Friday, March 28, 2014


The Eleven spent last Saturday night in Baltimore. I know what your thinking about our tours of east coast blue-collar, hardworking, formerly (and future) great cities (more on that later). What with Pittsburgh in February and Wilmington, DE next weekend you might offer us a grander vacation on a beach or mountainside somewhere else; we’d decline that offer.

Baltimore is a city that appears on the edge of becoming quite alluring. (This is the later part, see above.) It went through a first re-invention in the early 1980s (?) when it redid the Inner Harbor area and anchored it with the National Aquarium. Just down the road a piece from the Inner Harbor sit Camden Yards, which spawned the entire retro-baseball park idea, and M&T Bank Stadium (the NFL’s Ravens’ home). These fairly specific areas draw lots of tourism and spending, but I feel the Inner Harbor, at over 30 years old, is fading a bit; and, this brings me to where the city seems to be now. With its various universities, neighborhoods, water access, I-95 access, and a lower cost of living than DC it may be poised to make some noise. The museums are great and I sense a hipster vibe just on the doorstep – hipsters ain’t bad – with places like the old Union Mill popping up. If played correctly, the attraction of areas like Mount Vernon could pull the city up quite a bit. We’ll see – revisit this post in five years’ time.

We did the normal thing for us and wandered around Fells Point for a bit with the weather throwing out a beautiful 70 degrees and sunshine. We bought G. what should be a highly cherished, actual top hat at Hats in the Belfry. I managed any number of CDs at Sound Garden, we did some coffee at Daily Grind, and patted some of the gazillion dogs out for the day before heading to our digs. Julie the Cruise Director booked us into the BlancNoir in Little Italy, and JCD will get a very nice comment card for said actions. We stayed in the New York room which was perfectly lovely – massive king bed with great linens, coffee, water (free; well, you know what I mean), great HDTV (we will watch trashy TV in hotels), slippers, robes, excellent temp control, and a massive bath with Jacuzzi and a two person, 12-head shower. Great place. Breakfast was almost over the top (we were the only visitors that night) with fresh everything: fruit, muesli (homemade), yoghurt, bread, cheeses, eggs to order, and veg sausage (they knew we were coming). As far as rooms and B&Bs go – about the best I’ve seen.

We then met up with my Baltimore-based cousin for dinner at Helmand in Mount Vernon - our second visit intended to verify just how great we find the food. With a near repeat on the selections we have confirmation that it’s fantastic. We had a long and wonderful conversation as we worked through the courses, wine, and dessert. I count it as a great success in my attempt this year of keeping touch with people in my life.

Sunday morning took us to coffee to Artifact Coffee in another part of town, and then back Mount Vernon for the Walker Art Center. I’m not sure how to summarize the Walker aside from saying it may be the best museum (layout, crowds [very small], admission [free], exhibitions, and tone) I’ve ever been to. We spent a nice chunk of time in the lower galleries and the 19th century collection before calling our normal hour-and-a-half eye candy limit. We will no doubt be back to cover the other 80% of the museum, including an entire Asian art building next door. With kids. Very pleasant, indeed. I think my next entry may address the lack of umph provided by the Pittsburgh Museum of Art…

Seven days to Wilmington.


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