By Laura Lippman
Best-selling US author Laura Lippman has won countless awards for her crime fiction. Her latest novel, ‘Lady in the Lake’, was published this July. She lives in Baltimore. Her husband David Simon co-created the hit television drama series ‘The Wire’, which is set in the city.
Baltimore often is thought of as a blue-collar town, but that has not been true for years. The waterfront has been gentrified quite a bit: the old Procter & Gamble soap plant is now the Under Armour “campus”.
But the Domino sugar refinery is still here and its neon sign has a trick of seeming to follow one throughout the city. I can see it from my rooftop; I see it when I walk east for coffee in the pre-dawn darkness; I see it when I go to the other side of the harbour.
Where to live — Dickeyville
I grew up in Dickeyville, a neighbourhood some Baltimoreans could not find on a map. Bordered by the Gwynns Falls stream and the vast, wooded acreage known as Leakin Park, the former mill town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Wetheredsville Road leads to the Gwynns Falls Trail, a 15-mile biking and hiking path that runs all the way to the downtown waterfront.
I now live in its exact opposite — treeless, but very walkable, South Baltimore, which I also love.
Where to eat dinner
Baltimore’s dining scene has exploded in recent years: there is the empire of restaurants that chef Cindy Wolf runs with Tony Foreman; two restaurants under the supervision of Andrew Carmellini; and a startlingly good Mexican place, Clavel.
I love Peter’s Inn and live for the occasions when John Waters (the film director and writer) invites us to dinner there. He used to be the only person I knew who was allowed to reserve a table, but they now offer limited reservations via their website.
Our special-occasion restaurant tends to be Woodberry Kitchen, which is so dedicated to locally sourced food that I have to forgo a twist in my martini when I eat there. But my favourite has to be Hersh’s, a neighbourhood pizza place where I eat almost weekly. When I order take-out and ask for two orders of meatballs, they immediately know it is me.
Where to have a drink
I have a lot of “mom friends” and, yes, we like to meet up for rosé and plan mom weekends. There is nothing fancy about Amber in South Baltimore, but it is convenient and can accommodate large groups. One day, I hope they put up a plaque noting it was the birthplace of a new tradition, “moms’ runaway weekend”.
If I am meeting just a few people, I like the Idle Hour and W.C. Harlan. The former is a hipster spin on a classic Baltimore corner bar. (I like hipsters — they are good for my city.) The latter feels like an old speakeasy.
Where to find peace
Now and then I escape to the Ivy Hotel for a staycation. A gorgeous Relais & Châteaux property in an old townhouse, it has a small spa, a proper afternoon tea, a billiards room and a very good restaurant, Magdalena. Each of the 18 rooms is unique; it is my plan to stay in almost every one. Only 15 to go!
Another place to get away from it all is Fort McHenry. It is a historic site notable for an important battle during the war of 1812, but also a beautiful, peaceful place with lush lawns and a gorgeous water view. I love to walk and cycle there.
Where to discover culture
Baltimore has a good variety of museums. The exhibits at the American Visionary Art Museum in Federal Hill are always top-notch and the permanent collection of screen art — an art form very specific to Baltimore — is worth seeing.
It would be a shame to miss the Baltimore Museum of Art, which is known for the Cone Collection, the life’s work of two sisters who began collecting works by Matisse and Picasso early in the 20th century. I also love its sculpture garden.
There is an empty stone pedestal across the street that until quite recently held a statue honouring Confederate officers Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The statue was removed by the city and the effect is wonderfully Ozymandias, which I think might be the best way to “contextualise” these ill-conceived tributes to a cause dedicated to preserving slavery.
Where to follow in literary footsteps
Edgar Allan Poe is buried at Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, and the tiny brick residence he briefly shared with his aunt, Maria Clemm, is open to the public. But there is more to Baltimore’s literary heritage.
Dashiell Hammett worked here as a Pinkerton detective (between 1915 and 1922) in what was then known as the Continental Trust Company Building (it is still here, now known as One Calvert Plaza). To get a sense of some of Anne Tyler’s characters, take a drive through Roland Park and Homeland on Baltimore’s north side.
Photographs: Carla Cioffi; Getty Images/iStockphoto; Alamy; Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group; SM+P Architects; Relais & Chateaux; Mitro Hood