Do you ever read articles in the travel section which provide an itinerary for someone who is visiting a city for only a short time? I’ve always loved reading those but at the same time I was skeptical that anyone ever tried to follow those whirlwind timetables. But now I know people DO sightsee at the speed of sound, because I just did it. Here is how it came about.
Him: You need more airline miles.
Him: So you need to take another trip this year. How about Baltimore? We’ve never been there, and the flight’s only $215.00.
The next thing I knew I was on my way to the Charming City. Having only recently returned from a trip to Atlanta I simply didn’t have the energy to do much of the fun research I like to do before a trip. For this adventure we would rely on our wits and our smart phones. As soon as we checked into our hotel near the Inner Harbor on Friday afternoon we looked at each other and said, “Let’s get going.”
That afternoon and evening we burned up the pavement around Inner Harbor. I don’t know what all we did but in such perfect fall weather it hardly matters what one does. Oh wait, now I do remember. We looked for a place to stop and have a beer while overlooking the harbor, but couldn’t quite find the vibe we were looking for. Eventually we settled on the least touristy place we could find, Gordon Biersch, and enjoyed appetizers and beer in the warm afternoon sun. Gordon Biersch was a lucky find for me, because unlike so many other beer places, it had a nice lager selection. ( For those who do not know this, my husband is Mr. I.P.A. I don’t mind going along for the ride, but I can’t drink all those bitter, heavy beers.) Later we ate dinner and drank yet more beer at the Pratt Street Ale House.
The next morning as soon as we woke up we headed out on foot. What about coffee, you ask? My sweet companion got us Illy coffee from the hotel restaurant each morning. What llttle research we had done informed us that Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods. So we set off to find them, starting with with Mount Vernon. After a brisk walk we arrived at a place my husband had found for breakfast but sadly, it was not open on Saturday.
We were undaunted though, because our next destination was the Walters Museum where we would simply get something at their cafe. But SURPRISE!!!!! the Walters Museum along with its cafe was closed that day for a special event. By this time I was ready to start gnawing on my shoes.
But instead we crept across the street into the Cozy Corner. It was deserted. But yes, they were open, and had a choice of an American breakfast menu or an Asian lunch menu. Aaah, a spinach omelet never tasted so good.
Fortified by breakfast we hiked on to our next destination: Read Street Books. Ambiance can be difficult to photograph, so in case I missed the mark in mine, let me just tell you that you will love the charm of this tiny slice- of- heaven bookstore. What makes this spot so enjoyable? It’s the used books, of course. It’s the Frank Sinatra channel on Pandora. It’s the green leather couch. It is sweet Lisette who was working that day and made sure we knew all about the Charm City Circulator. Our interlude there refreshed us enough to move on to some other Mount Vernon landmarks: The Basilica,
the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Women’s Industrial Exchange.Then we hoofed it over to the West Side, to see the Edgar Allen Poe Gravesite. This ad for a conspiracy book about the Catholic Church added to the sense of spookiness.
Exiting the graveyard we re entered the busy urban scene. But not to relax, not yet. The day was not over. f we hurried we could still make it to the B. and O. Railroad Museum.
The sky threatened rain as we left the museum so it seemed a good time to stop in the Camden Pub. We rested our feet while nursing a couple of beers and enjoyed front row entertainment by our waitress. You see, her mother, aged 92, expects her daughter to take her to do one of her “bucket list” activities each year on her birthday. She regaled us with tales of their past exploits: riding an elephant, zip lining, rapelling. What would they do on her next birthday? Sky dive?
Soon we had to either face the elements or stay there for the evening. That wouldn’t have been so bad except that we wanted to get over to Little Italy. So off we went, stopping briefly for our sweaters on our way. We strolled through little Italy at dusk, just as a beautiful carillon of bells played from a Catholic Church.
Our destination was Heavy Seas, yes, a brew pub, but one that had a decent menu. This was important because we hadn’t had lunch. I had some lighter beers, along with some yummy oysters, and salmon with cumin. Lovely!
Somehow we managed to propel our tired legs back to the hotel. Total number of steps on my firbit for that day: 23,000!
We were a little stiff the next morning after all our perambulations of the day before. But despite our sore feet we hit the road again, back over to the Walters Museum. We were the first ones there! I’m sure we walked several mies through that leviathan complex. I paid close attention to the ancient Alexandria section, since I was reading The Alexandria Quartet at the time, and to the netsuke collection, as I had so enjoyed reading The Amber Hare. We spent hours in this massive museum full of treasures, marveling that it is free to the public. The museum should be a true point of pride for Baltimore.
Next we headed over to the George Washington Monument, where I enjoyed seeing the little parks that surround it on all sides. About that time we looked at each other and allowed as how it surely would be nice to jump on the Charm City Circulator right about now. Spying a bus stop, we trudged over and in just a few minutes we boarded the most beautiful bus we’d ever seen. Of course by this time any form of transport would have seemed exquisite beyond compare.
Our next destination was Federal Hill, which we had heard boasted of fun shopping, charming residential streets and the Hill itself which was once the site of a Civil War fort. I was sure I needed to go in some darling shops. We looked, but lots of the places were closed. But look what we found! A place to rest our very sore feet! This establishment was all we saw of the retail side of Federal Hill. Eventually we left and hiked over to the Hill. What a fun spot to overlook the Inner Harbor! Like every other outdoor spot we visited, we could have spent the afternoon there. Then I just couldn’t resist a stroll down some of the pleasant streets surrounding the Hill.
We didn’t want to walk far for dinner, so we settled an a fairly pedestrian place to eat that night. But it did the job for us. My companion had one last chance for crab cakes and I one last chance for Natty Boh ( National Bohemian) beer. We landed back in the hotel early that night to pack. Steps for the day: 20000! We fell asleep that night with visions in our head of all the things we had managed to pack into 48 hours. Had we visited landmarks and stopped in between for beer? Or had we visited brew pubs and stopped in between for landmarks? Hmmmm. Well, either way, we were busy and beersy in Baltimore!