Hampden, a township about five minutes by car from campus, is a world all its own. Hardly a few skips from the hustle and bustle of such busy streets as St. Paul and N. Charles, those road-rage-infected Baltimore drivers have no choice but to be calmed and soothed by the atmosphere. Families line the streets, talking and laughing while gazing at the shops, one next to another next to another. Coffeehouses and little cafes are sandwiched in between the rowhouses of those who are lucky enough to live in this quaint little town.
It seems you can be almost anyone here. There are vintage shops with the most "groovy" gear from the '60s and '70s at your fingertips. It's just a short walk from there to the Norwegian shop, and then to the shop that has endless shelves of trinkets from India and Guatemala.
Crossing the street, you're met with antique sellers and windows displaying crafts and pottery, and of course, there are Royal Farms peppered throughout the streets. If you find yourself walking calmly and serenely down the main stretch of Hampden on W. 36th St, you'll unknowingly gravitate closer and closer to the intersection with Chestnut Ave, and you'll wind up at a store that has been beckoning to you ever since you set foot on the sidewalks; In Watermelon Sugar. Yes, that's the name. It's a must see yet often missed jewel of Baltimore.
Walking into this one-of-a-kind shop, you can't help but feel like Alice in Wonderland. There is a certain aura of fairy tale magic that seems to encompass the rooms. Some of the walls are painted with simple, delicate flowers and trees that make you feel as though you're in the middle of a forest.
The store consists of two main rooms. In the first, the simple cabinets and counters hold bright satin pillows and geometric bottles of perfume oil. Crafts that would never be found anywhere else peek out from the corners and the legs of the tables. Wooden ladybugs and clay/metal sculptures bring you further into the fascinating world of the store. Decorated for the upcoming celebration of Halloween, candles in the shape of monsters, ghouls, and goblins greet you from their places of honor on the countertop. Hand-made lampshades and lanterns hang from the ceiling and decorate the windows, filling the otherwise cheery atmosphere with shades of black and orange.
In the second room, your senses are overwhelmed by the smell of candles everywhere you turn. They come in every fragrance you could imagine, in mostly simple but beautiful shapes. They line counters, chairs and the floor, and even get mixed in here and there with the nature scenes on the wall. For candle fanatics, In Watermelon Sugar is a little piece of heaven, sure to hold up to its uniqueness and not bought out yet by the mainstream candle companies. What you find here is not sold anywhere else.
There is only one downfall to this fabulous little shop; like many of the other shops in Hampden, it's only open during the weekend, Friday through Sunday, for limited hours. That's not a problem for the students of Johns Hopkins though; we're all studying non-stop during the week anyway, aren't we? It's worth taking the time on the weekend to check out Hampden.
If there is anything that we all need a little once in a while, it's a break: some time to get off campus and go somewhere, anywhere. Hampden gives you the feeling of being miles and miles away after only a twenty-minute walk, and the can't-be-missed shop, In Watermelon Sugar, transports you to a peaceful little world that is priceless. What's even better are the original crafts, candles and such that take you there aren't overpriced at all!
In Watermelon Suger is located at 3555 Chestnut Ave. It is on the corner of Chestnut and 36th St., on what some refer to as "the Avenue.