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Saturday, May 19, 2018

SOLO ROADTRIP: GREENSBORO, WINSTON-SALEM, & CHARLOTTE (SC+NC)

the next day i packed up and made my way towards greensboro, which is only an hour away. about ten minutes through my drive i realized my side door open, oops. just another reason to pull over at the nearest starbucks (wowza they keep raising their prices).

once reaching greensboro, the first stop was guilford courthouse national military park. in 1781, the largest revolutionary war battle of the southern campaign was fought here. the battle contributed to the surrender in yorktown (a quickie synopsis of the battle can be heard in the musical hamilton).




this was the first time i did a driving tour at a national park. it was pleasant. i really can't get over the sound of birds chirping even thought i get them outside my own window back home.




the carolinas have soooo many flowered trees. more are to come.




next, i drove to downtown greensboro (it's itty bitty) to see the historic woolworths. the old department store is now the international civil rights center and museum. in 1960 a series of nonviolent sit-ins were organized and executed. it eventually led to the removal of the segregation policy implemented by the department stores. 




unfortunately you can't take pictures in the museum. also, nobody told me i was supposed to go with the tour so i ended up walking aimlessly. i think the worker thought i was one of the many school kids that were there and assumed i would just tag along with them. i did get to see the counter, that was pretty cool.



 a a cute little memorial of the woolworths sit-in.


the last stop of the day was old salem in winston-salem. this was probably the biggest disappointment when it comes to attractions. you have to buy a $20+ ticket to go inside almost all the building in this area (which i could not justify paying), so i only looked inside a few little shops. other than that, there really isn't anything to do. there aren't even any informational signs explaining the buildings or people.

the settlement was founded in the mid 1700s by morovians, protestants from the kingdom of bohemia (now the czech republic). they were exiled, settled in other colonies, and then came to salem. the site shows the way of life of the moravian (reminiscent to how i would imagine amish life, but what do i know).



to get to the historic area from the parking lot, you have to cross over this cool wooden bridge.




i thought i would spend a couple hours, but instead just took a stroll, bought a cookie, and walked back to the car,







strangely enough there is an all girls liberal arts college in the historic area. i walked through the college and there were tons of flowers...



...and more.


i then made my way to the hotel which ended up being the most secluded accommodation during my trip. i was going to go to a steak n' shake, but since this one going to be my one good meal of the day i did not want fast food. there was not many options to eat, so i ended up eating at an applebees. i'm not complaining. i love me a good applebees. i was also called darling. i love how it is normal to call strangers sweet names without being condescending.




i had a blackberry iced tea with shrimp, salmon, mashed taters, and broccoli.



for this night, i stayed in a days inn. room was pretty raunchy, but i am pretty easy to please.

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the next morning i left for south carolina (even though later that day i would be returning to north carolina). the destination was brattonsville, an unicoroporated community and open air museum. the buildings on the 700+ acre site are from the 18 & 19th century. the museum prides itself for being the location of the revolutionary war battle known as huck's defeat.

really this is a museum showcasing a family who lived in the carolina back country and i found that interesting. it was unlike anywhere i visited during my trip. i would say for having a decent expectation, this turned out to be one of my favorite sites during my entire trip. to add, you had to take a long lone road for 14 miles.

on a side note, the museum forgot to mention that the inspiration for birth of a nation was a descendent of bratton and a resident of the site.



i went a little crazy with the photos. the rooms had such nice colors and light.






i remember lots of wasps in this room.

i also learned about bumble bees (unlike the standard bee you see in la). to get to the different buildings, you have to walk through a field of bumble bees. i was so paranoid and squeeling, but a local told me they don't sting unless you really upset them. she also told me to beware of red ant mounds. besides bees and ants there were wasps. what fun. people probably thought i was crazy.



i made a flower crown. i had not made one of these since elementary. i ended up giving it to a tree branch.



there were also farm animals.



besides pigs and sheep, there were horses and chickens.




on my way back to the car, i met the two older ladies that warned me about the red ant mounds. i had a nice chat with them about history and my trip. we said good bye and they told me, 'keep history alive.' that was nice.



south carolina is known for their palm trees (it's on their flag)


the next and last stop was back in north carolina, charlotte to be exact. i visited the levine museum of the new south, the most extensive museum about the reconstruction period. it was interesting to learn about the transformation of the south after the civil war. i had never though about how the south had to create a new identity after the war. slavery was so integral to the culture and economy. the south changed from slaves picking cotton to people from all walks of life working in the cotton mills.




the museum was fun and i loved how they interpreted history. the museum was set up so you could touch objects. in one section, was storefronts of a early 20th century downtown. you could go inside a department store and a barber shop. i love things like that.
also, who knew charlotte is the location where the orange barrel was created (but the traffic cone was created in los angeles, suck it). now a lovely quote:

'charlottes official city flower! the orange and white plastic traffic barrel...it's every bit as plentiful as the dogwood - and blooms a lot longer.'
- allen norwood, charlotte observer, 1988


i walked a few blocks away to a little soul food place i read about in one of my travel books. this was one of the few instances where i ate at one of the places recommended (as i have said before, i tend to eat at places out of convenience).



merts.



blackened salmon, macaroni and cheese, stewed tomatoes and okra, and warm cornbread.


i then made my way to the hotel, which was a doozy. here is where i experienced some crazy drivers. it did not help that my hotel was located near an airport and driving near airports is confusing. i stayed in a quality inn. this was probably the nicest room during my trip.




i had already eaten, but since i had called it an early night decided to walk across the lot to a cracker barrel. i had heard about them, but had never gone and man was it wonderful. i am smitten towards cracker barrel. i love the gift shop, the customer service, the food, the music, and the decor. i also discovered the witchcraft known as the goo goo cluster latte. 




besides the latte, the lady let me order off the lunch menu so i could get smaller portions. i had chicken fingers, broccoli, fries, and 2 biscuits i saved for breakfast the next day. i also bought from their general store earrings, a scarf, a coffee sign, and a box of goo goo clusters. i love how when people compliment my earrings at work i tell them i bought them at a cracker barrel. i'm classy like that.



i also got caught up with my travel journal.


now for a song! i should have done this in the last post, but i am going to pick a song that talks about north carolina. funny enough, i first discovered this song during my trip and did not realize until i returned to la that it even mentioned nc, raleigh to be exact. darius rucker (and hootie and the blowfish) is from the state and the song is actually a cover. it was based off a portion of a bob dylan ditty, which makes it even cooler. it is about a guy in new england who travels to raleigh to meet a gal. here is 'wagon wheel,' by darius rucker. enjoy!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

SOLO ROADTRIP: RALEIGH & DURHAM [NC]

so things are gonna go in a new direction for awhile. i have not finished my solo trip to europe (from october!), but i'm working on it. i really don't have an excuse, but lately i have had things thrown at me and that has kept me busy. adulting i guess. i just got back from another trip and i really want to spend my time talking about that because it's fresh (i learned from my euro trip).

due to a series of unfortunate events, i ended up going on a road trip through the south (or southeast, whichever you prefer) alone. at first i planned on just cancelling altogether but could not get any credit for the flight (damn me for finding such a good deal) and about 75% of my hotels. it was either spend a lot of money on my own and enjoy myself or lose money and get absolutely nothing out of it. i chose the former. i was the most scared about driving, but that proved to not be so bad (los angeles has prepared me). it did take some adjusting to being stuck at the hotel alone and bored, but i think that was just because of the jitters.

overall, i really enjoyed my trip. much more than i thought. even though europe was fun, it was stressful. for this trip, i did not need to worry about language or transportation (i rented a car), so i was able to relax more. also, i think i found my type of people. i like the southern sensibility. the history is complicated, but the people are kind (except atlanta, sorry atlanta). i also loved the accent (unpopular opinion, but the carolina accent is my favorite american accent) and the terms and phrases used by locals. also, as the dixie chicks once sang about, i enjoyed those 'wide open spaces.'

i woke up in the wee hours of the morning for my 7 am flight to raleigh, north carolina. on a side note, the flight attendant said no "wacky-tobacky" (i love that word). once landing, i took my first solo lyft ride (i had only shared rides in dc and once with a co-worker). i was a little nervous, but billy was good company to the rental center. he warned me about millipedes and cicadas. once i got my wonderful little red nissan versa i made my way to downtown durham for dinner.



my only company for the next 10 days.

this is when i discovered how great the country radio stations are in this region. in socal, there is only one station and it only plays contemporary country (mostly bro-country and country/rap) except a couple hours of throwback songs on sunday mornings. here they also play bluegrass and 90s classics. also there was a jazz station which was fun.

for dinner i went to a little place called toast, a local italian spot. i ordered 3 types of crostini (pesto, mozarella, & tomato; caponata, goat cheese, & pine nuts; avocado, lemon, & grana padano) with a salad.



da dish




 i realized i was close to the american tobacco histroric district, which is very misleading. it's not very historic. it is really just a business district with old looking buildings that also houses duke university.





i then checked into the hotel, stopped at the grocery store, and called it a night. the hotel room did not have a fridge, so i converted it into an ice cooler. the first night was rough. i prefer taking red-eye flights and being sleep deprived because by the end of your first day you can easily pass out. i stayed up late, found out bad news about a job promotion, and had the cops stop by (apparently there was a dv complaint made in the neighboring room).



my room for the next two nights.

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view outside my hotel room.

the next day i started my morning late (due to the lack of sleep). i made my first intimidating drive to downtown raleigh and it really was not too bad. first stop was the north carolina museum of history (fyi. it's free!). it was a good way to spend a couple hours, except all the high schoolers who were there. they are the worst. i really enjoyed the temporary exhibit on wwi. the room was set up like trenches.








they also had a section when you can take a picture as a soldier and it is displayed on a wall of frames with others. thats was fun.



who is that goober?



north carolina takes pride in the fact that the wright brothers made and flew the first airplane here.



i also found out the state flower was dogwood, which also happened to be in bloom. it's a beautiful flowered tree. i saw them all over both carolinas.

i then walked through downtown. it was so empty for being a state capitol. i was going to pick up a bite, but there was a power outage in the neighborhood so that was out of the question. i then made my way back towards durham and had to go through the north carolina state university area (sooo many roundabouts), so i found a bougie coffee shop to stop at. there was a deal, on their 'broo hoos.'
 i don't know what it really was. it was some kind of iced cold brew with chocolate and sprinkles. i enjoyed it.




i then made my way to bennett place, where the largest surrender of confederate soldiers occurred during the civil war. because it was their anniversary month, there were reenactors demonstrating the way of life on the farm and soldier things. i ended up not staying very long and just took a short walk.




next stop was duke homestead. i really enjoyed this site. it is run by state parks and consists of a museum and original or reconstructed historical structures. after the civil war, washington duke created the largest tobacco firm in the country. eventually they moved to where duke university and the american tobacco historic district is today (obviously the university was named after him).




the tour was great. the docent grew up on a tobacco farm in the area and is a retired history teacher (he also has a wonderful carolina drawl). i took the tour with some old lady iowans that adopted me into their group. that was nice. the most resonating thing i learned is that durham was the city of tobacco and became the city of medicine. ironic, right?



out wonderful tour guide with some dried tobacco.




with the guided tour, you get to see inside the duke home.





i love wildflowers.

i found out that there was some cotton growing on the property. i had never seen a cotton plant so i ran in the field and ended up not getting to close because of the hissing cicadas. they jump and are loud. i don't like them.




i called it a pretty early night. i stopped at popeyes (when it comes to food and traveling, i eat out of convenience). i also watched station 19. i was pretty entertained.

now for a song! i'm gonna stick with country, because it's an obvious choice and i mostly listened to this genre during this trip. i heard this song on the radio and was confused. i knew it was chris stapleton but i had no idea he was featured in a timberlake song. here is 'say something.' enjoy!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

SOLO EURO: DAY 10 & 11 [PRAGUE]

by the next day i my mood and health improved. it was raining, but it stayed pretty bright outside. i started my day early so i could go to prague castle right when they opened (i heard it gets really busy). the tourist sites are pretty walkable, but like most castles this one is up a hill. i decided to take the city rail system up to the top of the hill so i could visit the attractions while going down hill. on a side note, the easiest way to buy rail and bus tickets is to use the ticket booth managed by employees (there are very few automated ticket machines).

the complex was founded in the 800s and housed the kings of bohemia, the holy roman emperors, and the presidents of czechoslovakia. to enter any of the buildings you have to buy a ticket. there are 3 different 'citcuit' tickets that allow you to go into a set number of buildings.



i decided to go one stop past the castle to see novy svet. down this narrow street is where the castle workers were housed.



prague has some complex building designs. i enjoyed all the little details.









the first stop was st. vitus cathedral. this building is definitely one of the most popular attractions in the city. even though it was my first stop, there were still a swarm of people. it is in the gothic style (c.1344) and houses the tombs of bohemia royalty.. i've never been to paris, but i felt like i was in the disney renaissance classic, hunchback of notre dame.




the good thing about the rain was i was able to see the gargoyle drainage system at work.




now i have not been to many epic catholic churches, but i noticed there is a trend. i love how they are never uniform. each chapel is created in a different time for a different person and therefore has its own style and personality. there was so much stained glass, but in different artistic styles.






of course my absolute favorite was the one created by alphons mucha. i knew right when i saw it thar he designed it.


after visiting the cathedral i also went to the old royal palace and st. george's basilica. while working my way downhill, i visited zlara ukicks, golden lane. these cute little buildings were my favorite part of the complex. there is even a little cafe in one of the buildings.





i had to get a latte, how often do you get to enjoy an espresso drink in a castle?


the little houses were originally built in the 1500s to house the castle guards. not too long after, artisans moved in and eventually the area became a slum. they were private residences until the 1930s. today, they are souvenir shops or educational exhibits. luckily, it was not too busy. i heard this street gets swamped by the late morning.





                         




to the left is a herbalist's house. to the right is the house of an amateur film historian. he safely hid czech films during the nazi occupation.










there are about 5 souvenir shops that sell crafts made by locals. i bought something in almost every single shop including a stained glass magnet, a handpainted little cermaic dish, and a leather and metal bookmark. i then made my way towards the exit.



the view from one of the castle walls. 



statue of karel hasler, a czech musician who died in a nazi concentration camp.


i then made my way to the wallenstein gardens, but unfortunately they were closed. on the locked gates, it did say they could close due to bad weather, but this was just a small southern california rain. so i made my way across the river to the old jewish quarter of prague. jews settled here as early as the 10th century, but most of the quarter was demolished by the beginning of the 20th century.  



pinkas synagogue (c. 1500s) is now a memorial to victims of the holocaust. 



the interior walls of the building are the painted of names of over 78,000 czech and moravian victims of the holocaust.





the old jewish cemetery. there are as many as 12 layers of graves.



the old new synagogue (13th century gothic) 


for the most part, the inside of the synagogues are modest, with the exception of the spanish synagogue (which is only spanish in design). it has some pretty crazy domes.



a star of david light fixture.






i next went to a little cafe across from the synagogue. you can never have enough coffee. i literally felt like i was being served in somebody's kitchen. i also stopped at some shops and ended up buying a green amber ring.



as i have said before, i really love the concept of sitting in to drink coffee. i also discovered my taste for flat whites (but they are so expensive here in the states!)



monument for the velvet revolution.


after getting lost many times, i attempted to find my way back to my hostel. i ended up having dinner at narodni kavarna, the nationalist cafe. founded in the late 1800s, up to the mid 20th century it was a meeting point for literary people (i found this out after the fact). stepping inside is like a time machine. it feels very 1920s-30s. i think it's considered a little fancy, but the price is reasonable in american dollars.





mushroom soup, fresh bread, and peach tea. 




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now for the hostel. during my entire trip, this was the strangest one. as i said before, it was on the third floor of a strange building (there was a thai massage place and casino inside too), but why i would not rate this the highest is the vibe. they had signs saying you were on camera (not a very homey trait).

also, all the lights in the common areas (hallways, kitchen, bathroom, and living room) were motion detected and would turn off right when you stepped out of its proximity. so when you walked down the long hallway reminiscent of the one in 'the shining' you would just see a trail of lights turning off and on. once one shut off the next one turned on. i thought it was creepy.



entrance to the hostel.


also this was the quietest hostel i stayed at. nobody talked and in the mornings no one else was in the common areas. it's not bad, but normally in hostels people are quite social. the only person i ended up having a conversation with was this italian girl who was here for school. she knew very limited english and said she was having trouble with adjusting to a english speaking school. she was very nice though. she always said good morning and good night to me. for being such a quiet hostel, she was probably the kindest fellow hostel-goer i met during this trip.



my female dorm room




now for some pros. the location was perfect. it was on one of the main streets of old town and very close to public transportation and stores. also for being so close to a busy center, the hostel was quiet. the view was also really great. there were tons of opportunities for people watching. on a side note, central europe does not do window screens. you could literally crawl out the window if you wanted to. i experienced this at every hostel and hotel, but because of the it being fall there were no bugs.





















the view from the hostel.


now for a song! i think i am just going to pick old songs from my ipod since that was all i had (and i am running out of ideas). i heard this song back in the 10th grade in a 90s playlist itunes put together. since then, i have never heard of this band or song. 'crazy town',' by velocity girl. enjoy!

p.s. i am going to change things up because this is my blog and i can. i just got back from a solo road trip through 3 southern states. i am going to start posting those because i am more motivated to write about it and i don't want to make the same mistake with this trip (taking absolutely forever to post), so look forward to that.