Maryland, USA

Baltimore and the area nearby

Shortly before the attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington in September 2001, we had booked a 10-day trip to Baltimore and Washington. As the days passed we wondered whether we should be able to go. The uncertainty continued for a while - the attacks on New York and Washington were followed by anthrax scares, some close to Baltimore.

Less than six weeks after the attacks we flew to Baltimore as originally intended. Once there we decided to miss our planned trip into Washington DC, unsure how the security situation would affect sightseeing.

The first few days were spent in and around the Baltimore area, and were very interesting. To be fair our impression of Baltimore and nearby Annapolis was helped by the fact that we were there during an unusually warm and sunny spell, with temperatures approaching 80ºF: not bad for October!
For visitors to Baltimore one of the most attractive parts of the city must be the old waterfront which, like many waterfronts around the world, struggled as commercial shipping declined. After a period in decline work started in the 1970s to modernise and improve the area giving it a new role as a centre for visitors.

A boardwalk extends around most of the waterfront and is a good place for a stroll, with many places to eat and interesting things to see as you wander through the old harbour areas. We particularly liked the Water Taxis that provide a simple way to travel from one old shipping or landing area to another without too much strenuous walking. They offer some of the best views of the shoreline itself, and make it easier to understand how important the shipping industry once was here.

Typical of the old landing areas was Fells Point, once an embarkation place for immigrants, later a general unloading wharf for ships from around the world, and now a good place to have lunch overlooking the water.

Dotted along the boardwalk and surrounding areas are many things of interest, including an old lighthouse (relocated here after its life in service was ended) and several old ships. One of these is the last US Navy vessel in service that was attacked at Pearl Harbour, and close by a WWII submarine is open to visitors.

Also along the boardwalk, and spreading up into the city centre, were a large number of ornamental fish 'sculptures'. The background to these was not clear beyond learning that the city had produced more than two hundred fibreglass fish, each around three feet long and mounted on a simple stand. The models had been decorated by a number of local artists to reflect various themes  mostly humorous but sometimes related to Baltimore and its history. Most unusual!
Annapolis, less than an hour's drive from Baltimore, is almost a complete contrast with an 'olde worlde' charm about it. The Maryland State Capitol sits on a small hill in the old town - a good looking building, smaller than might be expected, and the scene of George Washington's renunciation of his rank of General as he became President.

Annapolis is also the home of the US Naval Academy, the Navy's university where would-be officers undergo a four year training in beautiful surroundings. The grounds are open to visitors and, after a security check, we spent time in the Visitor Centre and the magnificent Chapel. All around the town are the signs that this is a sailing community.
After three days in the Baltimore area it was time to move on. Sticking to our decision not to go into Washington DC we were recommended to the western part of Maryland, a relatively narrow strip of land lying between Pennsylvania to the north and West Virginia to the south. Driving west we passed through large expanses of trees on gently rolling hills and, since this was the Fall, we saw trees of many different colours preparing to shed their leaves for winter. This region is not perhaps as well known as some of the other northern states for the colours of its autumn foliage and yet by British standards the effect was striking, with many shades of green, gold, orange and red stretching away into the distance.


Some of the strange fibregalls fish dotted around Baltimore
The many colours of the Fall
Street in Old Annapolis, and the Chapel of the Naval Academy
The waterfront at Baltimore
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