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Monday, November 23, 2015

Sorta Nice Day in Wilmington

posted by Ardys
As one might expect, Wrightsville Beach without the heavy wind and rain is an attractive beach community.  Most of the houses which line the ocean side and the channel side are on high stilts as well as all their docks of course.  It’s no wonder.  The area has been hit by several hurricanes over the years.  Still there are a few very modest older homes, from back in the days when people rented cabins at the beach, before it became chic to be nautical.  Now, whenever an old home is sold, the land is bought up by people with much grander visions of what a beach home should look like. 
southern end of Wrightsville Beach, looking onto the Atlantic at sunrise.
I learned the above about Wrightsville Beach from a local woman who for years, worked for a real estate management company on Wrightsville Beach.  Many of the houses are rented out by the week or month, and many others are the summer homes of wealthy.  And here and there, a little one story house without stilts is tucked in among them, built before the building codes required the stilts and some other sturdier building practices.  How those few survived those hurricanes must have been the luck of the draw.
Wrightsville Beach, miles of beach homes and docks

One of our good friends in Duluth has a brother living in Wilmington contiguous to Wrightsville Beach.  We were invited by him and his wife to tour historic Wilmington and have a bite of lunch.  Carl and I had met the brother this summer in Annapolis.  He came with our friend, another of their sisters and a family friend for a sail on the Chesapeake Bay with us.  We enjoyed that visit from them very much, so we knew beforehand that we had a pleasant day ahead of us. He and his wife picked us up from the dinghy dock alongside the little bridge that crosses the channel and we were treated to a drive through parts of modern Wilmington enroute to the old historic riverfront.  
Historic Wilmington Cape Fear River waterfront

Somehow, the city of Wilmington had never registered in my mind as a place to visit on our journey south.  I have only my Northern roots to blame for this oversight.  The coastal cities that I always knew I would want to visit were Norfolk, Charleston and Savannah.  I have heard many people talk about Charleston and Savannah over the past year, but to be truthful, not a soul has mentioned Wilmington, North Carolina.  Wilmington lacks the promotional advertising of the other two cities named, I think, and our hosts said the Wilmingtonians (?) would like to keep it that way.  I understand that sentiment very well.   As a former resident of Duluth, Minnesota which is perched on hills overlooking Lake Superior, I have been privy to many a conversation that goes something like this, “We just love visiting the North Shore in the summer.  But I couldn’t take a winter there—too COLD!” But that's okay.  If all those folks moved to Duluth, it wouldn't be Duluth anymore.
Trough for horses whose heads were snugged up smartly in fashionable harnesses (?) 
I will do Wilmington the favor of not expanding upon its’ virtues overly much.  The historic district is enjoyable. It stretches along the Cape Fear River on the eastern shore and is lined with buildings that were once factories and dockage for boats and their cargo. Those pre-Civil War era buildings are now connected to the riverfront by wide boardwalks high on stilts and are home to many restaurants, art shops and other fun-looking places—er, mildly fun-looking places.  There’s a “Museum of the Bizarre” and a huge “Deadly Snakes” house and ghost tours 
Sign reads:  "Barbary Coast.  Wilmington's Oldest Bar.  We've upped our standards.  Up Yours!"
offered for evening adventurers.  There is evidence of a lively night scene with bars and music venues along the river.  There are brick streets, but the really old streets are made of very large cobblestones which I was told were carried across the ocean as ballast in ships.  Interesting!  I mean to say, mildly interesting.  There are horse and carriage tours of the historic district.  I found a very old tall (~5’) iron fountain-looking thing with four iron pots mounted inside of it which I was sure were originally used to feed and water the horses along the river.  I got no takers on my theory, however.  Oh, and our hosts bought us a very nice lunch in one of those restaurants.  Thank you to our new friends in Wilmington.  It was a lovely day!  Well, you know—sorta lovely.  
Carolina bisque, crab melt and sweet tea for lunch.

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