Baltimore is Believeable
We picked up rte.# 395, towards the inner harbor, and ran smack into a torrent of Baltimore Ravens Traffic. The game was scheduled for 1:00 P.M and we were headed right down past the M & T stadium on the waterfront. We sat for a time in traffic and then managed to get by the stadium. We followed the Inner Harbor around to President’s Street and on into Fell’s Point. It is the historic district in Baltimore. The neighborhood is in transition. Aging and Georgian-style, brick-fronted townhouses are being remodeled by a younger generation. It has the appearance of an emerging George Town. We traversed Fell St. to the very tip on the water, where the Inn at Henderson’s Wharf had been created from an old tobacco warehouse. The upper stories are all condominiums. The lower two house 38 well appointed rooms and a spacious lobby and interior court.
We parked the car and checked our bags into the front desk. The rooms were not ready, so we set out on foot across the inner harbor foot path. Along aging and brick-surfaced, Thames Street, in Fell’s Point, sits a colorful array of waterfront saloons. Quaint old taverns, like the “cat’s eye” and the “waterfront hotel” sit, with open-fronted windows and doors, still beckoning sailors to come in and tip a few brews.A few notions shops and a small coffee place complete the colorful row. This place must be a hoot on weekends. We walked by the Admiral Fell Hotel, on President’s Street. It is an aging charmer that is six stories tall and faces out onto a square contaning benches and an ice cream stand. Up and down President’s street are many more taverns and saloons. This area must rock on the weekends. “Bonoparte’s” is a small cafe and bakery on the water. It sits just across from the Admiral Fell Hotel. We stopped in for some baguette sandwiches and large mugs of coffee. It was a good choice.
Several complexes of new condominiums, some still under construction, lie along the harbor path on the way to the major tourist area. Most start at $500,000. A large marina,open to the bay, sits along the other side of the path. A huge waterfront Marriot hotel starts the “tourist section” of the walkway. There are Coast Guard light ships, a huge 19th century, three-masted, wooden sailing ship, The USS Constellation, and many waterfront restaurants and pavilions. A three-story glass aquarium and a science museum also provide attractions for tourists of all ages. A two-story Barnes and Nobles sits next to the Hard Rock Cafe and provides starbucks coffee for aficionados. A small, stone amphi theater was filled with passerbys watching street entertainers perform. The area reminded me of the Pedestrian Stroget in Copenhagen. We enjoyed the eclectic array of people all around us. We made it to the visitor’s center, and the 50 restaurant food court, before deciding we were tired. A four-story shopping Mall and the Raven’s and Oriole’s stadiums lie just across the way from this whole array of attractions. You feel the vibrancy of this synergism and understand why the whole inner harbor had taken off commercially, like a rocket.
We retraced our route, along the Inner Harbor towards Fells’ point, stopping at Barnes and Nobles to browse some books and enjoy some star bucks coffee. The place was crowded. It was sunny , windy and cool out as we walked back along the inner harbor. We made it back to The Inn at Henderson Harbor and checked into our rooms (#101). It is spacious and comfortable. The hotel had provided a welcoming bottle of wine for us and had big fluffy bathrobes available. We had just walked a casual five miles, after driving several hours, and were tired.
Later in the day, we walked along a very quiet Fell St. and up to the corner of Thames and S. Ann. We had espied a Tavern/restaurant called “John Steven LTD” and heard a local say that they had the “best crab cakes in the city.” We decided to try it out. The place is old, woody and nautical. We enjoyed some Cabernet, delicious cream of crab soup and wonderful crab cakes. ($51) It was a good choice and close to the Inn.
After dinner, we walked across Thames to the square in front of the Admiral Fell Inn. It was 58 degrees out and the wind had abated somewhat. The moon was full and we walked out along a pier next to “Schuckers” restaurant, to admire the combination of moonlight on the bay. It was enchanting. We ambled along the very old streets, enjoying the ambiance of a historic neighborhood in transition. A decade from now, the place will be too expensive for most people to live in.
It was late and we were tired. We walked back to the Henderson Inn, settled in. It had been another long and busy day.
Monday- October 17th- Baltimore, Maryland
We were up by 6:30 A.M. It was windy and cool out at 54 degrees. We watched the morning tv news programs and had coffee in the room. At 8:30 A.M., we walked over to the lobby and had breakfast. They had provided just about anything you could want for breakfast, including great coffee. Still, one guest complained because it wasn’t a “full breakfast!” No wonder hotels sometimes hate their guests.
We cleaned up and prepped for the day, then set out along the harbor path by 10 A.M. It was windy and cool along the water. We walked through Fells’ Point and across the harbor to the visitor’s center, across from the football and baseball stadia. We signed up for a 90-minute bus tour of Baltimore, in an old wooden trolley. ($18 each) It was sro, with other retired tourists like us. The guide narrated Baltimore’s history from an old fishing village, in 1706, through its incorporation as a city in 1797. Fells’ Point had been the original seamen’s center and filled with bars and brothels. The city it self is named after English Lord Ceceilius Calvert, the hereditary Lord Baltimore of Ireland. It was to become the only catholic colony. The city now has 650 thousand residents.
We drove by the museum commemorating the birth place of George Herman (babe) Ruth and then by the church where Baltimore native Edgar Allen Poe is buried. Both are sources of local pride. The Mount Vernon district, named after George Washington’s birth place is the financial hub and place or aging and expensive townhouses from a former era. A smaller version of the Washington Monument stands here. It had preceded the one in Washington by many years.(1820) A statue of Lafayette and other dignitaries, sit along the major artery that also holds the Peabody Music Institute. H.L. Mencken had also once lived here. Baltimore is an older city trying to resurrect itself. They have a slogan here, “Believe.” It is painted on many signboards and asks natives to believe in themselves and their city.I can see what they mean. Baltimore is believeable.
We drove by the harbor area. The whole “Inner harbor “ area had been launched in 1980, with the construction of one office complex. Now it is a shining and vibrant repository of sailing ships, coast guard vessels, museums and a whole support structure of tourist attractions, including hotles,a foot ball stadium and baseball stadium and a large shopping mall. A brief drive, near the Fell’s point area, showed us another unique monument. Baltimore has a large population of Polish-Americans. They had erected a large steel and flame-shaped monument to commerorate the murder of 6,000 Polish Army Officers, by the Russian Army, in the Katyn Forest of Poland, in 1940. I had read the history of this WW II atrocity.The memorial is moving.
Next, we drove through “Little Italy.” It is an ethnic enclave for seventeen restaurants and bakeries, all featuring Italian Cuisine. The streets are narrow and crowded here. Parking is difficult at best. We would be back later. Finally, the trolley took us around the harbor to the venerable Ft. McHenry, sitting out on the point. It is here that, during a British naval Bombardment on September 13th 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote what was to become the “Star Spangled Banner.” Detained by the British, he wrote the ballad as he watched the bombardment. It was originally titled the ”Defense of Fort McHenry” and written as a poem. In 1931 Congress adopted it as our National Anthem. The fort had been many things over the years including military hospital. It is now a National Park. The huge flag is raised here daily to the tune of the National Anthem. We drove through the park, not stopping and then wended our way past rows of new waterfront condominiums, to the visitor ‘s center where we had started. It was an interesting and brief tour of Baltimore.
We walked up along Front Street headed for “Little Italy.” Frommer’s had recommended Vaccaro’s, for cappuccino and canolis. We found the small bakery and desert deli on Albermale St.. We sat down to a wonderfully frothy cappuccino and an enormous canoli that was stuffed fresh while we waited. Both were wonderful and probably contained about a days intake of normal calories. We adjudged it worthy of the caloric expenditure. We walked through the crowded streets, admiring the colorful names of the many “Italian” restaurants. One Tavern was called “Lucky Luccianos.’” Another place is called “Amici’s.”
From Little Italy, we walked back down to the Inner harbor and sat down to coffee in the Barnes and Noble Book store. We bought a few paperbacks and enjoyed the store as always. It was sunny, windy and in the 60’s out. We were tiring and decided to walk back to Fell’s Point for an R & R break. We sat in the square, outside the Admiral Fell Inn, and watched a whole bevy of water taxis, tugs and other marine craft ferry people in an out of the many slips. Then, we walked across Thames and Fell Streets to the Henderson Inn. A brief conversation with Ozzie Nelson (nap) claimed our attention until 5:30 P.M.
We were tired from the day,but determined to have dinner at “Amici’s” in Little Italy. It was a Frommer’s pick and they usually aren't wrong. We walked the one-mile distance, in the cooling night air. There weren't many pedestrians about. We found Amici’s,on High Street ,and entered this small and charming restaurant. We were seated immediately, at a table for four, and ordered a glass of chianti, while we looked at the menu. The place was crowded and noisy, with people enjoying their food. Everyone walked out of there with a doggy bag full of pasta.
We had tomato and mozzarella salads that were delicious. I had a pasta and peas dish, over sliced salmon, that was exquisite. Mary had shrimp and mushrooms, in a blush sauce. We ate like starving dogs on a meat wagon, but couldn't finish these elegant dishes. Taking bags back to our room would be silly, so we left what we couldn’t finish. It is a great though simple restaurant with awesome food.
The walk back was pleasant. Traffic still crowded the empty streets.
We had walked over seven miles today and were lagging a bit on the walk back. We walked through Fells Point and eventually arrived at the Henderson Inn. We crashed tired with the day.
Baltimore is a charming and interesting city, well worth visiting. We had only scratched the surface of her many attractions.We will return.
Joseph Xavier Martin