Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Travel - Baltimore : A Weekend Sanctuary

      Whenever Deb and I need a couple of days away from home we will pack a small bag and drive to Baltimore. The city is a two hours trip, and it is the perfect location for a weekend retreat.

View of the Inner Harbor.

     Many of the hotels can be reserved for a reasonable price depending on your budget. We have stayed in a number of different locations at the Inner Harbor. We also enjoy a stay out by the BWI airport where there are a variety of hotels to choose. From the train station near the airport we can catch the Light Rail that runs to the Inner Harbor. Cost to ride is only $3.50 for a round trip quite reasonable. We will also drive downtown and parking is $19.00 for the day.
     There are many different things to do in Baltimore. We have toured the submarine U.S.S. Torsk and the frigate U.S.S. Constellation which are moored right at the harbor.
     Deb and I will walk through town or get on the water taxi to different areas along the bay. It's a fun way to see the city and shoot some photos of the boats and buildings. Fells Point is a good stop for restaurants, bars and shops.

U.S.S. Constellation

     We found a bocce ball tournament while exploring Little Italy and sat in the stands and watched these talented, seasoned players. They were very competitive and an argument or two would occur during a measurement on a closely rolled ball. The flavor of the city is there for tourists to enjoy.
     We've traveled to see The Orioles play baseball and also The Ravens in an NFL game verses the Pittsburgh Steelers. The venues within the city make it a popular area to see major sporting events and visitors can turn it into a weekend stay. Once you get your bearing it's easy navigate around town. The Babe Ruth museum is close by Orioles stadium and this year I took the time to walk through his childhood home to see some of the Bambino's memorabilia.

Santacon event in downtown Baltimore led by Elvis Claus.

     The aquarium is a popular stop and widely visited by families with young children. You can't go wrong with kids and fish. The weekends are a busy time and we saw it on a weekday.
      There seems to be some type of music or group entertaining visitors most days. In late November, we've watched the 'Tuba Christmas' band play holiday classics on their large brass instruments. It's the same time that the 'Santacon' bar crawl goes on. Close to ninety guys dressed up in their favorite style Santa Claus suits get together and walk to bars and restaurants in the Inner Harbor area. I shot some interesting photos of Elvis, Grinch and Cowboy Santa. Some of the good hearted bunch hand out candy canes to kids.
     On one of the first trips, we toured historic Fort McHenry the renowned site that Frances Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner while a prisoner on a British ship in the harbor. The fort has a walkway the runs along the edge of the grounds with beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay and the city. 

Deb holds a Chesapeake Bay blue Crab.

     But the one thing that we enjoy most in Baltimore is the abundance of great bars and restaurants. Our trip is all about the wide variety of food to enjoy. Deb has a real taste for Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and loves to crack them open while sipping on a cold beer. We can sit for hours with a dozen of the largest crabs and a pitcher of suds and make a meal out of it. Our favorite location for munching on these critters is L.P. Steamers Crab House located just up the road from Fort McHenry. The corner restaurant has old harbor flavor and the workers that steam the blue crab know what they are doing.
     There isn't anything fancy about the business, friendly employees cover the tables with paper and place a tray of the steaming crustaceans covered in a dry spicy seasoning. We are also given small wooden mallets. We smash away with the hammers grabbing small morsels of sweet tasty crab meat.  The blue crabs can be pricey but we like to treat ourselves now and then and enjoy the conversation and the company around us.
     Recently we've had fun going to restaurants that have been featured on television shows and the internet. I have always enjoyed diner food never in need of a fancy ambiance. One location we really enjoyed was Chaps Pit Beef where customers wait in line and then place an order. The small building has several picnic tables for seating.  

Tuba Christmas musicians play for crowds.

     My sandwich choice was a Chaps Special. The bun is piled high with corned beef, ham, beef and cheese. The order is rounded out with an order of fries. The juicy and tender sandwich hit the spot after a day of sightseeing. We'd go back on every visit, but there are always a number of other restaurants to try.
     During an afternoon at the Inner Harbor we stopped at Joe Squared on Market St. at Power Plant Live. It's a spot with craft beers and thin crusted pizzas baked in a coal fired oven. The square shaped pies are covered in toppings and bubbling cheese. We added a side of sesame garlic chicken wings which our waiter said were named best wings in Baltimore. Joe Squared features live music and the small restaurant fills up quickly with customers.
     And our final joint during this years tour was Dangerously Delicious Pies which is in the Canton section of Baltimore. This part of the city has seen a rebirth of shops and small businesses along with bars and restaurants where locals and tourists congregate in the late evenings. When we opened the door at DDP it had a real bohemian feel with paintings and photographs on the walls and a local photographer on hand that night talking to customers about his work. A band played on a small little corner stage in the front of the restaurant. Tables were filled with hungry diners chowing on variety of savory meat pies and dessert pies.  The place was packed as others stood with forks in hand snacking on one of the many tasty sweet pies on the menu.
A packed house at Dangerously Delicious Pies.
     Customers line up and order at the front counter and then try to hunt down a spot to sit. I ordered the steak and mushroom with gruyere cheese packed inside a pie shell and Deb chose the BBQ pulled pork pie. We each got a piece of sweet pie, an apple and a berry slice. It was part of a Saturday date night special totaling $20 which included a drink. The price was right and chowing on pies was a unique change from the ordinary dining experience.
     The New Year 2013 is only a week away and along with turning another page of the calender comes the annual resolution to get back on my more strict dieting habits of salads and grilled chicken. But when we travel to Baltimore for another stay, I won't tell when I slip off the healthy food wagon and treat myself to some comfort food at one of the many fine restaurants. Only problem is my waistline will give away my secret.

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