Outward Bound: Baltimore

Outward Bound: Baltimore

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A getaway doesn’t have to be far; it can be as quick as 60 minutes away, such as to … fabulous Baltimore!

An overstatement? Maybe a few years back, but not now. Baltimore is an affordable and increasingly sophisticated city.

 A trip here is ideal for a spring fling: perfect for a couple’s romantic getaway or for friends looking for a change of scenery. Both gay men and lesbians will discover an outing to Baltimore can be a refreshing alternative to the high-energy trip to the expensive “City That Never Sleeps.” That is not to say Baltimore is sleepy; rather, it’s more of a discovery city.

The National Aquarium is still a must-visit, with a new exhibition opening in May, “Living Seashore.” If you have not been in years, you are due a visit. It lives up to its name as the “national” aquarium.

Beyond the Inner Harbor, Baltimore is transforming into a foodie city (albeit still defined by the legendary crab cake). Menus in Baltimore are a refreshing break from the same old standard fare. Chefs here take a decidedly adventurous turn. And fish is on the menu!

At City Café, under the direction of executive chef Michael Benson, it’s a tough choice between tempura Brussels sprouts or fried green tomatoes and crab. This is the go-to place for daily happy hours, weekend brunch or dinner. City Café is a short walk to Baltimore’s gay bars, Grand Central and the Hippo.

Gertrude’s, gay-owned and operated, is located in the grandest of settings: the newly renovated Baltimore Museum of Art, now celebrating 100 years. Life and business partners John Shields and John Gilligan created a perfect recipe for their relationship and for operating a fine dining experience. Shields — known as the “culinary ambassador of the Chesapeake Bay” — has written three books on the cuisine of the region. Gertrude’s menu bends to the seafood lover but you will also see your favorite old-school dishes (we love that!). You’ll find a hip group on Saturday nights with the sweet sounds of live music. Gertrude’s breaks the stereotype of a museum restaurant.

Insider’s tip: Before dinner, hit the incredible collections of Baltimore Museum of Art with 90,000 works of art, including the largest holding of works by Matisse in the world. Art is a romantic appetizer for the mind and soul.

Luxury

The Four Seasons Baltimore is leading the way for Baltimore’s sophisticated hotel renaissance. Located in the upscale Harbor East, it’s not merely a hotel: It’s a retreat, an oasis, a true getaway. The hotel gym and spa rival luxury amenities usually found in exotic destinations. Book a room with a view of the Inner Harbor or a balcony.

Restaurants are plentiful in Harbor East, but one can make an excuse not to leave the Four Seasons. Wit & Wisdom, A Tavern by Michael Mina, is a destination itself. Sunday brunch there is a very affordable $49 and a culinary treat. Grilled cheese and PB&J sandwiches for the kids (or the kid at heart) are juxtaposed with salmon, pancakes, deviled eggs and, of course, hints of Old Bay seasoning in some dishes. Grab a New York Times and the local LGBT publication, Baltimore Gay Life, and chill out. Check Wit & Wisdom’s website (witandwisdombaltimore.com) for seasonal and community-minded culinary events.

Baltimore’s Four Seasons exudes legendary service. What makes a hotel gay-friendly? Usually, it starts with a hotel attuned to our community. Baltimore’s Four Seasons smartly embraced the same-sex wedding market and partnered with Baltimore’s local LGBT community, making this Four Seasons a true standout.

Back to Rio

OMG. Rio. Last month’s column couldn’t fit it all in! If you missed the column on Rio, go to epgn.com to catch up.

One of the greatest city icons in the world is the Sanctuary of Christ the Redeemer, where Christ’s hands stretch out over the city, welcoming visitors from all over the world. It is best to get your tickets in advance and go in the morning. No matter how you slice it, it is a four-hour adventure, and worth it. There are several ways to visit the sanctuary — named so because of the chapel at the base of the statue dedicated to the Black Madonna (not that Madonna!). The best way is the train to the top of Corvado, which offers some spectacular views if you sit on the right-hand side. Ask your hotel concierge to reserve your tickets; www.cristoredentoroficial.com.br.

The Museum of Art of Rio is a worthy visit — especially if arriving by cruise ship. The museum is dedicated to artists of Brazil. It has a lovely rooftop restaurant and the exhibitions are modern, leaving you with a definitive appreciation for the country; www.museudeartedorio.org.br.

For gay nightlife, Zero Zero is the Sunday “must-do.” It is a fun, multi-venue club with a smallish dance floor and a spacious lounge area. Felice is a charming gay restaurant in Ipanema and Galeria Café is close to Felice and especially popular on Friday nights. On Rua Farme de Amodeo (the gay street near the Ipanema gay beach), you will find many gay-friendly bars and restaurants. For an authentic Brazilian meal and live entertainment, try Restaurant Rayz on Farme de Amodeo. A trusted resource is the Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau’s website: www.rcvb.com.br.

Jeff Guaracino is the author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing.”


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