A couple weeks ago, I had a week off of kindergarten crazyness. God bless the person who invented spring break. It was so needed. I came back to work feeling refreshed and ready to teach. (That feeling quickly faded. can we have two spring breaks??)
Anyways, my friend Rachel and I went on a trip to Washington D.C. over spring break. My co-workers went to places like Florida and Jamaica. I went to the nation’s Capitol and did a lot of learning. Nerdy Teacher Spring Break. So, other than my love of learning, why DC? Well, turns out Rachel and I had both wanted to go there at some point in life (I went there on family vacation when I was younger, but had wanted to go back as an adult) and airfare was super cheap. So we could afford to go there And as an added bonus, Rachel’s friend Claire lives just outside of DC and we were able to stay with Claire and her husband, who might just be the world’s greatest hosts. But more on that later.
We flew into the Baltimore airport and rented a car. (Rachel may have spent weeks singing, Good Morning Baltimore” to me in preparation for the first leg of our trip. If you know Rachel, this doesn’t surprise you. At all). We then spent the day in Baltimore. We didn’t really have much of a game plan except to head to the harbor (which we heard was the safest part of town) and go to the visitor’s center and come up with a game plan there.
If you are ever in Baltimore, do yourself a favor and go to the visitor’s center and ask for Bonnie. Ask her to plan your day for you. She is probably in her 60s. And she will probably have an impressive amount of make-up on. But it suits her character. And she is a character. She is exuberant about life and really excited to help you make the most of your time in Baltimore. She’s the best.
She approached us and asked where we were from and how long we were in Baltimore. Then she said, “Alright, here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna go out front and catch the bus to Fort McHenry. It is a free bus and will take you there. Fort McHenry is where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner. BUT (dramatically looks at watch) it closes at 4:45, so you have to go NOW.” We said that sounded good and asked where we should park our car. She said, “You have a car?? Ok, you are going to DRIVE to Fort McHenry. Parking is free. You are going to follow the bus. On your way back, you are going to stop at the American Visionary Art Museum. They have an amazing gift shop. You can buy anything there. I bought this ring there for $3. When I was in Greece, people were amazed it was only $3. Then you will go to Fell’s Point. You girls will love it there. There are men. There is drinking. So you will have a little bit of history and a little bit of fun. You will love it.” Later I asked Rachel what part of our appearance (Cardigans and scarves) gave the impression of “partier”. She then basically shoved us out the door.
We snuck over to the harbor and took in the pretty view before sneaking back past the visitor center and to the car. We though Bonnie would be disappointed in us if she saw that we did not leave IMMEDIATELY. We then stopped at Chipotle for lunch. Clearly we were rushing. But how can one fully appreciate history if they haven’t eaten lunch?? That’s right. They can’t.
Turns out we actually really loved our entire itinerary that Bonnie gave us. Our mantra for the day was, “Thanks Bonnie!” and “Bonnie knows us better than we know ourselves!”
Fort McHenry was pretty cool. Did you know that the Star Spangled Banner was written during the War of 1812? I’m pretty sure that Mrs. Schostag taught me that in 4th grade music class, but the details were a little fuzzy in my memory. And if you don’t remember much about the war of 1812, don’t feel bad. No one else does either.
We watched a video that was a dramatic re-enactment of the battle at Fort McHenry. In case you don’t remember what you learned in your American History Class, let me tell you the most basic of facts:
- The British had just burned down the White House.
- Their next stop was Baltimore.
- Fort McHenry was the only thing stopping the British from reaching the city. All night the battle waged.
- Our pal Francis was a lawyer and he was out in the harbor perhaps negotiating the release of someone?? It is hard to say for sure.
- The battle waged all night and then in the morning, he could see that a flag had been raised above the fort, but at first he couldn’t tell if it was the British or the American flag.
- Then through the fog/mist/smoke you could begin to make out the stars and stripes.
- Oh, and the flag was giant. 30×42 feet. And it was so big it had to be sewn together on the floor of a brewery.
The highlight was at the end of the video, the screen rose and reveal a giant window and through the window you could see the flag waving at the fort. It was very patriotic. We loved it. Well done, Fort McHenry! Well done, Bonnie.
After wandering around history for a while, we stopped off at the American Visionary Art Museum. (That may or may not actually be its name. But I’m feeling to lazy to confirm these facts via google). Bonnie was right. The gift shop did have everything under the sun. She would probably be sad to know that we did not buy anything. We did however find out that if you wait until 45 minutes before closing, the museum entrance fee changes to donation only. Amazing! We enjoyed the museum, but were glad that we donated $5, rather than paying full price.
Then we headed to Fell’s Point. I was a little nervous it would be some seedy night club area. Turns out it was actually an adorable historic area of town with cobblestone streets and cute shops. We browsed some shops, ate some dinner, and then headed off to Claire and Andre’s house.
Rachel parallel parked our car on this tiny tiny street. Let’s all just take a moment to applaud her.
It was a terrific beginning to our spring break adventures.