Wednesday, March 31, 2010

03/31/2010: An all too short evening in DC

My conference in Baltimore ended today.  Since I was already near Washington, I'd arranged with one of our main vendors, that is headquartered in DC, to spend the day talking about future strategy with them.  Our sales rep flew in to Baltimore, picked me up from the conference, and we drove down to DC.  I only had about 90 minutes free before our dinner meeting that evening.  Luckily the weather was amazing and it was just a short walk from the hotel up to the National Mall.

I get nearly giddy when I'm in DC.  I always forget that until I'm there - but I LOVE that city.  I really, really need to plan a trip and stay for a week or more and take in all the museums and sites.  I've not done that in years and it's a trip I should make again soon.

The atmosphere on the mall was very excited since the weather was so beautiful.  It was fun to see people flying kites (can you spot the one in the photo below - not sure if that airspace is clear or not) and to see moms and dads out with their kids - lots of toddlers pushing strollers - not a whole lot of riding. 
On the way back to the hotel I grabbed this fun shot...don't worry - I was never in any danger.
And I even got a taste of home...




I can't wait to go back and enjoy DC again.



I think this is the "News"eum in DC - I loved the outside

Monday, March 29, 2010

03/29/2010: On the road again...

I'm traveling yet again so if I can ever get my SD card to talk to my Mac, or get my computer at home that has decided it needed a longer vacation even though I've been gone so much to cooperate, I'll get some really great photos that make me extremely happy posted.  For now, if you've not seen http://www.visitelginpark.com/, you really should explore this web site.  I love his imagination!  Proof that it's not about an expensive camera or other equipment - it's about imagination, creativity, and passion.

Friday, March 26, 2010

03/26/2010 - 03/31/2010: Charm City





Okay - I'm cheating a bit.  Weather was only nice one day in Baltimore or I would have taken far, far more photos.  I was also really busy with the conference so I'm going to post several of the shots I took on the 26th here for that entire week.

I've never visited Baltimore, Maryland before.  I know a bit about it as I'm a fan of the tv show Charm City Cakes which is filmed in Baltimore but this was my first chance to visit.  I had most of the day of 3/26/2010 free thanks to a VERY early flight and the fact that my conference didn't start until very late afternoon.  So, after settling into my hotel at a very early 8:30 a.m. (I told you it was an early flight) I headed off with my map to the Inner Harbor area.  I knew I wanted to visit both the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center - both of which sit on the inner harbor.  I was also hoping to find some decent seafood for lunch.

I arrived at the inner harbor area and went to the visitor's center to get some details on restaurants, etc - plus it was so early I still had a bit of time to kill before the science center opened.
Cool sculpture just as you approach the inner harbor
View of Camden Yard from just outside the visitor center  - the hotel I stayed in was just off to the right in this photo.  I could have gotten some great photos looking down into the ball park on later days had it not been for the buckets of rain falling.
 Inside the visitor's center, the nice lady told me if I was going to the aquarium to GO NOW - as it gets very, very busy and you need to be in line when it opens.  Okey dokey...off to the aquarium I went.  And, was she ever right - the line was already through all the queue area and out into the main sidewalk.  Ugh!  It took me a minute to figure out that if I just wanted to see the aquarium and not do the 4D immersion underwater spectacurama (and yes - I made that word up) then I could actually get in rather quickly.  I got my ticket and headed in.  To say I was less than impressed with the National Aquarium is an understatement.  You are forced to proceed through nearly the entire building in what seems like a single file line.  While you can exit the line and view exhibits a bit more closely - you essentially follow the leader all the way through the place.  The layout just never made much sense to me.  I also LOVE the dolphin dome at the Indianapolis Zoo here in Indy - it's the most beautiful way to view dolphins other than to be lucky enough to see them in the wild.  The dolphin exhibit at the National Aquarium was less than spectacular.  Regardless, I have some interesting and still beautiful photos to share with you...





When you enter the aquarium you have no choice (at least not that I could figure out) to start out in this grade entry way that overlooks a tank of sharks, rays, and one very big turtle.  The turtle (whose name sadly I've already forgotten) is missing a flipper as you can see in his photo.  According to a couple of the aquarium employees I was chatting with it's kind of rare to get a photo of him as he tends to hide out of the way so I was pleased to get a few shots of him...

Overlooking that huge tank is this fella - I never did find an angle that I liked for him.  Part of the problem was the moving walkway you're forced onto (do you get the idea I didn't enjoy the traffic flow in here - I'll stop my grumble now - I promise)...Needless to say he hung down at least three stories of the building and was enormous.

I stopped for a while and took several pictures of the anemones.  This was a pretty cool tank which was getting a lot of attention so I had to stay here for a while to be able to get close enough to get some nice up close shots without glare on the glass as well as the full tank shot below.








This guy was just begging for his 15 minutes of fame so I decided to oblige him...

I enjoy the movie "Finding Nemo" - it's cute and the story is sweet plus the characters are kind of endearing.  I'm a bit like Dory sometimes.  Anyway, the museum had two nice "Nemo" tanks set up - something you see in a lot of aquariums nowadays.  These were from my favorite of the two tanks. 





Aquariums aren't all about what happens under the water - sometimes what happens on land is just as interesting and these two birds were a part of my trip.
One of my favorite exhibits was the jellyfish exhibit.  While the exhibit itself was rather depressing - there were some opportunities for some beautiful photos.











In all I spent about two hours at the aquarium.  You could easily spend five or six there - especially if you take in the two shows.  I wouldn't recommend going on a Saturday during prime spring break time if you want to take your time and enjoy the visit leisurely.  However, I enjoyed my visit and got some fun photos.

After the aquarium I stopped at McCormick and Schmicks for some lunch.  I really wanted a local place but both the concierge in the hotel and the nice lady in the visitors center told me to stay with M & S.  Not sure why - even when I asked for a local, non-chain location, but the food was good.  I had great broiled shrimp in onions and butter as well as a crab cake - YUMMY.

After lunch, I knocked around the inner harbor area for a while and looked at all the ships then it was off to the science center.





Ordinarily a science center wouldn't be a place that would draw my attention while visiting a city like Baltimore.  However, there was a traveling geocaching exhibit that I wanted to see that was housed there while I was visiting so the timing worked out.  Overall the museum wasn't even close to on par with the Indianapolis Children's Museum which I still think is one of the world's best - but it was fun place to spend an hour and the geocaching exhibit was fun.


GPS Satellite model

Entrance into the geocaching exhibit



All in all, I wish I'd spent more time out and about on Saturday as the rain came in a day early and stayed a day longer than expected so I didn't get any nice weather again until I left Baltimore to head to DC, but that's for a later post.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

03/24/2010: Almost time to go home

I enjoy visit Disney and especially enjoyed my first time staying at the Yacht and Beach club.  I could never afford it if we hadn't gotten a truly amazing conference hotel rate.  I didn't take the photo today though - Gayle grabbed the camera and set off to take several pictures while I was giving my presentation and was tied up in meetings again all day.  I especially liked this one she took of our resort.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

03/23/2010: Customer Appreciation Party

The conference I was attending was sponsored by a company we work with regularly - it was their annual user conference.  One of the highlights of the conference is the customer appreciation party.  This year, we spent an evening at the Atlantic Dance Hall on the Disney Board Walk and then we got the best seats in the house at Epcot for Illuminations - literally on the front "row" of the lake where they shoot off the fireworks.  I enjoyed taking some video with my phone which I don't normally do but since I didn't have my tripod, that seemed a better use of my resources.  I did snap a couple of decent nighttime shots by using the fencing to steady the camera.
 Me with one of the cast members - she was passing out free pez dispensers, Wimba buttons (the company that we were there with) and candy cigars and cigarettes.  I took a button, a Pluto pez (of course - Pluto is my favorite) and the candy cigarettes.  Haven't had those since I was a little kid
 After a wonderful dinner, it was off to EPCOT for fireworks - probably the best nighttime shot I've ever gotten thanks to a little help from the fence that was keeping me from falling into the lake.

I can't really say I got any truly good fireworks shots, but this one wasn't bad near the end of the show.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

03/20/2010 - Just a little more play time...


The 19th was my only true free day while we were in Florida.  However, the conference activities weren't in full swing so we had made dinner reservations at Fort Wilderness.  Gayle and I have talked about taking the wagon ride at Fort Wilderness about twenty times and never done it - until tonight.  What fun!  We did the earlier ride which was fine, but if you do the later ride, you get to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the edge of the lake at Fort Wilderness - definitely will have to put that on the list to do again sometime.
 Cowboy Joe with our two fine horses - Ned and Jerry...

 The ride takes you back along the lake and then we wound through a good part of the campground areas.  You might think that's a bit silly, however the folks who stay at the Fort Wilderness campground are pretty serious about their campsites - lots of decorations, lights, and other amusements adorn their campsites so it's actually kind of fun to see.

I kept trying to capture this shot looking down the side of the horse...I never got exactly what I was after, but this was pretty good.

Tomorrow...off to conferencing and work time in full swing.

Friday, March 19, 2010

03/19/2010 - EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival

Just a warning...there will be a LOT of pictures here.

I've wanted to visit the Flower and Garden Festival for a while now.  I also have wanted to do the fall food and wine festival at EPCOT.  If all goes as planned, this year I'll get to do both.  I won't bore you with a lot of the details.  Needless to say we had an absolutely WONDERFUL day and experienced some of the best weather I've ever seen at Disney.  It was Spring Break which normally would turn my stomach to visit at that time (entirely too many people for me) but it really wasn't that bad. 











 I took several photos in the rose garden that were actually much better than the one above, however I looked the way the color from the flowers you see in the photo two above this one were "bokeh" in this rose photo.





 I so enjoy a cup of tea and I loved the English "tea" garden outside the Great Britain pavilion.  It was so simple but so cute. 
 As we almost always do when we're in EPCOT we headed over to the Canada pavilion for dinner at our FAVORITE restaurant - Le Cellier.  We had a little extra time so we snapped a few photos of each other...
 Hi - this is me!  I'm wearing my "Honorary VoluntEAR button" since I had participated in the Disney "Give a Day, Get a Day" promotion.  Gayle had too, but she's not wearing her button...
 And this is my friend Gayle.
 This was Patrick - our absolutely adorable server in the restaurant.  He saw me taking pictures of the food and decided that something was missing - I think he's right - the photo is so much better with him in it!



All in all, a very fun day.  We headed back to the hotel just after this and rested for a while.  We went back for the fireworks show (Illuminations - Reflections of Earth) as well as Extra Magic Hours where we took in the show at the American Pavilion which was a lot of fun.