I’ve been busy and haven’t had much time for blogging, until today. That’s because yesterday I went for an evening walk after work and somehow I twisted my ankle and found myself flat on my butt in the middle of a busy trail. I was completely sober on a flat asphalt trail and there was no obstacle in my way, so I’m still not exactly sure what happened, but after a trip to urgent care it turns out I have a sprained ankle and am supposed to avoid exercise for the next two to three weeks. Just when I was finally getting into a good exercise routine! All this sucks, but a day off means I have time to update my blog. Not much has been going on lately, except for my weekend trip to Baltimore to visit my friend Courtney, who I met when I was living in Colombia. She put together a nice itinerary for us, so if you are interested in reading my observations of Baltimore, read on!
It seems that when people think of Baltimore they tend to think of The Wire and widespread poverty, which is fair enough because Baltimore is a pretty dangerous and sometimes dismal city known for vacant properties, drugs and crime. At least that’s what they say; I can’t say I’ve actually explored the grittier side of the city. This weekend I went up to Baltimore to visit my friend Courtney, who full-heartedly believes Baltimore is America’s greatest city. Despite the fact that she currently lives in Hoboken and has New York City at her fingertips, she still believes Baltimore reigns supreme among American cities. Since I only live about an hour to the south, we decided to meet up for the day while she was in town.
The nice thing about having a friend like Courtney is that she plans every step of your trip perfectly. You know how there are some people who just wing it and you end up spending half the day dawdling around trying to figure out what you’re going to do? This is not the case when you visit Courtney. You are going to have a nice time because every stop and site has been carefully and deliberately considered and evaluated before being included in the agenda. So I came away from this weekend feeling that Baltimore is, in fact, the greatest City in America: It’s cheap, it has cobblestone roads and old churches, a big bar scene and some pretty cool little neighborhoods. I mean, realistically I know that Baltimore might not be the greatest city in America, but Courtney’s tour was that good. I should preface this by saying that although Courtney’s tour was lovely, it was also a bit non-representative; I think we hit up every nice neighborhood in the city and pretty much avoided all the neighborhoods you might envision when you think about Baltimore, so my view is probably a little bit biased. Courtney lives in Roland Park (I’ve read most of Anne Tyler’s novels so it was pretty cool seeing the neighborhood she writes about in most of her books) then to Guilford, Mt. Vernon, the Harbor, Fell’s Point, Federal Hill, Canton and finally, back to Courtney’s neighborhood where we enjoyed a nice nighttime walk through residential Roland Park, which is full of large, mature trees and spacious, 100+ year old homes. A picture perfect neighborhood, really, one of those stuck-in-time, dreamy, cozy-type neighborhoods. Wealthy, but with class and history. I didn’t take any pictures of the neighborhood, but you can see some here.
I didn’t get many pictures (and even fewer good ones) because I was, well, fully enjoying the moment and didn’t want the distraction of trying to get the perfect picture, but I figured I’d post at least a few. So some nice things about Baltimore? Great seafood restaurants, vibrant harbor scene, nice bar scene, cool, young neighborhoods, lower cost of living, plenty of cultural attractions and things to do, professional sports teams, city pride/loyalty. Some bad things? Crime, poverty, wealth inequality…it also seems like a very segregated place. Even though Baltimore is about 60% African-American, we saw mostly youngish 20s/30s white people in the neighborhoods we visited. Also, you don’t see the kind of diversity you see in the D.C area…there doesn’t seem to be a large Latino, Middle Eastern or Asian population. The city gained residents for the first time in 50 years but it probably still doesn’t feel as vibrant and dynamic as it did in its heyday in the ’40s and early ’50s, but it still seems to hold on to a well-defined character, something I’ve always felt D.C lacks as a bureaucratic city. Another con is the lack of good public transportation; it’s definitely the type of place where having a car makes life much easier. Anyway, it was fun to explore another city. Maybe Philadelphia is next?