Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Traveling Baltimore, Part 2: Inner Harbor & Hampden

Where were we? Oh, yes! Baltimore's Inner Harbor actually took me by surprise. I guess I was expecting something similar to Downtown Cleveland -- tall buildings, lots of water, and an empty pier or two -- but I got so much more from Baltimore. The harbor is not only beautiful, but it's also very functional. They have shopping malls, restaurants, museums, fountains, Camden Yards Stadium, water taxis, paddle boats and an abundance of free attractions and street artists to gawk at. Perhaps the most memorable moment of our trip was when I started whining about my camera malfunctioning and Jon assuring me it was no big deal, we could just take pictures another time, and just when I was about to mouth off by asking how that was possible I remembered, dude, we live here and I can come down here whenever I want! That realization almost took my breath away. This is our home. Owen will grow up surrounded by this place. I kinda like that idea.

Right next door to the National Aquarium is this really cool building built as a power plant in 1900 and renovated in 2000. It now houses the awesome combination of a Barnes and Noble and a Hard Rock Cafe as well dozens of other small shops and restaurants:

Here is a view of the aquarium from across the harbor.

A view of Federal Hill and the boats docked in front. I didn't notice them at the time, but somehow I caught what appears to be a very sweet moment between two people under the light post.

Standing on the Inner Harbor looking back at Downtown Baltimore. Check out all of the people -- there is so much life here.

This is only one of the many ships and submarines permanently docked in the harbor. Some of them have even been turned into museums.

A fountain!! I've only seen these things in movies...

You know I immediately ripped off his shoes and stuck him in the water.

He wasn't sure what to make of it at first, but just after I snapped this photo a huge smile spread across his face.

Then he ran off and I couldn't ignore the adorable foot prints her left behind.

We stopped by a frozen custard stand and got ourselves some refreshments before leaving for the day.

The original plan was to head home then as it was nearly 5:00 and the closest thing Owen had to a nap was the car ride between Bob Evans and Charm City Cakes, but then I had the most wonderful idea: Hampdenfest!! Hampden is this really awesome, eclectic neighborhood not far from downtown. If you're relatively familiar with the Cleveland area think Coventry Road but spanning many blocks in each direction, without the commercial establishments of BD's Mongolian Barbecue and Chipotle, and instead of cramped apartment buildings it is street after street of attractive row houses. Basically, it's lots of cool, locally owned store fronts selling everything from soaps to pink feather boas to sports memorabilia to coffee scones and Hampdenfest is just a fun way for all of the vendors to get together and setup a sidewalk sale of sorts but with live music, hula hoops, skate board ramps, and a toilet bowl race. I also took this opportunity to have my very first crab soft pretzel. Yep, sounds questionable, but it was quite delicious.

Entering Hampdenfest:

Just in case you managed to miss the men in capes and strange hats racing down hill on toilets with wheels, the race is this way:

What was that I said in my earlier post? Oh, that's right! It isn't Baltimore without a little crab, and it's even better when mixed with football:

This photo of Cafe Hon captures two things very Baltimore: the pink flamingo and the expression "Hon". Hampden is sometimes referred to as Hontown as this term of endearment is used by everyone.

Let it be known that I hate SpongeBob and refuse to let Owen watch the show but there's something about the annoying character that attracts Owen and I couldn't refuse letting him have a balloon. Besides, the balloon bought us enough time to have another beer and catch another song or two despite the little one's lack of a nap. It's been over a week and I still can't get over how well behaved he was that whole day!

And that's it for this trip, folks! We have high expectations for this fall as we still hope to visit Washington, Philadelphia, and NYC although I'm thinking a trip to New York might be more exciting during the holidays, but we'll see. It makes me smile to remember I was 11 years old before leaving Ohio for the first time and Owen's got me beat by almost as many years.

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