In this darkness which you know you cannot fight...
The darkness of the music of the night.
I've really fallen behind on posting about last week's trip to help Joy celebrate her birthday. Day one of the trip, and really the whole point of the birthday excursion, focused on Baltimore.
A couple of Joy's friends were in a Baltimore chorale that, with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, was performing the Lord of the Rings Symphony at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (at right) on two nights last week. It's a touring production, though they're using regional choruses and orchestras in each area, which I think is a neat way to go about it.
Since Joy also loves a couple of bars in Annapolis, she decided a great way to spend her birthday would be to see her friends in the concert, hang out with them for a bit, and get to the bars for some birthday beverages. I'd helped her celebrate her birthday in Annapolis two years ago alongside another event (the R7 holiday party), so I chimed in a couple months ago that I'd love to help again. I've been hoping to get back to those places. Turned out that since her friends would be pretty busy, and wouldn't much get to see her other than right after the show, going by herself wasn't a great option. And, if I went, I could be her ride back to Ithaca for her family's holiday gathering.
So on Wednesday, I drove down from Ithaca to Baltimore to pick Joy up at BWI, where she flew from Providence. (She's living in Connecticut.) My hopes to visit Kevin and his parents and dogs en route didn't work out; I got a much later start than I'd planned, and there were some delays in Pennsylvania. (Woke up well after my alarm went off for no apparent reason. Well, other than not usually being up that early.) As it was, I got to the airport, parked, and got inside to find Joy's baggage claim area, and then her, with about 15 minutes to spare.
We headed to Annapolis to check into the hotel, and got the unpleasant surprise that the whirlpool suite I'd reserved at the hotel I'd been to two years ago doesn't exist at the moment. All of those rooms are in the part of the hotel that's being renovated. I'd reserved through the toll-free number, but clearly the hotel hasn't done a good job of keeping the central reservations folks current on the hotel's status. But the girl at the makeshift front desk (the lobby is out of commission, too) handled the situation surprisingly well. She said "Well, there are other places in town that have whirlpool suites. Let me find one for you that has an available one."
Finding the Country Inn & Suites wasn't as easy as expected, so we wasted time during which we could have soaked away the travel aches in the whirlpool, but we did get there and check in with plenty of time to get changed for dinner and the concert. So we set aside our bathing suits for later and put on our evening duds, then set off for Baltimore.
The historic downtown area of Baltimore is a bit odd to drive around, and I've really never tried before. Of course, as we were driving around Baltimore, I realized that the concert tickets I'd remembered to bring from Ithaca to Maryland were still safely tucked in the pocket of my laptop bag... back in the hotel.
We got to the restaurant about 15 minutes early, and found a perfect parking space, about two spaces down from the front door. We had a 5pm dinner reservation (7:30 concert) and the meter wasn't free until 6, but it was pretty cheap to park there anyway. So, I pulled out my cell phone to see what I could do about not having to drive back to Annapolis to get those tickets. TicketMaster tried and failed to be helpful; the second person I talked to said "Oh, Maryland events are on a different call center. Here's the number," but that number didn't work. Happily, I had the Meyerhoff's number with me, on the page I'd printed with the directions, so I called them. Even more happily, I had the TicketMaster order number with me, since that order receipt was one of my printouts in the stack with the directions, all of which was in the car. The nice man at the orchestra hall said all I needed was the order number and the credit card I'd used for the order, and they could reprint the tickets for me. Phew.
Dinner at Saffron was fantastic, just as I'd expected it would be after skimming their web site a month ago on Joy's suggestion. It's not an Indian restaurant, but it does appear to have Indian influences in its spice and presentation. Dinner reminded me of some of the best Indian food I've ever had. We split appetizers of scallops in cucumber cups (hollowed-out inch-thick slices of cucumber) with wasabi honey mustard, and fresh nan stuffed with rabbit and lentils. Then Joy had clay oven roasted filet mignon on a honey-ginger toasted almond crust, and I had the acorn squash stuffed with beef cubes, Indian cheese, and olives in riesling almond sauce. We split a dessert that was essentially a fresh fig parfait whose details escape me, and had coffee.
I'm glad we asked how close we were to Meyerhoff, because it was under a mile, and it made far more sense to walk there and leave the car in its great parking spot than to leave and try to find parking closer. It was about a ten minute walk over there, and the walking directions given to us by the restaurant owner were easy enough to follow. (Walk down this street to such-and-such corner. Turn left. Walk a few more blocks. Hard to miss the concert hall.)
The concert itself was fantastic! Howard Shore, who scored all three "Lord of the Rings" movies, adapted the scores into a two-hour symphony in six movements (one for each of the six books) for orchestra and chorus. There was plenty of the sweeping music I enjoyed in the movies, with enough variety to keep it interesting. Meantime, they projected onto a large screen a steady stream of production sketches and paintings from the movies, which were a lot more interesting and appropriate to the setting than footage or stills would have been.
After the show, we found rest rooms and then Joy's friends, and chatted in the lobby with them for a while. Most of the group had to head out, since it was a work night for most. No one was up for a jaunt to Annapolis to hit Joy's bars. Mark and Melanie (I think) were heading to Brewer's Art for a beer, though, and since it was on the way back to our car, joining them was an especially good idea.
Brewer's Art has some terrific beers of their own, as well as an impressive bar with a truly stellar single malt scotch selection. They had several things I've never tried, including the most compelling, a Murray McDavid 1988 Laphroaig. I've tried it now. Mmmm.
After one round, we all headed out, and Joy and I drove back to Annapolis. We decided to park at the hotel and get a cab to downtown to hit the bars, so neither of us would have to remain too sober. The cab was taking forever, though, Joy was feeling less and less like going back out, and her friend Susie who lives nearby wasn't up for going out that late, so we decided to bag it and relax upstairs in the hotel room. The evening ended on a relaxing note, with some whirlpool time and some of the Glenlivet French Oak Finish I'd brought along with me.