Friday, September 27, 2013

5 Things to do in Chapel Hill

Things to do in Chapel Hill Campus: EuroAmerican Home

Chapel Hill was the first stop on our list of places to hit on our honeymoon. I have no idea why Trevor uses "hit" instead of "visit" every. single. time, but I guess I can safely say that this year I hit Uncle Sam. No? I can't say that?! Ok, moving on.

We had high expectations for Chapel Hill. We had built it up in our heads as a place we would like to eventually move to because it has free public transportation, good cultural venues and a good intellectual environment courtesy of the nation's oldest public university. It is also a safe city, halfway between the mountains and the ocean. It has a lot of parks and green spaces, and it's not in the path of any extreme weather phenomena. As you can see, our list of must-haves is necessarily long and it's hard to find a place that meets all the criteria and isn't a major metropolitan area (we're trying really hard to avoid going back to crazy city life).

So we went to Chapel Hill to test the waters and see if it's as good a match as it looked on paper. We walked and drove up and down, back and forth, left and right, but we were not convinced. Something was just not clicking with us.

But Chapel Hill is a wonderful little town, with a lot of things to see and places to visit hit.

Here's five things we did in Chapel Hill.

1. Walk around campus.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a great place for people watching. The North end of campus runs along Franklin Street, which is full of restaurants, bars and some other small businesses. If you are looking for almost any variety of cuisine, you can walk there.

But before you eat, walk through the wooded campus and make your way to the Old Well and grab a drink from the fountain. There is a great rumored tradition that if you drink from the fountain on the first day of classes, you will ace your exams. But it only applies to freshmen. We had a drink, but nothing miraculous happened to us. That is, if you don't count our teeth freezing.

If you lose track of time while student watching or squirrel watching, there is a huge sundial near the observatory. The Morehead Planetarium was closed, but they nice people at the visitor's center let us walk around the Rotunda on the main floor.

Things to do in Chapel Hill Campus: EuroAmerican Home
Old Well 
Things to do in Chapel Hill Campus: EuroAmerican Home
Things to do in Chapel Hill Campus: EuroAmerican Home

 2. Take a stroll through the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

The Garden is administered by the University, so the admission is free. Since we were visiting in early September, we weren't expecting a lot of things to be in bloom. They were also doing work on some flower beds and paths, so there was a lot of gravel in my shoes by the end of our visit. Perhaps we were spoiled by Palmengarten in Frankfurt or the Hershey Gardens, but we found the Garden in Chapel Hill to be not very visitor-friendly. The signs offered no information about the plant, other than the name, and it all just looked like a hot mess. (Obviously, I am still very much under the influence of season four of Arrested Development.)

The Garden has a green education center with a nice reference library that you can browse through.  We also liked their exhibit of local artists' paintings. They also have plants for sale, but not for the bargain hunters that we are.

Chapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican Home
Chapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican Home
Tree of Life by Sarah Craige
Chapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican Home
Chapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican Home
Chapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican HomeChapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican Home

3. Visit Ackland Art Museum.

Just like the Gardens, the museum has free admission because it is a part of the University. Just like the Gardens, it suffers from a lack of information about the pieces, other than the name of the artist and the name of the art. The museum collaborates with the University, so some classes in the Humanities take place in the gallery.

I must give them credit for owning a Max Weber - Composition with Three Figures.

Chapel Hill Art Museum - EuroAmerican Home

4. Hang around in the Coker Arboretum.

The Arboretum is another great free bit of nature right in the middle of campus. The trees were full of students, ripe for picking from their hammocks. It seems this is encouraged, although some trees were clearly marked "NOT a hammock tree". We made our way through and after reading about the 100 year old trees, Trevor picked some dwarf palm seeds. Ssshhh! Don't tell anyone, er, I mean, he thinks the seeds must have gotten stuck in his shoe. Oh well, I guess we'll have to plant them at home.

Chapel Hill Coker Arboretum - EuroAmerican Home
Chapel Hill Coker Arboretum - EuroAmerican Home

5. Go Downtown.

As I mentioned before, there are plenty of restaurant choices: Mediterranean, Irish, Asian, Mexican, a brewery, Southern-style and also plenty of student-friendly menus. Right in the middle of it all are some great metal sculptures that emit glowing mist. If you like that sort of thing and need a place near campus, for just $450K you can purchase a 2-bedroom condo.

Fitzgerald's in downtown Chapel Hill is the place where I had the weirdest American food so far - fried pickles, and got a first taste of Samuel Adams Oktoberfest. The beer has since become one of my favorites, but I deeply regretted having the fried pickles. They were so addictive, that I had to eat them all. Hence the regret!

I almost forgot. Here's a gratuitous picture of a deer next to the highway.

Chapel Hill Coker Arboretum - EuroAmerican Home

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mosquito politics

Our neck of the woods is proud home to some serious Ninja-meets-Chuck-Norris type of mosquitoes. Now that fall is here, they're beginning to die down, but I'll write about them as a warning for spring.

These mosquitoes look like they're wearing black-and-white stripped pajamas. I could have gone for the zebra comparison, but I already threw Chuck Norris there in the first paragraph. I wouldn't want anyone to think that I'm prone to exaggerations. I take blood-drawing and needle-carrying creatures very seriously. I have every reason to, since they only seem to be targeting me. Yes, I am jealous that Trevor remains unscathed during summer, and I look like a walking Swiss cheese. Yes, it bothers me that conversations in our house go like this:

Mickey: I got bit agaaaaaaain! I was in the garden for 5 minutes, and came back with 7 mosquito bites.

Trevor: Aww, my little mosquito buffet.


Trevor (talking to the mosquitoes* and pointing at me): Look guys, the food truck is here! 

 Combine the mosquito bonanza with our love of puns and Trevor's penchant for talking politics, and you get this:

Mosquito politics stick figure: EuroAmericanHome

* My husband talks to bugs and I still love him. He loves me despite the fact that I'm in the habit of naming inanimate object around the house.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Honeymoon Road Trip

We're back from our honeymoon road trip, and we're recovering after a lot of traveling through two states (North Carolina and Virginia). Three if you count Maryland. But we're not counting, because we didn't stop there.

Our first stop was in Chapel Hill (North Carolina), followed by Norfolk, Cape Charles, Jamestown and Williamsburg (all in Virginia), and an afternoon in Alexandria (also in Virginia).

We strolled through a botanical garden and an arboretum, learned a little bit of history, relaxed at the beach, spotted a shuttle launch, crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel twice, ate a lot of sea food and walked the streets of Colonial Williamsburg. Trevor drove over 1000 miles (1600 km.) and somewhere in there we celebrated six months of marital bliss and counted our blessings.

We also bought our first Christmas ornament as a married couple, courtesy of the only country in the world that has Christmas stores open all year long. And I added three new mugs to my collection, because who knows when I'll ever find mugs with dancing kitties and French chefs again.

EuroAmericanHome:Buy a Christmas ornament on your honeymoon
EuroAmericanHome: Mugs with dancing kitties and French chefs

We'll tell you more about it soon.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Things to do this summer: Read a children's book

In an effort to brush up on my American popular culture skills, and get some of my husband's totally random references, I decided that I need to know more about Dr. Seuss and his body of work.

Trevor often forgets that I did not grow up in America, and he's genuinely surprised when I tell him I have no idea who Yertle the Turtle is. Obviously, I need an education.

So we grabbed The Cat in the Hat at a yard sale, and Trevor read it to me in mischievous voices.

EuroAmericanHome:the cat in the hat - dr seuss

It is the story of two very bored children with nothing to do on a cold and wet day. That is until a tall cat with an even taller top hat shows up and tells them they can have "lots of good fun that is funny". The cat proceeds to show them tricks and cause havoc in the house until the children's mother comes home. The story in verse was written by Dr. Seuss as an effort to promote literacy to beginning readers, by using an entertaining plot and a limited vocabulary made up of short words.

Here are five things I learned from The Cat in the Hat:

1. Get a bossy fish that will take you to school. If you want to make him shut up, hold him up on a rake.

2. When a cat says "That's not all!", the cat means it. 

3. Cats are attention-starved pretty much every second. 

4. Beware of things called Thing One and Thing Two. They'll wreck your house.

5. Stand up to your cat and make him clean up.

EuroAmericanHome:the cat in the hat - dr seuss

After we read the book, I started noticing this hipster cat everywhere. Here he is on the door of the local elementary school, on the first day of school. The cat cleans up after himself, so I guess he sets a good example with that.

EuroAmericanHome:The cat in the hat-Dr Seuss storyline

But we couldn't stop here. On one of our walks, we went into the library, went downstairs to their children's room (yep, they keep the kids the basement), and looked for more Dr. Seuss books. They had a whole shelf full of them, and we picked Oh, the Places You'll Go!

 We sat down at one of their small colorful tables, and I started reading in a whimsical voice. After we finished the book, we got up and walked out. Needless to say, the librarian had a good story to tell to his buddies that day.

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