Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wilmington, NC-My First REAL Southern Experience

The truth of the matter is Myrtle Beach is not living up to my southern experience expectations. It's too touristy. Sure I can get shrimp and grits, fried okra (or fried anything), and sweet tea but where are the southern-style plantation homes? The homes with big columns? The cute downtowns? The history????? 

My Aunt Leslie is on a business trip to Wilmington and invited me to join her. She's awesome and I was absolutely delighted to accept her invitation and to spend time with her. Plus, I critically needed this, an outing, some time with family. 

I arrived around 9:30am and we headed straight for the ocean. We walked along the beach, chatted, laughed, swapped stories, picked up shells, touched the water. It was great. Then we cruised around the residentials/vacation spots near the ocean. They are pretty nice. Not trashy or anything and the inlets are really pretty. 

Next we headed to downtown Wilmington and spent the majority of our day walking around, shopping, wandering in and out of shops, exploring. It was grand. I was nervous about downtown Wilmington because I've never been there and was expecting a large downtown. Negative. It's beautiful, quaint, and not intimidating at all. We wandered through the farmer's market where I saw some legit Venus Flytraps. I want one!!!! We saw this (of many) cool restaurant where the customers can sit on their own private balcony and enjoy an intimate meal. So cool. 

A little bit of the tree-lined downtown. I think this is Market Street. 
Cobblestone streets included!

 I saw my first river boat. Definitely in the south. 

My darling, fabulous, wicked fun Aunt Leslie! 
(That's the USS North Carolina in the background)

There are some shops in a series of buildings that make up "The Cotton Exchange." I learned this place is allegedly haunted. Huh. I did not see or feel any haunted beings but, the shops were neat!

Quaint southern, historic architecture 

We had ice cream at the famous Kilwins. 
They make fresh waffle cones right in the store. KILLER selling technique and boy oh boy are they gooooood! I got the sea salted caramel ice cream (A+) and Aunt Leslie got the Pecan Praline, which she gave the nod of approval to. I will be coming back here. The line was out the door!!!
Picture from here

After our jaunt downtown, we set out to explore the intercoastal waterway. As my mom likes to say, we were "cruising the residentials." This happens to be one of my favorite things to do and it is perfect that my Aunt Leslie likes it too! Must run in the family. So we saw a few stunning neighborhoods and then stumbled upon a boating area and got out to see the marshes and the inlet. 
It smelled like home.
I could have cried but I was too excited!
It smelled like the ocean! That briny smell, you know? Oh I loved it! Myrtle Beach doesn't smell like the ocean. It smells like fast food and cigarettes...LAME
Needless to say, this was one of my favorite parts of the day. 

 Not to mention it even resembles New England. 

Now. Let's back up to our downtown jaunt. As we were popping in and out of shops, we went into this neat antique store. I was sooo excited because I have yet to find a legit antique store in the Myrtle Beach area. Bummer. So, as my Aunt Leslie and I were wondering around oooohing and aaaaahing at several things, we came upon the dishware aisle. I saw this plate and instantly, before I even processed what it was, recognized that boathouse. 
Picture from here
My first thought: HOME. My second thought: Rockport.
Rockport, Massachusetts. The boathouse.
Fun Fact: Apparently, this is one of the most photographed and painted things in America. I was tickled. Thrilled. Blissful. In disbelief. I gingerly (ha-no pun intended!) picked it up and was relieved to find it was indeed a real, glass, authentic plate (no cheapo knock-offs or plasticware!) and had to have it. 

So now it's hanging in my room and it brings out the reds in my pillows and the throw at the end of my bed. And it makes me really, really, really, really, really, really, really happy.
Wilmington, NC was fabulous. It's southern and classy. It has bits and pieces that remind me of home, and so naturally I feel connected to this town. I will be returning, probably several times as it is a quick zip up 17N and only takes about an hour and a half. It's the southern experience I have been waiting for and had expected when I moved south, with a dash of New England. Gabe-Approved. 

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