Last week, I ended up visiting Baltimore, Maryland – near Washington DC. I mention its proximity to Capitol Hill as I’m not sure what else distinguishes the city. It’s an old port town, lots of big businesses have office buildings downtown and, if you’re a sports fan it’s home to the Orioles and Ravens baseball and American football teams respectively.
I was in town for my cousin’s wedding, rather than a sight-seeing tour. I have visited the city before, I spent a week there for work some years ago, so was familiar with the Inner Harbour, which is a lovely area and the focal point of downtown.
On the evening of the wedding, I attended a cocktail party at a hotel right on the harbour and took the opportunity to go for a walk. I stumbled upon an outdoor concert taking place at Pier Six Concert Pavilion, which seemed to have brought black people out in droves. The concert was sectioned off so that visibility of the stage was restricted to ticket holders. However, that did not stop people stationing themsleves along the boardwalk to catch a glimpse through some of the crevice and to listen to the show, which could be heard loudly and clearly. I heard the end of Angela Johnson’s set and the next singer sounded like Kelly Price. The headliner was a guy called Kem, who I’m not familiar with but a fan recommended I check him out on Youtube as, apparently, he’s ‘awesome’.
As I drove around Baltimore, I noticed that the recession has clearly taken hold here. There were many boarded up houses in neighbourhoods and the city felt ‘depressed’ somehow. The weather reflected this also; although the sun looked like it promised to shine, it never quite rose and the days just stayed in this not quite warm, not very bright atmosphere. Lacklustre might be the best way to describe it. And, that was my general impression of the Baltimore – it feels like a city that has lost its sparkle.
While driving around, I also saw some neighbourhoods that reminded me of the other thing Baltimore is famous for – the TV drama The Wire. This is where Idris Elba’s character Stringer Bell and his criminal Barksdale crew hailed from. I wondered whether there was ‘The Wire walk’, similar to other TV show tours like Friends or Sex in the City, where you can see where characters live and hang out? I understand that while there is not an official tour, there is a ‘self-guided’ tour you can take the-wire-a-streetview-tour, which I’m guessing only die-hard fans would want to sign up for.
I thought I would make an effort to visit some official attractions while I was here. The hotel guidebook recommended the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum , as well as the Baltimore museum of art, Civil war museum and National aquarium.
In the end, I opted to leave Baltimore early and drive to New York City, which you know I love! The brief visit to Baltimore did make me think about the fact that we often travel to be dazzled or mesmerised by a new place. We crave an energising,rejuvenating or, at the very least, interesting experience. More often than not we get what we’re looking for because we arrive with open hearts and minds and with fresh eyes – we are already in ‘tourist mode’.
On this trip, I was not wearing my tourist hat and I was not really open to this city having much to offer, which might have influenced my impressions and this less than enthusiastic blog entry. Imagine though, if we took time to notice the interesting and bright spots of everyday places – not just new ones, but the city’s we live in, our neighbourhoods even, would we travel less?
Nah! I reckon hopping on a plane will always be exciting to me!
I’d be interested to hear what you get from travel…