The Honeymooners

Warning: if you hate photos, particularly of fireworks, tourist-y attractions, food, genuinely happy people, American flags, or anything history/Marine Corps-related, it's probably best to stop reading right now. If you hate photos taken with a self-timer or, even worse, the "stick your face next to mine and I'll hold out my arm as far as I possibly can to take a picture of the two of us together" shot, it's definitely best to stop reading right now.

However, if you're cool with all of that, feel free to proceed with this photo-heavy post. But don't say I didn't warn you...

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DID YOU KNOW: If you choose to go somewhere for your honeymoon other than a tropical Caribbean resort, you're expected to provide a dissertation regarding the reasons you're not trading in your wedding dress for a bikini? Y'all, I married a ginger, and there is nothing romantic about SPF 3000 and an over-sized floppy hat in tropical paradise. All beach destinations were out, much to Zach's relief.

We also quickly eliminated any destination that would involve feeling guilty if we didn't soak in everything the place had to offer (as in, when I go to Europe, I'll be up at the crack of dawn exploring Europe until 2AM. I think honeymoons should have a strict "no alarm clock" policy) and any destination that would involve flying (we weren't about to waste a third of our time together being stuck in airports or on planes). Lastly, I am a self-admitted hotel snob, which meant no small town bed & breakfast. Although charming in theory, I just can't do it. Everyone has flaws, and I'm seriously okay with a little bit of hotel snobbiness being mine.

After eliminating every traditional honeymoon destination known to mankind, we opted to spend our first night in the city nearest where we met and started dating (Roanoke) and spend the rest of the week where we celebrated our one year dating anniversary (Baltimore). A simple afternoon's drive away & nothing to feel guilty about if we slept in and ordered room service, yet still plenty to do if we decided to venture out into the city. Which is perfect, because we did a little bit of both.

Growing up, I knew a few things about life: (a) Camp Bethel was simply magical, (b) Camp Bethel was really close to Roanoke, and (c) Roanoke was synonymous with the giant star and the hotel that looked like a Tudor castle. By default, the giant star and the hotel that looked like a Tudor castle were also magical. It was only fitting, therefore, that we spend our first night as husband and wife in the magical Tudor castle with a view of the magical giant star (and the Taubman Art Museum, oh heyy) in the magical city that was really close to magical Camp Bethel.

It was also only fitting that the route from Roanoke to Baltimore the next morning took us directly past the exit for the country store where Zach and I had our unofficial first Skittles date in 2008. We stopped (obviously), except instead of buying two smaller, individual packs like we did four and a half years ago, we got a "share size." Presh, we know.

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We arrived in Baltimore on New Year's Eve (look at that perfect timing) and walked down to the Inner Harbor for the New Year's Eve fireworks celebration.

our one and only "Hey, random stranger in the hotel lobby... will you take our picture?" picture

Back in 2009, Zach was stationed about 45 minutes north of Baltimore (Aberdeen), and I was able to meet up with him on the 4th of July...during which the Inner Harbor also has a fireworks celebration :) Needless to say, we were excited to experience it all over again... this time as husband and wife.

Happy New Year! :)

Other Baltimore highlights included:

  • breakfast in the Executive Lounge of the Hilton with a direct view of Camden Yards (Orioles) and M&T Bank Stadium (Ravens) in the background:

  • Walking around the Inner Harbor in general

remains of the World Trade Center

  • Lots of yummy food, particularly Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. :)

While the majority of our time in Baltimore was completely unstructured (loved it!), we did actually plan a thing or two. One afternoon, we ventured down the street to Fort McHenry - the birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Since we were at the fort as it began closing, we got to watch the park rangers take down the flag...

...and then Zach got to fold the flag that flies over Fort McHenry.

It's casual.

As if that were not enough to make my husband the happiest patriotic man in America, I completely surprised him with a trip to the National Museum of the Marine Corps... which just so happened to coincide with his very last day of active duty as a United States Marine.

If Marines cried, eyes may have gotten misty when we pulled into the parking lot and Zach realized what was going on. But Marines don't cry, obviously.

The very first exhibit goes through the entire boot camp process, starting with the bus and the yellow footprints... a bus just like the one Zach was on exactly four years to the day we were there.

It's like Chesty himself planned this trip. I immediately regret saying that, but it's staying :)

From there, the exhibits went chronologically, dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War and working their way up to the present. The Marines have accomplished quite a bit in 237 years :)

There were enough vintage recruiting posters to satisfy my art-loving heart...

...and enough weapons and machinery to satisfy Zach's 2111 heart ;)

One of the museum's major highlights? They have THE actual flag that was raised on Iwo Jima as seen in one of the most iconic and reproduced photographs in all of history.

Lego replica in the gift store

As if a trip to the National Museum of the Marine Corps wasn't an epic enough way to spend Zach's last day as an active duty Marine... we ended the evening, and a four-year enlistment, with dinner at Tun Tavern. I mean, the birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner AND the "birthplace" of the Marine Corps all in one week?! I would probably insert a big ol' "oorah" right here if I knew Zach wouldn't roll his eyes when he read it.

And that, my friends, is the story of how I spent my honeymoon being married to an active duty United States Marine... only to return home after a week and wake up next to a civilian. It happens.

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As far as all of those "stick your face next to mine and I'll hold out my arm as far as I possibly can to take a picture of the two of us together" shots I mentioned...

You're welcome.