While many escape to the hills of Litchfield County during the summer months to bask in the beauty of the rolling hills and pristine places such as Lake Waramaug State Park in Kent and New Preston, or to take long hikes through White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield (www.whitememorialcc.org), I ventured south during the Fourth of July weekend. I took a trip to visit one of my oldest friends Sara in Baltimore, Maryland.
I can’t begin to share what a wonderful time I had down there. I left on Friday morning by way of the Mega Bus (www.megabus.com) out of New York City. It was my first time taking a trip by bus beyond my own hometown. I’m use to taking the independent route by just taking off in my own car. This was a different experience for me; I was excited about my adventure which only took over three hours.
My adventure began when my friend greeted me at the park and ride area outside of Baltimore. My first real taste of Baltimore was the National Bohemian Beer sign, a face that lights up at night and winks at you. It casually known to the locals as “Natty Boh.” (www.nationalbohemian.com) I stayed with Sara and her roommates through the weekend and had such a good time.
We started my first evening at the local beach bar and restaurant, The Bay Café in the Canton area of Baltimore (www.baycafeusa.com). Each neighborhood, I learned, has its own area of bars, restaurants and shops that are easily accessible by the cheapest and most eco-friendly way—walking.
I quickly learned, too, that most buildings in Baltimore are built with brick and that brunch popular on Saturday and Sundays throughout Baltimore. I learned Old Bay Seasoning is put on everything from chicken to French fries. I had my first taste of this salty-yet-spicy seasoning on my first night at the local pub, Canton’s Portside Tavern. (www.portsidetavern.com)
The beauty of Baltimore, I found throughout the weekend, is in its row homes, which are all attached to each other, but each is given its own sense of character by those who live in them and almost, if not all, have roof-top decks that offer everyone an opportunity to see the beautiful harbor. All the neighborhoods surround the harbor, which is filled with a ton of boats and yachts in the marinas. The row homes are long and rectangular inside and have three to four floors going straight up to the roof for many.
During our walk through the local shops in Fells Point, a historic waterfront in Baltimore, I found that, like Litchfield County, its history is preserved everywhere you look. Many of the old buildings and warehouses have been refurbished and beautified to accommodate all the different restaurants and shops that Baltimore has to offer, similar to Litchfield County’s Old Pin Shop Factory in Oakville.
The shops in the neighborhoods outside the center of Baltimore all have boutique mom-and-pop shops and pubs with names such as Café Latte'Da (www.cafelatteda.net), and Claddaugh Pub (www.clauddaughonline.com). While I walked through these different places in the various neighborhoods, I thought of West Street in Litchfield and of the many pocket streets in Washington Depot where, during the summer months, everyone is outside enjoying the beautiful weather by eating outdoors or taking long strolls in and out of shops.
Later in the evening on Saturday, my friend and her friend, Lindsay, and I ventured outside of Baltimore to Hydes, Md., with picnic snacks to Boordy Vineyards (www.boordy.com), which was having a music festival with wine tastings and music from a cover band. This was one of my many special moments during the weekend, the opportunity to taste a variety of wines. Listening to music from the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett was just perfect way to spend a Saturday evening.
On Sunday, Sara, Lindsay and I began the day with early afternoon drinks on the Tiki Barge (www.tikibargebaltimore.com), a floating bar and restaurant right on the harbor in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore. We then ventured over to Little Havana (www.littlehavanas.com) and had a late brunch. Sara later took me to the shops in the Federal Hill area. I loved Federal Hill because, like many of the neighborhoods around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, a seaport filled with shops, culture and restaurants, it reflects our nation’s history.
| View of the Inner Harbor|
Federal Hill in the early colonial period was the site of a paint pigment mining operation. The hill has several tunnels beneath the park, which overlooks the entire center of Baltimore. The hill got its name in 1789 when it served as the end location for a parade celebrating the ratification of the new “federal” constitution of the United States of America.
For much of the early history of Baltimore, the actual hill was known as “Signal Hill” because it was home to a maritime observatory serving merchant and shipping interests by monitoring ships sailing up the Patapsco River and signaling their impending arrival for downtown businesspeople, according to Wikipedia.com.
Following the Baltimore riot of 1861, the hill was occupied by Union Troops under the command of General Benjamin F. Butler who, against orders from Washington, entered the city from Annapolis by the Baltimore and Ohio railroad in the middle of the night. During the night, Butler and his men erected a small fort, with cannon pointed toward the central business district.
Their goal was to guarantee the allegiance of the city and the state of Maryland to the federal government under threat of force. The fort and the Union occupation continued for the duration of the Civil War. A large flag, a few cannon and a small Grand Army of the Republic moment remain to testify to this period of the hill’s history.
The views from the hill were breathtaking. You saw life in every corner of the city of Baltimore, whether it was sailing boats in the harbor or residents and visitors walking the streets enjoying the beautiful summer day.
Maryland is known for its crabs and the trip would not have been complete without my first experience of taking a crab apart with my bare hands and the help of a mallet. Needless to say, it was a messy experience, but a memorable one filled with much laughter for both Sara and me. We went to Canton Dockside (www.cantondockside.com) for our crab feast.
On the Fourth of July, the day began with a long walk for a cup of coffee and breakfast at Café Latte Da, and then we spent the rest of the day preparing for a barbeque and fireworks at Sara’s friend’s home in Federal Hill. The fireworks were amazing and I could feel the closeness among the neighbors when for 15 to 20 minutes everyone stopped what they were doing and enjoyed the firework show and paid tribute to our nation’s beginnings. I truly felt proud when we all began to sing, “I’m Proud to Be An American.”
I left Baltimore the next morning and headed back to New York. When I look back on this year (I am a very nostalgic person), this will be one trip I won’t ever forget. It was an opportunity for me to enjoy something different with a friend I’ve known for many years. I hope I can return again soon.