Tuesday, May 24, 2011

D.C./Baltimore/Travel

Had an enjoyable trip to Baltimore and to Washington, D.C. (AKA - The scene of the crime). Baltimore is unique in that it contains historical importance in three important periods of American history - The Revolutionary War, The War Of 1812 and the Civil War. In fact the first casualties of the Civil War happens in Baltimore as a regiment of soldiers from Massachusetts were changing trains to Washington and a riot by southern sympathizers broke out and four soldiers and twelve civilians were killed.

In Baltimore it is easy and cheap to get around. Light rail from the airport is $1.60 and uses the honor system - try that in Boston. Downtown the Charm City Circulator is a bus line with three routes covering much of the city and is free. The Metro bus system and subway are also very reasonable.

If you wish to stay right at the inner harbor you will have to cough up some serious dead white guys but if you choose to wander a bit away bargains can be found. We stayed five blocks from the inner harbor and three from Camden Yards for $79 a night at the Radisson Lord Baltimore. A Travelzoo bargain.

To get to Washington you can either get elected, become a MG&E Commissioner or take the MARC train and that is also cheap (AKA - inexpensive) at under $4. That takes you right into Union Station and access to the Metro system which is also about $2 a ride depending upon time of day.

Unlike some well know local politicians some of us actually hunt out a bargain for a hotel and that is what I did. Check outside the city for the Crystal City, Pentagon and Roslyn area. Make sure a Metro station is nearby and there is also places to eat besides a pricey hotel unless, of course, you have a MG&E expense account. We managed to stay at a Doubletree for under $90 a night including taxes. Transport to the Smithsonian and Mall area was about ten minutes on the Metro.

Washington is really a bargain paradise as almost everything is free thanks to our tax dollars. The monuments are impressive and provide one with substantial walking exercise. The museums have something for everyone so I managed to get trapped in displays of Flemish art from the 18th century among other things. The city was crawling with kids on school trips and that managed to conjure up thoughts of exactly why I retired. Nothing like watching the harried teachers and chaperones ushering their flock around and attempting to round up strays. Been there and done that.

Whenever we go to the area my wife - The Lovely Cynthia - “encourages” a trip to Mt. Vernon. This time I did not object since a new museum had opened and I was interested in seeing it. Spectacular but I also had to do the tour of the mansion which IMHO is just not that impressive. If you are a first timer or have kids I’d suggest the boat cruise down and back otherwise the Metro and bus lines will get you there.

George Washington was an amazing person and set the tone for the presidency and is on the top of my list with Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. I was also “encouraged” on our blister inducing monument death march to go to the fairly new FDR Memorial. FDR is way down on my list of presidents but a very impressive job was done on his digs. We also avoided the White House tour - been there and done that many times and a long wait for the Washington Monument another been there for both of us.

Now back to one of my favorite travel sites and that is Travelzoo. TZ is great for hotel bargains and I have used it many times and they break it down by city. Most of the time it connects directly to the hotel web site but with a special promo code so you can get the deal. As with anything check out other sites and the hotel site for any promotions that may match or exceed that. I’ve actually never found one. Also go to Trip Advisor for hotel rating by customers. Great site. My only real knock is that too often some real specials are bait and switch since the site that has the deal may not really offer it. They connect a lot to Cheap Caribbean and that happens with that site frequently.

An excellent site for airfares is Airfare Watch Dog. This site has many unadvertised promotions and specials that usually are only delivered if you sign up on an airline web site. They break down the restrictions but also usually connect you to another site. Anyways, most sites air fare prices will be similar but double check with the specific airline for promotions.

When I run or waddle with BB much of our conversation centers around entitlements as you can tell if you waste your time reading his column or blog. BB pretends he is a liberal but he is Tea Party fiscal conservative on the financial aspects of pensions, benefits and salaries of public employees . Then toss in the usual budget busters of Medicare and Social Security. I was thinking of Bumpkin when I read an article about Stanley Thornton who collects a disability check since he suffers from infantilism.

Now Stanley at 350 pounds wears a diaper, has a crib and wears clothes suitable for a baby. Yet Stanley does drive a car, does not display this behavior in public, built the crib himself, has held jobs in the past and uses a computer to take out his ire over a politician - A Republican naturally - who questions why this character receives a disability check?

Stanley is symptomatic of what has eroded the SS system for decades. In education I use to get two or three forms a year to fill out so that a child could get what we called “funny money” over a disability of which the most prominent was ADD/ADHD. Getting that diagnosis is rather simple if you know the right physician to go to. So you end up with millions with serious issues and millions more running a scam and no way out. Just look at the legal humps that advertise about representing you in a disability issue with SS.

The great example of government handouts was a character in Michigan that won 2 million on the lottery and bragged about still collecting food stamps.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn has displayed the manners of a male member of the Kennedy clan. Strauss-Kahn is the one who is now the former director of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) who is in lock-up in NYC thanks to a rape charge regarding a hotel maid.

Now Strauss-Kahn has just been charged and has not been tried. My feeling is they’ll hammer the maid’s background or simply buy her off. Strauss-Kahn was also on the fast track to become President of France. What is even more amusing to me is that this diehard socialist who is so “for the people” thinks nothing of having it mandatory in his arrangements with the IMF to go first class with everything. Now other women are also coming forward to make similar pronouncements of sexual exploitation. Maybe Strauss-Kahn can take up residency in California and become governor?

The Red Sox have climbed out of the cellar and have briefly been in first place. The AL East is a very balanced division and a huge turn around from top to bottom of bottom to top can happen with a bad or good week.

A new book has portrayed Sarah Palin as cold and calculating. Nice to see the female pols acting like their male counterparts. Next thing you know will come the earth shaking pronouncement that some on Wall Street are “Cold and calculating.”

5 comments:

Mick said...

I was in Baltimore a few years back doing a telecom install at T. Rowe Price and got to stay in the waterfront area. Lots of homeless wondering around and sleeping on benches in the morning during the weekends when the business district is closed. I couldn't have timed it any better either! The Red Sox were rained out the night before and I scored tickets for a double header at Camden Yards. It's still the nicest parks I have ever been to. The waterfront is great at night and there are plenty of places to eat.

bogofree said...

This was my first visit to Camden Yards which was the first of the MLB retro parks. Yankees vs. O's and the attendance was about 20,000 and at least half were NY fans. The ballpark was just a bit of a disappointment as where we were sitting the RF corner had a blind spot.

Downtown is quite walkable as Baltimore is a "small" city - like Boston - in the downtown tourist areas. Paid a visit to Lexington Market which is a nice place for lunch.

Mick said...

Did you happen to see the Constellation lit up at night? It's the sister ship of the Constitution.

That's the end of my history lesson...

bogofree said...

Saw that the last time we were in Baltimore. With this visit we just walked by the harbor and had no intention of spending much time there. Went to the Civil War Museum, B&O Train Museum and Ft. McHenry.

bogofree said...

Thanks, Wally.

MHA