Friday, April 12, 2013

Lighthouses and Little Italy in Baltimore

We decided to go to Baltimore yesterday since we were so close by. Neither of us was sure what to expect---we realized we had poor expectations of the city just because of sports teams rivalries. However, we were pleasantly surprised. I think that's one of the exciting parts of traveling like this...we can break through our pre-conceived notions of places and actually get a feel for cities like Baltimore that we never would have thought of to visit before. 

One thing we immediately noticed about Baltimore was the highest parking rates I have ever seen in my life. One lot advertised "1/2 Hour for $5!" At many lots near the harbor, the going rate was $15 to $25 for 2-3 hours. That's our entire daily budget! So, we set off on a quest to find much cheaper or free parking. We got incredibly lucky in Little Italy. We managed to find a 3 hour parking spot along the street! And it was only a few blocks walk away from the Inner Harbor. It pays to shop around. 

Little Italy had the quaintest, cutest streets lined with well-maintainted and colorful row houses. There were also lots of restaurants. What we were disappointed by, though, was the lack of shops. We only found one import shop, and it was closed. It seems like Little Italy must have taken a hard economic hit. 

We found doors that make me, the short little Italian, look tall! 

This plaza near the water had some neat shops, buildings, and statues. Looking at all the tall buildings in Baltimore, we realized something fundamentally different about DC. There are no tall buildings in the downtown DC area. We speculate that no buildings are allowed to be taller than the Capital building, which makes sense. Instead, DC buildings sprawl out, turning into long rectangles that go on for blocks, or massive multi-building complexes. Though I still much prefer the countryside to the city, I've realized I like DC as a city because of its uniqueness: its lack of tall buildings, its abundance of green space, and its bustling atmosphere. Compared with DC, Baltimore seemed muffled and subdued. There were far fewer people out walking, jogging, eating, and utilizing public spaces. That's a stark contrast with DC, where the whole city seems to live their lives outside, bustling about, picnicking on the grass, having a bottle of wine under the cherry blooms, and biking and running down every street. DC had a very energetic atmosphere, especially compared to Baltimore, which seemed to be sleeping during our visit. 

Crazy Barnes and Noble with smokestacks. 

This ship is billed "the last survivor of Pearl Harbor." 

This is Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, which used to sit in only seven feet of water at the mouth of the Patapsco River in the Chesapeake Bay. (Fun fact: the average depth of the Bay is only 20 feet!) It is the oldest surviving screw-pile lighthouse, referring to the construction of the base. The screw-pile design eliminated the need for underwater masonry foundations and allowed the lighthouses to be suspended above the water by a system of cast-iron pilings with corkscrew-like bases, which could be turned into the soft mud of the sea floor. The lighthouse was built only 9 feet above mean high water level! 

View from the lighthouse's deck. 

Thanks Bob for all the great information during our visit! We really enjoyed the lighthouse. Best of luck to you...maybe we'll see you on the Appalachian Trail someday. 

Baltimore's Inner Harbor was really lovely. 


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