Tag Archives: Maryland

Birthday Road Trip: Dogfish Head and Ocean City

We’re quite old hands at visiting craft breweries now, so had an idea what to expect when we visited Dogfish Head brewery at Milton, DE. This is the brewery that makes a couple of my favourite beers out here – their 60 minute IPA and Indian brown ale are perfect after a long walk.

The brewery was surprisingly busy, so the first tour we could get on was rather later than we’d hoped. However, it was close to lunch time, so we figured we could enjoy a few tastings and grab some lunch before the tour. The brewery has a ‘beer-centric’ food menu available from ‘Bunyan’s Lunchbox’ – a sort of stationary food truck – just outside. Here they serve beer-dosed bratwursts, hop pickles (totally weird and amazing), and bowls of ‘hard-tack’ clam chowder, made with dark beer. You can also get a lot of this food at Dogfish’s brew pub ‘Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats’ in Rehoboth Beach. And they apparently stock the chowder and brats in some branches of Whole Foods and Harris Teeter.

This wide availability of Dogfish Head’s non-beer produce might give rise to a suspicion that the brewery is not quite as ‘off-centred’ as its slogan suggests. In fact, the brewery has a very established commercial arm, and its on-site shop was overflowing with merchandise.

The story of its founder was also slightly different from what we were used to – a graduate of a liberal arts college borrowed money from his parents to start this brewery. The story’s main tension revolves around the founder screwing up the courage to tell his father: thanks for all that expensive college education, but I think I want to brew beer for a living. The conversation happened while father and son were out jogging, and ended with the father suggesting the brewery’s name.

There was another obstacle to the founding of Dogfish Head. Thinking he saw a gap in the market in the fact that Delaware had no craft breweries, the founder happily went ahead with his plans, only to discover that the reason there were no craft breweries in Delaware was that it was illegal. He was undaunted though – for a very good reason: his wife was the daughter of one of the main guys who ran the state. So husband and wife lobbied for a change in the law and even got to help with drafting the legislation that made the enterprise possible.

Now I don’t want to suggest that any other craft brewery foundation story is that of a working class hero making good, but there is something a little more endearing about the story of the New Belgium founders making their start-up money through their jobs in industry, becoming successful and then handing over ownership of the brewery to their employees.

Despite all this, we still enjoyed our time at the brewery – and we still enjoy the beer.

One of the main highlights of the day though was the drive out across the Chesapeake Bridge. We saw it stretching out across the water before I drove out onto it…


… and I think I grinned for the entire time I was driving across it!

One of our ambitions since watching the Danish/Swedish detective series The Bridge¬†has been to drive across the bridge between Denmark and Sweden. While the Chesapeake Bridge isn’t as long as that bridge, it did give us the feeling we’d imagined of being in the middle of the ocean, driving towards the horizon, part of a great feat of engineering. More than this, the sun came out, and we enjoyed flying across the water with the seabirds.

Finally we made it to our destination for the night – we were staying in a large hotel in off-season Ocean City. We weren’t alone – the hotel was pretty full of people avoiding Christmas – but the deserted, wind- and rain-swept beach certainly lived up to my standards of bleakness.



Read on in my next post


Birthday Road Trip, December 2015


My birthday comes between Christmas and New Year. It’s a difficult time of year for a birthday – often people aren’t around, or places aren’t open, and you don’t really feel very much like celebrating again while you’re still recovering from the Christmas turkey, puddings, cake, and chocolate. In the past I’ve embraced it – Christmas cake is way better than birthday cake in my opinion, and a good turkey sandwich makes an excellent birthday lunch. But when you’re celebrating Christmas in a less than traditional way, with family, Christmas cake and turkey sandwiches far away, a Christmas birthday doesn’t seem as jolly.

So we did what we always do when we’re feeling a bit down – we hit the road!

R knows me really well, so he suggested an itinerary that very much appealed to me. We would be starting by driving across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Delaware – one of the states I hadn’t visited yet – and having lunch and some tastings of beer at Dogfish Head Brewery, which happens to be one of my favourite beers. Then we would drive to Ocean City, MD, and spend the night there; I love being by the sea in the winter, on a good, wind-swept beach.

Day 2 we would drive to Charlottesville, probably via a Chik fil A (I mentioned this trip was designed to fit in my favourite things!). ¬†Here we wanted to see the University of Virginia campus, designed by Jefferson, and Jefferson’s house – Monticello. We thought we might do that on the morning of Day 3, before we drove up the Shenandoah Valley to stay, for our final night, near Little Washington, in Sperryville – where there just happened to be another brewery, and a distillery, as well as a nice restaurant.

On our final day we planned to head up to Skyline Drive and get in a short hike before driving back to DC.

It was a pretty full schedule, but it turned out to be a nice little road trip, which fit nicely into the time between Christmas and New Year and didn’t break the bank.

Read on in my next post


DC as seen by a private tutor

So eventually I managed to get some work in DC as a private tutor. For a while I was just tutoring once a week, for a family living in Montgomery County in Maryland. Since the beginning of the summer though, work has really picked up, as I’ve acquired two students from the Middle East – a boy from Kuwait and a girl from Saudi Arabia. I think both have fathers who work for American firms, and both go to schools that follow the American system. So this summer, they’ve come to the US for a month’s immersion and extra tuition. During this month I’ve been meeting one of them four times a week and the other just twice a week but teaching a session of 9th grade English followed by a session of 9th grade World History. I think he also has a second tutor who comes on other days to tutor him in math and science. His family stressed that he should also be given plenty of homework!

I love the way you discover a whole other version of a city and entire new neighbourhoods when you have a new job. So I thought I’d describe my new routine and the areas of DC I now get to frequent.

Last week started with a morning session tutoring 9th/10th grade English in Montgomery county. Normally I’ve been taking the metro to Friendship Heights in the evening and being picked up by Mom on her way home from work, but now it’s summer vacation and because of camp schedules we were meeting in the morning. So I walked from Friendship Heights, through the suburbs of this rather nice Maryland County, past beautiful front yards, full of flowers, tree houses and scattered toys.


When I got to the house, Dad was most apologetic that I’d had to walk – though he was there, working from home, he’d been busy chasing his escaped dog just before I arrived.

Dad returned to his study, and we started work in the kitchen. When we were about half way through, one of the dog walkers arrived to walk the family dog. While my student went to find the dog’s lead, dog walker and tutor exchanged pleasantries. As I walked home through suburbia I reflected on how many other people walking these streets were also staff of the families who lived here (and who, in contrast, move about in shining SUVs): au-pairs, cleaners, dog walkers, gardeners, tradesmen and tutors – the great service economy maintaining suburban life.

Tuesday saw me heading to Noma and my Saudi Arabian student. I had looked this area up before traveling here and had seen a lot of negative reviews calling it a gritty no- go area of warehouses behind Union Station. Well whoever wrote that hasn’t been on 1st street NE recently. Shiny office blocks, apartment buildings, food trucks and a metro stop that reminded me of the DLR stations in East London all combine to make a safe, modern and buzzing environment. A pop up book shop called Carpe Librum welcomed me just out of the station, there were cafes, food trucks, a Starbucks, a Harris Teeter and a CVS all within a block.

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(However I did just hear that someone was stabbed on the metro going through Noma the other week…)

I tutored my Saudi Arabian student in one of her apartment building’s spacious common areas. The space is both a show kitchen and a party area that can be hired out by residents (a lot of apartment buildings have these in DC) but for our purposes it has a lovely long wooden dining table that we can work on. The area is public, but mostly quiet. In fact it’s quite serene, with a trickling water feature and a fake fire with flickering flames.

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When the lesson was over I headed over to Foggy Bottom. Here, in an apartment building above a Roti, a SweetGreen and a Whole Foods, my Kuwaiti student lives with his brother, who I think studies at GW.

My break-room – very comfy.
Here we work in the conference room in the business center of the apartment building and I take my breaks in one of the common areas.

I’m fascinated by the lives of my students, especially in terms of what they do with their incredibly long summers. Growing up in the UK we only had six weeks holiday, and I remember even getting bored in this short amount of time. My American student has been on vacation since the beginning of June. So far he’s been sailing with his grandparents, to a hockey camp and to an academic camp and now he’s on vacation with his family in Europe. My Middle Eastern students will have about three weeks when they finish tutoring and while one is going back home for three weeks of doing nothing, the other is heading to London for a couple of weeks of museums before heading back to school. In the meantime they don’t seem to be doing much except for studying and going to the mall.

As for me, I’m not doing much except tutoring at the moment – and spending far too much time in Starbucks (before, between and after sessions…) Things should be calming down soon though, at which point more normal blogging service should resume!