Wilmington has proven to be a great place for us to rest, regroup, and prepare for the second half of our trip. Staying in the heart of the historic district has given us easy access to dozens of cafes, shops, and activities. Our morning workouts take us through beautifully maintained older neighborhoods and well-developed waterfront trails. As we have seen in other well-preserved towns, the city’s historic foundation has placed plaques on all original structures in the district memorializing the initial occupants. There are also plaques throughout the city denoting important events and citizens. I’ve never spent more time reading during my morning runs than I have in Wilmington!
Our apartment is located in the 108 year old Ahrens Building, in the heart of the city’s historic district. Prior to being converted to condos, the building has hosted the pharmaceutical, appliance, and auto supply businesses. Today the building’s first floor houses Downtown Darlings, a cute little speciality shop devoted to everything a little girl could ever want…….how fortuitous.
Monday was haircut and color, laundry, and grocery shopping day. Not much to write about except for a quick stop at Starbucks where I was introduced to North Carolina’s open carry law:
Tuesday Robin worked and I had the Old Home serviced at the Cape Fear Land Rover dealership. The service guy declared her to be in perfect shape (for a middle-aged vehicle) and gave her a really good wash. Hard to believe we have driven close to 8,000 miles since leaving San Ramon in July.
We also found time for a quick trolley tour of the historic district. Not the best trolley tour of our travels (“….as we pass the old Saint Mary’s Catholic Church you will notice the structure on top of the steeple in the shape of a cross. The cross is representative of the crucifixion of Christ….”), but we did pass several interesting landmarks and more beautiful homes.
Wednesday we slept through the alarm and got up just in time for a late lunch. With most of the day gone, we decided to do our own walking tour of the town which happened to lead us to the Cape Fear Serpentarium. Not wanting to pass up on an opportunity to see rare exotic snakes and reptiles, we paid our admission and went in to check out the exhibits. It was quite impressive. The snakes were up and active……..very creepy (literally).
We felt like a drink after visiting with the snakes, so we stopped by Le Catalan and had a nice libation on the river, then on to the Shuckin Shack for Oysters and shrimp. A short day but a good one.
Moored in the Cape Fear River, just across from downtown Wilmington, is the World War II battleship USS North Carolina. This particular battleship took part in every major naval offensive in the Pacific and is the most highly decorated battleship of WWII. She assisted the landing of Marines on Guadalcanal and escorted and protected the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Saratoga. During her service, the USS North Carolina shot down 24 aircraft, sunk a Japanese troop carrier, and sustained a torpedo hit.
The armament on this ship is just incredible. The 60+ foot 16″ guns took a dozen sailors (per gun) to operate and fire. We were able to enter one of the turrets and see their battle stations.
The ship housed over 2,300 people, the vast majority being enlisted weapons specialists. However, being a virtual city at sea, the complement of crew also included doctors, dentists, cooks, barbers, ministers, as well as specialists in communications and coding, navigation, mechanical repair, electronics, etc. Touring the 9 decks, it is just mind-boggling to imagine the entire ship’s crew in action. In one eight minute battle while escorting the Enterprise off the Solomon Islands, the crew fired close to 18,000 rounds of ammunition. Incredible.
Friday we got in the car and headed off toward the ocean to explore Wrightsville Beach. The town consists of thousands of (vacation) homes crammed onto a 4 mile island with a spectacular beach on the Atlantic. We had a great lunch at the Bluewater Grill then went for a walk on the beach.
On the way back to Wilmington we decided to do a “One Tree Hill” tour. One Tree Hill was a TV drama that Robin and I watched religiously for many years, and it turns out that the series was filmed right here in Wilmington. Apparently Wilmington, home to Screen Gems Studios, has been a mecca for TV shows and movies since the 1980’s, surpassed only by Los Angeles and New York in film revenue. The locals refer to the city as “Hollywood East” or “Wilmywood”. Shows such as Matlock, Dawson’s Creek, Under the Dome, Sleepy Hollow, Revolution, and movies like Iron Man 3, A Walk to Remember, We’re the Millers, and Firestarter were all filmed right here in Wilmington.
So, One Tree Hill fans (Julie and Carrie Brunt) ……..here is some of what we found:
We also stopped at Whole Foods on the way back to Wilmington and bought some wings and sides for dinner, which we enjoyed while watching “The Leftovers” on Netflix.
Today was perfect for just hanging out. Robin was riveted to the iPad following Solheim Cup golf, we snacked on whatever we had in the apartment all afternoon, then had dinner at a place our hair stylist recommended called Hieronymus Seafood. Good shrimp and grits! Ended the day with a nice walk (reading plaques on houses) and saw a great sunset over the Cape Fear River and USS North Carolina.
Looking forward to our last two days in Wilmington. We seem to be surrounded by sports bars so we’ll have to see if any of them are brave enough to have the Raiders game showing!