We took a short break from our hectic work to visit Baltimore where Angelina’s work-related conference was held. This is our first trip to Baltimore and we were pretty excited about it.

During our cab ride to the hotel, we chatted with our Russian cab driver regarding the weather in Baltimore. Apart from a few fallen trees, it sounded like Baltimore wasn’t badly affected by Superstorm Sandy, unlike New York and New Jersey. In the evening, we strolled along the Inner Harbor to Little Italy for dinner. After dinner, we managed to visit the observation level of the Baltimore World Trade Center (WTC) at closing minutes. Since we were the only visitors at the observation level, a staff was gracious enough to shut off most of the floor lightings to allow me to photograph the night view through the building windows. We stumbled around the pitch black floor to move from one area to another. Before leaving, we chatted with the staff who recommended us a few good things to do and eat in town.

On Saturday morning, we strolled to the Lexington Market in search for the “best” crab cakes in town. Unbeknownst to us, we walked into one of the shadier areas in the neighborhood. We arrived about 10 minutes before the opening hour of the crab cake place, but we decided to walk away instead.

From there, we took a subway ride to John Hopkins Hospital. After wandering aimlessly around the campus, we asked a security guard what we could do as tourists and we were told most buildings were closed for public access on the weekends. So, I rephrased my question and asked him what we could do as two Mayo Clinic employees at the campus. The security guard immediately shook my hand and showed us where we could take some nice pictures with the “John Hopkins” sign at the campus.

In the afternoon, we decided to utilize the free public bus to Fort McHenry, based on the Baltimore WTC staff’s recommendation. This interesting fort is the birthplace of the National Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner. From there we wandered aimlessly to Tide Point. While waiting for the bus to Mt Vernon, we chatted with an older gentleman who recommended us to visit the Federal Hill that would allow me to take good panoramic photos of the Baltimore skyline.

Our bus ride to Mt Vernon was a crazy experience. A group of about 10 foul-mouthed kids, aged around 12 to 15 years old, boarded the same bus we took. After making plenty of noise at the back of the bus, the kids decided to leave the bus just after a few minutes of boarding. They screamed and cursed at the bus driver to stop in vain. One of the kids decided to pry the back door of the bus and jumped out of a moving bus. Then, a loud thud was immediately heard, presumably that kid slammed his head on a truck parked along the street. The rest of the kids freaked out, rushed to the front of the bus and cursed at the bus driver to stop the bus immediately. The bus stopped and the kids rushed out. Somehow, the bus driver stood beside the bus, waiting for something. We decided to leave the bus instead and walked to Mt Vernon, which was about 10 blocks away. We managed to zip in and out the Baltimore Basilica, which was the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States, and the Walter Art Museum before closing. We had delicious Afghan meals for dinner at the restaurant, owned by Quayum Karzai, the elder brother of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. In the evening, Angelina’s ex-coworker, Ying Wei, paid us a short visit at our hotel lobby after work.

On Sunday afternoon, we took a water taxi to Fell’s Point, which is famous for its historic cobblestone streets that was in place since colonial times. We also visited the interesting American Visionary Art Museum at the south side of Harborplace, which houses art made produced by self-taught artists. We hiked up to the top of Federal Hill to take some breathtaking panoramic photos of the Baltimore skyline before heading for dinner.

We didn’t do much on Monday due to Angelina’s on-going conference. However, we had a wonderful dinner with Yingwei and her 15-month-old daughter, Hazel, at the nearby Italian restaurant. After dinner, we hung out at the hotel lobby to chat and I decided to shoot some photos of Hazel playing on the ground.

On Tuesday, after seeing the Camden Yards related banners along the streets, we decided to walk a good several blocks to Camden Yards during lunch hour. In the evening, we strolled along the inner harbor for one last time after dinner before heading back to hotel.

Two interesting observations during our stay in Baltimore…

  • The Baltimoreans LOVE running, and I couldn’t emphasize more on that. Everywhere we went, we could see the locals running in all directions, even at night when we could barely see the ground.
  • Most beggars would quickly say they were not here to cause trouble and that they had IDs. I’m still trying to determine whether the illusion of owning some IDs made them less of a beggar or underscored the fact that they were licensed beggars.

Baltimore is one place we wouldn’t have visited by ourselves, if not because of the work related conference. However, we truly enjoyed our stay there where we had great fresh seafood that we sorely lack in the Midwest. It was very nice to meet Ben, Ying Wei and Hazel during this visit. It amazes me how small a world can be at times. Hopefully, we are able to cross path with them again in the future.

Day 1: Baltimore skyline from Baltimore World Trade Center.
Day 2: John Hopkins Hospital, one of the top-ranked hospitals in the United States.
Day 2: Fort McHenry, the birthplace of the National Anthem.
Day 3: The cobblestone streets in Fell’s Point.
Day 3: Baltimore skyline from Federal Hill.
Day 4: Meeting Ying Wei and Hazel.
Day 5: Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The actual trip route.

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