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April 02, 2007

The Baltimore Report

As promised, here is my full report on Baltimore. Having traveled quite a bit in my short life, I have decided that there are about four things to do when visiting somewhere new: shopping, eating, sightseeing, and nightlife. Since I'm married and I don't drink, nightlife was out, but I did participate in the other three activities.

Sightseeing: Since I can't afford to spend a whole lot on museums or other tourist attractions, my version of sightseeing is pretty much just wandering around a city. I like to think of it as urban hiking. The first place I went on Wednesday night was the Inner Harbor, which quickly disappointed me. It is highly commercialized, basically just a big mall. So I kept walking, and got to explore a bit of the East Harbor and Fells Point before I had to call it a night.

Thursday, after I got the exhibit booth set up, was my main sightseeing day. Starting from the Convention Center, I walked north on Charles Street to the Washington Memorial, which is in the Mount Vernon cultural district. There were a couple of museums here -- the Walker Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum -- but the Contemporary hadn't opened yet and the Walker didn't seem quite as interesting, so I just kept wandering. From there, I went west, and eventually came to Lexington Market. Lexington Market reminded me quite a bit of the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles. It is a large market hall with stands selling just about every type of food you can imagine. And, since it was Baltimore, every other stand was a raw bar. Since I had already had breakfast and it was too early for lunch, I kept walking, this time heading east. A couple of hours of walking later, I found myself back in Fells Point, where I had been the night before. On Thursday, however, the sun was shining and I had more time, so I got to see more of this area. Fells Point was probably my favorite part of Baltimore, and it was the best shopping area (see below).

On Friday I did a bit more sightseeing early in the morning before the conference, heading back up to the Mount Vernon area and going a bit farther north than I had the day before. It looked like there was some good shopping up there, too, but it was 7:30am and nothing was open yet. After the conference, I headed south of the Inner Harbor to Federal Hill. My first stop was the American Visionary Art Museum, which I had heard about the day before. I feared they would already be closed when I got there, but I arrived an hour before closing and, because it was so late, they let me in for free. The museum was fantastic, though unfortunately I couldn't get up to the third floor because a wedding rehearsal was being held on the stairs. Not being able to go up to the third floor gave me some time to browse the gift shop, and I ended up buying an artwork: a piece of Shawn Theron's SOGH project. I had never bought real art before, and was super-excited to take it home and show David. After the museum, I explored Federal Hill, hoping to find some more shopping (again, see below), but all I really could find were bars and restaurants.

Shopping: Given that I'm not much of a shopper (I hadn't been shopping for clothes since September), this was about the last thing I expected to do in Baltimore but, as I said above, there is not much else to do while traveling. The best shopping was in Fells Point. I stumbled upon a consignment store and, before I knew it, had found about fifty garments I wanted to try on. Of the fifty, I ended up buying about ten, and was thrilled to have almost a whole new wardrobe (okay, I guess that is a bit of an exaggeration, since I mostly bought tops) for only $75. There were also some cute home furnishings stores in Fells Point, but after my clothing expedition I began to fear that my suitcase would be too full for anything else. I had hoped to find more shopping in Federal Hill because the Baltimore guide in my hotel room promised resale shops of all kinds, but the only one I found was a used book store.

Eating: Eating was probably the low point of the trip because the food in Baltimore was, surprisingly, just not that great. For the first time in my life, I sent back an entire restaurant meal! The food was also terribly uninspired, and very short on vegetables -- getting my daily 1.5 pounds was quite a challenge! There were, however, two highlights: 1) grits. I had forgotten I was in the South until I wandered into an espresso bar on Thursday morning and found they were serving grits. So I ended up having it every day for breakfast. 2) crab. I expected to eat quite a bit of crab while I was there because, after all, it was Baltimore, but I just couldn't find that much of it. So on Thursday night I went on a crab expedition and ended up at Phillips, where I got crab cocktail, which was quite good. Otherwise, the food in Baltimore was unremarkable. In addition to having trouble getting my vegetables, I also had quite a challenge getting my two daily glasses of milk. I expected to be able to just walk into a coffeehouse and get a cup of steamed milk, but there just weren't many coffeehouses, and the ones they do have close at five. I wandered all over Federal Hill on Friday night looking for a coffee house and couldn't find one. I finally ended up at the SoBo Cafe, thinking cafe=coffe, but I was wrong. It was just a regular restaurant and they didn't have coffee, but I was desperate for my milk, so I sat down at the bar. The bartender asked if I was there for dinner, and I replied, "no, just a glass of milk, if you have it." She looked at me like I had antennas and repeated, "a glass of milk?" But she poured it for me, and I drank it while eating some tangerines I had brought from Ann Arbor. Soon another bartender came out and asked how I liked the milk. I told him it was quite good and he responded that I should come back on Wednesday because Wednesday is their free all-you-can-drink milk night. I told him that I wouldn't miss it. When I finished my milk, I asked how much I owed him for it. Between the three bartenders, nobody knew how much to charge me because none of them had ever sold a glass of milk, so they just asked for a dollar. I gave them two and headed back out.

So that was Baltimore! Overall, I had a great time, though I would have loved to have shared the trip with David. Traveling alone is always really lonely.

Posted by eklanche at April 2, 2007 07:29 AM

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