A Day in Charleston

Recently, I took a day trip to Charleston with a couple of friends. It was not our original plan, to be honest. We had originally planned to go hiking in Dupont Forest. Mother Nature had other ideas, however, and it rained at Dupont during the time of our trip. It did not, however, rain on the coast that day so we re-calculated and went to Charleston instead- which of course was still a lovely day.

 

On our excursion, we stayed around the downtown Charleston area. There is so much to do in that area that we found plenty of sites to see on our day trip. A friend of mine arrived prepared, having printed a map of downtown Charleston, and from there we made our selections. We parked near Waterfront Park and met at the Pineapple Fountain. From there, we wandered down to Rainbow Row then decided to tour the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.

 

Afterwards, we started looking around for a place to eat. One of my friends was a vegetarian so we walked from restaurant to restaurant reading menus on windows until we settled on the Sweetwater Cafe.  I had a delicious tuna melt on sourdough with a side salad and sweet tea. My friends both had breakfast dishes. We discussed our next move over lunch. The City Market was close by so we decided to go there next. There were hundreds of vendors at the market with a plethora of unique and beautiful items, including the famed sweetwater baskets of Charleston. I bought a couple of small gifts. I might have bought more but I was traveling on foot and knew that I would have to carry the bags.

 

After the City Market, we went to visit the horses. Charleston, like so many historic cities, offers carriage tours. We had heard that the public was welcome to visit the horses-carriage ride or not-just to say hello so we found a stable and met this beautiful guy, who was resting when we stopped by.

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The remainder of our trip was pretty much a self-guided walking tour to view old buildings that we thought might be of interest. We saw some churches

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cemeteries

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and an old prison.

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We also saw some beautiful historic homes. One thing I loved about Charleston is that, even though the homes are beautiful, they aren’t always uniform. There’s a “Charleston style” that carries throughout the city, but I literally saw homes side by side of different styles and colors, and the effect was charming.

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Before we ended our day, we treated ourselves to a Belgian Gelato. I chose chocolate hazelnut. It was delish! Full of gelato, we wandered back to our cars and prepared for the drive home. I looked at my phone and saw that we had walked 7 miles throughout the day. I guess we got in our hike, anyway.

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Old Baldy

Old Baldy, located on beautiful Bald Head Island, turned 200 years old in 2017.  The longest standing lighthouse in North Carolina, Baldy was originally built to mark the entrance of the Cape Fear River.

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According to the website Baldy has:

108 steps and five landings with a ladder into the lantern room.

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It is 110 feet tall with one door and six windows.

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I climbed the lighthouse about a month ago. So far, I’ve been to three of North Carolina’s seven main lighthouses and Old Baldy is the first one I’ve been able to climb. The panoramic view from the top was breathtaking and an amazing reward for all of the huffing and puffing it took to get there.

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Bald Head Island can be reached by ferry which leaves from the Deep Point Marina out of Southport. Once on the island, you can get around by foot (the island is 4.8 miles long and 2 miles wide) or bike or you can rent a cart. There are restaurants on the island (I stopped in at Mojo’s on my trip), walking trails, beach access and a conservancy that features events like kayaking, surf fishing, touch tanks, birding and even stargazing after dark.

BHI is a tiny island with a lot to offer if you are looking for an interesting, relaxing and unique day trip.

Oak Island Lighthouse

Currently, there are seven coastal lighthouses in North Carolina. So far, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting three: Cape Lookout, the Oak Island Lighthouse and Old Baldy. I hope to visit them all.

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I traveled to the Oak Island Lighthouse a few weeks ago. It was a Sunday afternoon, I wanted to get out the house, and I remembered that I’d been planning to visit the lighthouse, which was a little less than an hour’s drive from my home, for quite a while. As I drove through the rural route that would take me to the lighthouse, I remember thinking, I would never live out here, because there didn’t appear to be much to do. I would see things a little differently once I reached my destination.

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The light from the lighthouse, located on Caswell Beach Rd on Oak Island, can be seen for 16 miles. It’s rather exciting to see it flashing in the distance as you approach the beach. The lighthouse was built in 1957 to replace a steel lighthouse on Bald Head Island (Bald Head and Oak Island are very close to one another) and when it was first lit in 1958, carbon-arc mercury lamps, which were used prior to incandescent lights, provided so much light that it was the brightest in the United States and the second brightest in the world. The light is currently powered by a 1,000 watt halogen bulb and displays 4 one second flashes then 6 seconds of blank. It stands 153 feet tall and has 131 steps that can be climbed to reach an outside balcony, although you must schedule a time to climb the lighthouse. It is not open during any set hours.

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It is very easy to access because it sits just by the road. There is a tiny parking lot directly in front of the lighthouse with free parking for 30 minutes. I saw another public access parking lot just down the road. Across the street is a walkway onto Caswell Beach. After I poked around the lighthouse, I crossed the street to check out the beach. It was super quiet compared to the beaches where I live, and I saw several pelicans flying so close to the shore that I could actually make out their little pelican faces. I glanced behind me to see the flashes from the lighthouse, and it occurred to me how fortunate the locals are to live so close to such a quiet beach adorned with their own personal lighthouse. Ok, I thought, maybe I would live here.

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Amble

It feels like I’ve been fighting the rain for about a week now. I was drenched the entire second day of my trip to NYC last week, but my fiend and I still managed to see the 9/11 Memorial, Times Square and more. We did find an indoor, partly underground mall beside the Hudson at one point and there we were able to get some respite from the rain. As I sat by a window overlooking the Hudson, I enjoyed the scene of New York in the rain.

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Ambling New York rain

a respite is found over-

looking the Hudson.

This afternoon, I am back home sitting in a parking lot at the beach waiting for a shower to pass so I can slip onto the beach to enjoy that scene for a while. We’ll see if I get another respite.

Views of New York

Recently, I decided to take a short trip to New York City with a friend. It was a bit of a spontaneous trip, we planned less than a week out, but the idea for the trip had been knocking around in my head for a while. I live on the east coast but I had never been to New York, and in my mind, it was overdue. In typical fashion for a trip to the city, I ran the entire time I was there. I told my friend that in a lot of ways, I felt that the entire trip was an exercise in resourcefulness as we moved from one mode of transportation to another. We drove from home to RDU airport, located in Morrisville, NC to catch our plane. We parked in one of the most distant parking lots to get a better price for parking then caught a shuttle to the airport. Once we were in the airport, we walked to the appropriate terminal. We flew on our plane, landed in New York and grabbed a cab to the hotel. Once we were situated at the hotel, we obtained a map of the subways, used the subways to get around and then walked where we wanted to go. 14, 986 steps one day.  We visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We caught the Staten Island ferry for the excursion. At the end of the visit, we caught another car back to the airport, walked to another terminal, flew on another plane, took another shuttle to our car and drove back home. Phew!

Obviously, I have lots of thoughts about everything that happened in between which I’m sure I will write about over time. While in the midst of all this moving about, I did manage to write a couple of haikus and of course, snap some pictures. The haiku below is about my impression of the city as I flew in that first day. I was struck by how tiny the enormous buildings looked from the sky, like an architectural model. In fact, from my seat on the plane, they didn’t even look definitively like buildings at first, but rather large rocks standing up to reach or worship the sky.

Jagged rocks reaching

to the sky, lined up Legos

or modern Stonehenge

Below are a few more pictures that I snapped of buildings from other angles. The first set are pictures I took of a few buildings from the opposite direction, underneath, as I explored the Brookfield Place shopping center.

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The last picture is a view from my plane as I left the city at sunset on my last day.

 

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Change

via Daily Prompt: Savor

Life is full of changes. My job was recently complicated when one of my leads resigned to take another position. A new team was put in place and I found myself in the position of being one of the most seasoned members on that project. Now, I’m perfectly capable of leading. I’m even kind of good at it, but I still don’t always look for excuses to lead. I love mentoring, but being the leader is a different ball of wax. Being the leader requires more commitment, more stress and frankly, less freedom; and if I’m going to be perfectly honest about myself, freedom is one of my favorite things in the whole world. So it’s a struggle. As per my normal reaction, I’m trying to find a happy balance with the situation.

In addition, my baby sister has decided to move to California which is literally on the other side of the country. I’ve been scrambling to get some time with her before she goes; and I’m already thinking ahead to my first visit, which has been difficult to pull together due to conflicting timelines.

Last night, our large family came together and we took her to dinner. There were seven small children total in our group so I imagine the restaurant is still nursing the wounds of that trauma 🙂 (Needless to say, we tipped our waitress very well). Afterwards, my sister and I stood outside of the restaurant and talked to one of my brothers and his family for about 45 minutes then she and I went for a drink with a couple of her friends.

As we stood outside of the restaurant, I looked up to see the sky in all its glory as the sun set behind the clouds. A sense of awe and freedom and gratitude washed over me as I stood under the sky and talked to my siblings in the parking lot. Afterwards, my sister and I went out and extended our visit.

Sometimes, life takes twists and turns and we don’t know where it’s taking us. I was talking to a friend a while back. She was looking to make some changes in her life and was overwhelmed by how she should do it.

“I have a tendency to get bogged down with the big picture,” I said.

“Me, too!” she answered.

But I think the key is to just take the next step. We can be aware of the big picture, but most of the time, we won’t be able to just jump to the end. We just have to take the next step and savor the good times along the way. Make the most of a visit when the opportunity presents itself and always glance up to see the sunset.

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New Orleans Streetcar

via Daily Prompt: Tender

It has been about 8 months since I visited New Orleans for the first time. One of my friends is a HUGE Keith Urban fan so we traveled to NOLA to attend a concert at the Smoothie King arena downtown.

The wonderful thing about going somewhere for the first time is that it is perfectly acceptable to be a shameless tourist. Besides the concert, we filled our weekend with all of the typical NOLA tourist activities. We took the streetcar to Bourbon Street  where I’m pretty sure I dined on the best shrimp jambalaya I will ever consume in my life, and to Cafe du Monde where I sampled the best beignets I will probably ever taste. We took a bus tour of the Garden District, which was beautiful, then to the 9th Ward where we saw houses and neighborhoods that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

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All of these memories linger in my mind, and now with a base of experience, I have a better idea of what I want to explore further if I go back to New Orleans; but there is another memory from the streetcar that lingers, as well, and it is a simple one.

The streetcars intrigued me. Their charming trademark appearance of wooden seats and exposed light bulbs were distinctly New Orleans. For those who don’t know the mechanics of the streetcars, they run on electricity. They don’t travel quickly, and there are frequent stops. They offer a unique experience but also require some patience. There was a variety of people thrown together on the streetcars: tourists, people going to and from work and residents just running errands.

The first night we were in New Orleans, we took the streetcar to Bourbon St. That is a story in itself. We missed our stop and would not have known except that I started talking to a female passenger who informed me that if we were going to Bourbon St, we had to get off the streetcar quickly. I told the driver and she did stop for us…two blocks out from Bourbon St. She pointed to a stretch of dark road and said, “It’s two blocks that way. Just go straight and you will walk right into it”. We hesitantly got out of the car and stepped into a city that was strange to us then walked down the dark stretch of road to Bourbon St. It didn’t help my nerves when I looked back at the woman on the streetcar and noticed a look of concern on her face. But we made it there okay and it was a lesson learned. When we left, we took a taxi back to the hotel since it was so late.

As I said, there was a diverse group of passengers on the streetcar. I remember one time during our travels when the streetcar stopped for several minutes to pick up another passenger. I glanced out the window, curious to see who was boarding. An older man in a wheelchair sat on the curb. He held a large bottle of water, a cup and a small dog on his lap. I learned that the streetcars are equipped with platforms that can be lowered to the curb for people who use wheelchairs, but there is a process to lowering the platform and it takes a few minutes. I glanced around the car which was relatively full, and noticed that even though we were full and on a delay, no-one seemed impatient. Everyone took the pause in stride. I glanced back down at the man. He poured some water into his cup and shared it with the dog on his lap. For some reason, I was filled with a sense of tenderness. For the man, for the dog and even for the passengers who patiently waited for his arrival inside the car. Shortly thereafter, he wheeled onto the lowered platform and was raised up to join us.

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All in all, it was a really enjoyable trip. I was reminded by a couple of people during the weekend to “be careful” as I explored the city as a tourist, but I was very fortunate. Most of the people I encountered were friendly and patient. Even helpful. And also, in case you are wondering, Keith Urban was great in concert! If you get a chance to see him, you should go.

Have a wonderful weekend, all!