Bike and Eat and Bike and Eat: What to do in Copenhagen

Bike and Eat and Bike and Eat: What to do in Copenhagen
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View from our Airbnb apartment building in Vesterbro

Somewhere during the honeymoon-planning process, a seed was planted to visit Copenhagen for a short visit before heading to Croatia. Maybe it was the Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown episode on what was then the “best restaurant in the world,” NOMA. Or maybe it was the cheap flight from BWI through the new Icelandic budget airline WOW Air. Either way, we decided to spend the first three days of our honeymoon in the city which has become known as a gourmand’s paradise and, of course, biking. And boy did we squeeze every last second out of the three days. It was perfect for an intro.

So, let’s start with the biking…

BIKING IN COPENHAGEN

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These are but a handful of the bikes stacked on bikes at the Copenhagen train station

Having lived in Baltimore the last few years, I’ve naturally become a bit skittish about urban biking (Bmore is not known to be friendly to the motor-less two-wheeled forms of transportation). Before leaving DC, I had started biking more in the city, but even in places like Portland (where I’m going to have to become used to it), I’m a nervous city biker. So, I would’ve been just fine walking or taking public transportation around Copenhagen. That, my friends, wasn’t necessary because biking in Copenhagen is amazing.

It’s amazing for a few reasons. First, the whole damn city is designed for biking. What even the most bikable cities in the U.S. and elsewhere get wrong is that they put the bikes in the wrong place. They put them on the driver’s side of parked cars. In Copenhagen, the bike tracks exist on the passenger side. Additionally, the bike tracks are separated by a curb from both the street and the walking path so you don’t risk running into walkers or getting blocked/close-lined by a car door. Also, while in the U.S., I’d avoid the busier streets to bike on, the busy streets are the best places to bike in Copenhagen because they are organized, they have lights, and you’re completely separated from the traffic.

In the end, though, biking wasn’t just great it was the easiest and fastest way to get from point A to point B. That’s why Danes do it and that’s ultimately why we did it.

When you’re looking for a place (Airbnb highly recommended) in Copenhagen, I highly recommend finding a rental that includes bikes. We stayed in the hipster Vesterbro neighborhood and rented bikes from Københavns Cykelbørs (at least, I think that’s the place) because it was a few blocks from our rental and recommended by our Airbnb host. Bike rentals are all over the city and no doubt your host will have a recommendation. However, if your rental comes with a bike, you can avoid the open/closing schedule when returning your bike. We found ourselves without wheels after 5pm the night before we left because we had to leave for the airport before the shop opened.

Another option is Copenhagen City Bikes, the public bike shares all around the city. This is a great option if you’re temporarily without a bike. We ended up using the bikes our first night to try to get home from our first delicious dinner. One suggestion, though, be careful with the GPS system’s attached to them. When I saw those, I thought it was amazingly convenient since we had just gotten to the city and weren’t exactly sure how to get back to our apartment (esp. since we took a taxi there). However, they don’t allow you to put in an exact address (or at least I couldn’t figure out how it could), so I put in the street we were staying on and it, thus, took us out into the suburbs of Copenhagen and therefore leading us on a long middle-of-the-night tour around and through Copenhagen. (Apparently there’s a suburban town of the same name as our street). A story Cory loves to tell people as the first night of our honeymoon.

After three hours of biking through empty streets, being laughed at (in only the nicest way) by a couple of cheery young police officers, and a good bit of frustration, we ended up back at our apartment at 3:00am on our first night. So, learn from me and don’t trust the GPS completely. I do have to say that there’s nothing like a bike ride through empty city streets to get you accustomed to the city.

Read more about Denmark and Copenhagen’s bike culture at Demark.dk.

 

STAYING IN COPENHAGEN

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A sculpture in the Vesterbro neighborhood

As I noted earlier, we stayed in the Vesterbro neighborhood, which is known as the hipster neighborhood. Thus, nearby, you have delicious food, drink, and fun. A bonus is it’s a quick-ish walk from the train station, so easy to get there from the airport.

Norrebro was also recommended to us. It’s a bit more upscale and trendy and super cute. I think next time we visit, this is where I’d like to stay. Our friends Jill and Dave, consummate travelers (you can follow Jill and her travels on Instagram) stayed there and they loved it. Jill says to stay somewhere near the street called Jaegersborggade.

While there are hotels around the city, I highly recommend Airbnb rentals. This has been my go-to for places like Copenhagen and there are a wide variety of options.

 

DOING STUFF IN COPENHAGEN

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Nyhavn – means “new harbor” – it was new back in the 17th century

While eating and biking were our main focuses, here are some suggestions on where to stop and check out.

Fredericksborg Castle – Jill and Dave took a picnic to the gardens nearby and spent a lovely evening outdoors.

Latin Quarter If you’re like me and love colorful, old architecture on cobblestone streets, then you’ll love the Latin Quarter. This area near the university is cute, old, and has fun shops to wander into.

Nyhavn – So it’s a little touristy, but I sometimes eat this crap up. The buildings are colorful, the boats are tall, and the sun just sparkles on the canal on a beautiful sunny day. Cory and I caught a canal tour on the waterfront there and while Cory napped off the jetlag, I took pics. I have to say, seeing the Little Mermaid statue from the water was the only way to see it because it was a silly tourist trap. Just sayin’…you don’t need to see the statue.

Rundetaarn Tower (or the round tower) – Apparently this has one of the best views in the city. It’s a pretty cool structure from afar, but Jill and Dave went up it and said it was quite a view. It’s worth checking out.

Sogreni Bike Shop – Jill and Dave happened upon this bike shop and it’s worth a stop in to check out the beautifully made bikes. They have the most amazing bike bells there and Jill now wishes she had picked one up for a souvenir. Next trip!

 

EATING IN COPENHAGEN

One of the main reasons we wanted to visit Copenhagen was the food. Somehow over the last few years, I’ve become a wannabe gourmand. That is also probably because of Anthony Bourdain and all those shows like A Chef’s Table and Mind if a Chef that make fancy food accessible, so we were pumped for the food adventures in Copenhagen.

Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, we did not get a reservation at Noma. For those of you who are not necessarily foodies, this is one of the best restaurants in the world, helmed by Rene Redzepi. Its focus is very Nordic, exceptionally local, and incredibly innovative fine dining. If you want to learn more about it, I highly recommend the Parts Unknown episode on the restaurant. But don’t get too attached because they’ll be closing at the end of 2016. Don’t worry, though, they’ll be reopening with a different concept in a different part of the city with their own farm sometime in 2017.

However, if you do plan to visit Copenhagen sometime in 2016 and you want to give it a shot to get one of the hardest-to-get reservations in the world, more power to you. We tried and failed (after waking up at 3am only to be the 900th–ish person in line for reservations 3 months in advance). Here’s a little how-to just in case. If you can’t or don’t want to visit Noma, this site has some fantastic (and cheaper!) alternatives.

One thing to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip to Copenhagen, we found that a lot of the nicer restaurants were closed Sundays and Mondays and occasionally Tuesdays. This posed a dilemma since our trip was from Sun-Wed. There was plenty to do and the markets and many other places are still open those days (the city certainly doesn’t shut down), but keep your eye out for when restaurants are open.

Given that food was so much of the focus of our trip, list format is probably the most appropriate way to go about our recommendations as well as Jill and Dave’s from their April visit.

OUR SUGGESTIONS:

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The rooftop garden at Stedsans – a magical place to eat

Stedsans ØsterGRO – The twenty seats set beautifully at one long farm table set among the growth of a rooftop garden in the Østerbro neighborhood just north of city center, this place is simply magical. This Ignant article describes how this place perfectly reflects the Danish concept of “hyggelig,” meaning “cozy.” We had a reservation for our first night in Copenhagen (yes, the place we were coming from when I got us lost). Reservations go quickly and are available online about a month prior. It was magical and fun and we came away from it with new friends form Norway (a couple who moved to Copenhagen a few years ago and the mom visiting from rural Norway who I’m still friends with on FB).

Torvehallerne Market – This is a fancy market with everything from coffee and baked goods to wine and beer. It’s a one-stop shop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We ate at the taco shop, Hija de Sanchez (http://www.hijadesanchez.dk) run by chef and owner Rosio Sanchez who once worked at Noma and has connections to the top chefs around the city who occasionally pop up to make a guest taco. We also are partial to The Coffee Collective (http://coffeecollective.dk), which has shops around the city and roasts a delicious bean. Stedsans also seems to have opened a stand at Torvehallerne, so if you can’t get a seat at the rooftop garden, check out their clean, simple, and local food at the market. Jill says that the Confits de canard sandwich at Mapoule “was the most delicious thing I’ve had in my entire life.” I want to go back and try that!

Some burger place in Kodbyen (i.e. the meatpacking district in Vesterbro) – Seriously, we don’t remember the name of it, we were just exhausted and hungry from biking around the city all day. It was possibly the most delicious burger I’ve ever had, but ya know that could’ve been the moment. The meatpacking district was pretty cool, though, and had a lot of great restaurants to choose from, including War Pigs, a brewpub from the Mikkeler brewery (see next on the list).

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The taps of Mikkeller

Mikkeller Brewery – As is our habit, we had to seek out the local brewery, luckily we didn’t have to go far. Mikkeller Bar – one of their few spots around the city – was just down the street from our apartment. Jill and Dave went to pretty much every Mikkeler in the city and somehow ended up at an outdoor BBQ anniversary party at Warpigs. Maybe you could be so lucky if you go in April!

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Smorrebrod at Aamanns

Aamanns – You can’t go to Denmark and not have the Smørrebrød, the classic Danish open-faced sandwiches. Aamans has a fancier and incredibly delicious version. You can eat in or take out. We just walked in at lunch on a rainy day and ate there, Jill and Dave took some to go and picnicked in the park.

Amass – Because it was our honeymoon and this was an occasion, we made another night of food. Based on the list of restaurants from the alternative to Noma list, we chose this. One thing that appealed to me was their community table, or Table 153, which their website describes as “at the core of what we do here at Amass: Bringing people together from all walks of life to share a meal with us and each other.” Cory and I thus shared a pre-fixe menu along with 6 other diners.

It was one of the most amazing meals we’ve ever eaten from the food we ate to the atmosphere to the interaction with the staff. It seemed at some point during the evening, everyone from the kitchen – including the owner and head chef, Matt Orlando – came out to tell us about the food. The pre-fixe menu is around $100 not including drinks (if you want to save, don’t opt for the wine tasting menu and just buy per glass).

 

JILL AND DAVE’S SUGGESTIONS

Höst – We very nearly went here and we’re so glad that Jill and Dave got to try it. Upon arriving got Copenhagen, their Airbnb host said they should not miss this. They made reservations a couple days in advance. They said it was one of the best and affordable fine dining experiences they had (~$50!!). Now I wish we had gone there. Another reason to go back.

Sømods Bolcher – This is the oldest candy shop in Copenhagen and you can watch the candy being made!

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A visual of Jill and Dave’s “Great Copenhagen Bakery Challenge”

Meyers Bakery and St. Peter’s Bakery – Jill and Dave participated in their own København Bakery Challenge and tried Meyers on Jaegersborggade against the oldest bakery in Copenhagen, St Peter’s Bakery’s established cinnamon role. Jill says that Meyers had some of the best pastries she’d ever tasted…and St. Peters was really darn good too.

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“The most delicious slice of cake ever.” – Jill Shabelman

La Glace – To continue the pastry tour, they had to stop at one of the oldest pastry shops and Jill said she had “the most delicious slice of cake ever.” Let’s just say that Copenhagen is full of reasons to use superlatives.

Kødbyens Mad & Marked (i.e. the Meatpacking District Market) – Jill and Dave happened upon this market one day and Jill and an amazing porcetta sandwich and an Italian cocktail. Looks like it’s open in the summers on Saturday and Sunday.

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Jill’s pic of the scene at Paper Island

Copenhagen Street Food on the Paper Island – We happened by this on our way to Amass. Because we were saving ourselves for our fancy meal, we didn’t partake, but I mentioned it to Jill and she said it was incredible. Street-like food from all over at different stalls in a really cool indoor market setting.

 

Whew…now if you’ve digested all of that, congratulations. I didn’t realize how much we did in just a couple days. Hope this inspires your trip to Copenhagen! Here are some more bonus photos from our trip.

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Jill’s photo of one of their Mikkeller adventures at Mikkeller & Friends
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One of Cory’s many photos of the bikes at the train station

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Another of Cory’s bike pics

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NYC Mini Moon

NYC Mini Moon

After our the wedding, we knew we had to get away. We decided not to go on our honeymoon until the Fall, so we decided on three post-nuptial nights in New York that we dubbed our “Mini Moon.” Baltimore is a mere 2 1/2-hour train ride from NYC, yet we never travel up there. It’s always something we intend to do, so we figured three nights would be perfect to decompress from the wedding and not be in our own home being sad that it was all over.

Although we did quite a bit around the city, we spent a good portion of the time hanging out in our adorable hotel room (at The Ludlow Hotel) watching HGTV. Nothing says celebration like a Property Brothers marathon. We did manage to get out and about though before a massive cold threw me on my ass for a few days.

Here are some highlights from the week…

Mini Moon Celebrations

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So, we like food. We don’t like to call ourselves “foodies” because it’s silly. It doesn’t really describe the person who will go out for a delicious gourmet meal for dinner, but eat a can of beans (with salt of course) at lunch. (The latter is Cory’s favorite “meal” when I’m not around to dirty up the pots and pans.) That said, we did a pretty damn good job of eating delicious things while on the minimoon.

We also did a good job at dropping the term “honeymoon.” Make note of this because you can get you some free things. So, of course, we milked it. It all started when our amazing friend, Carmen, went ahead and told ABC Kitchen that we were there to celebrate our “Mini Moon” and bought us a bottle of delicious Prosecco. And because of their knowledge of our celebration, then the restaurant gave us some tasty mini mini-moon cupcakes.

From that point on, we decided to drop the magic words covertly whenever we could. It got us a couple of free glasses of champagne (see photo above where the bartender at a cute little bar we can’t remember the name of poured all three of us a celebratory coup of bubbly). At Prune on our last night, though, Cory made a couple of attempts to drop the hint (“I am so glad we get to eat at this delicious restaurant for our honeymoon,” said in a convincing tone and loud enough), but our waitresses attention to us was limited to order-taking and food/drink-bringing. So, we ended up just making our own little celebration because the waitress felt a little cold that our dropping hints seemed pointless. The food was good, though!

Coffee Coffee Coffee…and Donuts

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Photo by Cory
Photo by Cory
Photo by Cory
Photo by Cory
Photo by Cory
Photo by Cory

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The other thing on the agenda was coffee. Coffee is always on the agenda in our lives. We vowed not to buy too many bags this time, though, thinking back on our trip to Portland-Seattle-Spokane last summer when lugged ten bags of beans home with us. It took up most of Cory’s luggage. It is the best souvenir, of course. But, we’ve vowed to cool it with the coffee bags. So, we just drank copious amounts of coffee. And a few donuts. And, of course, we documented it.

Buildings

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Something I love about walking around urban environments are buildings. I’m captivated by them: particularly grime-streaked brick and zig-zagging fire escapes. So much history is wrapped up in the architecture where time only seems to make a structure more appealing. So, what do I do when I go to New York? Make Cory stop and wait while I take pictures of buildings. And in New York, there are a lot of them. So, Cory did a lot of waiting.

Other Things

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View from our hotel balcony
Nighttime View from the Hotel
Nighttime View from the Hotel

We somehow got a free upgrade to a room with a terrace. We spent about…well…five minutes outside because it was cold. When we walked into our tiny, but beautiful room in The Ludlow, I went straight for the french doors leading to the terrace to see what we got. And it was gorgeous. A beautiful view of the city from our lower east side vantage point. Couldn’t not document it. Too bad these photos are the only times we got to take it in.

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Grand Central Oyster Bar
Oysters from the Grand Central Oyster Bar
Oysters from the Grand Central Oyster Bar
More Grand Central Oyster Bar - just couldn't help another photo cuz this place is freaking beautiful
More Grand Central Oyster Bar – just couldn’t help another photo cuz this place is freaking beautiful

Afar magazine has fantastic travel tips (you should follow and check some of them out). Among them is a guide I’ve been saving for just this trip, the Where to Find Old-World New York City guide. Like grimy buildings, I’m draw to subway tile, the dim lighting, and intricate carvings that take you back in time. In short, I love old things. And there are a lot of old things in New York. Maybe not as old as some places that boast ancient ruins, but old for America. The top of my list of old things to see was the 102-year-old Grand Central Oyster Bar, specifically to sit at the bar and watch the waiters arrange the oysters and chat with customers. It’s like an hour of eating in early 20th century New York.

Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station

You can’t go to Grand Central Oyster Bar without going to Grand Central Station, a first for me on my handful of trips up to NYC. This structure is worthy of a good long stop through to gaze up at the roof and the marble carving.

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Piermont Morgan Library

Also on the Old World NYC list of mine was the JP Morgan Library and Museum. I’m a nerd for the aesthetic of old-ass books and this did not disappoint. It’s incredible to me that one person can collect so many rare books and keep them in such an insanely ornate setting. Seriously, this was once someone’s private residence. The museum is worth checking out for the library, but we also wandered to a rotating exhibit on Lincoln which was actually pretty cool. Kinda disappointing to have to pay for entrance when DC and its free museums are so close to us, but lovely nonetheless.

Street Art
Photos by Cory

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Our walk through the lower east side on our way to Chinatown was incredible. We were late meeting our friends for dim sum because there were so many amazing buildings and colors and street art pieces that we kept stopping to photograph them. We intended to go back that way at some point on the trip, but we never did. For the next trip, I suppose.

On the Highline
On the Highline
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Newlywed Subway Selfie
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Photo by Cory

And then of course, we had to take some newlywed photos of ourselves.

Not much of a travel narrative, but it was a great trip. Since our time is limited on the east coast, we have plans to go back. There are more old world sites on the list and many many many restaurants that we want to try. Let’s hope we can fit them in sometime in the next nine months.

Now, on to our big honeymoon trip to Copenhagen and Croatia! And you bet we’ll be dropping the “h-word” there as well!

The Best Camp That Ever Was

The Best Camp That Ever Was

When I was approaching nine years old, already camp-going friends regaled me with tales of a mystical place on a beautiful, secluded lake where the camp counselors had crazy names and were the most hilarious comedians that ever were. There was a “castle” haunted by a man named John Graves and days were spent swimming, and hiking, and tromping around in swamps, and roasting hot dogs, and telling stories, and and and…It was the best place on earth, they said. I missed the first year I could attend camp at eight years old. So, by the summer of 1990, having heard a years’ worth of camp stories from my friends, I was more than ready for my first week at YMCA Camp Reed.

Camp Reed isn’t just any camp. At least that’s what those of us who spent our childhood years there think. It was the place that I spent twelve summers beginning the trajectory of the person I am today. The camp (or as I know it, the best camp that ever was) sits on Fan Lake, Washington, roughly an hour north of  my hometown, Spokane. Fan Lake was small enough to feel like we had the run of the place, but big enough to feel mystical and mysterious letting our imaginations fill up with swamp monsters and ghosts of old hermits living in the mountains beyond. This summer, my beloved Camp Reed celebrates 100 years of wilderness and adventure for Inland Northwest kiddos. 

On my first day of camp oh so many years ago, I was excited, but I was nervous I wasn’t going to make friends, I was worried I would miss my parents, and mostly I was afraid that I wasn’t going to pass the dreaded swim test. As I stood on the waterfront waiting for my swim test, shivering with nerves in my favorite green and black swimsuit, my counselor approached me with that stereotypical overly excited camp voice. It’s like meeting me was the best thing to happen to her in her whole life. Her joy was contagious. I was still shaking, but I felt my body relax knowing that she’d support me no matter what.

I passed that test, at least enough so that I made “intermediate.” I was excited I wasn’t going to be relegated to the knee-deep beginners section, but a little disappointed I didn’t have that yellow advanced bracelet that would give me access to the lake beyond the docks where kids did the “Shark Swim”(a half-mile swim across the lake and back) that proved them worthy of access to the zip line which ended with an exhilarating drop into the lake.

Later in the week, nagged by the sight of my cabin mates’ yellow bracelets and the feeling that I sold myself short on my first try, I mustered up the courage during free time swim to ask one of the lifeguards if they could give me another go at the swim test. Years of swim lessons under my belt, I knew I was capable of the two full laps of the freestyle stroke that’d get me “advanced” status. And…I made it. The next day, I was swimming across the lake and back and making that satisfying descent into Fan Lake from the zip line.

That week was the beginning of an annual adventure. It was where I could test my limits within the structure and safety of camp. It’s also where I got away from the torture of adolescent cruelty and cliques and I made new friends and acted weird because that’s what was cool at camp where silliness reigned supreme. Camp is where I came into myself.

At camp, I rock climbed and did high ropes courses as a camper, biked 300 miles around Northern Idaho as a Counselor-in-Training, and cleaned toilets and played with kids as a Junior Counselor. In 1999 after I graduated from high school, I received the ultimate badge of honor in a Camp Reed person’s life: my very own camp name. For three summers, I was known only as Collizion (ColLIZion, get it?) when I served as a camp counselor at the very camp that raised me. 

Fifteen-ish years since I last slept on a Camp Reed bunk bed staring up at a cabin ceiling signed in Sharpie by generations of campers and counselors, I remember those summers as the best in my life. During those summers as a counselor, I was fully immersed in the camp culture – nine weeks of activity, outdoors, crazy antics, and laughter. Around the seventh week, I’d lose my voice, but the energy never waned. Those weeks were simultaneously full of responsibility (because your number one goal is keeping the campers alive) and completely lacking in responsibility (I didn’t have to cook for myself or pay for anything myself or produce anything other than creating an amazing experience for my campers). It was the camp person in me that went on to live in Latin America and Africa and travel the world and end up in a service-oriented field. It all started on that day in 1990 nervously awaiting a swim test on the docks of Fan Lake.

The upcoming 100 year celebration has unleashed a stream of nostalgia for those of us who spent our formative kid years all the way up to college summers as counselors on the dusty grounds next to Fan Lake. The beauty of modern technology means that our Camp Reed Staff Facebook page is blowing up with grainy photos from generations of Camp Reed memories.

The hairstyles and the people have changed over the years, but the images are essentially the same: Camp Reed counselors – who have an inordinate bond that only comes from being in close quarters for nine straight weeks – performing skits dressed in a hodgepodge of donated “costumes,” conducting crazy stunts (like riding a BMX biked strapped with an old life jacket down the dock and off a ramp into the lake), or singing camp songs at the top of their lungs surrounded by a bevy of dirt-covered campers. All of this taking place in front of the landmarks that only a Camp Reed person would know: The Graves campfire location that requires a semi-steep climb up a small mountain each Tuesday night of camp, or the “haunted” Proofer’s barn just a short hike around the lake, or the classic lake shot from the waterfront where the familiar dip of mountains across the lake is (at least to us) immediately identifiable as Fan Lake.

Just like the Fan Lake/Camp Reed backdrop, the stories also haven’t changed. The counselors are still telling the John Graves story and the Ridge Runner stories that freaked me out as a nine-year-old. And they’ll tell them for years to come. Because, camp is where time stands still. Camp Reed exists as the same place it was 100 years ago (or maybe 40 years ago when they started allowing girls to attend camp).

So, thank you Camp Reed for giving me and many more kids over your 100 years the opportunity to shed the pressures and confines and technologies of “town life” and truly be a kid in the woods with your friends.

Post-rain sunset over Fan Lake, circa 2000
Post-rain sunset over Fan Lake, circa 2000
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The first day of camp, circa 1990. I’m the short one on the right. Recognize that green and black swimsuit? That cut out tummy hole was all the rage in 1990.
The dreaded swim test on my first day of camp
The dreaded swim test on my first day of camp
Sad to leave my counselor and new friends on my last day of camp in 1991
Huddling with my counselor and new friends on my last day of camp in 1991
My sister joins me in 1992 for her first time at camp (the youngest one to follow five years later)
My sister joins me in 1992 for her first time at camp (the youngest one to follow five years later).
Camp Reed Staff, summer of 2000
Camp Reed Staff, summer of 2000
Camp Reed Staff Summer of 2000 all dressed up for the weekly interactive mystery theater,
Camp Reed Staff Summer of 2000 all dressed up for the weekly interactive mystery theater, “Clue”
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One week in 2000 or 2001 as an “orphan” with Buzzsaw and Beluga. The weeks you don’t have a cabin, you’re likely dish washing after meals which is always a wonderful carefree week of little responsibility.
Me and alli at camp
One of my best buds since high school and fellow counselor, Pep R’Alli (still one of my best buds today) in 2000ish.
proofers barn
Gathering hot dog and marshmallow-roasting sticks for our Proofer’s barn “Overnight” in 2000. Overnights are the one night of the week campers sleep completely under the stars away from camp. (Also, as I was reminded by Riff Raff, 2nd on the right, this also happened to be my birthday. I probably turned 19 that day.)

*There are so many more photos where these came from. But, currently, they’re hiding somewhere in my parent’s attic. Yup, I’m 34 and I still leave crap at my parent’s house.

Life’s Latest Adventure

Life’s Latest Adventure

Someone asked me the other day how long Cory and I had been married. It feels like we only got married a couple weeks ago, but with a couple seconds of counting the months on my fingers, I realized it has been almost 5 months! Five months since we got hitched!

Of course, we just had a second wedding reception in Spokane, WA, my hometown, so, the planning really didn’t stop after March. But, as of March 28th, we have been riding on that adventure of marriage. And it feels…pretty much the same. Except for the fact that we’re not planning a wedding anymore (which is awesome).

Because so much of our money and time has been focused on wedding planning, the trips have been fairly minimal. We’ve also been quite preoccupied. In fact, I was silly enough to take a class in the home stretch of our wedding planning. It wasn’t terrible in retrospect, but I’m only now feeling like I can catch my breath from it all.

And with that, I re-enter the blogosphere with a post all about the wedding. Well, really, it’s about the wedding photos. Our incredible photographers, Kristiaan and Lionel (who make up the most amazing photography duo, The Madious) captured our wedding and the feel so perfectly that it feels like we’re traveling back to the best day of our lives every time we scroll through the photos or watch the slideshow they sent us.

It was nearly impossible to narrow the photos down to just a handful (and by a handful I mean 20ish, but that’s pretty damn good when you start from 800+). And the truth is, it’s hard to pick any favorites, so what  I did was choose the photos that captured the essence of what really was one of the best days of our lives.

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When we planned for a March 28th wedding, we had no idea what the weather would be like. We knew it’d be cold, we had no idea it would be THIS cold: 35 degrees! It was 60 the days before and after, but we got a crazy day in March where is snowed! You can’t actually see it in photo above, but there were snowflakes gathering on my recently coifed hair. Other than me getting a bit pissy about the forecast earlier in the week, it didn’t deter us from having an incredible day. Cory and I were determined to follow Kristiaan and Lionel on their amazing vision of capturing an area of Baltimore that we love…with us in it.

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We got married at the Corradetti Glassblowing Studio & Gallery in the Woodberry neighborhood of Baltimore. We had been there before because it’s next to one of our favorite restaurants, Woodberry Kitchen (who catered the wedding as well), but we had no idea it was a venue until we started looking for one. The moment we saw it, we knew it was everything we wanted in a space: it was intimate, rustic, and classically Baltimore. It (and Woodberry Kitchen) are in Clipper Mill, a renovated mill. The parking garage across the street where we did many of our portraits is run down and kind of dilapidated (we assume that’s on purpose). When we showed Kristiaan and Lionel the place, they, like us drooled over the appeal of cracked windows and rusty old beams. So, we spent about two hours in the freezing cold posing in dark corners, wobbling on rickety pallets, and stepping over dead rats and had so much fun that we got started late with family portraits.

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Beyond the beauty of the place itself, it was being around all the people we loved in one place and we were overwhelmed and elated from the very moment people started arriving into town. But, especially when the ceremony began. Kristiaan and Lionel caught those special moments that we didn’t even remember happening because it flies by. They captured the pure joy we felt that day. Our officiant, our dear friend, Melody Porter, helped us put together an incredible ceremony that we felt everyone was a part of. The toasts were so meaningful, heartfelt and funny. And somehow, somehow, you could just tell that from looking at the photos.

And then, of course, they captured the party…

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It’s worth a pause to point out that we had the most amazing band play at our wedding. Bosley and his crew are freaking amazing and we boogied all night long to David Bowie, James Brown, and a few of their original songs.

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The day was truly incredible. Just being around almost all the people that you love and that were a part of making us the people we are was amazing. Since neither Cory nor I are from the East Coast, many of our guests came from the West Coast and the Midwest to celebrate. We wanted to show them the Baltimore we know and love and we feel that we did that through the venue, the vendors we chose, and the other activities we had around the city. What can I say, it was incredible and we would do it all over again as long as we didn’t have to plan it or pay for it.


Our Vendors:

Photography: The Madious

Bride’s Dress: BHLDN

Hair & Makeup: Haute Blow Dry Bar (hair by Brooke)

Groom’s Suit: Duchess Clothier

Flowers: Local Color Flowers

Officiant: Melody Porter

Band: Bosley

Venue: Corradetti Glassblowing Studio & Gallery

Catering: Woodberry Kitchen

My 2014 in Photos

My 2014 in Photos

I’m glad I decided to do this post because I realized how many photos I took in the last year. I haven’t done anything with most of them. A few of them are getting some new life now with my year in review.

We both have fairly new cameras, so we’ve done a lot to test them out. Here’s what I did with them (and my new iPhone camera) in 2014.

How the year got started: With snow…and an engagement!

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Snow and cold in Patterson Park on Jan 5, 2014 2014 began appropriately – with snow and really freaking cold weather.
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We got engaged on Jan 7, 2015. This is Cory’s beautiful set-up on a wonderfully gorgeous (and freaking cold -5 degree night). It was a random Tuesday and it was perfect.
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At the beginning of the thaw – and I mean the beginning because we had a snow day the monday before our mid-March visit to Chicago. But in mid-March we made a trip out to visit family in Chicago.
Sisters visit in early April (Photo by Cory Adams)
In April, the sisters came to Baltimore to visit and we did a little photo shoot near our house. (Photo by Cory Adams)
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Each year in May, I get to walk right over to Patterson Park to see that leg of the Kinetic Sculpture Race. This is Max’s Taphouse’s mobile sculpture.

Our Northwest Visit – July-Aug 2014

I get to visit my home region once or twice a year. During the holidays it’s mostly spent in Spokane with the fan, but summer visits call for a regional tour to which Cory was subjected where we spent a 48 hours respectively in Portland and Seattle visiting the sisters and some friends followed by a couple days with mom and dad in Spokane.

Mt. Hood welcoming us to Portland July 2014
We started the trip in Portland and were welcomed in by this beautiful view of Mt. Hood.
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Pok Pok Noi in Portland to kick off our trip July 2014
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City of Bridges, Portland July 2014
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The train trip to Seattle, July 2014
Views from Seattle. Cory and I at Pike Place Market. Plus some photos of Abigail and her lovely boyfriend Eric.
Views from Seattle. Cory and I at Pike Place Market. Plus some photos of Abigail and her lovely boyfriend Eric.
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Pike Place Market, July 2014

 

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Seattle from Abigail and Eric’s rooftop
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Eric took us to KEXP (the alternative music lover’s mecca) and we got a tour and got to see a live session.
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I love Spokane in the summer. This beautiful garden (Duncan Gardens) is located across the street from my parents’ house in Manito Park in Spokane. Something I took for granted growing up, but have come to appreciate as an adult.
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Spokane Riverfront Park, July-Aug 2014

Moving into Fall

Fall called for more travels, celebrations and Baltimore celebrations

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San Francisco Sept 2014 – visiting the area for my dear friends’ wedding.
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2014 marks the bicentennial of the end of the War of 1812. For the last three falls, Baltimore has gone crazy with celebrations – or “Sailabrations” as they call it. In come the tall ships and the tourists.
The blue angels also came with the Sailabration. Three days of them flying over the harbor and our house. I'm not typically into this stuff, but it was pretty spectacular.
The blue angels also came with the Sailabration. Three days of them flying over the harbor and our house. I’m not typically into this stuff, but it was pretty spectacular.

 

 

In October we traveled back to Portland. This time, my sisters threw the most amazing bachelorette party which involved a cider press, a corn maze and games with my best girlfriends. The best a girl could ask for! This photo was taken of the St. John's bridge on our way home from the corn maze.
In October we traveled back to Portland. This time, my sisters threw the most amazing bachelorette party which involved a cider press, a corn maze and games with my best girlfriends. The best a girl could ask for! This photo was taken of the St. John’s bridge on our way home from the corn maze.
And then back to Chicago again to visit our friend Laura's big birthday. It was the first cold of the year, so we mostly spent the time inside, but we ventured out to the Chicago Institute of Art.
And then back to Chicago again to visit our friend Laura’s big birthday. It was the first cold of the year, so we mostly spent the time inside, but we ventured out to the Chicago Institute of Art.

Year End

This year, we opted not to travel across the country to spend the holidays with the family. We ended it with a lovely holiday season and Christmas with each other and a New Years with amazing neighbors.

No year is complete without a post-Thanksgiving visit to Hampden's Miracle on 34th Street.
No year is complete without a post-Thanksgiving visit to Hampden’s Miracle on 34th Street.
Spending Christmas Eve at home drinking cocktails in front of our little Christmas tree. Not a bad way to end off a really wonderful year.
Spending Christmas Eve at home drinking cocktails in front of our little Christmas tree. Not a bad way to end off a really wonderful year.

Wishing all of you the best new year!

Psychics and New Years Resolutions

Psychics and New Years Resolutions

Three years ago, just before moving to Baltimore, just before starting a new job, and just before my life made a complete 180, I sat down to write New Years Resolutions. I was just wrapping up five tumultuous years of living in Washington, DC. In that period of time, I had readjusted to life in the US after two years of Peace Corps, started my first job in the real world, started grad school, broke up with my boyfriend of 4 years, tried out the whole online dating thing, graduated from grad school, went through another sad break-up, all the while living in a group house with a bunch of other girls. I had turned 30 that year and I was overwhelmed with the late-20s angst and was ready to put it behind me.

I decided to spend that New Years Eve practicing yoga instead of drinking. I was going to start it off right. I also sat down and made New Years resolutions for the first time since I was an adult. I vowed that this year would be different. This year, I would take control of my life and make it what I wanted it to be rather than waiting around for that to come to me.

I went a step farther than making resolutions, though, I made goals and objectives. I created ten goals – broad overarching statements – and at least three objectives under each. The objectives were SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound), just as they would be in any project I was carrying out. I thought, I do this for work, why not for my life? Once this was accomplished, I set a calendar reminder to check in on my progress in six months.

Then, a few weeks after we rang in 2012, a friend and I went to a psychic, just for fun. Being confident that I was totally fine with where I was at, excited about the change I was making, I was certain the psychic would tell me as such. I went as moral support for my friend who hadn’t been to a psychic before. During this period of my life, I loved going to psychics, I felt like it was a kind of therapy. They never told you anything you didn’t know, but put it in front of you like a magic mirror that zooms in on the things you refused to look at. I knew I was in a good place. I knew that’s what she’d tell me.

“You’re being too controlling of your life,” the psychic told me with a stern but motherly tone.

“I am?” I responded with some hesitance. I knew immediately that she was talking about the new years resolutions, about the goals and objectives.

“Yeah, you’re trying to be too controlling of your life and it’s causing you to block out anyone who’s trying to get into your heart.”

I never thought about it that way. She was speaking straight to what I was trying to get away from. I had my heart broken a year before and wanted to move on, but was afraid of what was to come. Then she somehow talked me into buying a $25 stone that wasn’t supposed to touch metal and I was supposed to put under my pillow and that was supposed to give me good energy. Why not, my new years plans had just been blown apart anyway!

As my friend and I walked down the street, we excitedly exchanged our psychic stories. When I told her what the psychic said, she yelled, “THE RESOLUTIONS!!!” I had told her about them with enthusiasm a few days before. Maybe she had thought the same thing as the psychic when I told her that I was taking back control of my life. I didn’t quite know what to do with the information. A few days before I moved to Baltimore, I held onto the journal into which I had written my goals and objectives. But, they had to be packed along with everyone else.

I ended up leaving the journal somewhere in my desk and laughing at myself when the reminder came rang on my computer on July 1, 2012 to check in on my progress. The move to Baltimore had been exactly what I needed. A month moving there, I met the person who’d end up being the love my life (also the person I’m going to be marrying in three months). I had a new job that was fulfilling, paid appropriately, and granted me a work-life balance. I met some amazing people almost immediately when I arrived.

Okay, so I don’t think that these life changes had anything to do with the psychic or the stone or maybe even my ability to set aside those new years resolutions. I was happy and in need of a change but also don’t think that kind of move is necessary for everyone at the place I was in. But, I do think that the psychic’s words did help me open up just a bit. I’m a worrier and, although not type-A, if things don’t go a certain way, I get anxious. For someone like me, pegging my personal life on a list of goals and objectives is not really the healthiest way to go. I’m sure it can work for some (and I’m happy doing it in my work life).

Now that we’re approaching 2015, there are a lot of really amazing things to come (like a wedding – which also comes with all the stresses). There are also a lot of potential challenges. But this year, like every year, what I plan to do is to remember that life’s too short to control everything. It’s also too short to get mad at myself for when I forget that on occasion. And no, it’s not a new years resolution, but an annual “note to self.”

Happy new year everyone!

p.s. check back tomorrow for a year in review of photos. Thought that’d be too much for one post

I’m back…I think

I’m back…I think

Ignorance is bliss, right? A year and a half ago, I was whiling away in my ignorance on this blog writing whatever the hell I felt like. Now 15 months and 5 classes into an actual writing program, I’m afraid to go back to my old blog posts and I’m stuck in this apprehensive limbo, confidence in my writing just beyond my reach.

I’ve been writing. Oh, have I been writing. Not here, though. For all these classes I’m taking. And I’ve been reading. This time, I’m paying attention not just to what people write, but how tI’m hey write it. And well, it makes me feel like shit.

I feel improvement, I really do. But, words don’t flow out of me like they used to. It’s the old “break you down before they build you up” thing. Now that I’m just over halfway through with the writing program, I’m hoping that building up part comes tout suite. I have all these ideas (also a result of the program), but am wondering if I can pull them off. One of those ideas is a book, actually. Not ever anything I thought I would be interested in. But, with the excitement also comes the self-questioning.

Nonetheless, I’ve decided to come back to the blog. I’ve gotta start flexing those muscles again.

I don’t know how often or for what purpose quite yet, but I do know that whatever I write about might be a bit different than before. Previously, I was working on more long-form creative nonfiction pieces. These were great, because they helped me develop material to get into writing program.

While working on the more creative pieces for school (and hopefully publication elsewhere), I’ll be doing more of the traditional, shorter bloggy posts here. That’s what people reading a blog want anyway. This is also what my sister, the communications guru, has been trying to get me to do.

So, that’s where the blog stands as of now.

What about the traveling you say?

We’re still traveling on occasion. Much less often these days as apparently weddings cost a lot of money and we’ve put even smaller trips on the back burner until we get hitched next March and the subsequent celebrations. But, there’s plenty of great happenings in Baltimore. This is a blog about “place,” after all, not necessarily travel.

That all being said, stay tuned…

And, if you have suggestions/thoughts on what you want to hear about, let me know!

Changes A Brewing at These Are Not Tan Lines

Changes A Brewing at These Are Not Tan Lines

Well, it’s been over a month since I’ve written anything on the blog. When I started the blog, the point was to get me to write regularly, and that hopefully, having some kind of audience would be the added boost to that. The next step was finding a focus so I would be motivated and keep going, and travel does that for me. I subscribe to Afar magazine and at airports regularly pick up the other travel magazines for my travels. I am constantly thinking about the next trip. So, what motivates me in life, also motivates me to write.

And that is mostly still true.

However, since beginning the writing program at Hopkins last Fall, it’s been a bit harder to keep motivated. The ideas are still there, and possibly more abundant because when you’re inclined to think about writing, ideas naturally come up. But, my mindset about writing has also changed. And it continues to evolve.

The personal essay form of writing works for me in some ways, but it doesn’t in others. I’m learning to branch out in different areas of the craft. And I’m writing quite a bit. However, little of what I’m writing is likely to end up on the blog because the whole purpose is to branch out of our comfort zones. For example, yesterday I turned in a profile piece about a brewmaster at a 2-year-old brewery here, Baltimore’s first production brewery in city limits for 30 years. It was a fun project that involved interviewing and well, in this case, drinking a little beer and chatting with folks in their taproom. I have never written a profile before, and in fact, I’ve never even thought about writing  a profile before.

In the past, I’ve relied on two ways of writing: 1) very objective third person for academic purposes (I’ve done well here and have had a couple publications in my my “day job” field) and 2) personal essay heavy on the first person. Being exposed to everything in between makes me realize how strange the dichotomy of my writing exists. It’s opened up a world to me making me push myself out of my comfort zone and shown me also where I want to improve in the areas I feel most comfortable.

Despite only being a year old, this blog was part of the reason that got me to this point. It’s part of the impetus for me to apply to the JHU writing program, and if it wasn’t for some of the earlier posts that I used for my submission, I likely wouldn’t have had much to show of my writing.

That being said, I’m not entirely certain what’s to come with this blog. I do hope to keep up with it. But, it seems that my writing is developing in different ways that don’t really exist within the confines of my self-defined boundaries of what I intended to write here. However, I still love to travel. And Cory and I have plenty of travel plans coming up…and a honeymoon to take after we get married next year. And hopefully all these writing classes I’m taking will lead me back here. And I’m still taking pictures galore, so at least those could show up here occasionally.

But in the meantime, we’ll just leave it at “we’ll see what happens.” The likes of my “audience” probably don’t care, but writing those words gives me the permission to not feel guilty when I’m not posting. In the meantime, you should still stay tuned because things will definitely pop up here and there on These Are Not Tan Lines.

Celebrating Two Years in Baltimore

Celebrating Two Years in Baltimore

Two years ago today, I roped in several friends and my sister to help me haul what little I had the 50 or so miles between my previous home in DC to my new home, Baltimore.  I knew I needed a change in my life, as the previous job and city only contributed to my unhappiness/anxiety, but I really had no idea what kind of change moving a few miles up the freeway would have on me.

I was so excited about the move, I had plans to create a blog solely centered on my adventures in Baltimore, the creation of which would make me that much more excited to jump into investigating my new city.  I did start a blog, but I felt something Baltimore-centric was going to set me up for potential failure of my self-imposed commitment.  After all, right before I moved, a psychic did tell me I was being too controlling about my life (true story), so I scrapped any plans that resembled “controlling my life” and just went with it.

I had no idea how much I’d fall in love with Baltimore without forcing myself to get out there and see everything there was to see in the city.  It all happened perfectly and organically.  I did have the added bonus of meeting the love of my life a mere month after I moved and got engaged a few weeks before my two-year Baltimore anniversary on our deck overlooking the harbor and the beautiful row houses of Butchers Hill, so the city also holds that for me, too.

But beyond the awesome things that have happened to me in my time here, I have really come to love this city as my home.  I love the intense pride native Baltimoreans have for their city.  I love the individual cultures of each of the neighborhoods in “Smalltimore.”  I love Baltimore’s famous mustaches – Poe, Boh and Waters (and the occasional combo of the two former). I love the incredible work that passionate and dedicated people are doing with and on behalf of their community and Baltimore residents in need.  I love the completely amazing, but totally under-the-radar food scene.  I love the quirky uniqueness of the place.  Of course, I could go on, but I’ll leave the extended love notes for later posts.

Incidentally, as I reflected on my two years here, I was coincidentally offered another opportunity by Afar magazine to create a guide for Baltimore (was it a coincidence?).  With this assignment, I’m basically categorizing and summarizing the awesomeness that is this city.  I got to do a little bit of that when I created a guide on the website for Baltimore last summer, but this is a bit more involved.  What this project is also doing is giving me some material to show all of YOU the awesomeness that is my adopted city.  Therefore, in honor of the two fantastic years I’ve had in this city, I’m going to dedicate my upcoming posts to what makes this city amazing.  So, stay tuned…

And Happy Baltimore Anniversary to Me!

Dec 2012 - Embracing Baltimore
Dec 2012 – Embracing Baltimore