North Carolina visit: [Insert Wagon Wheel lyrics here]
After traveling so intensively and extensively through the UK for two weeks, seeing family and friends who feel even more like family than my blood relatives, seeing my mummy was exactly what I needed.
I’m usually hesitant to go back to Raleigh, as I didn’t particularly like it when I lived there, and now that I don’t have a car I’m utterly immobile once I arrive. However, aside from seeing Mum, there is always one thing I look forward to about going back: food.
To briefly recap what was a brief (3 day) trip with a few photos: I was able to tear Mum away from her blender and green juice long enough to not only take my on my first ever trip to Costco (starting strong) but also to visit the new Morgan Street Food Hall which had recently opened.
Funnily enough, I’d read about the impending downtown food hall about a year ago, finding it through research I’d been doing for one of my very first pieces for my freelance gig at NextSeed. So to hear it was actually open and I’d be able to go visit was pretty exciting.
They’d done a really nice job with it, and while there probably were food options as hip and green and fresh as I’m used to — the majority of the stands seeming to serve some sort of heavy meat with — I found a good Banh Mi at the MKG Kitchen stall, who easily had claim to the best wallpaper in the place.
While Mum waited in line for her vegan empanadas, I moseyed around the hall a little more. The burger place seemed to be the most popular vendor, unsurprisingly, lead a horse to water etc, but the younger snapchat crowd were still fawning over the Thai rolled ice cream. The place was well-curated in regard to the other vendors though, a healthy mixture of food, desserts, southern cooking, latino, asian, and of course booze for the late night crowds that’ll no doubt ultimately provide the funding for the ongoing operation.
We enjoyed our meals outside on the patio seats, and agreed it was a huge plus for Raleigh, and then began counting the menacing Bird scooters as we wandered deeper into downtown to see if there was anything else worth checking out. It turned out there was an Afro-Caribbean festival going on.
It was the most people I’d ever seen downtown, and the most vibrant crowd I’d ever seen anywhere in Raleigh. They’d managed to cram vendors selling all the usual state fair-esque snacks and staples down the street, and it was just shoulder to shoulder traffic. But it was so fun to see. I don’t remember Raleigh looking anything like that before, and certainly had never seen outfits as fun.
We went to a new tea shop where we sat and people watched and Bird counted for a while until our legs went numb in the swinging seats we’d sat in. Somewhat appropriately after leaving downtown, we went to see Blackkklansman, which I correctly guessed Mum would enjoy from my first time watching it.
The next day we went to the North Carolina Museum of Art to do the outdoor loop, me imagining it would look like a Storm King Art Center in the south. It didn’t quite live up to expectation in the scale and some of the exhibits were closed and poorly labeled, but it was pleasant enough just wandering around in the heat slowly.
I even got Mum to pose for a photo, most unlike her. We then went inside where we used the bathroom, appreciated the AC, and admired the museum gift shop and the awesome installation of sticks above the dining area in the cafe.
That night, I did a few stomach stretching exercises and went to meet up with one of few friends I keep up with from high school, Beau. He’d just gotten a new job in Durham, objectively the hippest point with all the best restaurants of the RDU triangle, but before dinner he showed me his offices, wandered around downtown with me, and tried to escape the homeless person who saw us as easy marks.
As is common when hanging out with Beau, my favorite memory from the trip was sneaking into a hotel spontaneously to try to access the rooftop pool. We failed in our goal, but found some good lighting, which is perhaps even better.
We were booked in for dinner at The Pit, perhaps the triangle area’s best known BBQ place. And it did not disappoint. The waiter gave us a look of disbelief when these two white boys ordered the amount of food that we did, but we put the free biscuits and hushpuppies, fried chicken, ribs, pulled pork, sweet potato fries, two portions of Mac n cheese, and coleslaw mostly away. There was only a chicken wing left and sweet potato fries. Beau’s lunch the next day.
My last morning I had the sheer joy of being in town the same day as Najah, one of my first college friends and the RA who moved me into my dorm my freshman year. So much has changed for both of us since we first met that day, but she is still the sunniest ray I know, and I was thrilled to get to see her in Raleigh again.
We chatted for hours, slowly moving between benches as the blazing sunshine found me again and again. I’ll be seeing her more often when we move to New York (in two weeks now) and my life will be better for it.