We love New England, and spending time on Cape Cod was a priority, before it gets too cold. So we decided to look for our first long stay somewhere roughly along the route to the Cape. Raleigh was our choice, largely because one of Phil’s closest high school friends lives in Durham, and also because I’d spent time there for business and was interested in exploring it more. I would take a week off, my first vacation time this year, so we’d have ample time for adventure.
We began by exploring our immediate neighborhood, an area called Cameron Village. We had chosen this AirBnB because of its walkability, and we weren’t disappointed. We walked ten minutes to the grocery store daily, and I have to admit we’ve explored a number of neighborhood restaurants offering outdoor dining. Our tiny one-bedroom apartment is conveniently located but has a very small kitchen with only a dorm fridge, so storing much food was not an option–nor was having both of us in the kitchen at the same time.
Once my vacation time set in, we began exploring the area. First on our list was downtown Raleigh, which is small and easy to navigate. Our favorite “find” was historic Oakwood, a 19th century neighborhood with a variety of beautiful homes. We explored it initially by car and later on foot. Two things stood out: first, Oakwood is an overwhelmingly liberal neighborhood, with ubiquitous “Black Lives Matter,” “We Believe in Science,” “Hate Has No Home Here,” and political signs. It was a balm after living in a conservative red town during election season. The second interesting thing was that Oakwood residents take Halloween SERIOUSLY!!! Pictures cannot capture the festive and spooky spirit of the area. We had so much fun, especially after we staved off the hangries by walking to local restaurant The Raleigh Times, where we shared the best Ruben sandwich of our lives (with collard kimchee instead of sauerkraut!) and Phil had a wonderful craft cocktail.
On Sunday we decided to explore the Black Farmers’ Market and the North Carolina State Public Farmers’ Market. Rain was pouring down during the first visit, but everyone seemed happy to be there and appreciative of customers who came out despite the weather. By the time we arrived at the second one, the rain was reduced to a drizzle. We couldn’t buy much (tiny fridge!), but we bought some wonderful espresso beans and a few veggies. And we tried two North Carolina delicacies: boiled peanuts (YUCK!) and a peach hand pie called a Jack. Jacks are fried in lard. Yep, lard.
We also had some delightful day trips. On one day we visited the Glencoe Mill HIstoric District (only drove around because it was raining), a lovely historic neighborhood in Burlington, the Duke University campus (I love college campuses), and walked the historic district of Hillsborough.
The North Carolina Museum of Art was exceptional, with an astonishing range of works. They were issuing free tickets on a schedule to avoid overcrowding, and we felt very safe social distancing in our masks.
We were surprised by the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield–much more interesting than we’d imagined. And we spent a couple of hours walking the historic district in Wilmington, which was lovely–but there were too many people not socially distancing, so we spent a lot of time dodging them.
But the best part of our Raleigh adventure has been reconnecting with old friends. We spent a wonderful afternoon with Phil’s highschool friend Lloyd and his wife Janet. Their outdoor entertainment area was beautiful, and they set up beverages and empanadas in separate areas so we all felt safe. At the end of our visit we picked up barbeque and spent another evening with them. We had another wonderful evening with friends Michael and Sara on their patio overlooking the lake. Michael is a wonderful cook and created a well-timed dinner of heavy appetizers–roasted dates with a soft cheese dip, mini-sandwiches, and summer rolls, followed by a spectacular apple crumble. We had not met Sara before, and it was one of those magical “instant friendship” experiences, We’re still talking about what a great evening that was.
And finally we spent an evening with my colleague Norm, his wife Marie, and their daughter Sophia. Norm is a unique blend of actuary and improv performer, and one of my favorite colleagues. We picked up dinner from their favorite vegan restaurant and feasted on great food and even greater conversation on their patio, overlooked by huge trees and stars.
So our first long stay has been a big success by all standards. Exploring a new area, reconnecting with great friends, and sampling wonderful food adds up to our kind of lifestyle. We are so far loving our Roaming experience!