Crime, Crabs and Karma in Harbor Town

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September 1st 2008
Published: September 11th 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

Baltimore NightsBaltimore NightsBaltimore Nights

Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
“You’re Off To Baltimore…WHY?”

You get that sometimes. There are people who just can’t see the world around them as anything other than a normal, every day place. What’s interesting is that it's all a state of mind. Any place can be a destination, it’s just up to you to see it that way. When traveling for long periods of time, people start seeing everything around them as an interesting cultural experiment of sorts, a chance to see the world around them with fresh eyes. Unfortunately it seems that the moment we get home and absorb ourselves back into some semblance of normalcy, we lose these “Fresh Eyes.”

Since I’m still unemployed and Kel and I are living off only one salary at present, our budget for travel is, obviously, pretty small. We live frugally, for us at least, eating home a majority of the time and curtailing our entertainment to less expensive varieties. Thus, when our sixth anniversary was approaching, we said, “Let’s do something cool and new but try to keep the occasion a less expensive one.”

Baltimore, Maryland is a decent sized city, only a few hours drive from Richmond and a place
Fell's PointFell's PointFell's Point

Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
that neither of us has spent much time in at all. Seems like a perfect fit with the exception that most people think of Baltimore as nothing more than “Crime Central." Oh, and it has the National Aquarium. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a place to visit but, once again, this was a chance to forget what other people say and look at the world with fresh eyes.

Long story short, we decided to go, we had a blast and we would highly recommend it as a fun destination for anyone!

Beautiful Place To Stay In The Hood

Since it was a celebration of our anniversary we definitely wanted a place that was slightly more romantic and had more character than the average American hotel. Not only did the place we stay have more character, it was also about half as expensive as the other hotels we checked. The Blue Door on Baltimore turned out to be a great place to stay. The only catch is its location in Butchers Hill, a neighborhood that’s doing its best to overcome its seedy past.

While the area is rapidly becoming a really nice place, it
Beautiful DecayBeautiful DecayBeautiful Decay

Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
still has one foot in the shadiness that makes a place a touch uncomfortable for most travelers. Merely a couple of blocks from a porno theater and entrenched in an area that often has vagrants and “thugs” hanging out on street corners, the B&B was actually a beautiful place with lots of natural light and tons of luxury. During the day, walking around was perfectly fine; it was night time that made us, who’ve walked through some pretty shady areas, a little uncomfortable.

Despite the Crowds, Its Worth Your Time

Baltimore’s main draw involves the sea: either its vistas, its activities or its creatures. If you’re afraid of the water and things that lurk within its depths then just stay away because Baltimore is crawling with sea related activities. Our faves involved either the viewing or the eating of the sea’s bounty. Tasty!

Our first night in Baltimore we walked the few blocks to Obryckis, one of Baltimore’s oldest and best known crab picking joints. My personal recommendation is, if you only have one night in Baltimore, hit Obryckis and spend an evening getting dirty. They basically bring you a pile of freshly steamed crabs
Flying Dolphin Part IFlying Dolphin Part IFlying Dolphin Part I

National Aquarium, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
coated in Obryckis controversial (because they don’t use Old Bay) salt and pepper rub, dump them on your table and let you at the crabs with nothing more than a hammer and your fingers. Needless to say, you get dirty but you have fun doing it. (As a sidebar, it turns out that six-year-old boys and hammers make quite an interesting scene. The dad next to us had to frequently switch his son’s crab in order to ensure that a perfectly good crab wasn’t pulverized into dust. Needless to say, his son had fun using his hammer to beat the tar out of anything that didn’t rapidly get out of his way.) Our first night we ate a cool dozen of these scrumptious little creatures and had to fight ourselves from eating more. Obryckis crabs are a feast worth your time and effort.

The next day we did the National Aquarium thing. First, special thanks to Kel’s co-worker Jay for recommending the pre-reserved tickets. Check out the line picture somewhere on this page for confirmation that no reservation = LONG wait. We both thoroughly enjoyed the variety and immensity of the National Aquarium. It truly is an interesting and
A Sign of the Economic TimesA Sign of the Economic TimesA Sign of the Economic Times

Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
fun time. My only negative on this one is that I find myself to be pretty Ba-Humbug about 4D movies. Any movie that involves spraying me with water and poking me in the ribs is an annoyance!! This may make me “old” or “uninteresting” but I’m fine with that…so, there!

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to skip around a bit, so bear with me here. We spent a bunch of time over the weekend in the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore but were pretty uninspired by its unabashed commercialism. If you’re into chain restaurants and shopping, then this is the place for you, but if you want an interesting experience and maybe actually get the feel for Baltimore then there are other places for you.

First off, we stumbled upon the American Visionary Art Museum, which is near the water at the bottom of Federal Hill. It caught our attention because of its unique mirrored façade (check the pictures) and, once we paid and entered, we were not disappointed. It is a truly unique art museum that features funky, cool artists in displays focused on love, faith and other tough topics. It's very interactive, very bright
National AquariumNational AquariumNational Aquarium

National Aquarium, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
and overall a ton of fun. Our favorite exhibit was called A Lifetime of Secrets. This guy, Frank Warren, sent out a worldwide request for anonymous secrets written on postcards. Since his initial request he has gathered thousands of people’s deepest, intimate secrets and posted the best one’s in art galleries. His website Post Secret Blog has some examples if you’re interested. At times heartbreaking, funny and disturbing, the exhibit was definitely unforgettable. Even if you aren’t a classic art lover this museum is an experience worth your time!

If art isn’t your thing and you’re looking for the soul of Baltimore, Fell’s Point (a quick water taxi ride away from the Inner harbor) feels more soulful and less commercial. This quaint, historic waterside community is full of fun bars, restaurants and shops. A great place to just walk around and take in a summer day, which is exactly what we did. Kel camped in an outdoor café for the better part of an afternoon while I ran around and took tons of pictures. (Note from Kel: You all know I love a nice people watching hour or two in the shade. Add a cool drink and a good book and
Blowing a KissBlowing a KissBlowing a Kiss

National Aquarium, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
I was in heaven!)

(Sidebar: For you photographers out there, I finally upgraded from my trusty Nikon D80 which I used on our year abroad. Thankful that I waited, I finally made the jump and upgraded to the Nikon D700. This 12.3 MP full frame giant is bigger, stronger, faster and better in almost every way. I think the pictures speak for themselves. None of the indoor shots were taken with flash which shows the superb low-light capability of this camera. Some of the shots seen here were taken above ISO 2000 which is amazing. Enough techno-babble…back to the blog.)

As Long As The Searchlight Isn’t On You, You’re OK

From our experience, we now know Baltimore is more than just a haven for crime. Overall, it’s actually a ton of fun. People were friendly, the food was great, and there are tons of cool things to do. What more could you ask for in a location? Well, there’s always excitement, no? We’ve experienced crossing the street in Hanoi, jumping off a bungee bridge in New Zealand, man-eating mosquitoes in south-east Asia - all of these things add a sense of adventure to your travel.
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Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
What do you get in Baltimore?

As we left Obryckis on our final night in town (that’s right, we ate there twice, it’s that good) we figured we’d have another ten block walk back to the hotel like we had a few nights earlier. Sure, it’s a bit of a sketchy walk but we got used to it and felt pretty comfortable. We chatted while we avoided vagrants and loiterers who appeared a touch dodgy until we noticed that a police helicopter with a searchlight was circling the neighborhood.

This was a personal first for me. I’ve always seen this stuff on shows like Cops (“Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do…”) but always thought it happened some place else. We stopped and asked a couple of people sitting on their front porches,

Mike: “Does this happen frequently?”

Front Porch People: “Hahaha…yes…”

Mike: “What are doing?”

Front Porch People: “Looking for somebody bad, we assume. As long as the light doesn’t land on you, you’re ok!”

Mike: “Hmmm…thanks.”

That made us feel a bit safer, the whole light comment that is. The light was shining at least a few blocks

Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
away so we figured we must be ok. We kept our leisurely pace towards the B&B only to momentarily stop as the light did land on us. Uhhhhh…now what??? Thankfully the light moved on seconds later and we both laughed it off in that nervous sort of way.

I guess every trip deserves a touch of adventure…

Additional photos below
Photos: 48, Displayed: 29


One Man's TrashOne Man's Trash
One Man's Trash

Butcher's HIll, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Angelic BirdAngelic Bird
Angelic Bird

American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
A Sausage Link to the PastA Sausage Link to the Past
A Sausage Link to the Past

Butcher's HIll, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Shark AttackShark Attack
Shark Attack

Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
No LoiteringNo Loitering
No Loitering

Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
One Giant EggOne Giant Egg
One Giant Egg

American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Portrait of a Lady PaintingPortrait of a Lady Painting
Portrait of a Lady Painting

Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Prepping for the 4D FilmPrepping for the 4D Film
Prepping for the 4D Film

National Aquarium, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Seafood ExpressSeafood Express
Seafood Express

Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
City PierCity Pier
City Pier

Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Smiley WifeSmiley Wife
Smiley Wife

Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

22nd September 2008

Hi Team Turner! I've just spent the past month reading your round-the-world-trip blog from start to finish, and I have to say that I'm so sad that it's over! You guys are great photographers as well as writers...I feel like I know you both (in a non-creepy, non-stalkerish way, that is!). I have a crazy passion for travel as well...and I'm getting ready to leave on a 10 day trip to Germany in a couple of weeks. However, 10 days seems like a flash in the pan compared to what you have done. I have to admit I'm just a bit envious!! Please keep documenting your trips so that I can live vicariously through you guys! Happy Travels! Kathy in GA
17th March 2011

Crime, Crabs and Karma
Thanks for sharing such a wonderful and well-described trip. I really appreciated it and felt it gave me a much more candid view of Baltimore.

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