Thursday, July 24, 2014

Behind the Barr in Baltimore

Have you ever wondered if you can just turn up at an airport and purchase a ticket without a prior reservation? Me too.

For the past week I’d been asking everyone I met, whether or not this was a viable option. Opinions differed with every person I met. No one I met had actually done it; some thought it might be possible while others were adamant and said, “Oh no, Honey, you got to make a reservation and buy yourself a ticket way in advance.”

The reason I hadn’t booked a ticket in advance was because the arrival time of long-haul train journeys was so erratic – it was nothing to have a six plus hour delay on the California Zephyr.

True to form, we rolled into Chicago two and a half hours late. Fortunately the public transport is easy to negotiate in Chicago and I quickly made my way out to Midway Airport. The plane I wanted was the 7.25pm Southwest Airlines flight down to Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Airport… it was already after 6pm.

As luck would have it, they still had seats available and I could purchase one there and then at the counter; I quickly handed over my credit card and was then directed to the Express Bag-Drop line (I think they could safely drop the “express” in their title). From there, I sprinted through security… at least, I would have sprinted through security if only I’d remembered to pack my jar of Vegemite into my checked luggage, instead of my carry-on… fortunately it wasn’t deemed too dangerous (they didn’t taste it) and I was allowed to keep it. I ran on down the long, long corridors that airports are infamous for and arrived, out of breath and in a ball of sweat at the boarding gate, just in the nick of time.

My hosts for the next couple of nights, were NSNC member, writer, humorist, speaker and stand-up comic, Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski and her husband, Brad Borowy. Although we had only met briefly at last year’s NSNC Conference in Hartford, Connecticut, through modern technology and social media in the form of Facebook, we had been able to get to know each other better over the following months. Wojo had emailed and invited me to come and stay if I could work it into my excellent adventure itinerary.

It was great to be met with friendly faces as I arrived at yet another foreign airport. It was even better to arrive at their beautiful home in the Maryland countryside on the outskirts of Baltimore, that they shared with their two pampered pooches, Riley and Maggie.

Riley, practising his "Puss in Boots" eyes
The next morning Brad had to go off to work, leaving Wojo and her assistant, Ernie, the task of giving me a snapshot of life in Maryland. Together, we prioritised the day into: Laundry, Lunch, Nap, Baseball.

Laundry, while not exciting, is one of life’s necessities and when you’re travelling, the offer of a washing machine and dryer should never be passed up. I introduced Wojo and Ernie to the delights of our national spread, Vegemite, while we waited for my washing to finish.

Ernie diplomatically said it was, “okay” but I fear Wojo’s North American palate may be too delicate to fully appreciate the not-so-subtle and somewhat salty flavours of yeast extract… at least, that’s the impression I got from watching her facial expressions following her partial ingestion of a miniscule slice of buttered bread with Vegemite…

For lunch Wojo and Ernie took me to the Fallston Seafood Restaurant and introduced me to one of their state’s traditional meals, steamed crabs. Generously coated in McCormick & Co’s Old Bay Seasoning, steamed Maryland blue crabs are delicious to eat.
Steamed crabs with Old Bay seasoning

With the table covered in brown paper and topped with steamed crabs, we made good use of our “crustacean crushers”; the wooden mallets supplied by Michelle, our wonderfully attentive waitress, and used to extract the succulent crabmeat from the shells. I washed down my magnificent meal with a bottle of Bud Light beer.

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to taking a nap.

Enjoying steamed crabs at the Fallston Seafood Restaurant
Brad returned home from work in the evening and the four of us headed into Baltimore to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. A Major League Baseball ballpark and home to the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. We were there to see the home team play the Chicago White Sox and for me to experience my first ever baseball game.
In the stands at Camden Yards

Oriole star player, Chris Davis, batting
Armed with hotdogs and sauce and sitting high up in the stands, Brad, Wojo and Ernie explained the finer points of the game that has been played in the US since the late 1700s. Sadly the Orioles didn’t claim victory that night but the atmosphere and cheering of the crowd when a home run was hit, made for a memorable evening.
Ernie's selfie at the game: Brad, me, Wojo and Ernie

I concluded my day with Wojo and Brad with a late-night introduction to Arnott’s Tim Tam biscuits. Consisting of a couple of chocolate malted biscuits sandwiched together with chocolate cream filling and encased in a thin layer of yet more chocolate, this iconic Australian bikkie, first introduced in 1964, was in fact named after the famous American racehorse and 1958 Kentucky Derby winner, Tim Tam.
Trivia aside, I think my humble packet of Tim Tams restored Wojo’s faith in Australian cuisine…


  1. Oh, I SO enjoyed your warm and wonderful stopover in Baltimore with Wojo and Brad. They are the best, aren't they? I'm sorry that in the Death Match, Vegemite v. Steamed Maryland Crabs, Aussie cuisine went down under. Love the photos and how you capture your warm American welcome.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments and for taking the time to write them, Suzette. When you're travelling, I don't think you can beat staying with locals as the best way to fully experience a place and Wojo and Brad are great ambassadors for their district.