Best friends (#triggered) in Baltimore

9 Sep

Helen and I decided to go to Baltimore for fun one weekend and to meet Katie Barbaro (two bars and an o) before she went off on her year of solo travel (WOOHOO!). At the time we were planning this trip we didn’t know she was going to COME BACK WITH US TO PITSBURGH #wildplan But that story is for the next post…for now, Baltimore.

…or should I call it Balti-POURING DOWN RAIN! The 4 hour drive took us 5 because of the weather.  It didn’t stop raining the entire weekend but LUCKILY we had designed this trip entirely around the National Aquarium — which is a Baltindoors activity, and most certainly not the last Baltimore pun that this triad of woman has come up with #foreshadowing

We checked into the Envy Hotel, whose name is definitely overcompensating for something.  Maybe they were trying to use reverse psychology? — It was really anything but envious. Actually, I take that back. The room was extra shareable, which…you know, is something I love and something to be jealous about. For example, there was a bug in one of the beds (the other bugs, not that we saw any, were probably envious that this one bug got a whole bed to itself), so Helen and Katie shared a bed while I took the bug bed for myself that first night.  We switched it up for night two because fair is fair. The bathroom handle was also broken, so you could see into the bathroom, which meant that we shared a lot of private moments together…and learned where other bathrooms in the hotel were located. Another few unique traits (questionably enviable) were that breakfast was served in the dank basement with instant coffee and that when you were in the lobby, you had to push the down button so that the elevator could come “down” to you. I mean, I guess that’s enviable for an up elevator– it’s way more work to go up than down, right?  “They do things differently in Baltimore,” said Katie, as we headed past homeless people back into the pouring down rain in search of dinner.


A few enJOYneer best friends enJOYneering their best friend fun!


We ultimately picked an Afghani restaurant called the Helmand. It was DELICIOUS. It only took getting out of the hotel, out of the rain, and five bites into the meal to completely change my mind about Baltimore, this place was great!


Equal parts of everything.  The pumpkin (bottom of the plate) was exceptional!


During dinner Katie and I learned that we didn’t like raisins, but by process of elimination. We ordered this delicious rice dish (to share, of course), and finished it all only to discover the one thing left in the bowl was the pile of raisins we had subconsciously ignored. Talk about passive aggraisins.


The “after” picture looks just like this, except everything else besides the raisins are gone.


We had a great time at the restaurant; our table was a share-table… like a potluck, but with feelings! While sharing at the share-table we discussed how amazing it was that we got to share it with THREE BEST FRIENDS. We’re each the best friend of our best friends, and it was just a whole best friend fest. We soon realized that “best friend” is our trigger word and sends our heart rates through the roof.  BEST FRIENDS, BEST FRIENDS, BEST FRIENDS!
For some added entertainment, we noticed a mouse scurry around the restaurant, but we weren’t bothered — it made me feel like I was a patron in Ratatouille. Spirits were high, the three of us had nothing to complain about.


A best friend and her best friend!



A best friend’s best friend; not pictured: their best friend.



Before the mouse sighting.



The mouse sighting caught in action.



Squeak squeak! We disQUEAKly told the manager so the restaurant would not get shut-down by Food and Safety.  We didn’t want to be out in that rain either, mouse!


Giddy and HAPPY AS EVER the three BEST FRIENDS!!! (an exclamation point for each of us) headed back to the Envy Hotel to rest up for the next day.



Snug as the bug in the other bed.


The next morning, we headed to the aquarium at 9 AM, right as it opened, and put school kids on field trips to shame by staying there for a whopping SEVEN hours.


IMG_5527 2.jpg

Good morning, Baltipouuuur!


We literally savoured each step we took, obviously, as we took seven hours to see the whole aquarium. In the beginning, Katie said something that really set the stage for the rest of our aquarium experience, and that was this:

“Wow. Life really imitates art! And by art I mean nature, which is really just life.”

I mean…truer words have never been spoken. And so we decided to actually watch art imitate life imitate nature by heading to two of the aquarium’s movies in 4D.



“4D?!  Balti-MORE dimensions?!”  – HW


We decided to see Shark and Being Dolphin (the titles did not leave us much room for guessing what these movies were about…but that was fine! We couldn’t wait!)

We learned a few things from these movies:

  1. Kids do not like 4D depictions of marine life, which is actually hilarious.
  2. These movies needed a content warning because they were definitely not relaxing.
  3. Shark skin is as sharp as teeth. They cut with their skin just to see if people bleed (no, these aren’t Simple Plan lyrics; it’s real science). But sometimes people will think they’ve been bitten by a shark, when in reality, the shark just brushed up against them.
  4. 4D includes being sprayed by water and getting punched in the back. When that part of the movie took place, Helen leaned over and asked us if we just got shanked. This was Baltimore, after all. And yes, we all had. The kids in the audience screamed. Everyone watching the movie got punched in the back, that was supposed to be a positive feature, I guess.  We renamed the film the Shark-shank Redemption.

After the movie, we explored balti-more of the aquarium. Here are some standouts:



Feeding time!!



Seahorsing around.



Peacock Mantis Shrimp. Andrew’s new fursona.



“That fish looks like it’s going as that rock for Halloween” — Helen






Showing off turtle shells.


Not in their natural habitat but still SO DARN PERFECT!  Those bubbles!


Our favorite exhibit was the jellyfish one. We loved the way they moved so fluidly and just bounced around and hit the walls. We realized we had just never seen jellyfish before — “like, ever.”


Could there be any balti-more jellyfish in this aquarium?



Interpreting a jellyfish — Whiskers and Labia.



Matching phone screens 😉


Exploring an aquarium for seven hours is hard work, so for snack time (thanks, Katie!), we had a blue Clif Bar– yes, that’s the flavor– blue. And we split 2 clementines into 3. We just loved how fair that felt.

Besides the jellyfish, we were also drawn to the dolphins because, I mean…dolphins. After seeing the Being Dolphin 4D movie, we were thrilled to find out the aquarium has an open dolphin exhibit where trainers feed and play with dolphins all day. You’re welcome to stay in there as long as you want but every few hours, the trainers give a Dolphin Talk. We visited them multiple times and went to every dolphin talk they had. One of the coolest things we learned (and that is a LONG list of #dolphinfacts), is the dolphins will willingly give their tails so the doctors can draw blood. They are trained to do so and practice that pose every day so that when the doctors come for testing, the dolphins are not stressed out.

Dolphins are so smart, curious, and playful. Three of my favorite qualities. The trainers have a symbol that means the dolphin can swim out and do whatever trick it wants. When it comes back, the dolphin gets rewarded with big celebrations and cheering. The trainer then did the same symbol and the dolphin knew it meant to go out and do a different trick. The same symbol has multiple meanings — these animals are so advanced! They also had a symbol to say “swim around the perimeter of the tank and show me any 5 tricks you want, as long as you don’t repeat any!” DOLPHINS ARE SO SMART. They have to be constantly teaching the dolphins new tricks because they crave innovation and creativity. I’m not sure how we figured that out about dolphins but I’m glad we did! HUMANS ARE SMART, TOO! 

DOLPHINS ALSO LOVE TO CELEBRATE!!! How cute is that?! Anytime they did a trick correctly, they would celebrate with their trainers! It was so full of joy and positive reinforcement. The trainers celebrate when they do something correctly and just ignore if they do something incorrectly so as to not reinforce the behavior. They said that works for children, too. #lifehack 

The trainers told us that sometimes the dolphins play baseball with flavorless jello, to which Katie, without missing a beat, turned to us and asked:

“What’s a dolphin’s favorite flavor of jello? Trick question!! Flavorless!”

When we left the aquarium seven hours later (seriously – go to the Baltimore Aquarium and see the dolphin talks), the three of us wanted to get something matching so we scoured the gift shop for anything that called our names — it had to call all three names or else it was a bust. We ended up just using that magnificent picture of jellyfish (shown above #captionfacts) as matching phone screens, which is perfect, but we also got this great picture, which we wanted but didn’t want to pay $50 for.



A few puffins with special powers. WE, THOUGH. ❤ ❤ ❤


And since 1 Clif Bar +  ⅓ of 2 clementines does NOT = a sufficient meal, we decided to head out for some food and have some more best friend time where we just constantly made each other laugh because we though.


“Helen: Sayer of words, mumbler of gems.” – Katie



Katie asking Helen on a best friend date. SHE SAID YES!


After we made the best use of Baltimore by going to see the aquarium and having dinner, we decided to balance it out by making the worst use of Baltimore and going to see an improv show, which apparently, in Baltimore stands for “Needs improvement.”


Couple celebrating their one year anniversary on stage. Happy one year, baby. #Badprov


Katie and Helen went up on stage as audience participants — they were my favorite part of the show.


“I need this 4th wall to get wayyyy thicker”– Katie



Moral support!


After sitting through some…some really ENVIABLE — there we go–  improv, we decided to just leave early. After all, it wasn’t our town. We didn’t know these people (thank goodness).  We could just leave right? Right. We left. After we left, we debriefed and wondered if we were clapping with them or at them. Like, how would we like it if someone came to our jobs and just started clapping at us? Our debrief was funnier than the actual improv #sorrynotsorry.

The next day, we got a delicious breakfast sans basement and decided to skip the trampolines and head home early, which is great because I love to stop.



Aquarium and food; the absolute best uses of Baltimore.



Sooooo good — also, no mouse sighting!


After breakfast, we got in the car and drove back to Pittsburgh. The 4-hour road trip took us 6 which I considered to be not bad at all. We also managed to go back in time when we stopped at a Burger King on the way home, and if you don’t believe me here’s proof (cameras still worked back then).



We let Katie drive.


We also stopped at an international market, and Katie and I realized it was the first time we had gone international together. Our destination? Goat cheese and caramel lollipops from Mexico.

There were also several realizations made on the way back home, which was a great way to turn our downtime in to up-time #always The first epiphany came when I realized, in real-time, that I was a quarter hoarder when we had to pay a toll. The first step is admitting you have a problem, and I did just that while making eye contact with Helen. I am a quarter hoarder.

The second realization came after we had made our last stop; Helen was driving (thanks for driving!), and she didn’t want to make any more stops (woe is me) so that we could get home on time to see Bonus Stage at Arcade Comedy Theater (good improv!). Helen noticed in the rearview mirror that Katie was getting her water from some grapes — something that dolphins do from ice-cubes or fish, by the way, because all mammals need fresh water! When she realized Katie was so thirsty that she had resorted to getting her water content from a grape, Helen agreed to stop because “I didn’t realize what a monster I was being!”

This Baltimore trip was definitely anything but a Balti-snore, we got to see everything that this city had to offer (and by “everything” I mean the massive aquarium.).  And it really made me appreciate a couple of things. First: my gorgeous, beautiful, funny best friends who are the best best friends in the world. Second: Pittsburgh improv. Third: Dolphins. 




One Response to “Best friends (#triggered) in Baltimore”

  1. deekerson November 23, 2018 at 8:01 pm #

    Shark-shank Redemption. Laugh out loud. Really!

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