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
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.
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.
|Tree of Life by Sarah Craige|
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.
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.
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.