Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mid-South Meanderings Part One

Hello! Eager to escape the piles of snow that were melting ever so slowly in our yard, my husband and I took a trip to what I'll loosely call the Mid-South last week. Our vacation began with a flight to the Baltimore area. Why there? Partly because we like that part of the country - and oh, Southwest had a pretty darn good fare sale from Bishop Airport (Flint, MI) to BWI Airport(Baltimore-Washington International).

It was dusk when we landed at BWI on a Sunday night, so no chance to see how far spring had sprung. But the next morning, when we took the light rail train into downtown Baltimore to pick up our rental car, we saw greening grass and the blooms of daffodils and pansies. Nice!

We picked up the rental car at the downtown Hilton, where I noticed a large sign welcoming the honorees of the NFL's Ed Block Courage awardThis award was going to be presented at the hotel that evening, so I looked around eagerly to see if any of the NFL players who would be receiving it were around. But truthfully, I'm not likely to recognize football players out of uniform, so even if the two guys in expensive suits chatting in a corner were from the NFL, I wouldn't have known it. 

We were near our favorite museum, the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM), but it's not open on Mondays. So instead we drove to another favorite stop of ours, the Amish enclave of Lancaster County, PA.
We used to live about an hour east of Lancaster County and I never tired of the pretty scenery there and the old-fashioned ways of the Amish. The county is more than an hour away from Baltimore, but is still easily doable from there.

One stop on our excursion was Shady Maple, a huge grocery store that draws people from well beyond Lancaster County. We picked up baking supplies in the bulk food section, and then I checked out another must-see (at least to me) part of the store: the potato chip and pretzel aisle. 

I don't know why, but this part of the Keystone State seems to be the king of those snack foods. I love hunting down regional foods when I travel, and what could be more regional than eatables made within a half hour or less of the store? I took a few pictures:

I bought these; the box was labeled "low salt", which was fine with me. I do enjoy a good pretzel, but I often find them too salty. This brand comes from Akron, PA, 11 miles from Shady Maple, and these are very good pretzels!

I've not had this brand, so I don't know if Good's is good. These are made in Adamstown, PA - also 11 miles from Shady Maple, but in a different direction. 

Another big box of pretzels, Uncle Henry's from Mohnton, PA - a whopping 15 miles to the north. 

There are other local brands besides these three; I just didn't have time to take pictures of all of them. It's nice to see local brands in the midst of heavy hitters like Snyder's of Hanover (also made in Pennsylvania; Hanover is south of Lancaster County). 

I didn't just ogle snack foods this day, though - we also went to Ephrata, home of the Ten Thousand Villages flagship store. TTV is a chain of fair trade stores run by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). I wanted one of just about everything I saw, but settled for some window shopping, like the beautiful wall hanging made from embroidered sari scraps:

Some close-ups:


Very pretty fabrics and needlework! 

Headed back to our hotel in suburban Baltimore, and the next morning we used the light rail system again to return to the downtown. Got off at Camden Yards and walked a few blocks to AVAM:

Unfortunately, only exterior photos such as the one above are allowed at AVAM, which is a shame since the art therein really is fantastic. It's home to "outsider art" - works dreamed up by creative types from all walks of life, most of whom are self-taught. 

The current themed exhibit, "The Visionary Experience: Saint Francis To Finster" was very interesting and thought-provoking. Dreams, visions and "inventive new spiritual groups" fueled art that featured biblical sayings, references to cosmic consciousness, scientific theories and more. The works on display, and the stories behind them, made for fascinating viewing and reading!

Upon exiting the museum and its cool gift shop (bought a few small trinkets there), we strolled around the Inner Harbor. It was sunny and in the upper 60's, so many people were out and about. It was St. Patrick's Day, which added to the holiday feeling. 

View of the "Chesapeake", one of several museum ships moored at Inner Harbor. Behind the ship is an old power plant that's now home to offices and retail businesses - Phillips Seafood, Barnes and Noble and Hard Rock Cafe are visible in the photo. It's an impressive building. 

A different kind of watercraft:

These paddle boats are called "Chessies", a play not only on "Chesapeake" but also on Nessie the Loch Ness monster. A short while later, we encountered more Chessie paddle boats, but these were electric. I guess if there's electrified bikes, there might as well be electrified paddle boats as well!

One last picture, taken as we were walking back to the train station:

Above, the oldest church edifice in Baltimore in continuous use; it  dates to 1785. Once the home church of the United Brethren of Christ denomination, it now is part of the United Methodist Church.

Note the ultra-modern office building behind the church - do you think it'll still be standing 230 years from now?

That's all for now - my next post will cover the second half of our trip.


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