U.S Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Baltimore, Maryland

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

The East Coast has always been one of my favorite places, mainly because I’m a huge history nerd. For this round of cities you should definitely visit, I’m talking about Baltimore, which I last visited when I was about 10 years old. Whew! Do I feel old? Yeah, maybe a little.

I’m really excited to talk about Baltimore because I have a gentleman friend from Maryland who gave me the deets from a native’s perspective. Ready to get knee-deep in pink plastic flamingos? Let’s go!

History

To start off, I think it’s important to mention that the state sport in Maryland is jousting. You read that right: jousting. Baltimore might not seem that old, but it’s been a city since 1729. Here are some of my favorite historical facts about Baltimore:

l A Mixed City: Baltimore used to be right up there with Ellis Island as the second-largest point of immigration in the U.S.

l The U.S. Flag: The original Star-Spangled Banner Flag was designed in Baltimore by Mary Pickersgill. Today, there’s a museum in the home where her family once lived, and I want to visit so badly. This is the flag that inspired our national anthem. Girl power!

l Cool People: Fredrick Douglass, Billie Holiday, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall all lived in this city, leaving amazing legacies in their wake. Babe Ruth was also born in Baltimore. There’s also a pretty cool museum in Baltimore that you can visit if you’re a baseball fanatic.

Cool Things to Do

While obviously having a pretty groovy background, Baltimore also has a pretty awesome scene right now. First off, I must tell y’all about a little friend, “Natty Boh,” who’s a big deal in Maryland. The National Bohemian brewery logo is the head of homie sir. Another logo you’ll see frequently in Baltimore is the “Utz girl,” a doll who represents a brand of chips I’ve never heard about (#westcoast). Anyway, Natty Boh is a big deal in Maryland. If you’re visiting, be sure to stop by the billboard that’s been up since 2007, where you can spot the huge logo in person.

If you want to party like a Baltimore native, you’ll want to head down to Ocean City. If you want to say you’re going to the beach like a native, try something along the lines of, “I’m going downy oshun.” Yep, that’s a thing. Don’t be surprised if you hear it. What is Ocean City? It’s basically miles of beach and a wooden boardwalk with your typical shops and restaurants.

Accommodations

Looking for a place to park your motor? Try staying in either an Airbnb or pop over to HotelPlanner Baltimore to find hotels like the Holiday Inn Express. This one is particularly awesome because it’s built in the Old Town National Bank, and the interior is to die for.

Wherever you stay, I hope you love every minute of your time in Baltimore. The friendly people and unique culture make Baltimore an absolute must stop on your next vacation. See you on the other coast!

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5 Ways Paris Changed How I American

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It’s not grammatically correct – I know. Get over it.

Visiting any place will change the way you interact with the world, but living in a place changes you right down to the core. There are so many little differences I’ve noticed since I’ve been back from France – it’s crazy to think that it has already been more than four months since I’ve been back! What a crazy thought.

But, France is still with me in so many ways. No, I don’t have French speakers surrounding me, anymore, but I do have a lot of things that I’ve changed in my own day to day life, that weren’t even noticeable while I was living in France. Today I realized just how much my American has become French. It’s okay, though. I think these changes (for the most part) are making me a healthier happier person!
Here are a few examples:

  1. I eat dinner for lunch: If there’s one thing that the French are known for, it would be their food. Beyond this, I would say they’re known for their love of food. It’s not uncommon for Parisian businesses to be closed down for multiple hours, as workers wine and dine their lunch breaks away. As a young professional navigating the professional (very American) world, I wouldn’t say I’m quite to this point, but I definitely do pack lunches differently. When I was in France it was the first time that I had ever eaten anything more substantial than a sandwich for lunch. But lunch in France? It was a huge, gourmet (and quickly became favorite) meal of mine. And I’ve noticed the remnants of this practice in my day to day life even now. I pack meals, not yogurt and burritos, for lunch – and I’m starting to realize how much more satisfying my day is after having a substantial meal to look forward to, and to enjoy the energy from.
  2. I cross the street whenever I damn well please: Okay so this one I actually have to rework in my head every day, because I now live in a city where the police DO care if you jaywalk. In Paris I got so used to just walking across the street whenever I felt like it (as long as there wasn’t oncoming traffic, duh.) that I’m still trying to retrain myself to stick to the crosswalks and wait for lights to change. It isn’t easy.
  3. I CANNOT enjoy regular bread: It’s actually really sad to me that I can no longer enjoy non artisan bread. But I just can’t. Unfortunately, the U.S. doesn’t exactly accommodate my French taste buds with the penny prices that you can get bread for in France. Here in the U.S. they’re more than happy to charge you your first born child in order for you to enjoy the light fluffy goodness that bread should be. And now I’m sad to say (sorry to my budget), I don’t have any intention of ever going back.
  4. I can’t enjoy sweets/soda: WHY IS EVERYTHING SO SWEET IN THIS COUNTRY!? My salt levels were pretty off when I first got back, as well – but I definitely got over that one. Mmmmm salt. Sugar – not so much, I can barely sip off of a soda, it’s so high in sugar. Everything, in fact, seems to be dumped with piles and mounds of sugar and sweeteners. It’s a little more than I can take – but this is a pretty easy something to fix since I love fruit and vegetables more now, anyway.
  5. Old isn’t old, anymore: Last weekend I was driving past a field when I saw an old barn. It brought up a really interesting conversation/thought process when I called it ‘old’, though, because I realized that it was probably built within the last hundred years. In comparison to the thousand (and older!) year old structures I was used to seeing in Europe, it’s interesting how my thought process has changed as far as measuring the age of things around me. The U.S. is such a baby nation!What about you all!? Have you ever lived/travelled somewhere that changed your perspective on how you live your own day to day life? Comment below!Blog Signature

The Breakup

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This week marks 5 months of me living in France, and I can hardly believe that it has gone by so quickly! I know that’s probably somewhat of a standard thing to say, but I really just cannot believe how much has happened in such a short amount of time. It simultaneously feels like 5 weeks and 5 years.

As a marker stone for this anniversary of my life in France, I thought I would think back to what I missed from life before living here. The answer: Everything. So then I thought it would be BETTER to think about the things that I didn’t really miss. That worked a lot better.

The biggest thing I don’t miss is my Netflix account. I know, shun me. But it’s the truth! I thought I would die without it, but honestly, I was using it most of the time to watch things I didn’t actually want to watch and to fill in the void of exhaustion that I would have after work. There wasn’t much “fruit” growing out of this part of my life. Oh, and Hulu got the boot too. The reason was mainly financial that I cut the cord on my Netflix relationship. It really wasn’t them, it was me. As an au pair I make next to nothing, after student loans etc., so I decided to cut all unnecessary costs. It was a really hard decision, to be honest, but in the end I knew it was worth it. You don’t really think about Nextflix/Hulu as costing money, but after a year it’s almost $250 I was spending. Crazy.

Obviously I realize this breakup isn’t for everyone. But I’ve noticed myself being so much more intellectual in the spare time that I now have. If I’m bored, and want to watch something, I go on PBS (free) and stream a documentary or Downton Abbey, or something that I actually want to watch (unlike Bronies). It turns out I don’t need 500 movie options to choose from every night, and the act of actually picking a movie is so much more enjoyable because I CHOOSE the movie. It’s not the suggestion of a suggestion of a suggestion of an algorithm of a choice I made three years ago. Not to say there aren’t good things to watch on Netflix, just that I don’t need access to all of them to stay happy.

My second breakup was with my smartphone. Although I do still use it for keeping in touch with awesome people from home (when I have wifi) I bought a little prepaid phone and (GUESS WHAT!?) it works just fine for making phone calls/texts. While I do like the idea of having information constantly graspable, I’ve realized that it’s kind of cool not to always be checking notifications, but instead be checking what my kids were doing at the park.

Instead of bringing my iPhone, I bring my sketchbook, or my knitting, or a book to read when I go out. I read on the metro, or just sit there silently (or as silently as one possibly can sit on the Paris Metro). It’s amazing how undervalued silence is. My brain goes absolutely wild. I come up with some of my best ideas while catching the mostly empty metro to church on Sunday mornings. I find myself sketching randomness when I’m waiting for my kids to finish piano lessons or PE and then realize: Wait. I DREW that! I finish books I’ve wanted to read for forever and I come up with designs and ideas on how to fix problems. If I have my iPhone out at all it’s because I’m using notepad to write down all of the ideas that are pouring out of my mind.

Next on the kick list, and this one kind of breaks my heart, is fashion. I’ve bought only basics and accessories, like scarves, since I’ve lived here (I think I might have bought a pair of shoes and a coat at some point) and that’s pretty much it. It was really hard at first, because I LOVE fashion and I love being able to keep up with trends, but something I’ve learned (which is oh so French) is that minimalism is okay. I have one pair of American made, sturdy leather boots and they work great for every day basically. Amazingly, I don’t need 25 sweaters and 200 pairs of shoes. Instead I mix up accessories and play with different makeup choices. It’s actually a lot more fun, and still keeps me on my toes in the fashion arena.

And lastly I’ve broken up with waste food. I would call it junk food, but I honestly feel like “waste” is a better word because of how much of a waste it is to my potential. A few months ago I joined this healthy eating/living group and it has been so great. We’re able to keep each other accountable and really push ourselves to work out, or to eat healthy meals. When I first arrived in this house there was so much junk food it was incredible, but after living here for only a few months I see a difference in the way me and my kids eat. Even the parents are climbing onboard!

The result of getting rid of these (and more) unnecessary things has allowed for a kind of renaissance in my creative life. AKA: my mind feels like it’s going to explode all the time. I have too many ideas, not enough time. I have so many projects I want to start, so many things I want to make and create. It’s like the past few years my mind has been storing ideas and suddenly the dam has been breached.

It’s both glorious and mildly terrifying, mainly because I don’t really sleep anymore. But at the same time, it’s incredibly liberating. And I can’t help but wonder: How much more would have been stuck in my mind had I not decided to take a step back from some unhealthily dependent relationships?

The Holy Trinity

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Church.

Like any given Sunday in the life of moi, this morning I went to church. Being a Christian, and it being Sunday, that fact is a fairly unexciting statistic. But, what made today different, was that “going to church” meant going into a gigantic medieval style stone structure filled marble carved statues (we’re talking 8-10 feet high, including a skeleton reaper which is #hellapunk) in a small French town. Oh, and that it was Catholic. Which I am not.

Now you may think there would be some cultural differences for an American Protestant girl who ducked her way into a party where no one speaks her exact verbal or spiritual language, and you would be right. But overall I felt incredibly refreshed by the experience. The reason I was there in the first place was because it’s the only church within 30 miles of where I live. Not gonna lie – the lack of options is kind of a bummer.

The church service was as traditional and conservative as you could probably find anywhere, complete with a pipe organ and higher than usual pitched singing. It reminded me of church coronations/marriage scenes from Elizabeth or Ever After. But, overall I loved the service. It was pieced together with biblical scriptures and interval hymns (In French, of course, which was amazing) and I loved that it constantly engaged those who were there to worship.

Afterward, I stopped by the flower shop across the street and bought a little purple flower bush to bring some life to my room. It worked. I’m so much happier seeing my little plant ward every time I walk in the door. It really is just the best for someone, like me, who is obsessed with the natural world.

The final excitement for the day happened when I logged in to my favorite websites, Hulu and Netflix, to relax for the evening. Then, to my utter astonishment, from BOTH websites, I was told that they did not work within the country I was operating. As in – there was NO Netflix, Hulu or Pandora in THIS WHOLE COUNTRY. Try to grasp my horror. It was quite severe and really couldn’t have been worse. I’m not ashamed to say it, I adore all of these websites, and being able to relax and watch a movie is essential to bringing together my feeling of home.

I’m starting to realize more than ever that, sometimes it’s the littlest things that make home feels like home. Like Netflix. Or a random little shrub in your room.

I am sorry to sound like a spoiled American brat, but when I first found out I would have no access to Netflix, Hulu or Pandora I was pretty seriously considering booking it out of France…ok, so I wasn’t, but I was pretty upset. I don’t have many of my movies with me here in France, so it’s really important to have these resources. Would I die without them, no. Would I be a lot less happy about life? Yes. LUCKILY, I have amazing friends who let me in on the secret of Chromzising websites and making them work with Hola. I couldn’t be more happy.

Today has been a full and relaxing day, overall. I actually had the guts to tell my host family I didn’t want to go with them, the kids and their grandparents to the park, a decision which needed to be made since it’s my day off and they keep trying to “include me” on these days – which is nice…but I’ll be with the kids this week 7am-7pm every day (school doesn’t start until next week) so I think I’ll have quite enough kid time for the week without going out on my day off. Instead I stayed home and wrote letters to any and everyone I could think of. I ran out of postcards, but I plan on getting more on my next trip outside this petit-chateau.

Also, if you’ve asked me to send you a letter/postcard please please be patient. I’m mailing out the first bunch today, but there are still some people I’ve missed that will have to go out the next time I have the courage to go into the post office and ask for stamps.

Oh, yeah…I have a sauna in my bathroom. As in, the bathroom is only for me and there's a sauna in it. Awesome.
Oh, yeah…I have a sauna in my bathroom. As in, the bathroom is only for me and there’s a sauna in it. Awesome.

Red, White and Blue

French, American and British Flags flying high this weekend.
French, American and British Flags flying high this weekend.

I love being in Europe, again, to recognize the American soldiers who fought and died to assist in the liberation of the globally oppressed, during WWII. We, as Americans, don’t really celebrate the victories, only the end of the war – which I’ve always thought was a pity.

But, walking around the French streets today, and seeing American flags flying in recognition of US assistance in the Liberation of Paris, was awe inspiring. Proud to be an American, today. But even more proud of the men and women who fought (and still fight) to bring peace to their fellow humans in distress.

Read more about the celebrations: http://www.le70e.fr/en/liberation-territory/liberation-paris