Saturday, January 12, 2008


If you are a regular reader of the blog, you already know that Myfanwe is a legal aid attorney who represents only HIV+ persons who are also very, very poor. It is a thankless job, but Myfanwe and her staff are tireless and they make a difference in the lives of their clients.

Myfanwe has been asked to present at a national conference of HIV/AIDS legal advocates in March in Baltimore, MD. Normally this would elicit a big "Whoo Hoo!" from me, but it instead presents us with difficult decisions.

Let me start at the beginning. Myfanwe is a legal aid attorney. I am a paralegal. Neither of us makes a kabillion dollars. So we budget. Everything. When Norbert was born, we opened a mutual fund account as a savings mechanism for vacations. Every month $100 is deposited into the account automatically. That way, every other year we have money saved for a decent vacation...and the off years we spend our summer family vacation at a friend's house in Michigan.

Myfanwe's office -- thanks to Congress and the buttf*&^ing President -- is having to make some difficult financial decisions, seeing as how said Congress only gave them a half a percent budget increase...after years of zero percent budget increases. So all of the secretaries are being layed off. And the travel line item has been zeroed out for the year.

So -- this is nice vacation year. We had talked about going to Montreal or Toronto. (I would LOVE to make the Harlot know...go to Lettuce Knits, the pubs she mentions, ride the streetcar, view the incredible fleece-thieving squirrels in their native environment, etc.) And Montreal would be like taking Norbert to France without having to sell him once we got there due to the weak dollar.

So the difficult decision was Montreal or Toronto. But, given the office budget, we have decided Myfanwe should go to Baltimore in March on our dime. So the difficult decision now is, do Norbert and I go with her, spend a few days, and count that as our vacation for the year, or do we hold out, save hard, and try to do Toronto in August?

4 days in Baltimore in March or a week in Toronto in August. Does anyone have any opinions?


Leslie said...

I'm so happy you decided Myfanwe is going to present in Baltimore. It's an important issue and (although I don't know her) I'm certain she does it well and will present it admirably. In my humble opinion, you should squirrel away some of the nice raise you got so you can do Montreal as a family in August. I also vote for Montreal as it's much more "French" than Toronto. Having been to both within the past ten years, I would do Montreal again in a heartbeat.

Angry Professor said...

Toronto in August is likely to be miserably hot and humid. Baltimore in March will be chilly and rainy (but might be nice).

I know lots of nice things to do in Baltimore, Toronto not so much.

Rosa said...

In my opinion, you deserve a nice vacation as a family in Toronto because it is a planned vacation. The trip to Baltimore is work--unless you will spend all four days doing vacation things then don't spend the money. I've done the work as vacation following dh with our two kids and it is never fun or fulfilling. However, it is always fun and fulfilling to travel as a family. Good luck with your decision.

Sue said...

I think that if you haven't taken Norbert to Washington, DC, that you should go to Baltimore and Washington. Both are really great cities, lots to do in both places, and every kid should see Washington. I've been dozens of time, but would still never hesitate to go back. One thing to keep in mind is that most of the tourist attractions in Washington are free -- all the Smithsonians, etc. You can easily take the Metro practically anywhere you want to go for a reasonable price. Toronto and Montreal are both great cities and they will still be there for another time.
OK, that's my 2 cents worth!

Rabbitch said...

Toronto. It'll be hotter than hell, and humid, but it's a great city. We're hoping to make it there in July this year.

anne marie in philly said...

let's see, baltimore has the inner harbor, the national aquarium, fort mchenry, the b&o railroad museum, little italy (wonderful family run restaurants). all within walking distance. and yes, it can be cold and/or rainy/snowy in march.

to get to washington dc from baltimore, you would take amtrak down/back. or take marc (maryland rail). sue is correct about the smithsonians being free. and yes, it can be cold and/or rainy/snowy in march.

how do I know all this? I lived in the area for 20 years and HATED it. but that's just me.

ask norbert what he would like to do; he's a smart kid. both of you go online and see what his interests are for baltimore, washington, montreal, toronto.

have never been to toronto; montreal is way kewl!

BTW, I think it's nice that you support your wife and her career.

just my opinion...

Diane said...

I vote for Baltimore. Tons of stuff in the Baltimore/Washington DC area with lots of free educational things to see in Washington DC. Hop on the internet and find a cheap room on the metro line and you'll have a great time. We've taken the kids a number of times and highly recommend it!

Cheri said...

I've never been farther East than Sterling, Colorado and I've never been farther north than Yellowstone. So I'm no help whatsoever. I think that it's wonderful that you are so supportive of Myfanwe's job and travel, and you've gotten some great advice from others here. I hope that you all have fun regardless of what you decide.

Susan said...

Toronto in August. Definitely. It might mean a tightening of the yarn budget between now and then. On the other hand, the selection of yarn you'll have to chose from in Toronto will be amazing.

Congratulations to Myfanwe. Dinnertime conversations must be seriously interesting at your house.

Anonymous said...

I live in Toronto. It IS a great city but to be honest I think you might prefer Baltimore this year. Toronto heat and humidity in August is a killer. Given the current foreign exchange there is no savings to be had. Pubs are great and so too the restaurants. However many cities have great restaurants and pubs. I think with all respect to the Yarn Harlot, there is some marketing and literary license going on. She is a funny writer and there is some understood exaggeration. All good but perhaps it could be a little misleading.

I buy a fair bit of yarn at home. I would think Threadbare would give our biggest yarn store a run for its money. Each yarn store has its own unique personality.

Save Toronto for cooler weather and better foreign exchange. Prior to your visit to T.O. check the provincial tourist Ontario + tourism for ideas of places to visit etc. Norbert might enjoy the Science Centre. The Ministry of Tourism offers a lot of great info and it's free.
There is also a great library system. (TPL) If you like Science Fiction or would like to see rare first editions of Children's books they have that all in one location downtown.

Good luck in whatever your family selects and congratulations Myfanwe and much respect for the work you do.


Courtney the Knitting Goddess said...

Baltimore's not all that exciting (it's a blue-collar, set-in-its-ways, sleepy sort of place for such a big city), but there are some fun places to visit in the inner harbor area, as anne marie in philly pointed out. The aquarium and the science center are GREAT -- very fond childhood memories of both. If you're into art, the Walters has a small and lovely collection. I spent many happy afternoons there.

Weather in March is dicey. Can be cold, occasionally snowy, but probably rainy and greyish.

If you can make the trip to DC, there are a TON of wonderful (and free!) things to see and do. More museums than you can shake a stick at, and I haven't been to a bad one yet.

=Tamar said...

Both places have museums, etc. I've been in Toronto in August and it didn't seem too hot or humid to me either time. Do you have passports for everybody? This might be your best chance to take Norbert out of the country before it gets any more difficult. D.C. will still be there and it's much hotter in August than Toronto and probably icier in March. (When they get snow, we often get ice.) I vote for Toronto.