25 July 2012

City of Oaks, Part One: Why That Guy At The Fire Is An Idiot

I met a guy in Costa Rica who hated Raleigh, and it pissed me off. Now imagine this: a group of half drunk gringos, all laughing and talking, passing around a bottle of rum, listening to the Pacific crash ashore. The stars were shining. The conversation was good. Someone was even playing fucking ukulele (it was me). Someone calls over, "hey Lauren, this guy's from Raleigh too," and I happily walk over, sit beside my fellow North Carolinian, and say something along the lines of "Hey, small world! I love Raleigh."
And this guy, this fucking guy, he says: "Oh, I hate Raleigh, I live in Asheville now and love it." So immediately I'm like, you damn idiot hippy. Raleigh kicks ass. And I try to tell him this, I'm all, "I like Asheville too, but how could you hate Raleigh?!" He just spews some nonsense about how there's like, not enough nature in Raleigh, or some shit. I mean, what a retarded piece of shit. At some point, I vaguely remember getting up abruptly and going to the other side of the fire.
Now, come on. I have no right to be offended, I know this. I'm not even from here. I only moved to Raleigh, on a whim, a little over a year and a half ago. My boyfriend, who I had known for all of 4 months, was all, "hey girl I gotta go to grad school in the city, wanna join?" and I was all, "nah I gotta go to Colombia to learn Spanish and shit." But then I didn't go to Colombia. And I missed him. And I certainly never learned Spanish. So I moved here, and it was one of the few super reckless life decisions I've made that have actually turned out well. Go figure.
Anyway. To formally address the "not enough nature" argument against Raleigh:  Fuck that. 

Things To Do OUTSIDE In Raleigh

The JC Raulston Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Part of NC State University Campus

The Arboretum is one of my favorite places in the city. There's never a lot of people, just a few Asians taking pictures in the Japanese garden and the random couple holding hands on the rooftop terrace. If I wasn't too lazy to leave my apartment most of the time, this is the place I would go read a book and drink coffee for hours. 
Japanese Garden

There are cute little ponds,
cute ponds

Beautiful fields of flowers,
Annual color trials

Educational signs,
learnin' about nature

an Asian valley,
Asian persuasion 

And the public restrooms are adorable.
adorable restroom

In the summer it's open from 8 to 8 (Winter hours are 8 to 5),  and there's all sorts of kids education events, if you're into that.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "oh snap, Raleigh DOES have a lot of nature." But that ain't even it. Besides that, we have, like, a ton of lakes. Seriously. People are all, "hey I'm going to the lake," and you have to ask, "which one?" Because there are so many. 
Except there are actually about 5. My favorite, probably because it's the closest one to my apartment, is Lake Johnson. 

Lake Johnson Nature Park 
view from paddleboat

Although Johnson is smaller than it's neighbors, Wheeler and Jordan, there's still a ton of crap to do. There are picnic areas with public grills. There are jon boat, pedal boat, kayak, canoe, and sailboat rentals. 
For a while, I was good friends with a crazy girl, and we spent several afternoons on the lake. 
this is illegal and leads to terrible hangovers

Paddleboard and yoga classes are offered, as well as a bunch that I can't remember. There's even a fishing tournament. But my favorite part is the 5+ miles of trails. (3.5 paved, 2 unpaved)
view from a trail

Sometimes I decide that maybe I'll live longer if I start exercising, and in a fit of enthusiasm, my boyfriend and I walk the trails and talk about leaves and I make fun of fat people. Sometimes you try to get away from people who are on awkward first dates because the guy is talking to much, so you go down a side trail, but they follow you with their stupid dog and then it's super awkward because you have to stop and pretend to stare at the lake and simultaneously make sure you're not stepping in poison ivy as they go around you. But that's a pretty rare occurrence. Also there's a little lake dam that you can climb down into at night and splash around and drink whiskey. But you didn't hear it from me. 

Parks and Squares 
In addition to our awesome ass lakes, Raleigh has about a million parks suitable for various needs. For example, if you happen to be in need of some crack cocaine, just go to the tiny park right next to the bus station, Moores Square. I guarantee you'll find some there. If you need to drink a cheap bottle of wine with your friends after the bar closes and no one can drive, just hop on over to Nash Square for a while before you hail a taxi. Perhaps you find yourself slightly drunk from a long lunch at the Raleigh Times, and you just need to lay down and read an Indy Weekly for a bit. The tidy little area around the State Capitol Building is the perfect place to do so. 
Confederate Statue

Of course, not all park actives have to be associated with drinking. They're even nice enough to hang out in sober! My favorite place to hang out, in front of the Museum block, is perfect for taking terrible family photos when they're in town for Christmas and you have to be at work in 30 minutes. 
"we are not photogenic people," to quote my aunt

Bonus: the Museum of Natural Science is right across the street. 

Indians love nature

Okay, okay, I realize that except for the Lake Johnson one, these places are more city squares than nature parks. But just chill out for a second. I haven't even told you about Pullen Park. I don't have any pictures yet, so you'll just have to take my word for it-Pullen Park is the shit. If you have loud ass kids that need to get out of the house, take those brats to Pullen. If you have an extra 20 minutes before work and it's already on your way and everything, go walk around Pullen. If you wanna hotdog-they have those. Pullen Park.
Now I don't even wanna mention this next one.

William B. Umstead State Park 
Umstead blows the "not enough nature" shit out of the water. You don't even know what nature IS until you've been to Umstead. 
hint: it's this

This place is huge. NC State forestry kids come out here to identify trees for their classes. 
They also perform gruesome experiments. 

Frankenstein tree

A ton of people come out here to jog, but I mostly just stumble around and ask Jon questions about the trees. 

all up in nature

Had enough nature yet? Too fucking bad. If you like art, and being outside, you gotta check out the
NC Museum of Art Museum Park

It was super hot the day I went and my friend and I had to leave to go get beer, but there's a couple miles of trails out there, as well as picnic tables, and little signs about ecology and stuff. 
Oh, and some big ass statues. 
big Ass Statue 

The actual Art Museum is closed on Mondays, but you are free to roam the grounds until a beer run is necessary. 

Raleigh Little Theater and Rose Garden
little theater, pretty garden

I'm not a huge fan of roses because they're ugly and cliche, but this area is beautiful. Even though there are apparently 56 varieties of ugly ass roses. 
nature is pretty

I've never gone to a show, but the theater itself is pretty cool. It reminds me a lot of Italy. 
Italian ass theater 

Besides the stuff I've already mentioned, there's also a few small parks around Cameron Village that I like to sit in sometimes, the creepy and awesome Oakwood Cemetery (pictures soon!), and, if you're into it, some serious golfing in the area. Then there's 
The Friends of Dorothea Dix Park
Dorothea Dix Park a beautiful area with a killer view you can pose stupidly in front of the day after you get back from Costa Rica and you still feel the need to be outside at every moment. BECAUSE YOU CAN IN RALEIGH.

suck it camp fire guy!

What, seriously, you want more? Tell me below by COMMENTING, dammit. Seriously, what does it take to get you people to comment? Lazy asses.

09 July 2012

Beaufort: A Very Drunk Attempt At A Photo Essay

When people ask me where I'm from, I lie. I do this partly out of malice, and partly because it's so annoying to have to explain the concept of Down East: the marshy countryside comprised of small communities that each pretend to have their own unique identity. (Sure, Otwaians, Harkers Islanders are weird. Whatever.) So I say that I'm from Beaufort. Because that's where my happy place is, anyway.

happy place

Beaufort has less than 5,000 residents and was ranked in February as "America's Coolest Small Town" by Budget Travel Magazine readers. I did not vote in the contest, because I know damn well that it won't be so cool once its not a small town anymore. I mean, I've waited tables at like a hundred different restaurants in the area, and I love the dumb tourists that come in and give me their money, but I still think it's best we leave it a secret.  And don't berate me for giving away any secrets, y'all. I doubt I'll lose sleep at night knowing my average of 20 readers per week will flock to the town on holiday.

WPYC members only flag, NC State Flag, Beaufort city flag, US Flag

I recently visited Beaufort with a few goals in mind: getting tan, drunk, and taking photos for a practice travel post on my wildly popular and quickly growing blog. This didn't work out, at all. Well....one of the goals did. Shit, man, I was incredibly successful at getting super hammered and wandering all over town, but I didn't really get much of a tan, and I stopped taking pictures at some point (thank GOD).

moonlight on the water from the end of a dock

Plus, as soon as I snapped a few photos of pretty sailboats and the sunset, a HUGE storm came rolling in, the sky turned scary black, we all made Take Shelter jokes, and had to sprint to take shelter in the nearest bar. This was the beginning of the end for us. After waiting for the downpour to pass over us, we headed to our initial goal bar, my favorite spot in the world, the place that my boyfriend and I met, and where I have made grown men cry-the Pub.

                                                    The Backstreet Pub, Beaufort, NC

There was a customer appreciation event, but, because of the rain, the staff had packed up the picnic food that we were planning on making our dinner. We did see a pretty fucking awesome band, called Vagabond Swing. These guys were from Louisiana, and were awesome. I ended up hanging out with various members all weekend. One guy called me a tease. I won't go into further deail, so I guess he's right.
trumpeteering just got sexy

So, after Jon and I stayed for a few beers, we headed to the local coffee shop/liquor bar/wine store, The Cru, for a quick pizza.

Cru Bar, Beaufort NC

However, once there, we ran into a sailing crew that we had just met. These guys were pretty cool. They had come up through the Panama Canal, and I really enjoyed sharing Central America stories with this one old British man. Anyway, of course they offered to buy us a shot...and then offered to secretly open yet another place in town-

The James: best $1.25 burger you will EVER have. Notice the lack of an open sign.

Since we were apparently about to participate in an illegal after hour party*, we inquired about illegal after hour burgers-they assured us that it was possible. EXCEPT, after arrival, and after probably a hundred more pints, we were told that the grill could not be turned on. I don't remember the reason for this. I just know that we were super drunk and super hungry and by then everywhere serving food was closed. So we were fucked. Eventually we made our way back to the Pub, and picked up a member of the band to go take shots with at the worst place in the world, The Dockhouse.

still at the Pub, this time with a bassist

The rest is a blur of regret and audacity. I won't be showing my face in that town for at least a month. Maybe not until next summer. Fuck it, I have friends in the mountains now (for my 3 international readers, I live in North Carolina-which stretches from the Blue Ridge mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. I used to live by the ocean, now I'm right in the middle of the State-making it super easy to visit either beautiful place over a weekend). If I feel the need to flee the appalling city heat of Raleigh, I'll just visit Asheville, and try not to get quite so blacked out.

this was required to seek forgiveness from my weekend hosts

But I still love Beaufort.

*Disclaimer: Nothing we did there was illegal. Except for the Taiwanese hookers with the heroin balloons. But I didn't invite them, I promise.