All posts by Leo

A Bike Ride on Raleigh’s Neuse River Greenway

Neuse River Greenway

Jennifer and I are big fans of Raleigh’s greenway system but hadn’t yet explored the newly added Neuse River Greenway. This section is 28 miles in length from Falls Lake and goes all the way to the Wake/Johnston County line. You could actually keep going into Johnston County for a few more miles as they have added more greenway that connects to the Neuse River Greenway.

Naturally, this greenway follows the Neuse River and this Spring weekend had the perfect weather for a ride.

neuse_river2

There’s a section of the greenway that goes off the river path and weaves through some farmland. It a very unique, scenic section that probably nowhere else on the greenway system goes.

neuse_river1

Back To East Raleigh In Style

House on Freeman Street

Lots of exciting things happened this week. After looking at houses we’ve finally made an offer on one and as of today, we’re under contract. The house is back in the Thompson-Hunter neighborhood, an area of Raleigh where Jennifer and I have lived before and we can’t wait to move back.

We know the area well and we’re proud to put the money down to plant ourselves in this section of Raleigh. The location is great and we already have a vision of how we see ourselves living in this house.

Man, it will be great to host parties again. Raleigh people get ready.

Living Near The Greenway

greenway

One really nice thing about our newest place near Five Points is how close it is to Raleigh’s Greenway. We’re literally a few hundred feet from a trail entrance and it is so easy to start a walk or bike ride from this point.

We’ve taken numerous walks, short and long, and because this trail, the Crabtree Creek Trail, is so central to the entire network we’ve been able to explore it in different directions. If you follow us on Runkeeper, you can see a great ride that’s mostly by greenway trails around Raleigh.

The Raleigh greenway is a real nice piece of Raleigh and in the next few years is going to be expanded even more. More than 100 miles of paved trails will exist by 2016.

Bring on more exploring!

greenway-2

greenway-5

greenway-3

A Trip Through New England

Montpelier

The wedding was a huge success and even weeks after, family and friends are still making comments. It was such a great weekend.

On the next day after the festivities, Jen and I left for a road trip around New England. We flew to Boston and stayed for a few days. We enjoyed our hotel, ate around town, and just enjoyed the great city atmosphere of Boston.

The road trip started a few days later and took us through a few states, shown on the map below.


View Honeymoon Roadtrip in a larger map

New Hampshire and Vermont is gorgeous in the Spring. We stopped in Concord and Montpelier (shown above) and scoped out the statehouses as part of our American tour. We also paid a visit to the Ben and Jerry’s factory for a tour and treat.

We stayed in Burlington, Vermont for one night and were able to see the very picturesque Lake Champlain.

Lake Champlain Sunset

The drive through Maine was also just as beautiful and enjoyable but it was the coast that really jumped out at us. We spent time on Mount Desert Island and explored Acadia National Park. After hiking a bit and driving through the scenic, rocky coastlines of the island, we stayed in Bar Harbor, a small tourist town on the water. Bar Harbor had some great views of the area.

Bar Harbor

To finish off the trip, we drove down the coast stopping in Augusta, Portsmouth, and Portland as well. We’ll definitely revisit Maine some day.

What I Learned In Australia

Our Australia trip was amazing. Communicating was easy since everyone spoke English, well maybe not in Chinatown, but there are still some differences between America and Australia. Here’s a quick list of things I learned while being in Australia for three weeks.

People and The Country

  • The country is spread across three time zones. From west to east, the times are actually 0:00, 1:30, and 2. I’ve never heard of an hour and half time zone before.
  • The state of Queensland does not do Daylight Saving Time while the other states in the same timezone do.
  • The country has 22 million people and about 20% of them are in Sydney.
  • Major sports are rugby, cricket, Australian football, and soccer. Which one is referred to as “footie” is still TBD.
  • Wifi is not as easy to find as it is here. You cannot assume that a coffee shop has Wifi for you to use. In Sydney, the country’s largest city, only Starbucks had Wifi at $3 per hour.
  • There are lots of cute nicknames for things. “Aussies” call Tasmania “Tassie,” football is “footie,” and breakfast is “brekky” or “breakie.” The spelling changes sometimes, too.
  • After you think the cute nicknames are just talk, you find out that it’s a little more official and maybe it’s not cute anymore, it’s normal talk. Official forms say “expiry” date and highway signs warn you of a “speedo” check.
  • The phrase “no worries” is used here in place of “you’re welcome” or “no problem.”
  • All strollers are called prams.
  • Toilets have two buttons: one for water, the other for more water. Trouble is, we can’t tell which is which.
  • Grocery store hours are pretty weak, with most closing around 6 p.m., or even 5 p.m. on a Saturday.
  • Crosswalk technology for pedestrians involves noises from space invaders.
  • You are allowed to reject junk mail but placing a sign on your mailbox that simply says, “No Junk Mail.” Read about it here.

Money

  • There are no 1 dollar bills. Instead they use 1 and 2 dollar coins. They also don’t use pennies but even with this, you end up with a lot of change in your pocket.
  • Everything costs more. Twenty-ounce Cokes are $3.50 at a convenience store, a typical bottled beer is $7, a cosmo will run you about $16, electronics are almost triple in price, and a Redbox rental is $2.95 per night.
  • Opening a tab is a process; show ID, fill out a small form, hand over your card, wait for a new card to be issued to you. This card represents your tab and you can show it whenever ordering.
  • Produce is pretty normal but location can hurt on certain things. Bananas are $10 per kg but you can get five kiwis for $2.

Food

  • Pie shops and bakeries are everywhere and there are pies for all meals. However, use caution when eating some of the meat pies, as stomachaches have been known to follow.
  • Eating Kangaroo is not a big deal. It’s a lean, tough meat.
  • Ketchup is called tomato sauce.
  • Pancakes and waffles are served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
  • Candies are made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup. This affects the taste of sodas, especially Coke, as well.
  • Capsicum refers to a pepper.
  • Not surprisingly, chips are actually French fries. (After all, this was a British colony.) They eat a lot of them here.
  • Bagels do not exist in this country.
  • Mexican restaurants are hard to find and I’m told that they are terrible. Example, they use jasmine rice in their burritos.

Animals

  • Kangaroos are pretty common in certain parts and they walk into the road, just like deer.
  • Male koalas make a weird burpy, grunting noise that is much louder than you would expect. They look cute but once a male starts making this noise, you think it might charge at you. Their claws are sharp by the way.
  • Tasmanian devils are pretty much tiny hyenas but the size of a cat. If you get a glimpse of ones teeth then it’s time to walk away.
  • Emus look like an ostrich.
  • The duck-billed platypus is very interesting when swimming along. It looks like its limping through the water and sort of fake with its bill and flippers.

Where The Party At? Downtown Raleigh Wedding Venues

There’s still a lot to get done for the wedding. Our current task on this scroll of to-dos is to find the place where the whole thing is going down. Jen and I have met and been together only in Raleigh so naturally it feels right for the wedding to be here.

Downtown Raleigh is where we spend most of our time and really enjoy being so having our ceremony and reception here also makes sense for us. There are quite a variety of places to choose from outside from the traditional churches. While some were clear losers, we still had fun seeing new places and planning this upcoming event.

On to the list of venues for the 2012 party of the year:

Sky High Views

Clarion Hotel

320 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27603
(919) 832-0501

The Clarion Hotel is a roomy, 20-story hotel in downtown Raleigh. The building brings out the architecture critic in you; you either love or hate the cylinder-like shape of the building. On the top floor however, is a wide open restaurant with very scenic views of the city. At night, the buildings of downtown Raleigh would light up and provide a great backdrop for any event.

View from the top of the Clarion Hotel
Cardinal Club
150 Fayetteville Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
clubcorp.com
(919) 834-8829
The Cardinal Club is a member’s club at the top of the Wachovia building on Fayetteville Street. This space offers spectacular views 29 floors high. The club is actually two floors with guests entering on the 28th and walking up a spiral staircase to get to the top floor. The largest space, decorated with wood and neutral colors, can hold about 150 people comfortably.
Capital Club
411 Fayetteville Street
Raleigh, Nc 27601
(919)832-5526
The Capital City Club should be called the sunset room, as it is has one of the best views of the sunset over Raleigh. The west facing space is at the top of the 21 story Progress Energy building on Fayetteville Street. With less wood decor then the club’s pair at the Cardinal Club, the space is still elegant for a wedding.

Historic Character and Charm

Haywood Hall

211 New Bern Place
Raleigh, NC 27601
haywoodhall.org
(919) 832-8357
Haywood Hall is a historic house built in 1799. Between the house and the beautiful grounds around it, there is a lot of potential for a wedding or other large event. The grounds have gardens and walking paths around a brick common area. The outdoor space is shaded with tall trees and is still clear on a bright sunny day.
Cobblestone Hall

205 Wolfe Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 844-5959
Cobblestone Hall is the space in the historic City Market building. Opening as a market in 1914, the building has gone through multiple uses but is still in great shape. Outisde, the brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets will show visitors they are in a truly unique area of Raleigh. Inside, the tall roof, large windows, and long metal beams will make a great background for photos during a wedding or other large event.  The space has been well renovated and is very flexible to decorate and use.
All Saints Chapel

110 South East Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 834-8350
All Saints Chapel sits just a few blocks outside of downtown. If you are interested in a more traditional wedding but want the reception close by, All Saints Chapel is worth considering. Do not underestimate the church from its exterior. The chapel has a well renovated alter and pews that are simple and fill the space to make guests feel cozy. There is a reception area directly below the chapel so when the wedding is over, guests can move straight to it downstairs.

The Longview Center

118 South Person Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 832-8324
The historic church’s current use is for weddings, parties, random events and it even has an art gallery. The Longview Center is located right across the street from Moore Square and is a great location for a downtown event.

Spacious and Interesting Museums

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W Jones St
Raleigh, NC 27601

919-733-7450

One of the largest guest attractions in the state, the NC Museum of Natural Sciences has many spaces to choose from. From flexible general purpose spaces large and small to event space near exhibits, there are many ways to create an event in the museum. Each space is different then the others and is more unique then most options around town.

Marbles Kids Museum

201 East Hargett Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 857-1096
Marbles is a popular event space. Its location is perfect as it sits right across from Moore Square and allows for easy access to anything in downtown Raleigh. The space has a playful theme, the museum us for kids after all.

Other Spaces of Interest


Marriott City Center

500 Fayetteville Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
919-833-1120
The Marriott Hotel is located right on Fayetteville Street. There are numerous rooms to rent which offer flexible choices on setup and decorating. The 400-room 4-star hotel above makes it convenient for out of town guests also.
Nash Square

200 McDowell Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919)832-1231
Nash Square is a 5-acre park in downtown Raleigh. The park is criss-crossed with stone paths and benches. In the center is a small plaza with a firefighter’s memorial and surrounded with many trees, trees that have been there for many years creating a great canopy over the grounds. The square hosts outdoor functions all year and with a little creativity could hold a wedding.

North Carolina Lighthouse Roadtrip

Jen and I went on a roadtrip recently to the North Carolina coast. Our mission was to see all the lighthouses and climb as many as we possibly could. With a little research to prepare ourselves and a map with the locations of all seven lighthouses, we hit the road with four days to get to them all. If anyone is interested in doing this, here is the breakdown of our trip with the map of the entire route shown above.

Oak Island Cigarette
Oak Island Lighthouse

Day 1

The Oak Island lighthouse was first on our list. We found out that to climb it, you have to make reservations at least two weeks in advance. We left Raleigh around 7am on a Friday and arrived at the lighthouse a little before 10am. After signing a waver, the only lighthouse that we had to do this, we climbed the eight flights of navy steps to the top. The view of the Cape Fear River basin and the ocean was beautiful and you can actually spot the next lighthouse on the trip, Bald Head Island.

Oak Island cost = $0 (reservations required, donations accepted)

Getting to the car-free Bald Head Island requires riding a private ferry. It is not a car ferry like the NCDOT ones around the coast. The lighthouse is very close to the terminal on Bald Head Island so walking to it is easy. The lighthouse has a museum and with a small fee, you can climb the light to the top. It is quite a squeeze to get to the top but the views are worth it.

Bald Head cost = $15 per person ferry ride (roundtrip) + $5 museum/lighthouse entry

Old Baldy
“Old Baldy”

After seeing the lighthouse and taking our return ferry ride back to Southport, we drove onto the Southport/Fort Fisher ferry to get to Carolina Beach, where we were staying for the night.

Bonus: To see the Price Creek Light, look north along the marshes just as the ferry leaves from Southport. Here is some background information on this lighthouse.

Day 2

Saturday started out with some more early morning driving. We had to get to Harker’s Island and hire one of the local ferries to take us out to Cape Lookout since you cannot drive to it. It took about three hours from Carolina Beach to get to Harker’s Island and we went to the Local Yokel. For a small fee, the boat drove us from the Island across Back Sound to where the lighthouse sits. The driver gave us about two hours to explore the island and see the lighthouse before he would return to pick us up.

Shackleford Ponies near Cape Lookout
Shackleford Ponies around Cape Lookout

Cape Lookout was my favorite spot on the trip. During the ride out there, we saw wild Shackleford horses that have survived here since a shipwreck that occurred nearby in the 1500’s. The islands were very natural and is one huge state park. The views from the top of the Lighthouse were spectacular and I will make it a point to visit again.

Cape Lookout cost = $15 per person ferry ride + $8 per person lighthouse climb fee

We returned to Harker’s Island around 2pm and were now delayed because of an overlooked detail.

TIP: Make reservations on ferries ahead of time.

Our next step was to take the two and half hour ferry ride from Cedar Island to Ocracoke but the 3:30pm trip was already full. We made reservations the same day for the 6pm trip and drove from Harker’s Island to the Cedar Island ferry terminal, which is less then an hour away. We killed time on the beach nearby and got on the ferry when it finally arrived later in the afternoon.

I think this delay actually turned out to be better because we were on the ferry during sunset which was a great experience.

We arrived in Ocracoke at night and headed to a campground where we battled with a tent and mosquitoes until finally falling asleep.

Snow Cone
Ocracoke Lighthouse

Day 3

Sunday, 3 down, 4 to go. We woke up on Ocracoke and eager to get out of the not-so-great campground, Jen and I packed up our stuff and started driving. Since we arrived on the Island at night, we passed the Lighthouse and had to turn around to see it. The Ocracoke lighthouse is still in use and climbing this one is not allowed.

Ocracoke Lighthouse cost = free cause you can’t go in it.

After a few pictures and very brief history lessons from the signs, we drove to the last ferry of the trip at the other end of the island. The Ocracoke/Hatteras ferry is free and runs every hour almost the entire day. (5am to midnight when we went) It is also a lot shorter then the others and before 10am, we were heading toward the granddaddy of them all, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

The world’s tallest brick lighthouse, Cape Hatteras was a long but easy climb. The lighthouse is not in its original location and has been moved because of erosion. You can go to the original spot if you wish.

Cape Hatteras cost = $7 per person to climb

World's Largest

After lunch and plenty of time left in the day, we drove up towards Nag’s Head where the Bodie Island Lighthouse sits. When we reached it, we were disappointed to see that it was under renovation and no one was able to climb it. Still, the lighthouse sits on a beautiful area, Oregon Inlet and we spent a little time here and set up camp in the early afternoon at a state park.

Lighthouse Surgery
Bodie Island under renovation

Day 4

One more lighthouse to go. The Currituck Lighthouse sits near Corolla and we made the short drive towards it on Monday. However, we made a quick stop at the Wright Brothers Memorial and walked around the museum.

Currituck

The Currituck lighthouse was very well maintained and looking around the lighthouse was free but you had to pay if you wanted to climb.

Currituck Lighthouse cost = $7 per person to climb

That’s it. All seven lighthouses were seen. You could actually do the trip in three days but we chose to take our time and enjoy our time off.

On the drive home we took the scenic route through Elizabeth City towards Edenton to spot the Roanoke River Lighthouse which was towed inland from its original spot. We found it easily but it was being renovated so we only stayed for a few minutes before heading home. Here is some additional information on the lighthouse.

Epic beach roadtrip, and I really enjoyed camping near the water which is a change of pace compared to staying in a house every time I visit the beach. Cape Lookout was my favorite stop and like I mentioned earlier, I’ll make a point to go back to that area sometime.