What Travel Writers Say

Forty-Eight Hours in Baltimore
© by Mary Alice Downie
Domino Sugar, Baltimore Cityscape
It is an astonishing city, this 274-year-old seaport, rich in history, architecture - and jazz. Baltimore calls itself the "city that reads," and such notable writers as H.L. Mencken, Dashiell Hammett, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Barth, Anne Tyler, and Russell Baker have called it home. Edgar Allan Poe lived (and died) here, and is buried in the Gothic cemetery of Westminster Hall.
     There is a roster of distinguished African-Americans: The great orator and editor, Frederick Douglass, a former slave, worked in the Baltimore shipyards before becoming 'the Father of Civil Liberty.' Josiah Henson, the original for Uncle Tom's Cabin was born nearby. Eubie Blake, Billie Holliday, Thurgood Marshall, called it home, the list goes on.
     For sports-fanciers, it is the home of Babe Ruth, the Lacrosse Hall of Fame Museum, the Preakness, the Orioles, and now the Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens!
     But how to choose what to see when you only have two days - after all, it is a popular stopover for snowbirds driving to and from Florida.

Baltimore Skyline

Day One:
     Begin the morning with a walking tour of the Mount Vernon area, dominated by the first major monument to George Washington. Henry James called its square the most perfect in North America. First stop, the Peabody Institute of Music, with five tiers of monumental cast iron around a marble court and 1/4 mile of books. It is a favourite spot for wedding receptions.
     Next, head for the Walters Gallery, the contribution of Henry Walters, who gave 22,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years and five continents, and a palazzo-styled building to contain it. There is a rare collection of Ethiopian icons, medieval armour, and illuminated manuscripts. An extra treat is the Asian collection in the adjacent Hackermann House, the period furnished townhouse of a 1850s merchant, with the oldest surviving wooden Buddha in the world (seventh c.)

8 inch guns at Fort McHenry   Barry Flanagan Hare in the BMA Sculpture Garden   City Map   Crab every which way at Ryleighs Oyster House

     For lunch - outside in good weather - Donna's offers a casual menu in the heart of Charles Village or try Gertrude's in the Baltimore Museum of Art overlooking not one but two Sculpture Gardens.
     In the afternoon, pay a visit to one of Baltimore's enviable collection of stately homes, several built by members of one of Maryland's great families. The Carrolls were innovative with their architecture but not names - most of them were named Charles. The Homewood Museum built as a country house (1801-08) by Charles Carroll Junior enhances the campus of Johns Hopkins. This immaculately restored Federal masterpiece has been a boys' school, faculty club and offices, and was an obvious influence on the warm brick architecture of the university.
     Lucky Johns Hopkins also owns Evergreen House, a forty-eight room 1850s Italianate mansion with a private theatre by Leon Bakst. Pre-Revolutionary enthusiasts might opt for stately Mount Clare (1760) built by Charles Carroll, the Barrister, in southwest Baltimore.
     At the end of the day, after all the grandeur, head to Fells Point for a stroll on cobbled streets lined with eighteenth and nineteenth century redbrick row houses and marble steps, memories of the colonial shipyards where the famous Baltimore clipper ships were built. The gaff-rigged schooner Nighthawk(1880) is anchored there, offering Murder Mystery tours/ Buffet Moonlight Cruise. For a change of cultural space, head to the Inner Harbour for dinner northern Italian-style at Brio's Tuscan Grille. Don't miss the Lobster Bisque or the delectable Crab and Shrimp Fonduta.

Day Two
     Steep yourself in the War of 1812, which was of deep significance to Baltimoreans. Start with a visit to a major exhibition at the Maryland Historical Society. In Full Glory Reflected, Maryland during the War of 1812 provides a compelling introduction to what was until recently the "Forgotten War." There are paintings, uniforms, military and domestic objects, life-stories and maps. When Washington was being burnt to the ground by the British, Baltimore citizens watching the glowing sky from only forty miles away feared they would be the next!
     Then take the (free) Circulator bus to the Inner Harbour for a 60 minute National Anthem Tour by Sea. The captain, dressed as a Revenue Cutter Service officer of the 1790s, explains the sites of significance dotting the Inner Harbour for the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. The most compelling story is of a young lawyer, Frances Scott Key, who was trapped on a British ship, while trying to negotiate the release of a prisoner. He watched for 25 hours as the British bombarded Fort McHenry. In the morning, the American flag was raised, the British had been rebuffed and Francis Scott Key was released with the prisoner. He went home and wrote what was to become the national anthem, O say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave/O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
     In the afternoon take a water-taxi to the Fort itself. An excellent short film at the Visitors' Centre sets the stage. There's a screen you touch that plays different versions of the Star-Spangled Banner as sung (or mangled) by military bands, glee clubs, and Marvin Gaye. The star-shaped brick Fort, surrounded by parkland, designed by a Frenchman Jean Foncin in 1798, is surprisingly unassuming for its significance in American history. A few rooms are furnished in the style of the period.

Downtown Baltimore   Pimlico Racetrack, home of the Preakness   Revenue Cutter Officer on the Anthem Tour   The Male Female Statue in front of Penn Station

     If time and stamina permit, visit the Star-Spangled Banner House Museum, where costumed interpreters tell the story of how Mary Pickersgill Young, her daughter, mother, nieces and servants sewed the giant thirty-feet high by 42-feet wide with its fifteen stars and stripes. (It had to be finished in the loft of a brewery nearby.) This was the ensign that Francis Scott Key saw flying over the fort that fateful morning.
     For dinner, try Ryleigh's Oyster House, where chef Francesco Lopez provides oysters (and crabs) every which way. The building, with its brick walls and slate bar, dates from 1812!
     Stay longer - a week, a month, a year. There is opera, theatre, music, museums for every taste: Dentistry (Discover the Exciting World of Teeth), Visionary Art, and a splendid Aquarium.

Historic ship USS Constellation in the Inner Harbour

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Mary Alice Downie writes for Kingston Life Magazine and contributes to Fifty-five Plus, Good Times, Forever Young and many other magazines. She is the author of 28 books for children and adults.

Photo Credits
Christine Downie
Google pics

Click for Baltimore, Maryland Forecast

If you go
Visit Baltimore: www.baltimore.org 1-800-343-3468
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Baltimore
Wikivoyage: http://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Baltimore
About.com: http://baltimore.about.com/
Fiction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_in_fiction
Films featuring: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films...
Places of worship: http://www.yellowpages.com/baltimore...
Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Tourism-g60811-Baltimore...
Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=baltimore...

Travel Aid
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Maps (Google interactive map): http://maps.google.com/
Maps (Mapquest) U.S. & Canada: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp
Maps (Mapquest) World: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp?country=GB
Media Guide (local newspapers with current listings): http://www.abyznews...
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/
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