Day two began with one of the greaziest (yes, greazy, which is about ten notches above “greasy”) breakfasts we’ve ever had, in one of the shadiest areas of downtown. We ended up just a block away from Lexington Market, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Without knowing any better we hit up McD’s. Worst. Decision. Ever. I had gut rot for a good few hours afterwards. I think I’ve hit my McD’s quota for the year with that one visit, and to my recollection it was only the second time I’ve had food from there all year. One time too many, if you ask me. If that’s not saying enough about the “nutritional value” of their food, then a quick glimpse at the caloric intake of their meals should be enough to scare you off. Ugh.
We had a rough idea of what to see during our second and last day in Baltimore, so once we left McD’s we waddled towards another historic area of town — Federal Hill.
Federal Hill was by far my favourite neighbourhood of Baltimore. There’s a quaint but gorgeous hilltop park overlooking the harbour, more cobblestone streets lined with row houses dating back to the 1820s-1850s, yet another market that didn’t look shady but unfortunately is closed on Sundays, welcoming residents who offered to help us with our map the one time we pulled it out, and even one resident in particular who, upon seeing me photographing some houses on his street, brought us to “the oldest door in Baltimore” so I could take a picture:
If I ever move to Baltimore this would be my ‘hood. We even came across a house for sale that dated from the 1820s, had original wood flooring, and screamed my name. Alas, I’m broke and still living in my mother’s basement. Maybe one day…
From Federal Hill we walked over to Camden Yards where we’d be watching an Orioles game later that day. But first, we had to go to Uri’s must-see choice: Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (or as Uri kept on calling it “The Comic Book Museum”; no wonder no one knew where it was when we asked for directions, despite standing within eyesight of the building).
This museum was awesome and Uri, being a typical boy who loves his Batman, was in heaven. The museum contained not only comic books, but pop culture items from over the past hundred years or so. They even had some historical items from Baltimore’s past.
One room in particular brought me back to my childhood. It was like every toy I had cherished as a kid was contained within just a few glass display cases. I decided that instead of describing the museum in words, I’ll just share the shit ton of pictures I took. It was a very visual experience, after all, so I might as well continue with the visual theme:
We left the museum like wide-eyed kids and made our way to the baseball game. I’m not particularly an Oriole’s fan, and I haven’t really followed baseball since I was eight or nine and the Toronto Blue Jays were champions for two years in a row, but it’s incredibly hard to be even close to the vicinity of Camden Yards and not get caught up in the excitement. Those fans bleed orange and black. Even the fire hydrants in the neighbourhood are orange!
We were later told by a native Baltimorean (is that the correct term for them?) that Oriole Park at Camden Yards was a model for how ball parks were built throughout the country after its establishment. I’m not even going to bother verifying that claim by doing the research because after being there, I don’t doubt it. It’s a spectacular park of iconic proportions, and as much as I love my city, our own ball park can’t hold a candle to Camden Yards. The ball park itself is only 21 years old, but the land upon which it’s built and some of the historic buildings that it’s nestled beside date back to the late 1800s (the “Warehouse”, which is the long brick structure that borders right field, is actually the longest building on the East Coast).
I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of the exterior of the building, so I’m borrowing from the great interweb to share with you what it looks like from the street (again, I do not claim ownership of these images):
I did, however take this shot from our seats:
We got cheapy seats in the upper level, but the view was still fantastic. However, we were stuck in front of a very enthusiastic and avid O’s fan who kept on screaming “Let’s go Oooooooooooooooooooossssssss”, and often at a very high decibel. Honestly, sometimes his screams even sounded hysterical. I tend to have a hard time biting my tongue when it comes to calling out people on their discourteous behaviour, but at one point I turned around to find the culprit and had to shut my gob.
It was a little boy who must have been six or seven years old. How can you get mad at a kid who’s just clearly enjoying watching his ball team?! That boy did give me a souvenir of the game though: a resounding headache and the inability to forget what his voice sounds like.
From Camden Yards we walked back up to the hostel, gathered our things and checked out, then continued to walk north along Cathedral Street to another historic neighbourhood: Mount Vernon.
The hostel was on the southern border of this neighbourhood, so we didn’t have to go far to see the first landmark of the area: The Baltimore Basilica.
Formally known as the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Basilica was the first cathedral to be built on American soil, with building taking place from 1806-1821. This church predates Canada’s national unification as a country, and is so massive I could only capture part of it standing near its base:
I had to go across the street just to get this shot:
We didn’t go inside but we did go into the gift shop so I could pick up my customary souvenir, a tradition that began with church visits with my Gran when I was young: collecting rosaries from the different international churches I visit. I have rosaries that date back fifteen years in age, and although she was with me for the purchase of only one or two of them, I think of my Gran every time I see them.
From the Basilica we continued north a few more blocks until we hit the centre of the Mount Vernon neighbourhood: a roundabout circling a statue dedicated to George Washington, surrounded by park space radiating off the centre in a cross-formation.
I didn’t feel like I was in Baltimore anymore. There’s also so many churches in this one part of town that every hour you hear a series of church bells ringing, always out of synch as if they each go by a different time.
Just north of this area is the pizza place I’ve been dreaming about since before I even left Toronto. We ordered our traditional margherita pizza, but once it came I was a bit let down. It had WAY too much cheese on it to be a proper margherita. It still tasted delicious, mind you, but I have to say I’ve had better. Then again, nothing can compare to pizza in Naples, so maybe I’m just being a pizza snob.
We finished our dinner around 6:00pm and had about three hours to kill before our bus home arrived. We once again played with the idea of taking the public bus back to the Megabus stop, but laziness won out for a second time. We hailed a cab.
We originally planned on getting back to the bus stop area early with the hopes of catching a movie, but once we arrived we realized that wasn’t an option as the show times weren’t accommodating. All the stores in the area were also closed, except one, the most dangerous of them all, Barnes & Noble. Setting me loose in a bookstore is like giving a kid free rein in a candy store. I ended up buying three books, one of which was the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. A fitting souvenir, if I can say so myself.
Our bus was scheduled to depart Baltimore at 9:15pm, so we returned to the stop at 8:15pm to ensure a good spot in line. Remember what I said about the bus stop being a sectioned off piece of a parking lot? Well, our only seats during our wait was a curb. It wasn’t too bad for the first hour, but then as the other Megabuses came and went, and the minutes passed, past our scheduled departure time, we started growing restless.
Our bus was TWO HOURS LATE. In total, we waited, sitting on that damn curb, for THREE HOURS. We could have seen a blasted movie after all!
The anxiety didn’t kick in until about 10:00pm. One of the other buses showed up thirty minutes late, so we figured, meh, that’s not too bad. Slowly but surely though, people started to get cranky, the other bus drivers were useless in providing us any sort of information, and the Megabus customer service line closed at 9:00pm. Awesome.
There was about ten of us waiting for the Toronto bus, but two riders in particular stuck out for me and provided us with some sort of entertainment during the wait.
The first person was a priest. I know he was a priest because he was wearing the collar, however I somewhat doubted his position once I heard him swear at a driver of a different bus that couldn’t provide him with any information (in the priest’s defence though, the driver was useless and told him we were in the wrong spot, despite there being a sign that said “buses to Toronto”). I’ve never heard a priest swear before, and according to Uri he said more than I actually heard, but he became a companion for us during the wait. I guess us potty mouths have to stick together.
The second rider was a woman who looked, sounded, and had the overall characteristics attributed to a much-loved but often annoyingly depressing Winnie the Pooh character: Eeyore.
She talked the entire time to apparently no one or herself because the older gentleman she was with stopped responding after a certain point. She would constantly announce the time, and I’m not shitting you, I’m quoting her verbatim here:
“Ohhh, it’s 10:02”. She shuts up for a minute. “Ohhhhhhh, now it’s 10:03”. Some time goes by, “It must be around 11:00 now, I’m so tired of pulling out my cellphone to check the time”. She proceeds to pull out said phone. “Oh, it’s only 10:15”.
This, along with other jabber about her “never being able to do this ride again because she won’t get home until so-and-so time and will only get twelve hours of sleep” (WTF?!), or just other random shit she kept on ho-humming about, lasted for TWO. WHOLE. HOURS. I was about ready to unleash the priest on her and prayed that she didn’t sit near us on the bus (Uri, the shit disturber that he can be, suggested that we DO sit behind her on the bus just to see if she continued. Obviously, I vehemently REFUSED).
We were nearing our wit’s end for the whole situation and were contemplating getting a hotel room and dealing with the catastrophe of getting home in the morning when, thank all that is holy, the effing bus showed up. Two hours late. No biggie. It’s not like we have somewhere to get to, like, say ANOTHER COUNTRY.
When the bus drivers exited the bus (there were two for us, apparently they were expecting a mob riot after making us wait so long), they didn’t even apologize nor offer any sort of explanation for the delay. Fack, they barely spoke to us. Great customer service Megabus! Add to that the fact that the bus was practically full and we had to find separate seats (all aisles, of course), and you have yourself a great start to a twelve-hour bus ride.
After our first stop in Philly a pair of seats opened up in front of me, so Uri and I pounced on that shit as quick as we could. Here we were, thinking that we were finally settled for the night, when only few hours later we woke up to something cold and wet dripping on us — the AC directly above us was releasing big, fat water bombs. I couldn’t believe it.
As there were no other seats available, we had to choice but to lean away from each other and let the water fall in between us. I somehow managed to fall asleep again until I was woken up by Uri talking to one of the drivers. Apparently another rider was having the same issue farther down the bus, so he complained to the driver, who tried to fix it with TOILET PAPER. This obviously didn’t work (maybe the fact that the bus was set to “freeze these poor bastards to death” temperature was the reason for the damn AC being overworked), so the driver managed to do some reshuffling and gave us the pair of seats that she was so comfortably seated in. I was effing frigid, dizzy from exhaustion and pissed to high hell. If it wasn’t three in the morning I would have let my pissed-off West Indian loose. Thankfully for Uri and that bus driver, I ended up falling back to sleep within minutes of changing seats.
We were supposed to arrive back home in Toronto at 9:30am Monday morning. We didn’t get in until almost noon. The ride to Baltimore was a piece of cake; the ride back to Toronto was complete misery.
Overall, Baltimore is pretty wicked. If I ever go back though, it’s probably going to be by plane, or a rental car.