Category Archives: United States

Where to get your caffeine fix in Baltimore

Hello there! How are you? Yes, it HAS been a while. There are no excusable excuses to be had here. As I write this, I am no longer living in Baltimore. I have moved back home for a bit. I am taking a French class at the local community college and spending Sunday mornings at the Eastern Market. Step back from Detroit. Close your eyes. Let’s pretend I am back in Baltimore on a crispy January Sunday morning.  For me, Sundays are synonymous with latte’s and the New York Times. The only place to execute your Sunday routine is the Daily Grind where you can taste the very essence of Baltimore in your coffee grounds.


The Daily Grind is one of those coffee houses that you walk into immediately feel at ease. You are not going to be overwhelmed by pretension and a barista looking at you like you’re dumb if you just want a humble cup of coffee (no frills please!).


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe shop is situated right on the harbor. If you go on Saturday mornings, there is a farmer’s market just a block or two away on Broadway. Once inside, you can smell a mix of bread, eggs, and coffee.

The counter reminds me of European cafes; it has a half door that opens to the sidewalk for people with dogs–and they sell cigarettes behind the counter like a scene from Amelie. You can pick up a great variety of newspapers, but the New York Times can sell out before noon if you aren’t careful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis place is truly a haunt for locals. One of the tables across from the bathrooms has a sign that reserves it for a small group of people early in the mornings. It has an incredible amount of natural light with skylights and a brick facade. The lattes are good and a dollar cheaper than Starbucks. Most importantly, its a great place to sit down and relax, and get to know the real neighborhood.

Getting there: DC Metro


Living in Baltimore, I am well positioned to visit my friends all over the East Coast. The only  thing that limits me is my budget (I am wealthy in time, not money). I imagine that DC and Baltimore have a relationship similar to that of San Francisco and Oakland–so close but sometimes local cultures are polar opposites.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Prior to moving to Baltimore, I hadn’t been in DC since the traditional high school field trip to the Capitol. I totally forgot about how unique the Metro is in DC. One, because you get charged by distance and two, because nothing else looks so distinct. The majority of Metro stations were designed by Harry Weese, whose creation has been featured on modern architectural lists. Do you think you would know you were in the DC if you could only see the Metro station?


Have a look!

The Best Place to Wait in Line For Breakfast: Baltimore Edition


I normally don’t believe in waiting, but Blue Moon Cafe has a line for two very good reasons. 1) they don’t take reservations to the best of my knowledge and 2) their food is amazing. If you arrive during peak hours on the weekend, the wait can be upwards of an hour. Part of the wait and religious following can be explained by the Food Network appearance.


I love Blue Moon for the low key nature, it is very much come as you are. I have never felt out of place in my yoga pants or jeans. The wait staff is friendly and they share duties, so it’s OK to ask anyone for more syrup. The walls feature local artwork that rotate regularly.


What to order? I am exceptionally boring, and order the same thing every time–the Captain Crunch French Toast (it’s what they are famous for). Trust me, try it. Friends who come with me and tried something else have loved every dish placed in front of them.


If you’re not a waiting list champion Blue Moon Cafe is open 24 hours on the weekend. I have arrive at 7am and been seated without a wait. Waking up that early is certainly a trade off but there’s always naps!

Baltimore: Charming the Tourists

Historical boats floating in the Inner Harbor

I skidded into LaGuardia in the last week of August…without a ticket to Michigan (where I had parked my bags before leaving for Europe). Getting home was an exercise in resourcefulness and emotional control. I had planned to fly home standby with Southwest, but when I got to the counter, I was informed my luggage couldn’t go with me. Not willing to part with my things I sat down to scope out my other options. I had roughly $200 to my name, so the getting home was not and issue of finding a place to swipe my AmEx. Megabus doesn’t go that far. Amtrak was too expensive. So I pulled out my phone I hadn’t used in months and started calling my friends. Within a couple of hours I was on a Megabus to Philly to stay at my old house with one of my best friends. The happy ending isn’t here though, I still needed to get to Detroit. Philly was wonderful, I got to recharge my batteries and I remembered a friend in Atlanta had mentioned this website, Zimride. I logged on and found a ride home. My driver was this guy, Dan, he provided more than one full bellied laugh…and didn’t mind that I act like a totally dysfunctional human. By Sunday evening I was standing on a corner in Ann Arbor waiting for my mom, sister and niece and I to catch up over some Indian Food.

People playing Volleyball.

The following week I was in Baltimore settling into my new apartment. That feeling of waking up and getting in the car and having no idea which way to go is a little scary but fun. I could never explain how I arrived there, but I found a Whole Foods and a Starbucks (where I would Google how to get home). It was around this time I realized I was in the “i=Inner Harbor” which is 1) where the rich people live and 2) where all the tourists mill about. There are several large ships parked there. You can also find some street performers and museums. If you are a people watcher, this is your side of town because yachts also park in the harbor and their residents mosey around the area mixing with the local flavor. There are plenty of higher end things to do as well as predictable Americana such as a mall and the expected high rise or two. Most of these pictures are thanks to a gentleman, Albert, who took me on an extended walk to see what Baltimore has to offer. The Inner Harbor is how Baltimore wants outsiders to remember it.

Slowin’ Down for Some Fall Fun in North Carolina

Happy Halloween! As the cooler weather brings us rosy cheeks, pumpkin carving and cider there will be a lot more family time with the upcoming holidays. Sometimes family can leave people reaching for the eggnog, but the unconditional acceptance makes all the silly things worth it. I took an unexpected trip down to Mooresville, North Carolina which is right on Lake Norman where I have some extended family.

We took a trip to Carrigan Farms. Everyone piled onto a trailer for a hay ride. Each person got to pick a pumpkin and look at the farm animals. It was nice to just participate in the Americana, slow down for a minute and breathe in the country air.  My favorite part was sitting down to a large, slow family meal at the Prickly Pear. There is soft guitar playing in the background and killer margaritas. You will never eat Mexican food like this anywhere else; they come up with stunning seasonal dishes that incorporate fresh seafood. And don’t pass up the desserts! After all of this constant movement, we all have to remember to be thankful to those who ground us–and remind us that I used to only read about some of the places that my feet have reached recently. What are some of your fall traditions?

As I headed north, I would roll through the most picturesque mountain views, bursting with fall colors. And the only thing I could think was, why is someone else not driving so I can take a picture!?

P.S. Next week, I will swing back to Odessa and add some finishing thoughts on Ukraine. Stay tuned!

Baltimore vs. Hurricane Sandy

People shoveling sand into bags for Sunday night.

I know that more than a handful of people stateside are having their travel plans postponed. Thousands of flights in and out of the country have been cancelled! 50 million people are estimated to be affected by Hurricane Sandy! I ended up in Fells Point yesterday, watching people rush home and make sure their car is safe. I am hearing sirens more than usual today, I even saw snow flakes mixed in with the rain. So what does a signature Baltimore Hurricane preparedness plan look like? Here are some observations from a newbie:

Get your flashlights, water and batteries early! Those soccer moms I was smirking at two or three days ago were on to something. As of Sunday night, finding a flashlight became a scavenger hunt. Soccer moms everywhere are having the last laugh.

Cook Food for several days–stuff that doesn’t need to be heated up. Locals have told me that power might take days rather than hours to restore.

Blockade your door. The pictures below show what more seasoned residents are trying to do, using sandbags to prevent their doors from the harsh weather.

Catch up on your favorite shows. I’m using this unexpected holiday to watch Season 6 of Sex and the City and Magic Mike (go ahead, laugh) especially since even getting a latte from Starbucks is out of the question.

Hose down. Take a shower. Baltimore General Electric will have their hands full for quite a while and a hot shower isn’t possible without power.

Listen to your leaders. If they say stay home, stay in. If there is a mandatory evacuation in your area, by all means go! They say this to protect you and your family, not to sit back in their executive chairs and laugh at the news stations showing traffic jams a couple of hours later.

Keep your head on. See image below:

I am sitting here waiting for high tide tonight. What advice do you have for East Coast folks hunkered down today? Stay dry!

storefronts preparing

To Market! To Market! Detroit’s Eastern Market

Detroit’s Eastern Market if one of my favorite places to visit in Michigan, having been a staple in Detroit life since 1861. It had been a handful of years since I had last visited and what a change! I remembered what was essentially a dark, cold, mega sized pole barn with people that could be from anywhere in the world. There were live chickens for five dollars in the same establishment where you could buy fresh cut flowers for wonderful prices and other surprises. This time around, the Eastern Market was sunny and suburban family friendly. It was exponentially larger, with several outdoor roofed shelters, including maybe three enclosed buildings. And even though I will always feel a deep love for the grit of Detroit, I think the newer, cleaner version is a gem worth a lifetime of visits.

I have a soft spot for urban markets, this New York Times article eloquently brings to light the vital role they play in our cities. In Philadelphia, I shopped at Reading Terminal. In Atlanta, I shopped at the DeKalb Farmer’s Market. And in Detroit, my first stop for fresh produce (and ten other items I didn’t plan on) is the Eastern Market. Food and people are how I put my ear to the ground to hear the heartbeat of each city.

On a warm summer morning one of the greatest parts of the Eastern Market is the street artists who provide side entertainment.

The Eastern Market always provides a “first” for me; today I ate my first sunflower sprouts from Rising Pheasant Farms. The farm is a bicycle powered farm on Detroit’s Eastside. I also picked up some granola from Simply Suzanne, also made in Detroit. My sweet tooth also found a rosy cheeked man selling delicious cookie’s 5 for a dollar (!). They were so good that they didn’t actually make it the whole way home before being devoured.

Seeing the Potential in Things: Detroit’s Michigan Central Station

To be honest, seeing the Michigan Central Station was complete serendipity. In search of some good coffee, we took a detour in Corktown for lunch at Astro Coffee. Astro just turned a year old (yesterday!); it has a great environment, and even better food. They serve a curated selection of natural and organic food, sometimes local. Besides the homey sound of people typing away on their laptops and quiet conversation, the highlight for me was the view out the window of Michigan Central station (pictured below). For a daydreamer such as myself, I love thinking of all the potential of this beauty. I could get lost in my head thinking of the glamorous “old days” of Detroit. Above is a view of Michigan Avenue, just across the street from Central Station. I just had to share some pictures of one of Michigan’s most famous architectural gems.

Michigan Central Station was designed by the same architects, Reed & Stem and Warren & Wetmore, who also were the masterminds behind New York City’s Grand Central Station. A few year’s back, the oft loathed Detroit City Council voted to demolish the monument to Detroit’s more prosperous days, but successful work on behalf of organizations like the Michigan Central Station Preservation Society called this to the attention of the public, leading to far reaching outcry. The station is currently owned by someone and is slated for some progress, but I could not dig up any specifics. Currently, there is a website, Talk to the Station, which is a sort of forum to generate ideas for future use (as the sign in the picture here says). Can you dream up any good uses for the Station?

The rail station, at one time, was the tallest in the world. Today it remains a symbol of Detroit’s opulence and grit.