Thoughts From Places: Baltimore, Part One (2013)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

| | |
My Trip to Baltimore!
Baltimore Skyline seen from our water taxi
In May 2011 and 2012 my friend Anne and I travelled to Rochester to go to the Teen Book Festival (see pictures here) but in 2013 we weren’t able to go because of school. We still wanted to go somewhere to celebrate being done with our junior year of college. After a while of deliberation we chose Baltimore. We planned and planned. It was the first trip I had ever taken without my parents or a school group and I was beyond excited.
The dots of Northumberland in case you
thought I was kidding
On the several hour drive to Baltimore, Anne and I amused ourselves by singing loudly to Disney songs, finding silly road and town names, and counting how many different state/foreign licenses plates we could find (about 25 including Guam, Quebec and Ontario).  While still in New York we passed windmills, hills, so many trees and a sign advertising a sea serpent (which we will visit one day I hope). When we crossed into Pennsylvania though Jane, our GPS couldn’t find us. I learned then that tom toms hate the hills of PA and just kept telling us to turn around as soon as possible. It was then that I should have realized that Pennsylvania was strange place. We passed signs that said “beware aggressive drivers” and one with an Amish horse and buggy crossing and low and behold I looked to my right where there was an actual horse drawn carriage with an Amish man at its wheel. We passed through a town called Northumberland where they take tailgating so seriously that they painted giant white dots on the street with signs demanding that each car is two dots apart. And it seemed like the state went on forever. It was between us and our adventure. It was almost as if it knew that so it S T R E T C H E D to make sure we would seemingly never reach Maryland.

Baltimore's train
We finally did reach Maryland and our hotel at about 3:13 pm. Originally, we hadn’t planned doing anything that day but since we arrived earlier than expected we used the rest of that day to go on a custom tour of Poe’s Baltimore. Driving through Baltimore was kind of insane. I think the whole city is made of “Left Turns Only.” It took forever to get anywhere because one wrong turn meant a half hour or more trying to make our way back through the sea of left turns when one RIGHT turn would have solved our problem. It was also weird to see their train that goes parallel with traffic.

For me the main point of this trip was to see as much of Edgar Allan Poe as possible. While planning it was also pointed out to me that there was a pub devoted to James Joyce too. I like to think of these two things as what got me started as a Literary Tourist and as such each of these adventures will have their own blog posts! (They should be posted on BWE in November and will be linked here as soon as it is available.)

Fell's Point as seen from the water taxi
For dinner that first night we tried to find the James Joyce Pub and after that failed we ended up at this place called Potbelly’s Sandwich Works. They were only open for another half hour or so but that was enough time to eat. They had a “Buffalo” chicken sandwich with “real” Frank’s hot sauce and blue cheese so being from Buffalo I decided to get that; a little piece of home in Baltimore. I found it hilarious that the advertisement for the sandwich had the phrase “real Frank’s hot sauce” duh what other sauce would you use? When I ordered it the girl behind the counter said she had tried it once and said that “it actually wasn’t good at all.” She was floored when I told her that I was from Buffalo which is why I wanted to try it. She went on to apologize and ask if we really put blue cheese on our sandwiches, which to my knowledge no one here actually does but we do dip our wings in blue cheese so it makes sense that if a shop is trying to recreate the famous Buffalo dish in sandwich form that they would, I just told her yeah though. I’m proud of being weird (the sandwich was great by the way).
Fell's Point sign

According to the original plan for the second day we were going to go to the zoo, but the night before we axed that idea because they didn't have any animals that we don't in Buffalo and decided to go to Fort McHenry instead. This was mainly because we felt it was imperative to make use of Baltimore’s water taxi system. We woke up early the next day and headed to the free continental breakfast in our pajamas, we were the only ones in them though. Oops.

We got to the Aquarium’s water taxi stop on the harbor at about 10am and rode to Historic Fell’s Point. We were only able to go for 15 minutes in between taxis but it was worth it. The shops were like row houses and the signs were vintage, so it was if we had stepped back in time. The roads were still uneven cobblestones as well (so of course I got my foot caught in between some) which lead to the authenticity of the whole place. I was disappointed that we could only stay for those 15 minutes I could have spent the whole day there. I was most upset that we couldn't go find the "The Horse You Came In On" Saloon which was the last place Edgar Allan Poe had been seen drinking before his death. I'll just have to go back one day.

Hobbit Hole like shelter!
Next we rode to Fort McHenry, the famous fort where during the War of 1812 Francis Scott Key wrote the US’s National Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner. When we went there was just a normal flag flying which was okay because the fort itself was amazing. It was so large. There were these huge cannons everywhere and shelters that looked for all the world like hobbit holes. Anne and I went into a bomb shelter and a storage area. Everything seemed to be on a massive scale there. It was also shaped like a giant star and the view of the harborside factories was pretty cool. I wish I had studied up on more of the history though so I could really understand the historic significance of the place other than the anthem.  

That little purple dot is me! That cannon was HUGE.
Honestly though the whole time there I really just wanted my dad to be there. He would have had something to say about every single bit of it. He would have been giving a running history of everything. To honor my dad being at home and not with me I stuck my head in a cannon because that’s what he does every single time he sees one.

Read part two of my adventure in Baltimore here!