Hampden, MD

A little over a year ago our son and his family relocated to Hampden, Maryland, a funky neighborhood in northern Baltimore. WikipediaHampden Village Merchants Association and Live Baltimore provide an eye into this colorful town. (Last two links thanks to Brenda at Hanging On A Whim, described below.)

During the school year, we visit every other month. While visiting, our focus is entirely on our family, especially our grandchildren. We have been in Hampden for their annual Miracle on 34th Street lights, a sight to behold. My pictures from last December hardly do the street justice, but perhaps they suffice to give you an idea of the magnitude of the display. The entire block is aglow!

The main street of Hampden is called "The Avenue", and it houses the vast majority of the neighborhood's stores and restaurants. Our two favorite eateries are The Charmery, bastion of Charm City's homemade ice cream, including Maryland Mud and usually three vegan options, and The Golden West Cafe, best spot we've found for delectable breakfasts, including vegan choices, and our grandson is a fan of their decor.

All of our visits to The Avenue have always included our grandchildren. On our most recent visit we arrived while they were still at school and took the opportunity to stroll the street, walking along one side and then the other, with the other half of the block awaiting another visit. Well, it wasn't exactly serendipitous – I had been planning this stroll for several weeks! My destination?

Ma Petite Shoe is one of several shops in a cluster of colorful row houses, long since transformed to stores. Their sign has always caught my attention: Shoes & Chocolate. Seriously, what better combination! And of course, I had to go inside. And, for those who know me, it will come as no surprise that I had to try on something. I actually tried on two somethings, and purchased one of them, a brand completely new to me, L'Artiste.

We arrived home Sunday; I wore them to school on Monday. Turned out to be much warmer than anticipated, but still worth the wearing!

Another shop next door, which caught my husband's eye, is Hanging On A Whim, an artist-owned store and gallery of custom painted furniture and objects. I was immediately attracted to the whimsy and color of the furniture, some of it children's size but other pieces accommodating to grownups. I left Brenda's shop imagining a screened porch decorated with some of her furniture or a few surprise accents dispersed around corners in a future home.

There is also a yoga studio across the street from the shoe store. I will check this out on some future visit, and leave you for now with the aptly crafted exterior building art on the second floor of the studio.