The Charm City - an unexpected gem
Trip Start Sep 25, 2011
25Trip End May 08, 2012
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Where I stayed
hostelling international Baltimore
What I did
Baltimore blew me away
The city has made a concerted effort to retain their heritage buildings and have thousands intact, albeit many are restaurants, stores and condos now. They have a producing sugar refinery, they are a port with cruise ships going to New England and Nova Scotia, home of Johns Hopkins University/medical school and Hospital, plus Universities of Maryland and of Baltimore. A Symphony, the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, Edgar Allan Poe is buried here, several theatre groups, home of the Star Spangled banner anthem, beautiful old churches including the oldest Catholic Basilica in the US and the oldest fruit/veg/meat Markets in the USA (Lexington Market est 1789 or so) and it is still going on 6 days a week. I had New England clam chowder for lunch there, standing up at a table in a bustling old old market. The old port, 30 years ago was full of bars, brawling and brothels so they say, and now is full of restaurants, shops and residences. It is a beautiful rolling
On Saturdays live bands play there. I have met a few people as they are very friendly and are proud of their city. There are pockets that have not been cleaned up, though, and the next street over to the hostel is one of them. I walked home at 9 p.m. last night though, from a movie, and felt safe as the streets are very well lit. I am in a hostel, in a 10 bed female dorm at $25 per night including tax and pancake breakfast (I hate pancakes... so it is wasted on me!( but free coffee and internet as this is what I am doing now as I do laundry. My Samsung Galaxy tablet is good, but is so touchy when I keyboard that it takes me a long time to go back and correct my mistakes, hence my slowness is getting this blog up to date! I think i will hit a Samsung store and maybe they can change the sensitivity....not suire/
Well another feature of my trip so far has been 'Occupy Chicago' demonstrations and camps in parks, followed by Occupy Washington and yep, Occupy Baltimore. Here they have broadened the grievance to include municipal issues. But main theme is big banks and auto companies are bleeding the government and the people. Canada is looked on with envy regarding its banks and health care system. Well I just wander around and people watch and see the important sights and try to learn about local history. Each place has a lot of that! Baltimore was founded in about 1729.
They have the great library (EW Pratt Free Library built in 1800s with Italian lighting fixtures, ols wooden desks etc and free lectures and readings - i went to one yesterday by a biographer of American Gothic artist) )across the street from the hostel (which is also across the street from the Basilica which gives free tours). I have been taking pics but hard to load on my tablet - and then upload to this but will try... I have extended my stay here until Friday, mainly cause I joined a gym - Brick's Bodies for 7 days for $25 and so to make it worthwhile at least will be able take classes for 3 days.
I took two Zumba classes and a step aerobics classes - all wonderful. Thanks to gym instructors in Yellowknife, I had no trouble keeping up or knowing the steps. The zumba classes were SO PACKED, even more than Yellowknife,! and the gym was just getting aircon installed.... The gym was great, a 20 foot pool with aquafit classes, a gym for yoga, aerobics etc., a bit weight room, a room dedicated to spinning (it was way hot!) and a room for stationary bikes. I thought $25 for 7 days (for new people only) was a great deal.
I met Seren at the zumba class as she was next to me and asked if I had done zumba before. Anyway we sweated it out fr the hour and got chatting and went for Thai food after. She is Exec Drector and founder of a non profit called Laces Sport. Both she and her Canadian husband work for non-profits. Anyway it is funny how you can just click with someone immediately! It was great to have a visit with a 'local' although she is originally from Indiana.
The hostel building I stayed in was an old brownstone built in 1859, high ceilings, fireplaces in each room, long and narrow. It was across the street from the first Basilica/Cathedral built in Baltimore after the Constitution, started building in 1812 and I believe finished in 1821. I had a tour of it and it has been restored to its original design by LaTrobe, the architect who designed the White House in DC.
Thursday the 27th is my last evening in Baltimore and I read an article in the paper about this dish called 'shrimps and grits' and where the best restaurants were to try it. Both were just down the street on Cathedral st. (the area the hostel is in is one of the oldest areas of Baltimore and where the rich lived and is now has home t the Walters Museum and Art Gallery which i spent all day Thursday in and it's free! and the Peabody Library and Music center. So I tried the dish Thurs. evening and it isi like a shrimp stir fry with green peppers but instead of rice it is served wth cornmeal and that is what grits is! I admit I never knew that. The owner was waiting on me and she said the paper had come and interviewed her a couple of weeks ago and tasted the dish but she hadn't read the article yet and I was the first person to have mentioned reading it. She gave me an order of cornmeal bread with it. As i had just finished an hour of zumba and walking around all day otherwise, i was hungry and so it was a great day to try this rich dish (made with cream!)
Also I took the city bus to the Greyhound bus station as a dry run and picked up my ticket there which I bought for the web price of $14 to Philadelphia. I left Friday at 10:30 a.m. for the 2 hour trip to Phili and will write more from there (actually I am in Phili now and it is snowing!)