Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chapel Hill, Pittsboro, Durham, Hillsborough - North Carolina

While Marianne was off at her scrap booking event, I took the opportunity to look around.
It was a beautiful spring morning and I decided to check out Chapel Hill, the home of the University of North Carolina. The trees were out in bloom and I have no idea what kind of tree this was. Chapel Hill is not all that large a town, probably a similar size to Athens, GA or Newark, DE. The centre of town actually does appear to sit on a bit of a hill, and there are a number of chuches scattered around.

The symbol of UNC. There is a water fountain inside which is supposed to bring you academic success if you drink from it. I tried it, but I doubt the academic success is going to come to me now.

The older buildings all appear to have columns in front. This part of the campus is part of the town and is pleasant to stroll around.

The fraterinty / sorority houses are numerous and some are quite grand.

I was intrigued by the red drink cup on the beautiful green lawn.
A large sundial in front of the Planetarium. Two bus loads of school kids had just unloaded, so I decided to give the Planetarium a miss.
Chapel Hill struck me as a very pleasant place with beautiful tree lined streets and a decent standard of housing which appeared to be superior to Athens, GA. The down town area itself reminded me more of Newark, DE rather than Athens, GA. Most of the shops were squarely aimed at the students with little for the remainder of the population. Downtown Athens caters to more than students.

When we arrived at our motel, like any male, I turned on the TV and flipped through the channels. The breaking news was that a Court House was burning but it didn't mean anything to me. By chance, one of the guide books mentioned that just south of Chapel Hill was a little town called Pittsboro and it was worth a visit so I drove down there. To my surprise, I found that this was where the fire had occurred and here is the remains of the Court House. The fire was still smoldering and an occasional puff of smoke would billow forth. Apparently, there had been a huge argument about whether renovations should be done to the building and I was told that the fire was caused by welders.

There were quite a few people gathered to see what had happened and it was obvious that the locals were devastated by what had happened and were comforting each other. However, just as I was leaving the area, an African American couple walked by me and the lady said to her husband "Finally, justice is served. Ain't it beautiful."

I couldn't see too much of the town because much of it was barricaded off. This wood-working shop looked interesting and at the time, a class was being conducted inside.
The tour books had talked about barbeque in North Carolina and how it was a special treat that could only be done correctly in little roadside humble restaurants. I noticed this place and since it was lunch time, I decided to try it out. It was very basic inside with long tables and I sat with a couple of local retirees, one of who you can see with the white hat. They were very friendly, told me to definitely get the barbeque since they came there every week and that is what they ate.
So here is the feast for $9. Barbeque made of pork, hushpuppies and coldslaw. It was absolutely delicious, but I couldn't finish it.
The following morning, I drove up to Durham and this is the main street. This was not a very successful visit. It was cold, there was a walkathon going on that disrupted where I went to go, sign posting is poor and I didn't find anything interesting to look at in the down town area. Even the tour booklet at the hotel had pathetic maps that didn't really help. I eventually used Google Maps to find my way in.
Fortunately I knew that Duke University was somewhere to the west of downtown so I eventually came across the West Campus. Here is Mr Duke in front of the Chapel.
This part of the campus was built in Gothic Revival style and is worth visiting, even if you have seen the real stuff in England.
Inside the chapel.
This is one of the three separate organs installed in the chapel. I asked an attendant why there were three when most churches make do with one. She didn't know but when I looked it up on Wikipedia, I realized that each organ could be used for the appropriate style of music.
Another of the organs. There is also a fourth organ, a portable version. No, it is not a mouth organ, but a 'box' organ that accompanies small groups.
One of the stained glass windows.
One of the Stations of the Cross that line the walls of the Chapel. They appear to be some sort of metal on a white cloth background.
Carving in the door of the Chapel.
The Kronos Quartet was coming to play and note the ticket price of just $5. I would have loved to have heard them and I have a few of their CDs.

Just imagine how much money is represented by these few prospective students. Tuition, fees, alumni donations. Somebody has to pay to keep this place looking so good.
And yes, the grounds are beautifully maintained. There is no rubbish / trash visible and no sign of graffiti.
On the other of the wall on the right is a student cafeteria. Imagine what this would like like in most colleges, all junked up with notice boards.
Spring was definitely in evidence. Not all of the university looked like this. Beyond the few central buildings were the usual modern buildings that sprang up on most college campuses that bore no architectural relation to the older buildings at the core. It is a large university and students would get fit from all the walking they would need to do to cross campus.

I was touched by the Honor Roll wall to the fallen in the various wars. The first eight panels are just for WWII and the remaining four for Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.

There were a couple of Perry's.

At dinner the night before, one of the locals recommended that I visit Hillsborough, a few miles north west of Durham. Here is the Court House.
All through the town are markers likje this one which in this case, really gets your attention. You can read about the Regulators here. To be honest, I had never heard of them.
Hillsborough appears to be a very prosperous little town with a goodly number of interesting buildings and towns. This former public building was for sale. I suspect this town is a bedroom community for the Duke and UNC professors.
A laneway from the main street to a parking lot. The people of this town care about their town.
This stark looking building is the Masonic Hall.
An old hotel in need of restoration.
This is a delightful town to walk around, especially in Spring.
Some lucky person enjoys this house.
Everybody comes from somewhere.
After a while, I realized that this little town was not like most other small towns. The only supermarket in town was a COOP with only organic food for sale. Prices were 25 to 50 percent higher than regular supermarket prices, but there were plenty of customers.
Outside the COOP a bunch of people were sitting at these tables having breakfast that they could buy inside the COOP.
Down the hill by the river was this market where locals can bring their produce for sale.

Some of the stands had just a couple of greens for sale, but others had beef, eggs, bread and dog biscuits. I really enjoyed this town. It's worth visiting.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

OBX and Cape Hatteras

For the non Americans reading this blog, OBX stands for Outer Banks. Before heading over to the Durham area, we decided to drive down to Cape Hatteras. So just south of Nags Head, you continue down a very narrow barrier island which is one of the Outer Banks.
Unfortunately, for quite a while you can't see too much from your car because of the low scrub on either side of the road. It's there to help prevent the sand being washed away by surf or wind.

The road is mostly straight with very little traffic. The guides warn you not to try to park on the sides of the road because of the likelihood of getting stuck in the soft sand and I would agree with them. At various places along the way there were road crews fixing areas where the sea or wind had caused sand to encroach on the road. Early in the morning when we headed south there was very little traffic but on the way back there was considerably more. This is not a place I would visit in summer when the crowds would probably be horrendous.

A walkway going from the parking lot to the ocean.

The view south. It's quite a large barrier they have built to protect the road from the waves.

The view north.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in its new position. It is the tallest lighthouse in the US and 20th in the world.

The base is particularly impressive.

It's a terrific looking lighthouse, especially with the striping. Unfortunately, the new position which it was moved to in 1999-2000 is surrounded by brush so you don't get much sense that the ocean is nearby other than the noise of waves.

The lighthouse keepers houses.

The lighthouse itself is in Buxton and not in Hatteras. Buxton has a different feel to most of the other seaside towns along the coast and the reason appears to be dirt. The other towns are built on sand and there woukd appear to be dirt in Buxton because there are trees that would need dirt to survive the sea winds. There are also a large number of older houses and the pick positions appear to be the ones with the view west over the sound. This place would be an absolute zoo in summer, I imagine.

I was intrigued by the blue paint. Many of the other houses just have the weathered grey colour. The shape of the houses bothers me and I wonder just how many of these house would survive the next really strong hurricane that will inevitably come this way.

The beach at the tip of Hatteras, ruined by tyre tracks.

I liked the patterns in the sand. Click on the picture to see more detail.

For a quarter of a million dollars, this view at Hatteras could be yours.

The drive west along Route 64 from Nags Head across the Albemarle is really pleasant. There are some amazingly long bridges over the water and then you hit a stretch of road where there is a canal of sorts that follows the road for mile after mile. I suspect it is just a drainage channel because the area is swampy.

One of the pleasures of travelling in the south is the availability of boiled peanuts. Not everybody likes them, but I love the slimy, soggy things.

So we ventured into this establishment and duly bought a pint of warm boiled peanuts. Everything you hear about a warm welcome in the south is correct. The lady behind the counter was very welcoming and gave us samples of just about everything they sold.
My addiction to boiled peanuts started back in Oz when we would go to the Railway Picnic held at Torquay near Maryborough, QLD. The railway employees erected a huge tent and we kids would join a line where we were given various food items, a drink and a bag of boiled peanuts. These peanuts were not boiled as long as the American version, but I developed a taste for them. I first came across them in the US when I was doing a car trip heading west from Orlando, Florida to the gulf coast. There was a road side open stand where a bloke had a couple of kettles boiling up the peanuts. There were two varieties, normal and hot. Both were delicious.