The question was simple: What is your favorite place in Baltimore?
Asked this, the people I spoke with skipped over the Inner Harbor and nominated the spots they consider special -- some of them blurring boundaries with neighboring counties.
Some thought of green grass, others architecture, some about people and a few the spots where they earn a living. Here goes:
George Washington, long-time Sun cab driver who lives in West Baltimore: "Druid Hill Park. I like to go there and see all the people using it. I've always liked Druid Hill Park."
Martha Lohmeyer, resident of Visitation Way in Poplar Hill: "The Walters Art Gallery. I like the ancient art departments, especially the Egyptian section. But on the gallery's second floor, there's a little cubicle of early Greek pottery. It's a small area . . . but it's very special. There is nothing between you and that period."
Michael Mezzatesta, incoming director of the Walters Art Gallery: "I've only been in Baltimore maybe a total of 13 or 14 full days, but I'd say the Waverly Farmers Market. [Saturdays at Barclay and 32nd streets.] My wife, Nancy Kitterman, is a chef and she's interested in fresh produce. The market itself was really delightful. There were so many different kinds of people shopping there . . . And there was a real community sense, too. At that point, we wished we had a kitchen to cook in."
Kay Johnson, Elsinore Avenue resident in Windsor Hills: "The Ambassador Restaurant on Canterbury Road. The service is so easy-going. You don't feel rushed to eat. I love the grounds, too, the terrace in the back. It's all delightful. It's the way to spend some time the right way."
Mark Schatz, Harundale resident: "I use the B&A; Hiking and Biking Trail [in Anne Arundel County] frequently since a recent hospitalization. The people seem to be more courteous and relaxed on it than in other places. You can get away from the hurly-burly. I like to go all the way from Dorsey Road to Jumpers Hole Mall."
Frances Bishop, Mount Vernon Place resident: "I'm a volunteer at the Baltimore Zoo, so it's got to be my favorite place. I especially like telling our visitors about the animals and explaining their names."
Tom Clancy, author of best selling novels: "There's a lot of places I like in Maryland, but Fort McHenry would have to be it. England has its Tower of London. Fort McHenry is our Tower of London."
Grace Breighner, owner of New System Bakery in Hampden: "I'm one of those people with the perfect job. I love where I work. It's a part of me, an old-fashioned neighborhood bakery where we make people happy. It's a good feeling, people will get an airplane and come back to Baltimore, and the first thing they'll do is come here for our square raisin buns to take to their parents."
Bishop John H. Ricard, Roman Catholic urban vicar of Baltimore: "I like to take five-mile city walks and my favorite stretch is along Eutaw Place. I'm fascinated by the houses and the churches and the old synagogues. They are really beautiful structures all lined up in one stretch."
Denise Gallagher, Northeast Baltimore resident: "I do a lot of camping. When I can't get away, I go to a city park. Herring Run is near my home, but Lake Roland [city-owned, but a tad north of the city line] is beautiful, too. I like the waterfall there."
Sheila Ryan, Dickeyville resident: "Charles Street below University Parkway. It's broad and it's open. There are trees, yet you can see the buildings. This is the part of Baltimore that I have always associated with the city."
Clarence Du Burns, former mayor of Baltimore: "Definitely the Palmer House restaurant on Eutaw Street. It's where I operate, where I meet my friends and always have a good time. There's a real sense of history there. I'm a Palmer House man."
Frances Booke, owner of Louis Booke jewelers and Marconi's Restaurant: "From the day, many years ago, when I walked into Marconi's Restaurant, it's been my favorite place in Baltimore. I've eaten there for 30 or 40 years and never had a bad meal. It's like it was the first time I went there, so lovely, so gentle. It's simple and plain, luxurious and dear and warm."
Mrs. Booke and her late husband were longtime customers at Marconi's, and bought the restaurant more than 20 years ago to assure its continued operation -- and she has tried to keep the restaurant unchanged in its tone and style reminiscent of pre-World War II Baltimore.
June Park, owner of Standard Cleaners and Tailors, 31st and St. Paul Streets: "I like to go to the Baltimore Museum of Art early on Sunday morning and have breakfast, then I walk around before so many people come. I like the pictures of the English kings and queens."
Chuck Stoecker, a White Hall farmer: "Lexington Market. I love watching all the people there walking around and shopping."
So be it.