Staycation at Rio Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland

Our hotel on this trip was at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It was quite nice and conveniently located on the boardwalk with several restaurants, bars and shops all around. We were literally in the middle of it all. What’s even better was the fact that our hotel had the view overlooking the lake. I made it a point on the first night to explore the area and walked around the lake.

The lake itself is about a 2 mile loop. From our hotel, I made a right and walked passed bars and restaurants. People were already having dinner at this time as it was a Friday around 7pm. A few couples and kids were also taking a leisurely walk around the lake. I saw a couple of trees and benches placed in the area where I decided to sit in one of them. While sitting down, I realized I was already across the lake from where my hotel was located. The lights illuminated the hotel from my view. It was quite a beautiful spot.

Feeling cold, I finished my loop and decided to go back to the hotel room. I must’ve been tired or the bed was that comfy because I didn’t remember falling asleep.

A small snippet of our hotel room, its surrounding area and breakfast at a restaurant nearby.

Snapshot on Georgetown, Washington D.C

The weather was good to us in the last few days until, our visit to Georgetown. However, rain or shine we still squeezed a few hours of sightseeing this town.

Georgetown is not to be missed. It’s got everything you need and then some. From the harbour waterfront restaurants to high end shops, there’s so much to see that you would need at least two days to explore more of this district.

We arrived at the harbour around 2pm. Thankfully, it wasn’t raining yet but, the crowd was already in full blown. It was definitely crowded (if not, more) like Annapolis. People were found drinking and eating at the restaurants along the waterfront, a few were waiting in line to take a boat tour, kids and adults on scooters roaming through the park, tourists (like us) taking photos with the Patomatic River as their backdrop, a few people reading, joggers passing by; you name it, people were everywhere.

One thing to keep in mind when coming here is to prepare to walk up the hill in the beginning if, you’re coming from the waterfront. I’d say we walked a good 10-15 min. towards the shops and it was a bit hilly getting there. However, once you’re in the shopping center area then, it’s all flat. We walked around a few blocks window shopping and saw various typical chain stores like Zara, HM, etc. I thought there were a ton of people by the waterfront but, in this area the amount of people nearly doubled. Coming on a Saturday was probably not the best idea. However, it was the only time we had to explore, therefore, we made the best of it.

After 2 hours of sightseeing, the rain started. We decided to bail and head back to our hotel. Overall, I enjoyed the energy of this city in compare to the other towns we visited. People were genuinely nice and there’s a youthful energy that makes this place special.

A pit stop at Frederick Historic District, Maryland

I admit I knew very little about Frederick when we visited. Given the little time we had, we decided to freely explore the historic district without much research of the area.

When we arrived, the vibe of this town automatically took me back to my San Francisco days. It reminded me a lot of Haight street lined with eclectic shops, art galleries, coffee spots, distilleries, breweries and different types of restaurants. Parking was fairly easy and it was definitely not as crowded as Annapolis.

We had lunch on the outside patio at Hootch & Banter Lounge within a few steps from Carroll Creek. The food was amazing and probably one of the best meals I had on this trip. Despite that the service was slow because they were busy, my soup dish was delicious. I really should’ve had seconds. lol

We walked around a bit more after lunch and went around the block. Frederick has plenty of restaurants to choose from and I think it’s one of those towns where if you want to find an authentic item, this would be the place to go.

Read my post on Annapolis here.

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A few hours at the Brookside Gardens

On our way back from Annapolis, we made a pit stop at Brookside Gardens. Situated within Wheaton Regional Park, this 50 acre garden is a must see. The admission is free.

My first impression of the park is how peaceful it was and well maintained. They have gazebos, ponds, Japanese tea garden (small turtles swimming that you can see from the garden), and areas to rent for special events such as birthdays, weddings and such. We strolled our way around the area, taking photos of the different flowers and plants. I noticed there were a few joggers as well passing by. This would be perfect for it and for all you plant lovers.

Spotlight on Annapolis, Maryland

Second day, life was a bit easier with the time difference slowly wearing off on us. We didn’t waste any time. We woke up, got ready, had breakfast and headed to Annapolis. The drive was about 30-40 min. which was the same distance as driving to Alexandria but, heading east from Maryland.

Annapolis is Maryland’s capital city located on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. It is known as America’s Sailing Capital and plenty of seafood restaurants (and just about anything) to eat your heart out.

We arrived around lunch time and found the town very compact with lots to see and quite crowded. Unlike the quiet and more subdued Alexandria, Annapolis is more touristy.

Coming here you’ll have to get ready for the crowd. There are plenty of parking garages but, we preferred parking in one of the garages nearby away from the center. However, don’t let that deter you from visiting. Annapolis remains “one of the most intact and authentic colonial towns in the entire nation.” Everything is in walking distance and you’ll find lots of boutique shops, pubs, bakeries, galleries and restaurants. If you like water, this is the place to be.

For lunch, we settled on Middleton Tavern (a historic tavern) as they accommodated our large group in the middle of rush hour. The staff were friendly, attentive and provided a fair service. I knew there were mix reviews about the food coming in to this restaurant. However, if you like seafood, this is a good choice.

We ordered a couple of appetizers from calamari to oysters and they were all gone within minutes. Maybe it was the combination of hunger and the food being tasty but, we had to re-order the appetizers. I particularly liked the calamari but, the oysters were dipped in butter mixed in something that was just very good. I’m salivating now as I am writing this description.

After lunch we roamed around a bit to lessen the load on our full stomachs then, headed home.

Read my post on Alexandria here.

Fall Getaway in the East Coast.

A trip to the east coast is a rare case for me. Usually, I’m passing through on a layover, however, this time I’ve made it a point to explore a bit more of the east coast (specifically Maryland and Virginia). It was pretty cool to see this side of U.S.A with many quaint small towns and I found it hard to believe it’s taken me this long to finally see these places.

Our first stop was Alexandria, Virginia.

Alexandria is one of those towns that you have to visit. It has a European flair with narrow streets, brick sidewalks, boutiques and specialty shops with well preserved 18th and 19th century buildings. It was hard not to like anything about it.

Oddly, I’ve never heard of this place before until this trip. A friend of mine had recommended it and we wanted to see something different aside from D.C. Therefore, mom and I settled on seeing Alexandria on our first day and made our way there with our rental car.

The weather was about 55F and no rain in the beginning of November. We got lucky. Mom and I walked around Kings Street towards the waterfront area and then drove further down to see more shops. I definitely loved this town because it has character. We got there early in the morning so, there were only a few people around.

For the most part, we hopped around looking at shops. I noticed they had a mix of boutiques and chain stores. A few coffee shops that I recognized. Then, I saw we could’ve taken the trolley or bus that would’ve allowed us to stop at various locations in the Old Town. We wanted to take this opportunity and use the trolley though, we waited more than 15 minutes and decided to head back to Maryland (our base) to meet the rest of the family for dinner.

Wait! There’s more!

The adventure did not stop there. One thing that I also loved was the drive to Alexandria and back to our hotel. If you ever get a chance to drive around and explore the east coast, I highly suggest renting a car like we did.
The drive is one of the best views I’ve seen. We passed through several lush green trees through windy roads and beautiful million dollar homes to keep you occupied. It really felt like we were in a completely different part of U.S….well, indeed, we were 😉

To be continued…

Shifting around D.C.

By far, this is the fastest trip I’ve ever done in my life! When time gives you a window of opportunity, I take full advantage of it and go all in. It might not be the best situation but, this was a trip that has been in the back of my mind for a few years now. Thus, packing in as many places as I could, with the time I was given leaving things a bit crazy. However, I’m having fun anyway and that’s all that matters, right? 🙂 Continue reading “Shifting around D.C.”

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80 Degrees of Sightseeing

My 2nd day in Quebec City was oven status. It was hotter than So. Cal desert weather which, kept me heading back to my hotel room every chance I could to cool off under the a/c all throughout the day. According to the locals, I apparently came during the hottest week they’ve ever had in history. Can someone pour a bucket of ice over my head, like now?
Continue reading “80 Degrees of Sightseeing”

Je Me Souviens

Quebec City

When my plane finally landed in Quebec City airport, I think I may have yelped a little internally. It was definitely quite an adventure just getting here but, I made it. Half asleep and half excited, I breezed through the airport and took a taxi to my B&B hotel.The scene on the way to my hotel wasn’t that exciting. However, when I got closer to the city center, I started seeing red brick homes that were mostly 2 story high and the streets got narrower. I noticed there were more people on foot than driving and about 40 minutes later, the taxi finally stopped in front of my B&B. Getting out of the car was surreal. I looked around me and from the narrow sidewalks, the cafe’s with its windows open and people eating, relaxing, drinking, to seeing the buildings made me feel at home. AH, this is exactly where I needed to be.

Continue reading “Je Me Souviens”

Stuck in Toronto, Canada.

East coast got me in a bundle. If you’ve ever tried to organize a trip to the east coast coming from California, with a stop over in Canada, on a short time frame and in the middle of summer, well, just call me crazy. As I was waiting for my flight to take off at John Wayne airport, I was daydreaming about all the fun activities that I was looking forward to on my trip to Canada. It’s been a few years now that I’ve been wanting to see Quebec City but, never quite made it there for many reasons. For those of you who don’t know this, Quebec City is known as the French speaking European province of North America and I was longing for that European vibe that I’ve been missing since I left Italy 2 years ago. Therefore, this was a trip I was very much looking forward to.

Continue reading “Stuck in Toronto, Canada.”