This Christmas, give yourself a delightful present: Baltimore

Then & Now

December 09, 2006|By JACQUES KELLY

Consider a few tips should your holiday energy be flagging or you need a quick fix of spirit:

Visit the Lexington Market and stay for lunch. The market is the surviving bastion of the old downtown retail district. One look at those glass cases full of old-fashioned taffy and peanut brittle will warm up the spirits of any curmudgeon. Also, the prices on the sandwiches are cheap. Try a corned beef on rye, a bag of potato chips and spread out on one the tables on the second-floor balcony. Don't skip the quarter-pound bag (hand-packed, of course) of some sinful treat.

Go on a drive. I survived a trip to Costco this week and needed some emergency relaxation afterward. We drove around the urban portions of Interstate 95, and I remarked that it is just great looking at the church steeples and synagogue domes this time of the year. Baltimore in July is often too hot to contemplate, but the Baltimore skyline in December is easy on the eyes.

There's been a wonderful full moon this week, a treat to those of us who get into the evening skies this time of year. I like to sneak in a little 4:45 p.m. walk and then look to the west and the lingering purple lights. From my Charles Village neighborhood, I often seek out the white stone tower atop Druid Hill Park reservoir or the great green dome atop the old Shaarei Zion synagogue.

Another potent destination is Federal Hill Park, also after dark, the city's ultimate show of lights. There is something about a deep cold December night on the harbor. If you schedule a walk around the Dickensian streets of nearby South Baltimore, you've got another winner. I do tree- and manger-snooping inside the windows separated by the marble steps. Talk about Baltimore.

Put off addressing those cards and attend a church musical program. Those choirs have been practicing for weeks now and deserve an appreciative audience. Get your Christmas music fix in a good acoustical setting. Beside, it'll make you sit still for an hour and might just do some reflective good.

Now that it's free, you have no excuse not to spend a half-hour walking through the Medieval and Renaissance galleries at the Walters Art Museum. The Bethlehem-inspired religious art there is breathtaking; the setting in those Walters' chambers is not bad, either. If the three kings don't turn you on, there are always mummies, Greeks and Romans.

Skip the big stores and shop at the little stores and markets. I know it's hard to cut away from the big malls and their asphalted parking lots, but do the counterintuitive thing and try Hampden, Fells Point, Main Street Annapolis, Ellicott City or Belvedere Square. I'm partial to Fells Point in the winter because even if I don't spend a dime, there are always those incredible water views. I call it retail therapy.

Lastly, indulge in the Baltimore tradition of the Christmas garden. Visit one, or better yet, build your own. Make your own mountain paper and build streets out of brown wrapping paper. Remember: There's nothing wrong about postponing adulthood.

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