofy furniture store!

We hopped back onto I-95, heading into Baltimore, then we would hit I-83 north and go home (I didn’t feel like driving the slightly shorter, but very curvy country-ville roads home).  Then, just before hitting the Baltimore Beltway, we saw it: an exit for White Marsh.  “We’re going to find this place!”

We found her at last, in all her glory!  In huge letters, the word IKEA! It seemed like an oasis in a somewhat wasteland of a day.  We entered, and found one of the most enjoyable shopping experiences I can remember.  If I could sum it up in a phrase, it would be: everything is catered to the customer.  Many stores try this, but very few succeed all of the way.

When you first enter the sprawling store, a rack with pencils, pamphlets, and mesh shopping bags greet you.  The idea is to take all three, and explore the store from there.  The Baltimore store starts out with various living and dining rooms fully set up with all furniture, decorations and accessories.  Each item in these rooms–from the kitchen table or couch, all the way down to the fork or wall hanging–has a price tag on it, giving an item number, name, and description to take note of with your pencil and pamphlet.

You start off with living room sets, then into kitchens, dining rooms, offices, bedrooms, and kids rooms: all down one main corridor meant to move everyone in the same direction–similar to many museums.  This time, for us though, was mostly just looking.  At the end of the displays, a set of stairs takes you down to the marketplace: where you wander around picking up and examining anything you may have written down on your pamphlet, plus exploring different styles and color options.  By the time we reached the end of the store, probably close to an hour after arriving, we had one item–a floor lamp that was on a good sale–$7.97.  Just after the checkout, there is a concession area, where everything is flat priced, including tax.  We could smell cinnamon rolls through the whole store, so we decided to get one for a dollar and split it (they are enormous!).  Since it was getting close to the end of the day, the gentleman offered to give us six of them in a pan for two dollars!  No denying that!  They ended up being our breakfasts for the next couple of days, and are delicious.  We left that day very satisfied, knowing we would come back again soon, maybe even purchasing some furniture from them.  Their prices seemed very reasonable, their quality exceptional, and their style–a little over the top at times, yes; but innovative and right down our line.

The next post in this series of three will tell of our visit to IKEA this New Year’s Day, the deals that we found, and pictures of our new home furnishings.