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Trip Report Baltimore - Charm City

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If business hadn't taken me to Baltimore for a week the latter part of June, I would have to admit it wasn't on my radar screen as a holiday must do. However, having said that, I will be returning to "Charm City" with my husband so he can enjoy the beautiful waterfront and friendly people in this metropolis setting.

We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and were amazed at the temperatures - hovering 90 plus. Checked into the Lord Baltimore a Radisson hotel located a five-minute walk from the harbourfront. The hotel is old and the hallways a little tired, however, I was pleased with my room which was well equipped and super clean. The staff were extremely friendly and so helpful. The restaurant/bar on the main floor offered excellent prices and food. I must say, this hotel offered the best crabcakes I had all week. Their nightly special was 3 for $23 and you got a choice of crab soup/wedge salad, crab cakes, salmon or steak and your choice of a glass of house white or red. Even their room service - there was nothing over $6 with a $2 fee. I am not sure I ever stayed in a hotel where the prices were that inexpensive. For early risers, they always had coffee, water, fresh fruit and granola bars to grab on your way out the door. I would stay here again. Plus the price was half of what the hotels were charging on the waterfront. If you are a 5* person, this isn't the place for you, but it had everything I needed.

That afternoon we ate lunch on the water at J Paul's Harbourfront Place. Good food, great service. We then took a 45 minute tour of the Harbour so we could get our bearings. Coming from Nova Scotia, we simply were not prepared for the heat - apparently it was 10-15 degrees hotter than normal - extreme humidity.

Monday to Thursday we were busy with meetings, but managed to grab a ball game on Tuesday night. Camden yards is located plunk in the middle of the downtown. It has the feel of an old ball park and we enjoyed the game - minus the extreme heat and humidity - but left feeling closer to a lot of fans from Baltimore!

We ate at a couple of restaurants along the waterfront. The Tapas bar had excellent sangria at about $22/pitcher which was enough for 4-5 of us. They had different nightly specials and good value for great food and service.

We had a party of 22 make a reservation through the conceirge at the Convention Centre at Cinghiale for a debriefing after a long day on the tradeshow floor. The restaurant was lovely, well appointed. We had asked for a private area or at least two tables in close proximity to accommodate us. The noise level in the restaurant was deafening and certainly not a place to go if you want to talk. The manager seemed unable to focus to provide us with the table space. While the food was good, it wasn't great - the kitchen seemed to have a problem with some of our orders. They didn't bring around parmesan cheese or pepper and we had to ask and wait patiently for the girl to bring it and when she did, she only offered it to the one person who asked. Our food orders were slow, but can appreciate the number in our party may have been the reason. When we went to leave, the whole experience became one I will never forget. We were told we were unable to have separate bills. The general manager never heard of customer service and was unwilling to help us solve our problem. I have never, ever met a more ignorant young woman in my life and I hope the owners of the restaurant don't believe she is "model management". I would not recommend this restaurant based solely on our experience with her and that is a shame.

The water taxi service on the harbour is a great way to get around quickly - especially in the heat. However, it really doesn't take long to walk to a lot of the places. Fell's Point is a must and we spent our last day in Baltimore exploring the cobblestone streets. Great shopping! The entire city seemed to have one big sale - everywhere we went there was 50-75% off. Not sure if it was prior to the tourist season and they were clearing out stock, or still the effects of the recession. I must say, everyone I encountered in retail were as pleasant and those I met on the street.

I will definitely be returning to Baltimore! The city should be congratulated for the work they have done to transform an industrial harbourfront to one that can be enjoyed by all ages. The combination of living spaces (many new condo projects) together with historical and non-commercial spaces was well done. I also noticed Baltimore has a lot of artwork strewn about the city - pleasing to the eye to catch so many sculptures. Their use of water through fountains and children's activity centres was also appealing.

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