Monday, May 26, 2008

Orange County, North Carolina

Yesterday after lunch, George and I explored nearby Orange County. As we passed out of Durham County into Orange County on Interstate 40 West, we spotted this big county sign, and stopped for a picture.

Our first challenge was to find Maple View Farm, a dairy farm out in the county, northwest of Chapel Hill. We'd heard they have yummy ice cream, but we were delighted by the drive along the way. We actually got lost at first, turning the wrong way on New Hope Church Road. (We did find the UU Congregation of Hillsborough, which was neat.) When we got there, George ordered a scoop of Honey Toasted Almond, and I got a scoop of Strawberry Sorbet. Both were yummy! We enjoyed eating and relaxing in rocking chairs on the front porch of the farm's country store. It was a beautiful view, and the porch was full of people in rocking chairs, talking and laughing (the people, not the chairs!). There was an accordian player playing at one end of the porch, which added a certain charm.

One of the suprise offerings was a horse-drawn wagon ride around part of the farm. The driver took donations only, and it was a beautiful day, so we hopped at the chance. The driver was very cordial and informative, so we had a good time asking him questions and learning more about the farm. In the picture on the left, taken from inside the wagon, you can see bits of green in the dirt--corn stalks coming up.

Next, George and I went to Chapel Hill to try to find Ghimgoul Castle, which I was taken to as an undergrad at Duke. (I love a good ghost story, and Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.) I had directions to Ghimgoul Road, but not to the castle, and couldn't remember when the castle was even built (though in my memory bank it was kinda run down 20+ years ago). Well, we found it yesterday at the end of Ghimgoul Rd. and down an additional dirt road. There were "Private Property" signs on the trees at the end of the driveway, which was blocked by a chain, and we could see there was an invisible dog fence (marked by the little flags). The castle looked a lot fresher than I remembered, like a current residence. George and I decided not to stick around, though we did ask some walkers about it on our way back down Ghimgoul Road. They confirmed that we'd seen Ghimgoul Castle back there, but that the current residents wanted their privacy. Can understand that, so on we drove. It was an interesting reminder of how things aren't always as I remember (or if they were at one time, things have a way of changing!).

Next, George and I went to the North Carolina Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill. This is one of our favorite spots in the area, so I always look forward to returning. It had been a while since we'd been, so I was surprised to see construction for a new visitor center there. It looks like it'll be a nice facility!

There were many pretty flowers in bloom, including the rhododendron.

George found out this kitty has been hanging out in the gardens for quite a few years! It's a pretty mellow cat, allowing George to pet him/her.

One of our favorite places to sit and relax in the NC Botanical Gardens is in rocking chairs next to a big chess set, pictured on the left.

We'd thought we might go to Franklin Street in Chapel Hill for dinner, since it has a lot of character. Franklin Street goes along northern border of the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (est. 1789), the UNC system's flagship, and has a number of interesting stores and restaurants. As we were driving down the road, I pointed out the way to Meadowmont Village, which happens to have a Brixx Pizza, which we've enjoyed at Brier Creek a couple of times. We decided to pull in and have dinner there. We walked around the shopping area a bit first, and really enjoyed it. The weather couldn't have been better, and there were some interesting shops along the way (though nothing was open).

Our last stop of the day in Orange County was at the (fairly) new Trader Joe's in Chapel Hill. It's a delightful place to shop! The flower section to the left here is just inside the front door, and I think it's just so pretty!

While we were there, I discovered they have Diet Hansen's Soda in Pomegranate! I asked a passing sales clerk if he'd tried that flavor, and while he had not, he said we could take one to the tasting counter, and they'd open one for us to try. We thought that was a great idea, so off we went. Better yet, the man at the counter had a cold Pomegranate drink in his refrigerator for us to try! Yuuummmy! I got two six-packs!
Famous people who have passed through Orange County (as residents or as students at UNC) includes James Taylor, Charles Kuralt, Andy Griffith, John Edwards, Thomas Wolfe, and Michael Jordon.