Departing New Orleans, it hadn’t yet occurred to me that this would ((for the most part)) be the end of my time solo with Andrew, until he mentioned it during the car ride. Since my family is spread up and down the East Coast of the USA, which meant no more camping or hotels. Family members have all graciously agreed to host us, as did Andrew’s family for the England/European portion of our travels, and we are so very fortunate and thankful for that. Andrew and I are so used to being a duo, usually on our own for the past several years, and as we approached the Carolinas, we would be spending much of the next nine months with our family and friends instead of by ourselves. I’ve mentioned this before – spending extended time with our loved ones was one of the driving forces to take this adventure, but I think no longer being on our own for such an extended period of time will take a little getting used to. Nothing we cannot handle, so without further delay, let the family time commence!
Original plans between New Orleans and North Carolina included an overnight stop in either Atlanta or Jacksonville, Florida. However, since we did have some flexibility and no lodging booked for that overnight, we decided to skip it and drive straight through to the home of my sister, brother-in-law and their two boys, just outside Wilmington, North Carolina. Being an Aunt is one of my most favorite things, so getting to spend time with my six nieces and nephews on the East Coast of the states had me feeling pretty darn excited ((two nephews in NC plus three nieces and one nephew in NY)).
The cross-country traveling & less than great food choices caught up with me in the form of a scratchy throat and stuffy nose the first few days at my sister’s home, and same with Andrew, so we laid low for several days. We got to see the boys play soccer, and the older of the two, Gregory ((age 8)), received a “terrific kid” award at school so we were there for the little ceremony the school put on. The weather was gorgeous during our time spent in North Carolina, so when we started feeling better, Andrew and I boldly went swimming in the pool one evening before dinner. Even though the weather was gorgeous during our visit, apparently the only people who swim at this time of year are tourists and/or crazy people, because even the neighbors came over to witness it!
We played games of Uno and Sorry Sliders; Andrew played Lego guns with James ((age 6)); and later in the week when my mom arrived, bringing with her a Ladder Ball set, we enjoyed several games of that! One of the most popular requests though, was Angry Bird Star Wars 2 on my iPad. I wish I kept a tally of how many time James asked if he could play it. One of the days during our visit, he got sick, and we knew he was feeling much better when he mumbled “Aunt Mary, can I play Angry Birds Star Wars 2?!”
Andrew and I ventured out on a few outings in and around Wilmington, including one by ourselves to beautiful Bald Head Island, which is spectacular enough to get it’s own upcoming post. One of our adult outings while the kids were in school was to the New Hanover County Arboretum in Wilmington. After reading several favorable comments on Foursquare, my mom, my sister Kate, Andrew and I ventured into Wilmington to see what the fuss was all about. The Arboretum has free admission, which is always a plus for travelers on a budget! The four of us strolled through the various gardens, admiring the roses and hostas and especially the Japanese Garden area. It is truly a lovely Arboretum and I recommend it to anyone visiting Wilmington. From time to time they have different special art events, but even just visiting the arboretum not during an event is a wonderful experience for any age.
Another two very notable outings were to get pedicures with my mom and sister, and another time, the three of us hit up ladies night at The Little Dipper in Wilmington for incredible fondue. Go to Dipper with your girlfriends or female family members on Wednesday evening, and it is a reasonable $9 per person. You select a cheese from their cheese fondue menu options, and then a dessert chocolate. The server makes each fondue right at your table in your heated fondue dipping pot, and when the fondue is ready, the server brings out a plate of various snacks to dip with for each the cheese and chocolate, separately. Order up a crisp glass of wine or champagne ((additional charge, of course)) to go with your fondue selections, and it is a perfectly acceptable & filling meal. We chose the Havarti Dill for our cheese fondue, and Turtle for our dessert fondue. My sister says it is usually pretty busy on ladies night, so we recommend making a reservation in advance. They have other daily specials throughout the week which would be great for a special date night. Funny enough, I think this visit to The Little Dipper was the first time I have been out to a fondue place. I know it will not be the last. It was excellent, and so much fun. The three of us sat and chatted long after the pots were scraped clean by fruit and fingers. Since we are spread across four different addresses in three states, It is really rare and special for my mom, two sisters and I to be together, having adult time and adult conversations. ((we certainly missed my middle sister during this time in North Carolina, but soon enough I would arrive in New York to spend time with her family))
The last weekend at my sister’s, we all hopped in two cars and drove the short distance to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for some shopping, dinner and mini golf. You may not know this, but I am quite certain Andrew and I are both professional shoppers. Even though he and I weren’t intending to spend much money at the Outlets in South Carolina, we were successful at helping my sister and mom to drop a load of cash on new Fall jackets and cooler weather outfits. Most guys hate to shop and are incredibly clueless when it comes to helping their wives shop. Well not my guy. He is right there giving the ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ or going to find us another top that may look better. And I think he has pretty good taste. My sister sure got a kick out of his shopping expertise. Since shopping built up an appetite, we dined at Sticky Fingers barbeque joint for dinner ((Andrew loved their dry rub rack of ribs, even more than the ribs at Salt Lick in Austin)), and then played a round of Putt Putt Mini Golf at Cancun Lagoon. There’s just no way you can visit Myrtle Beach without a round of Putt Putt, am I right? Kate ended with the best score of the group; I came in a close second. None of that mattered compared to the incredible feat of back-to-back holes in one, achieved by the youngest of the group, James! We arrived home at just about midnight that night, after a truly fun day spent in sunny South Carolina.
Sometimes even a full week and a half in one place goes by quicker than you imagined. Sincere thanks to my sister and her family for hosting us, and letting us eat all the potato chips. My nephew even gave up his bedroom for us! Such a sweetheart. For the last few days in Carolina, we headed west to visit my mom in Winston-Salem to spend some time with her, and to see exactly why she loves this new city of hers so very much.
Next up on the blog: a brush with the Andy Griffith Show during my visit in Western North Carolina