Marvin and I seek adventure. We’re both city slickers, and living quite literally on the beach (North Topsail Beach, to be exact, population: 955) is fun in the summertime but pretty quiet otherwise. Out of the ten condos in our complex and the complex next to ours, two are currently occupied over the winter. It beautiful and lonely when your only neighbor is the ocean.
The other day, Marvin and I were driving. It was unseasonably warm, even for southeast North Carolina. On our road, the long New River Inlet Road that makes up the entirety of North Topsail Beach, we see a small sign. “Palm Tree Market and Tiki Bar,” it read, with an arrow pointing north.
Our street is probably about six miles and entirely residential, save for the “longest pier” (in the town? State? World? Who knows?) and tackle shop, and a condo community with a seasonal restaurant. We have often longed for a place that wasn’t ten minutes away that we could just walk to, or pop in for a coffee or a drink. We even thought of opening up our own little lounge in the stilted area of our garage, below the house.
When we see there’s a tiki bar about two miles away from us, we go nuts.
It turns out the “market” is an overpriced convenience store, and the “tiki bar” is a series of covered picnic tables where you can drink your overpriced convenience store beer in the outdoors.
Ok, so maybe not the best option.
This is why on Sunday morning, Marvin and I get up at the ungodly hour of 9:30am and head to Raleigh, North Carolina’s more populated capital. After some warnings from my dad (who brought us to Raleigh to live for two years when I was seven), we headed to Chapel Hill first, home of one of UNC’s biggest branches.
Chapel Hill is what you would expect of most college towns. Lots of brick buildings, very walkable, and a higher concentration of coffee shops than you would find anywhere. We noshed on pizza that was about as deliciously cheesy as the pies in the Ninja Turtles cartoons at Chapel Hill’s local pizzeria, Artichoke Basil. Afterward, in a decidedly unsoothing collaboration between head and stomach, we slipped into an incredible enterprise called “Sugarland,” which was a cupcake boutique that also proudly served gelatto, custom designer cakes, a full coffee bar and, my favorite, martinis. Whoever decided to serve cupcakes, gelato and martinis all in one place knows exactly what he or she is doing.
After eating, Chapel Hill proved to not have all that much to do, so we headed to Raleigh, which had skyscrapers. It was also much, much emptier than we had ever expected over the weekend, and with two absolutely incredible museums that we only wished we had the whole day to explore. And the best part was, the natural sciences and American history museums were both free.
The museums closed by 5pm, and left with a solid collection of pictures of us celebrating Passover with North Carolina Jews, sanding wood in a free black carpenter’s workshop and pretending to pull gumballs from the old-fashioned pharmacy/soda fountain set-up. We walked along Fayetteville street, oggling over the remaining Christmas lights and town tree, ate some of the best sushi in the world and happened upon a small ice skating rink that was playing old music for a number of young families with their kids. We sipped hot chocolate as we watched them skate, some falling over and laughing, others peeling their parents off the rink wall into the center to dance around them in circles.
We talked the whole drive home, which was about 2.5 hours. It wasn’t a crazy day, and there were no life-changing discoveries, but it was great. Sometimes it’s nice to explore the world around you and remember that there are always things to be seen and experiences to be had. You don’t have to go far for something new. And though you might not be able to find it right down the street, you can always figure something out if you’re dedicated to an adventure.