Friday, July 30, 2010

More Eats and Treats

Magnet # 305:  Hard Rock Cafe Baltimore Surfboard

Material:  Metal

Purchased By:  Me

Today marks the anniversary of the day in 1729 when the Town of Baltimore was founded in the Province of Maryland.  It was strategically located just off of Chesapeake Bay along the Patapsco River and the Inner Harbor that was later built at its port would become a very important shipping destination, with manufacturing springing up all around it.  During the War of 1812, it rose to prominence when forces at its Fort McHenry fought off a British naval attack.  It was while this battle played out that Francis Scott Key watched from aboard a British ship where he was trying to negotiate the release of an American prisoner.  Inspired by the sight of his country's flag, he later penned what would become the lyrics to our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."  After the Battle of Baltimore, as it came to be known, people came in droves to Baltimore, helping to transform it into a major shipping and manufacturing center.  Since then, it's had its ups and downs, but Baltimore is still hanging on, perhaps most notably with the restoration of its Inner Harbor, and it has the distinction of being the nation's largest independent city.

The Hard Rock Cafe in Baltimore is in a pretty unusual location - it's in a historic, converted power plant in the popular Inner Harbor.  The smokestacks are still on top of the building, and in front of them is a 68-foot red neon guitar. Yep, it's easy to spot from a distance.  While I didn't get a chance to eat there, I did have enough time to stop by and pick up this magnet, which is a little odd, given the location - I don't think they do much surfing at the Inner Harbor.  Other than the very nice breakfast buffet at my hotel, the only place I ate at in Baltimore was the Papermoon Diner, a rather unusual restaurant located near Johns Hopkins University.  I had learned of it while watching, of course, the Travel Channel, where it was featured on Diner Paradise.  Each eatery featured was pretty exceptional but, oddly enough, Papermoon appealed to me the most.  It just looked so interesting - it was covered with all sorts of toys all over its walls and ceilings and was painted in all sorts of bright colors.  Plus the food was also supposed to be pretty eclectic and that sounded neat, as well.  So when I ran across it in a travel guide and realized it was located in a stop during my Mid-Atlantic trip last year, I prioritized it as one of the three places I had to see.  The shuttle driver at my hotel had never heard of it before, but found it nonetheless.  And he wasn't able to pick me up for several hours, so I had plenty of time to check the restaurant out.  Before I even got in the door, I noticed a bathtub and sink outside with plants growing in them.  And the interior was incredible - there really was all sorts of stuff all over the place.  Bright colors were painted in stripes all over the walls and there were lots of mannequins covered with toys.  It wouldn't surprise me if there are a million toys in there - it was stunning to see them all.  I was lucky enough to get a table near the counter, so I was able to watch all of the activity.  There really was a mixed crowd there - art students, families, business sorts, and so on.  Even the menus were unusual - all of the covers appeared to be handmade, with no two the same and they had odd images on them.  I ended up ordering a bowtie pasta with salmon and capers, and it was delicious.  Plus, the staff was very nice to me, even if they were stuck with me for awhile.  I was not disappointed by the Papermoon Diner and I doubt you'd be, either, so if you're in Baltimore, give it a try!

I know I've mentioned on here how Baltimore was a little big and scary for my tastes and I'm not sure if I'd go back there again sometime or not.  But it is located just off I-95, so if I were to head up North again, it might make for a good place to stop by, especially if I can book the same hotel I had last time.  And I still would like to see Fort McHenry, which I missed on that trip.  So will I give Baltimore another shot someday?  I'm not sure one way or another, but I'm definitely not crossing it off my list just yet.

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