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She Explores North Carolina's Cape Fear Coast

 

Walk, walk, walk...

The best way to acquaint yourself with a new place as well as to meet other tourists visiting the area is to take an introductory walking tour. One of Wilmington's local treasures is longtime resident and historian, Bob Jenkins. From April till October, he leads city tours twice a day (10 a.m. & 2 p.m) under the banner of Wilmington Adventure Walking Tours. Bob has an absolute passion for the history of the region which he imparts with an exaggerated southern drawl, lots of dry humor and a gleam in his eye. Walkers convene at Riverfront Park at the foot of Market Street. Bob is hard to miss. He'll be wearing a straw hat and carrying his signature walking stick. Tel: 910.763.1785. Fee: $10.00

 

Check out the river front...

Be sure to sashay along the River Walk on Water Street -- a portion of brick and wooden walkway bordering the Cape Fear River. Antique light standards, mini parks and scenic overlooks create a lovely, relaxing atmosphere as you take your evening stroll. Chances are you'll see the Henrietta III Riverboat as it cruises by with passengers on deck watching you, watching them. The Battleship North Carolina, the most decorated battleship of World War II is now a wonderful floating museum on the Cape Fear River. On Friday evenings in May visitors can enjoy films on her deck, under the stars, just like her crew did during the war. At $1.00 per ticket, plus $1.00 for popcorn and sodas this makes for great local entertainment. Nothing like a good film combined with day dreams of all those yummy sailors who made this battleship their home. Website: http://www.battleshipnc.org/

 

Airlie Gardens...

Leave it to a woman! It was Sarah Jones, the wife of a wealthy industrialist who in 1901 was responsible for the first formal gardens in Airlie. Today Wilmington's Airlie Gardens (300 Airlie Road) is a lovely oasis for visitors and locals alike. Plant walks are the fourth Wednesday of each month with Katie Elzer-Peters, Head of Gardens. The walks are free with admission and leave at 10:00 AM from the Garden Services Center. Want to go off and explore on your own? Be sure to stop at the classical Italian Pergola Garden, the Minnie Evans Sculpture Garden, and the Camelia Garden with its collectIon of antique camellias (circa early 1900). All pure delight. Website: www.airliegardens.org

Fun floral facts:

Take part in a local tradition that is a perfect example of Southern hospitality and traditions. Each April North Carolina welcomes spring with the North Carolina Festival, the Azelea Garden Tour (www.azaleagardentour.org) and the annual Azalea Home Tour (www.historicwilmington.org). Everybody comes out to celebrate -- there are street fairs, clowns, live entertainment and a fabulous parade to introduce Queen Azalea and her local princesses.

 

Southern food is not for sissies...

Helpings are huge, fried chicken is fabulous, pecan pie calls out to you and corn bread hush puppies are irresistible. There's surf, there's turf and there's key lime dessert. You'll have to diet before or after your trip so you might as well forget the calorie counting and just enjoy. Want to sound like a Southerner when you're ordering your meal? Ask for sweet tea which is simply iced tea as they drink it in the South -- brewed with the sugar or sweetener already in it.

Journeywoman is always looking for informal, women-friendly eating spots. In Wilmington I met friends at the Front Street Brewery (9 N. Front Street) and enjoyed the food and lively atmosphere. Since the noisy downstairs bar is devoted to the sampling of micro-brews we headed for the first floor level where the gourmet pub meals are served. Menu items range from fried green tomato starters to a delightful salmon salad to peppercorn steak as well as chicken in mustard cream sauce. Dessert selections include berry ice cream, cheese cake, pecan pie and chocolate goodies almost too decadent to mention. Service was pub-style informal but most attentive.

In true Journeywoman style, we also asked one of the local women where she and her girlfriends like to go in the evenings. Connie offered these two female-friendly recommendations for Wilmington:

1) 'The French bistro/wine bar on the Riverwalk is called Le Catalan. This is a great place to watch one of Wilmington's southern sunsets, enjoy after-dinner drinks, sample lite fare, and practice your people-watching skills'. Website: www.lecatalan.com.

2) 'Another downtown restaurant that is a favorite amongst my girlfriends is Circa 1922. When we’re with a group we get tables but when we’re alone or just two of us, we sit at the bar to order. Portions of food are tapas-size and they have early evening appetizer specials. Circa 1922 boasts a great wine list--and they will pour half-glasses of wine on request. They have both male and female bartenders that are friendly and easy to talk to. The place is always upbeat, and on weekends there’s live music, usually piano or jazz combo. Finally for ladies who love chocolate as much as I do, the warm chocolate bar cake is a must—chocolate cake with warm chocolate syrup inside served with kahlua ice cream and whipped cream…mmmmmm!' Website: www.circa1922.com

 

Unique shopping in Wilmington...

Don't expect retail chains like Gap, Pottery Barn and big department stores. Wilmington's historic center supports individual merchants and that's what makes shopping here so much fun. You never know what you're going to find. Journeywoman suggests you begin by popping into the Old Cotton Exchange, now a warren of over 30 unique specialty stores and restaurants. Check out Kringles Korner (910.762.7528) for souvenir Christmas collectibles, Blowing in the Wind, a full service kite shop (1.800.691.8034), and Two Sisters Bookery (910.762.4444) where you'll find the latest books on how to cook like a lovely Southern belle. All three places make great stops for a travelling woman's gift shopping spree. Website: http://www.shopcottonexchange.com

Expect the unusual. While window shopping on South Front Street (#20), Journeywoman discovered Planet, a gift shop that stocks a large variety of rubber duck bathtub toys. We couldn't resist a scuba diver duck, a cowboy duck and an angel duck complete with wings and halo. They were $2.95 each. Even if you're not a collector, these funny yellow creatures make sweet gifts for anybody young or old who has a sense of whimsy and humour. Tel: 910.341.0036

A few doors up on the same street is one of the oldest antique shops in the area. Antiques of Old Wilmington (25 South Front Street) was established in 1892 and is one of more than 35+ antique shops in the Greater Wilmington area. Expect to find examples of interesting light fixtures, sweet lamps and assorted accessories from days gone by. Then on to 27 South Front Street where you'll have great fun poking through the eclectic collection of goodies at Virginia Jennewein & Julie Courtwright Antiques. Still haven't found what you need or want? Ask for a copy of the free 'Guide to Greater Wilmington Antique Shops' leaflet available at either of these shops. It's compiled by the area's Antique Dealers Association and contains a map with short notes on all member shops and dealers.

If you really want to go back in time, pay a short visit to Tom's Drug Store, a Wilmington landmark since 1932 (1 North Front Street). Plunk down $5.00 and a staff member will hand over a small brown bottle of astyptodyne, advertised as an old family elixir since the early 1900's. Made from the region's long leaf pine trees it's a purported natural cure-all for aches, pains, scrapes, bites and cold symptoms. While we won't vouch for this touted healing wonder, I did try a teeny bit under my nose. It made my eyes water but it cleared my sinuses immediately. Call: 910.762.3391

We all know that there's nothing like an elegant shop that sells elegant clothing for elegant women. In Old Wilmington's City Market, Ropa, Etc. (120-B Front Street) takes first prize in this category. Expect to find lines from Liz and Jane, Flax, Willow and Cut-Loose -- all in easy care fabrics. We loved their Pure hand-knit sweaters as well as their interesting collection of handmade jewelry. This shop will be Journeywoman's number one stop when we return for our next spree (910. 815.0344). For the thirtysomething woman expecting fashion that's a little edgier, you must pop into Sambuca owned by a young Wilmington local who is adept at staying ahead of the trends. We loved not only her clothing lines but also the way she displays her cool inventory. Address: 20 N. Front Street.

Woman-friendly to the maximum! Back at Old Wilmington's City Market (119 South Front Street), four female entrepreneurs invite you to check out their offerings. Karen owns Ladybugs that stocks an old fashion candy collection and an interesting selection of gifts (910.815.0808). You'll recognize Lisa's shop, Found Handmade Boutique by the pink sewing machine displayed front and center. Her previously owned sweaters with newly applied appliques will make your mouth water (910.763.4465). Suite10 Eclectic Everything is exactly as the name implies -- new art, gently used designer clothing, new custom pillows, a collection of antiques and much, much more. Sarah, the proprietor also serves as an unofficial tour guide in the market - helping visitors find their way around downtown (910.200.9595). Finally, Aurora's Vintage Jewelry is an absolutely funky find. Her mini shop showcases a hodge podge collection of fine costume jewelry -- true collectibles -- early Miriam Haskell, Coro, Trifari, Kenneth J. Lane, etc. (910.352.7551). Happy shopping everybody!

 

 

 

 

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