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October 22, 2007

Going back to the US!

I am excited to announce that I will go back to the US next week! After five months in Norway I am ready and happy to go. I am excited to see a special guy again, of course! And my friends, and DC, and my old colleagues... and to do fun stuff!

I usually don't miss foods very much, but I do miss eating out at a reasonable price. I don't like eating out in Norway very much, as I feel that at such prices, the food really needs to be amazing - and often, that is not the case. Of course there are great restaurants too, but what I miss is going out for a decent meal at a decent price.

Other things I am looking forward to:

- Getting a pedicure! In the US I would get one every month or two, but I didn't want to pay for them here!
- Going to a yoga class at my old gym
- Buying expensive but delicious food at Whole Foods
- Happy hours with friends and colleagues
- Halloween
- Buying skin care products! Something else I saved for the low dollar...

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November 3, 2007

Baltimore!

Yesterday was my first day of work in Baltimore! I took the train up from DC in the morning and the cab ride from the station was very nice, I saw lots of beautiful houses and also got a glimpse of my new neighbourhood, Fell's Point. My new colleagues all seem really nice and their new offices look great, with lots of sunlight.

During the morning, I noticed that lots of people were congregating outside and it turned out that they were looking at a fire. The old, historic Domino Sugar Factory had an explosion and a fire! Luckily nobody got hurt but everyone seemed sad about the landmark being damaged. What a shame.

After work I went to check in to my apartment, as I mentioned it is in Fell's Point and it is such a great place! I am really impressed. There are restaurants and bars everywhere and there is even a yoga studio less than a block away! I also can still not believe that I have access to a car... Looking forward to hitting the outlet malls, that's for sure!

December 5, 2007

My life in Baltimore

I haven't been good about writing updates about my life here in Baltimore! I very much like the city, although I do miss the walkability of DC. While my neighborhood here, Fells Point, is very easy to walk around in, it doesn't have a grocery store, or a pharmacy, within walking distance of my building. And for a place to get MY approval of walkability, it needs those two things! There are plenty of art galleries and that kind of stuff, but to me those things don't represent a real neighborhood, they instead represent tourism. In a way Fells Point reminds me a little bit of Athens, Georgia, in that it has a lot of restaurants, bars, and stores that sell things I don't need... I still find it weird that I have to drive to the grocery store, but at least it is close and on the way to work.

Apart from the walking aspect, I really do like Baltimore. It is unpretentious. It is a city of neighborhoods, which is very cool. I am looking forward to exploring more of them soon. The Inner Harbor is a neat spot for tourists and locals alike. People in Baltimore are grounded, often working-class, and very connected to the area. I am amazed at the amount of people that have lived here their whole lives, and whose parents and grandparents have done the same.

As far as work goes, I am very happy. My colleagues are wonderful and I really enjoy learning about how important the port is and was for this city. I am currently watching Season 2 of HBO's The Wire, which revolves around the port. It was pretty cool to see two of our ships in the first episode! I actually do learn a lot from the show...

My apartment is also very nice, and I really enjoy that it stays so warm! Having other apartments below, over, and on the sides makes for a toasty place! A couple of cockroaches have visited but I try to forget that... The place is BIG and my friend suggested that I could rent out my walk-in closet to a small family!

In my spare time, I often head down to DC - now that I feel confident enough to drive there it doesn't take more than an hour to get there. I have also joined a very very nice gym, MAC, in Harbor East. It's a real luxurious gym, with four - 4 - pools! (Saltwater pools, to be exact!) I am enjoying the pools and the other amenities A LOT! I have also been horseback riding, which was fun although the place seemed a little shady.

A photo from Vaccaro's, a Baltimore institution!
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December 10, 2007

Eating in Baltimore

I am not really a gourmet. I enjoy foods and I really enjoy eating something when I am hungry, but I am not one of those people who plan vacations around restaurants or buy food magazines or spend years perfecting a particular recipe. I do, however, care about what I put into my body. I am no health freak but I know that I shouldn’t have fries every day, although I really really want to. (My favorite texture is crispy and my favorite flavor is salty – I am constantly craving potato chips, egg rolls, grilled beef with lemongrass…)

This gives you the backdrop to my little survey of food in Baltimore. My preliminary conclusion is that it is greasy and not very varied. I know, I know, there are lots of places I haven’t been, and I can probably find lots of different foods if I try, but so far, I guess I am not too impressed. It seems like my choices for lunch all involve fries and of course the omnipresent crab cake. (Anything you order, whether it is meat, chicken, or fish, can be topped with crab…)

Here are the places I have been so far, and what I think of them:

Della Rose’s: My first beef is with the name. As an Italian speaker I am constantly getting annoyed by Italian names that are misspelled or butchered in other ways. Della Rose’s just sounds wrong. It should at least be Della Rosa’s, but preferably just Della Rosa… Anyway, they are very friendly, and the food is good, but it is definitely a fries/sandwiches/burgers/salads that have more fat than a hamburger kind of place. Plus, because it is so close to work it ends up being a default lunch place.

Canton Dockside: Similar to Della Rose’s. Huge portions and lots of fries.

Claddagh’s: Innovative and very good. At first it looks like a typical Irish pub but the food is excellent. I guess in Britain they would call it a gastro pub.

Mama’s on the Half Shell: Another typical Baltimore place. Anything can be topped by crab imperial, lobster imperial, other underwater creatures imperial… Excellent cod fish cakes, another Baltimore specialty I have learned about. Good calamari. The fish and chips: Well, it was extremely greasy and it came with potato chips, not fries. Hm… Desserts were not that great.

PY: Pizza that Rocks: Great pizza on Canton Square. I have been there multiple times over the last few weeks and really enjoy their pizza. They use real mozzarella.

Five Guys: Some people really love their burgers and fries, but I am not that big of a fan.

Brick Oven Pizza (POB): Good pizza, fast service. Too much cornmeal on the crust!

Johnny’s Restaurant: Fun, dinner-style place with good breakfast food. Very popular on weekend mornings!

Vaccaro’s: A Baltimore institution, but come on! Everything is absolutely enormous! It is a pasticceria on steroids!

I have probably been to a couple of other places as well so I might add those later.

January 31, 2008

Port of Baltimore

I just wanted to post a few shots of my current place of employment. I absolutely LOVE driving around in this little golf cart doing inventories! It is cold (it doesn't have heat) but it is fun and I get to be outside. Also, the environment is, well, kind of interesting - I must say I feel beautiful since I get so many compliments from the stevedores!

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Here are some pictures of manlifts. I think they look like a flock of dinosaurs moving along...

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February 3, 2008

Mexican Food in Baltimore

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Baltimore has a surprisingly wide selection of good, authentic Mexican food. As I described in this post, I very much enjoyed the food in Mexico during my work trip in December, and I was amazed at how different it is from much of what is served in the US, or in Norway for that matter. DC, for instance, does not have a great Mexican food scene (secondo me), either they are on the fancy end (Lauriol Plaza, Rosa Mexicano - which reminds me that I still haven't found out why it is called Rosa Mexicano with an o - if we are referring to the flower it should of course be Rosa Mexicana, but maybe it is named for a woman named Rosa Mexicano?) or they are more Salvadorean than Mexican, often with WAY too much cheese on everything.

In Baltimore, the area around Eastern Avenue and Broadway has many little Mexican places and so far I have two favorites. Las Palmas is a sit-down restaurant with excellent mole and delicious aguas naturales (fresh fruit juices mixed with ice and water). Tortilleria Sinaloa is a tiny place which serves both as a whole saler - they sell stacks and stacks of tortillas that they make on site ($ 1.70 for one kilo), as well as prepared meats for tacos (beef, beef tongue, carnitas) by the pound - and a take out place for tacos and pozoles. You can also eat in, the place probably seats no more than seven people. Absolutely delicious!! On Eastern Avenue between Broadway and South Ann Streets.

February 4, 2008

Formstone - Baltimore's Finest

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When I lived in DC I went to Baltimore from time to time, to visit friends, go to the aquarium, buy Johns Hopkins stuff... I always noticed the townhouses and how many of them seemed to have a uniform, multi-toned grey covering. It didn't quite look like bricks, or cement, and in a way it looked kind of fake. So when I moved to Baltimore three months ago, I was curious to investigate this interesting phenomenon.

A quick search for "Baltimore rowhouses" led me to a Wikipedia entry on The Culture of Baltimore. And right there, all the info I needed. The covering is called Formstone and must have made the inventor very rich, since so many houses in Baltimore are covered with it!

Allow me to quote from Wikipedia:

"A tour through many of Baltimore's rowhouse neighborhoods will reveal a façade style not found in many other cities, Formstone. Introduced in the 1950s, Formstone was a modern day solution to early Baltimore brick that was so poor it needed frequent painting to keep it from deteriorating. But soon Formstone became an icon of status for many homeowners.

The appeal of Formstone was that, once installed, it virtually required no maintenance. Salesmen boasted that the insulation lasted forever and that the first cost was also the last as no upkeep or repair was required. Salesmen also pointed out that Formstone was also about one-third the cost of other façade improvement solutions. Its colorful stucco-veneer gave a stone-like appearance that could be shaped into different textures."

Today, many homeowners try to remove the Formstone to show the original brick walls of the house. It is a time consuming process but once completed, gives the house its original look which is usually a lot prettier than the Formstone!

The picture below gives a good view of what a Formstone house looks like. As you can see the side wall is left with the original brick.

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February 5, 2008

Baltimore rowhouses

I really really like rowhouses. Nice colorful houses with tree-lined streets; there is nothing better! DC has great rowhouses (I used to live in one of them) but Baltimore has some good ones too. In general they are a little more uniform than the ones in DC (where each house is usually painted in a different color) and many have the not-so-pretty Formstone, but there are some really great ones here as well. Over the weekend I took a lot of photos in Fells Point, Federal Hill, and Locus Point, and I will post some of them here.

Thames Street, Fells Point:
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A detail of the middle house:
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Also from Thames Street:
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South Ann Street, Fells Point:
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Also from South Ann Street:
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Fleet Street, Fells Point:
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Cross Street, Federal Hill:
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February 21, 2008

Outside My Building

I have very much enjoyed my time in Baltimore but it would have been nice to be here for some warmer weather! Here are a few shots from outside my building and in my neighborhood. As you can see, I am right by the water, which is wonderful. I feel very lucky!

My building:
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Was that a sunk boat?? Why, yes! Right outside our parking lot!
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If I had a boat I could park it right here:
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A few blocks away:
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Sailboats and a hotel in the background:
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