Travelogue: North Carolina

mums-in-durham

Beautiful Fall Mums in Durham, North Carolina.

I am still working on starting a travel blog, but in the meantime, here I am. This blog seems to encompass my whole life at this point.

I left for North Carolina on Saturday, September 3rd and commenced my health quest on Sunday the 4th. The program included a beautiful and brand new contemporary one bedroom apartment with my own washer/dryer. It also included unlimited exercise classes, all meals, and all the other wonderful classroom classes I have discussed previously. There was a lovely pool and for the first couple weeks the weather was gloriously warm and slightly less gloriously humid. Then there were a smattering of days of rain mixed with sunshine and then back to solid sunshine. The pool was often my afternoon haven of relaxation and introspection.

I really enjoyed Durham, however, sometimes I get antsy. I had never been outside the Charlotte airport on my previous visits to NC. Since Saturdays and Sundays are quiet days on campus, and I was dying to see more of the state, I started planning my excursions. Most guests don’t really like to leave the property for more than a couple hours. There are a smattering of water aerobic and yoga classes on the weekends, but not much else. People generally don’t want to miss out on the balanced and healthy (and included in the cost) three meals a day. I, on the other hand, am very used to choosing healthy balanced meals away from home. The only real issue eating out for me is sodium. But I was not deterred.

The first weekend in Durham I stuck pretty close to the facility. Truth be told I had overdone it a bit on my right bicep on that Friday and was a little afraid I was going to have to curb my exercise during the week if I didn’t give myself a day’s rest. Honestly, I was in so much pain, I had to brush my teeth with my left hand. Total disaster. I rubbed my muscles with some magic concoction shared with me by one of my new friends, and then iced the thing on and off for a few hours. I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting a blog follower in Durham. I had planned to drive up to see her in Virginia, but as circumstances would have it, she graciously made the drive down to Durham. I love meeting blogger friends.

During the second week, however, I was plotting my weekend escape. Although I was getting to know Durham quite nicely and even went to see the traveling show of Kinky Boots at DPAC: the Durham Performing Arts Center (and it was awesome!):

dpac

I wanted to visit the North Carolina coast. For anyone who cannot already tell from my blog, I love the ocean… any ocean, all oceans. I figured I would drive myself to the closest beach town and take a look around and then head home, only missing the lunch time meal. People were suggesting Wilmington. I never actually made it to Wilmington. During that week I made a new friend. Even though it is rare that they get visitors from Portland way out there in North Carolina, there were two of us there and this new friend lives about two miles from my house. We clicked. He mentioned that he really wanted to head to the Outer Banks. I asked if the Outer Banks included a beach. The Outer Banks is a chain of barrier islands in eastern North Carolina, so pretty much all water and lots of beach. We left after breakfast on that second Saturday. He told me it was quite a drive to the Outer Banks and we might not make it back for dinner. I was up for the adventure.

We headed straight up to a little beach town named Duck, a four hour drive from Durham. Talk about cute.

duck

On our way back down the Outer Banks, we stopped at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk.

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The visitor center was a fun little diversion which included information about the brothers and their famous glider experiments. It also included a couple of reproduction gliders and other buildings plus the hill and the flight line with markers where the flights actually landed.

After we crossed over to Hatteras Island, we stopped and spent a little time on the beach and in the warm Atlantic Ocean.

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Next stop, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse:

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At this point we were at the bottom end of Hatteras Island and we had two choices. We could turn around and drive back the way we came… an approximate four and half hour drive home (it was approaching 5:30pm at this point), or continue a little further south and take the ferry to Ocracoke Island, which had been his plan all along. Without really knowing much about the North Carolina ferry system, or really about anything, I told him I was good with going with his original plan of taking the ferry. That is when I actually started paying attention to where we were and what it was going to take to get home. As we waited in line for the little ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke, I realized that Ocracoke is also an Island and we would then need to take a ferry over to the main land at Cedar Island. On the map, the ferry lines were teeny tiny. I figured they were short little hopper ferry rides and we would hit mainland in no time. Boy was I WRONG! I asked my new friend if he had planned this whole thing out. When did he think we would return home? He said he hadn’t really thought it through, but he really wanted to take “the ferry.” Men!!!! Um, okay. I quickly looked up the ferry schedule. We would be on that ferry in a short 10 minutes, BUT, the ferry ride itself would be approximately an hour. That little tiny dotted line on the map was an hour. Then I looked at the other line on the map, the second ferry ride, much longer. I started adding things up. By my calculation, we would return back to Durham at 3:00AM!!!! I asked him if he was really up for that. He questioned my calculations. He didn’t believe it would take that long. I’m a trooper, so I just went with the flow. The first ferry ride was gorgeous:

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Rain storm out yonder, never came close to us

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The sunset was amazing:

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My new friend is a little bigger than me. He was getting very hungry. We had eaten our healthy lunch about five hours prior. I could tell he was starting to lose it a little. We looked up the ferry schedule from Ocracoke Island to Cedar Island. There was only one we would be able to make: the 9:40pm. We planned to drive straight to the ferry, purchase our tickets, and then grab dinner on the island. It should all work out.

It did all work out and we had a lovely fish taco dinner on Ocracoke Island. We ate on the patio and although I didn’t know it at the time, while we were feasting on tacos, mosquitoes were feasting on my legs. I have pictures, they are too ugly to post. At one point during my trip to NC, I counted over 40 mosquito bites on my legs. They have some mighty potent mosquitoes out there, down there? I even had to see the doctor at one point because my legs were a swollen mess. I tried every spray at the local Super Target, nothing kept those bugs off my legs. Anyway…

moon-from-ferry

Gorgeous moon. Ferry ride from Ocracoke Island to Cedar Island.

The ferry ride to Cedar Island was two and half hours. We arrived on main land at about midnight and still had approx. 200 miles to drive to get back to Durham. My new friend informed me he was too tired to drive. I took over driving and got us safely back to Durham by 3:15am… don’t ask me how. It was quite the adventure. I would probably do it again.

The following weekend a group of us visited the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University. It was so hot and humid I thought I would collapse, but it was definitely gorgeous and worth the trip.

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Duke Gardens.jpg

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That week Blue Eyes sent me a lovely arrangement of roses, which brightened my sparse apartment for two full weeks.

roses-from-be

As my fourth week away approached, I knew I needed, wanted? to stay longer. I felt I wasn’t ready to return home. Blue Eyes was planning to come out to North Carolina on that last weekend and we would spend the weekend together and then fly home together. As it turned out, he flew out for a long weekend and then flew home alone. I planned a nice little excursion to Asheville for our time together.

We stayed near downtown Asheville, which apparently has over 100 wonderful places to eat. Deciding where to eat the first night was a bit daunting. We were really hungry after our drive over. I chose an Indian Street food restaurant named Chai Pani, highly rated. The meal was amazing, but because we were so hungry, of course we ordered too much.

We ordered the Kathi Kabab Roll: Chicken seared with onions, cilantro & tandoori spices with roasted lentils and tamarind, green chutneys in a grilled wrap, which we split. But my favorite was the Samosa Chaat: Two vegetarian Samosas served on a spicy garbanzo bean stew topped with tamarind & green chutneys and yogurt. Mmm.

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There was a decadent candy store right next door, but we passed it on by (after I took a picture, of course):

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On Saturday we took the DuPont Forest Hike, which took us to three different and beautiful waterfalls.

DUPONT FOREST.jpg

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FOREST FALLS.jpg

We then headed back into Asheville and toured the Biltmore Estate and Gardens:

biltmore-estate

My favorite was the conservatory of plants and flowers in the gardens:

orchids

tropical-flowers

tropical-plants

We walked A LOT of miles that day in North Carolina. On Sunday Blue Eyes flew home and I went back to my routine in Durham. The following Saturday was the day Hurricane Matthew really hit North Carolina and I stayed put in my little apartment, drinking tea, and watching the storm, which looked a little like a stormy day in the Pacific Northwest.

The following day my new friend from Portland wanted to visit High Point, the “Furniture Capital of the World.” It was a sunny, blue skied afternoon. After lunch we took off for High Point only to find out that the entire town is closed on Sundays. So strange, and also a stark reminder to me that if I was going to continue going on little trips with my new friend, I was going to need to do more planning myself. Truth be told, once we arrived there, it didn’t look all that interesting to either of us, potentially a bit of a tourist trap. We drove around a bit and then headed back towards Durham. On the freeway outside High Point, I noticed a sign for Winston-Salem. Old Salem had been on my list of places to visit, and this was my last chance. He turned the car around and we headed to Winston-Salem.

OLD SALEM NC.jpg

Old Salem is a historic district of Winston-Salem and features a living history museum specifically commemorating the Moravian Community. It was cute, we took a walk around. Lots of eating and shopping. Again, a bit touristy but while we were there it was quiet and the weather was perfect. I grabbed some packaged Moravian cookies at the bakery that I will serve at Thanksgiving.

old-salem

For my final week in North Carolina, I had one last place to visit on my list. Well, there were lots of places I didn’t get to, but Duke Chapel at Duke University was right around the corner, so on another beautiful North Carolina afternoon, with friends, I headed to the Duke Chapel.

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Interior Duke Chapel

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Above: exterior of Duke Chapel from the Duke Campus.

I really enjoyed my time in North Carolina, and if I ever return, I have a whole Pinterest Board of places I still want to visit. Politics aside, I wish I could spend this much time in every state of our vast and beautiful country.

24 thoughts on “Travelogue: North Carolina

  1. I totally forgot to mention that the state is full of Scots. Gaelic was spoken in some churches until the late 1800s. In June on Grandfather Mountain is a huge celebration of our Scottish heritage. Every year I say I am going to go but it is so blasted hot that I always change my mind.

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  2. You asked me to write about NC. I have the most wonderful memories. Every boy I knew, including siblings and friends, went frog gigging as teenagers. I am pretty sure it had more to do with raiding parents’ liquor cabinets than anything. It was such a safe place. Relatives all over the place. You knew every one in school.
    The state is really three entirely different areas. The Coastal Plain full of pine tree and azaleas, the Piedmont, rolling hills, textile and furniture mills, now closed down, and the mountains. The coast is what I know best. There are wild horses that have lived on sea oats for centuries. The Outer Banks get slammed by hurricanes all the time. I so wish they were left wild. They are shifting sand dunes and concrete does not help. Anyway, Duck, Mattamuskeet, etc were, are, places where people go duck and goose hunting. The two large bodies of water are The Pamlico Sound and The Albemarle Sound. There are probably alligators in them. The Great Dismal Swamp has driven developers crazy because no one could figure out how to drain it. Tobacco was the money crop until the big push to get people to stop smoking. We were 1/2 a day’s drive from DC, 1/2 day’s drive from Charleston, SC, a day’s drive from NY or Florida so we thought we were at the center of the universe.
    We were all taught to say Yes Ma’am and No Ma’am. Being rude was worse that murder. Y’all is used so no one is left out but never for just one person. If you are speaking to a crowd and want to include everyone you say All Y’all.
    For some reason Southern women have been portrayed as being snarky by saying, “Bless his/her heart.” about someone who is being judged. I never heard that in my life. If someone said it they meant it.
    Every where we have moved I have been asked about my accent. Not one person ever guesses NC. They have guessed Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and England?!?! When I say North Carolina they wonder how someone from a NORTHERN state could have a Southern accent. Some people never studied geography. I have never heard a single actor do a believable accent and pictures made about the coast drive me nuts. It is all sand. No rocks.
    I love being from NC. The University fight song has, I’m a Tarheel born and a Tarheel bred, and when I Die I’ll be a Tarheel dead. It is a great school. So are Duke and NC State. Three basketball giants. Love me some ACC basketball!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Moi. Thanks for coming back and doing this. I really enjoyed North Carolina and experienced some of what you speak of, even in 2016. Very genuine southern charm. I heard All Y’All quite a bit. It is kind of a hidden gem in my opinion. Of course I am from out here in the wild wild west, which felt a bit like I was from another planet when speaking to natives, but that’s okay. We are flexible and durable out here. I had the opportunity to visit the Duke and Chapel Hill campuses and they are both beautiful. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  3. Hi Kat, This is a great travelogue! I have visited the Outerbanks and want to return. Asheville is on my bucket list, but it sounds like a tourist trap, so I consider myself warned now.

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    • Asheville is great. Really cute town, lots of great food and shopping in a gorgeous location. I wouldn’t call it a tourist trap, but it obviously has been discovered by the masses because it really is a fun little town. While we were there, the Dupont Forest hiking trails a short drive from Asheville were pretty crowded, but we were there on a beautiful, sunny Fall day. I am sure that same hike on a week day would be gloriously empty. One town I finally made it to a couple years ago that I really wanted to see was Key West. Now THAT is a tourist trap. It looks like every other cruise port town in the Caribbean, however, there are still lovely things to see and eat there too. When you stroll by the Hemingway house, you can almost picture him there, writing, surrounded by cats! 🙂

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    • Definitely some of the best Indian food I have ever eaten, but remember, I had been on a low fat/low sodium minimal calorie eating plan for four weeks, and I was starving, so it tasted FABULOUS. There were a lot of other things you would have wanted to eat, like the hand pulled donuts from Bon Appetit’s best dessert in the country accolades. We didn’t go anywhere near there. Don’t worry, when we go to NY or DC or wherever, I will eat, I promise!!! 🙂 Clearly there is amazing food EVERYWHERE! If I remember correctly, we pretty much walked off everything we ate in NOLA! 😉 xoxo

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        • I think that is why you are so sweet!!! So many donuts going into that little body of yours! 😉 Your soul mate is out there, and he LOVES donuts!

          Those district donuts were definitely my type too, like brioche, with icing! I wouldn’t mind a stroll down to Donut Plant right about now. When I am sick, I CRAVE comfort food.

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          • yes LOL, my dad used to tell me that is why I get so many mosquito bites. I still remember the strawberry basil ❤️🍓
            Life is good my dear, full of sweets, and sun, and gorgeous beach houses. It’s only going to get better. The worst is behind you and what is left is a kick ass lady who can handle whatever comes her way … even fatty donuts ❤️❤️❤️

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  4. Wow. Reading this and seeing the pictures was like going home for me. I used to live in Durham. The Duke chapel? Beautiful.
    I was born and raised in Asheville. Did you by any chance see Thomas Wolfes’ house uptown? There are so many things to see in Asheville. The asylum where Zelda Fitzgerald burned to death, of course the Biltmore Estate and grounds and there are a few castles on Beaucatcher mountain.
    Don’t know much about the coast. I’m not a water gal….I’m a mountain gal. 🙂

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    • North Carolina is a very beautiful and interesting state. We only had one full day in Asheville. I will definitely go back and see all the things you mention, when I return. Living in Portland, we are a little over an hour from the coast and a little less than an hour from the mountains. I love both, but the ocean is my favorite. The entire cascade mountain range surrounds the coastal area, so it is quite beautiful and lots of fun hikes. We plan to do them all once our beach house is complete. My home office looks right at Mt. Hood, an 11,000+ ft. tall mountain. She’s gorgeous and full of snow right now. I was in Durham for the better part of six weeks. On my first night, I stayed at the Washington Duke Inn. It was well after sundown when I arrived from the airport and it was so dark in there with all the trees. All I could really see was blue and white everywhere as the Duke Football game had just ended. Where I stayed was very close to the Duke Campus, we walked the perimeter trail a few times. Such an absolutely gorgeous campus.

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      • I’ll never return to Durham but I do make it back to Asheville now and then. One of my favorite things are a few brick roads uptown. (We always called it uptown because we had to walk UP the hill to get there.) They kept the old Woolworth and Kresses and Newberrys storefront signs intact. I still remember going in those stores with a dollar and coming out with all kinds of goodies. LOL

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        • I understand your desire to not go back to Durham, but it is a nice town. I thought of you and your ex while we were on the campus, and of your quilt. Did you meet your ex in Durham?

          I can totally picture old Asheville. It is a cute little town, in an absolutely gorgeous location. I do know your story though, so I am glad you have some good memories to carry forward. What do you think of it now? I know you don’t eat much, but the food choices are astonishing for such a little place.

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          • Yep. I met him there. Biggest mistake I ever made.
            I think Asheville had indeed turned into what it has been nicknamed…”Ashevegas.” Not because of gambling but because it has been discovered and attracts all kinds of people….even Hollywood movie stars. Quite a few of them have moved there…but that shit doesn’t impress me much.
            The only place I have eaten in Asheville the last few times I have gone back there, is in a place called “The Hole.” They make hand-made doughnuts. The woman who runs (owns) it is kind of a bitch, though. LOL
            I have eaten at a place called something like sisters (I can’r remember) and they served fried green tomatoes but they weren’t that good. The best fried green tomatoes I have ever eaten were somewhere in Florida.
            Asheville doesn’t hold too many trigger from my married days. Loser and I never lived together there but it is painful to drive by the house I grew up in. I actually got the new owner to let me walk through. The staircase was still there and boy….was it hard to see. He had a shoebox full of stuff he had found in the house. A letter I had written and a horse that I had drawn when I was just a pup. He gave them to me.

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            • Yes, Asheville was incredibly busy and expensive when we were there. I guess Fall weekends are quite the draw although the leaves were just beginning to change while we were there. Hotel prices were astronomical. I have heard about that donut spot, but donuts were the last thing I was eating on my health quest. LOL

              Interesting that the owner still had that box after all these years. Memories can be emotionally draining. I remember going back to one of my childhood homes with my Dad and commenting on how small the backyard is now. He said it was always that size, of course. A child’s perspective…

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              • That’s EXACTLY what I thought. That house had always been so huge and the rooms were enormous. Not so now. The staircase looked shorter. Even though I was “grown” the last time I was there, it still looked small. I almost bought it once and if the real estate person had actually shown up, I would have. I guess things happen for a reason.
                The guy who owns it now said a psychic had come by and said “I see much grief in this house.”
                I said “I guess so. I killed my little brother in this house and my mama almost beat me to death in this house.”
                I’m not sure grief is how I would describe the feeling.

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