Susan Barnes (Wills), who was born and raised in Baltimore and left her heart there, now resides here. She gave me an entire list: "Please go back and see: Visionary Arts Museum in Federal Hill; Baltimore Museum of Art's Cone Collection of Matisse; Mount Vernon with Walters Art Museum and the first Washington Monument (especially in the spring for the Flower Garden event); Fells Point for a coffee at Bonaparte's Bread or wine at Vino on the wharf. By all means get a book on Baltimore architecture and see the beautiful buildings around the city. (My favorite is the Bromo Seltzer building.) Catch a lacrosse game at Homewood field and see the National Lacrosse Museum there."
Well, that's sure to keep me busy.
If you're like me, you don't believe in coincidence. A week after that Travel section appeared, I got an e-mail from a public-relations rep for Baltimore asking if I had a few minutes to meet.
Uh-oh, I thought, an official comeuppance.
But, sure, I'd like to meet.
She didn't know anything about the less-than-glowing column I had written. She wanted to tell me the Good News. Turns out there is a lot going on in Baltimore and all over Maryland.
The Star Spangled 200, which runs through summer 2014, celebrates the national anthem's bicentennial. It also includes Chesapeake Campaign celebrations around Maryland to remember the only time the nation's capital was invaded by a foreign power.
The Baltimore of Fort McHenry, battered but not broken in the War of 1812 when Francis Scott Key saw its flag's "broad stripes and bright stars," has a proud history. Who wouldn't want to give this city a break?
Then, in another coincidence (can that be?), I happened upon today's story on this page. The writer wasn't too happy to be assigned to write about the town, but he ended up being charmed.
That's what happened to me. Since that January visit and February column, I've returned to Maryland twice for new experiences, and can now say that the place nicknamed "The Old Line State" and its capital city have much to offer.
Over Presidents Day weekend, I packed up the family and headed to the Eastern Shore. I had been to Ocean City, Md., many times. But this was winter. While there were no water activities, many attractions were open. And the beach was beautiful, the air clear and crisp, the waves fantastic. God's country. Best of all, there was no summertime gridlock on the small island.
On our first day, we headed 10 miles south to Assateague Island National Seashore to see the wild horses. I just love those horses, and they seemed to be everywhere we went. Despite gale-force winds and below-freezing temperatures, they played in the water and napped alongside the road, all the while providing patient poses for eager visiting photographers.
We also had an up-close-and-personal greeting from a hawk that spotted our Pomeranian, Michael, through our car's windshield. Good thing it wasn't warm enough for the sunroof to be open.
On the way back to Ocean City, we stopped at the outlet mall. A Coach bag, a few men's shirts, and a pair of Reeboks later, we were on our way to dinner and, later, miniature golf.
We ended our visit to the Eastern Shore by driving west to Dorchester County, where Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in 1849 and fled to Philadelphia. She returned to Maryland 13 times to lead about 70 other slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. We visited the site of Brodess Farm where she was born into slavery, and the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in Cambridge, Md. These are but two stops on the driving tour "Finding a Way to Freedom." The entire tour takes a minimum of six hours, the brochure says. Next time, we'll see more.
As you read this, I will be headed back to Baltimore ready to visit the neighborhoods that readers recommended.
That's the thing about travel: It's more than just visiting new, far-off, and exotic places. It's also an opportunity to expand your mind by having new experiences everywhere you go, even when you've been there before.
I'll be writing about my experiences Here and There in this column. And I hope you will continue to let me know what I should see - or may have missed. My mind is open.
Contact Travel editor Philippa J. Chaplin at firstname.lastname@example.org.