I cannot speak for the rest of the country, but in our little corner of Southeastern Pennsylvania this winter, with its ferocious cold spells and plentiful snowstorms, seemed to have way overstayed its welcome. It is early May, and the temperatures ought to be getting warmer, yet for every degree gained we contract surplus rain and wind. What an unfair barter with Nature.
That said, I suppose bad weather is hardly an excuse for not posting anything in several months. And since I have accumulated a bit of a backlog, I will do my best to catch up.
Today’s post is the first of the planned two about North Carolina. The actual trip included also a segment of South Carolina (which I have already published), so the final map will once again feature mysterious teleportations.
Our exploration of North Carolina began with Durham, and that of Durham—with the Ninth Street, which was chosen for its proximity to the Duke University and its allegedly nice-looking houses. In practice, the niceness of the houses was quite overstated, while I admit that the location of the street did not change a bit. Below is the best shot I could manage:
Conveniently for us, our next stop, the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, was but a few minutes away, and even closer to the university campus. Better yet, the admission was free, and the parking inspector was nice enough to waive our parking fee.
We arrived early, and in the twenty or so minutes spent at the premises we only saw one other small group of visitors, which is still surprising given the beauty and affordability of the site. If we had the time, we would have definitely prolonged our stay and might have even cashed out a few dollars for parking.
Next, we strayed a bit on our way to the Duke University chapel. Having given up on our GPS direction, we were able to navigate to the chapel using only road signs and good old common sense. (Apparently, they yield amazing results when combined.)
In the dull light of a cloudy, arid, hesitantly unfolding morning the chapel’s looks did not strike us as particularly majestic, so we proceeded to our next and final Durham destination—the Brightleaf Square—with a bit of alacrity. Once there, though, we did not care to halt a minute longer. I guess the transient vacancy of the otherwise assuredly popular place had to do with our fleeting departure.
It was not even nine o’clock when we arrived at Raleigh and accidentally came across the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, which we meant to visit some six or so stops later. We figured that when the common sense prompts you to
be practical improvise, you should just go with it.
We were pleased to discover the wide and diverse range of exhibits that the Museum of Natural Sciences had on display. And, again, free of charge. (Add the toll-free highways into the bargain, and it almost seems worth moving back south of the Mason-Dixon line.)
Rearranging plans on-the-run, we headed downtown to take a peek at the Executive Mansion,
and other beautiful Historic Oakwood buildings of Victorian and Colonial making.
After that, we paid a tribute to our well-established tradition and advanced to the North Carolina Capitol building. Unfortunately, it was no match to some of the other ones we had seen. Besides, the library and some of the more pompously adorned chambers were under renovation.
The next sight was nothing other than a giant acorn monument erected in the center of the Moore Square. Rumors have it that the project was in part sponsored by the local squirrel community.
Having raced from place to place most of the morning, we decided to slow down and rest a moment in the comfort of the Pullen Park. Or so we thought, for finding parking, shade, or privacy at the Pullen Park is no ordinary task on a hot August weekend.
We ambled around for half an hour and took a moment to confirm our hotel reservations over the phone. Then we settled on closing out Raleigh with a visitation of the North Carolina Museum of Art, which proved more than suitable for our impromptu finale. Amazing, simply amazing museum!
I apologize about the number of photos from the museum, especially to anyone who does not share my enthusiasm regarding these exhibits; yet I am simply craving to attest the amount of brilliancy collected in one place. And—you guessed it—absolutely free.
These galleries unveil scores of various forms of art in the best way possible. Avant-garde? Conceptual art? Decorative art? Please:
Impressionism? Expressionism? Here:
Want something more traditional? Look:
Something a bit more famous, perhaps:
More modern, maybe:
Or rather something old and carved:
Sculpture, at last, traditional or not:
You get the picture. And if for some reason you ever get tired of admiring all the great pieces, you can always step outside for a breath of air,
or have a meal at the cafeteria,
not forgetting one second that you still are in the realm of the beautiful.
Having satiated our artistic appetites, we found it appropriate to address the physiological ones as well, before we set off for Wilmington. Little did we know that the restaurant we dropped in to appease our hunger would once again put us in the state of aesthetic euphoria. The name of the restaurant is Dos Taquitos, and it has some of the most bizarre interior decorations I have ever seen, starting with the toy train delivering chips and salsa to your table, and finishing with the restrooms walls.
Heck, Raleigh is one sick town, and I mean it in a good way.
It was too late to see the Airlie Gardens when we reached Wilmington, so we took it easy and enjoyed a leisurely stroll by the banks of the Cape Fear River. On the way down to the Riverwalk we spotted a few pretty houses and well-attended gardens:
The waterfront itself with all its recreational amenities and theatrically catchy ferry boats was also a welcome discovery.
To wrap up the day, we crossed the river and drove up to the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial Park. There it stood in all its glory and might, the retired steal giant whose services to the country have been praised many times over in the annals of military history.
To be continued…