10.16.2010

Charmed Anew by the Charm City

I had a very labor-intensive gig in Baltimore last summer so went down there four times in the span of four months. By the end of the engagement, I was pretty Baltimored out, having pretty much seen everything touristy that I wanted to see. So when business brought me back to Baltimore yesterday, I wasn't expecting much out of the little pockets of free time I had.

Ah, but the Charm City is charming. I knew from looking it up that there was a bus that would take me from the train station to close to my conference hotel, but I would only have two minutes to catch it. When my train rolled in three minutes, I resigned myself to having to either hoof it (a good distance even for me) or taxi it (I hate spending money). But I was in luck: the bus pulled in just as I got to the stop. It was an easy breezy ten-minute ride to near the convention center, and within minutes I was at my destination. All for just $1.60.

But you know what's even better than $1.60? How about free? After my morning presentation, I met with a colleague of mine at Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, who told me about the Charm City Circulator, which are free bus loops through all the major parts of Baltimore. Sure enough, after I left my colleague and had returned to the hotel for lunch, I exited the hotel and only had to cross the street to get to a Circulator stop. Even better, an electronic display told me the next bus was coming in three minutes. It then proceeded to count down to zero, and on cue, a bright, low-emission bus pulled up. Quietest bus I've ever ridden in, and I'm talking about the engine, not the passengers. I enjoyed the ride so much I made note to use the other line to get me back to the train station, which was a major save for my aching feet (if you know Baltimore, you know that the walk from downtown to the train station is basically straight uphill for about a mile and a half).

But enough about free transit. I was also enchanted by one of Baltimore's crown jewels, the Walters Art Museum. There's something about the place that really refreshes me. Maybe it's the beautiful works, maybe it's the silence, maybe it's the feng shui . . . who knows? All I know is I love walking through it. As a bonus, I got to the Asian Art wing, which was closed all the other times I was there, and which in addition to featuring some pretty cool pieces, was housed in a historic house from the 1850's, which the museum had restored and connected to its main exhibit halls in a very well-done way.

Believe it or not, I found myself wishing time hadn't moved so quickly. Soon enough, it was back on the train and off to Philly and over to my kids' schools. But though I had not anticipated it, a day in the Charm City left me refreshed, for which I am thankful.




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