North Carolina – Days 5-6: Fairs and Flea Markets and Fine Art in Raleigh, Oh My!

Day five in North Carolina I drove to Raleigh. I started my adventures by getting back to my roots at the Scandinavian Christmas Fair. But when I got to the NC State Fairgrounds I happened upon the Raleigh Flea Market. I have no idea why flea markets make me so happy, but they do. They really do. They make me so happy. It’s like being at a museum of life. What are all these things? Where did they come from? Why do these people have them? Why are they selling them? Who’s buying them? Why are they buying them? Wouldn’t that be cool for…[insert cool idea here]?

Raleigh Flea Market, NC State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, NC.

Raleigh Flea Market, NC State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, NC.

Flea markets, like antique stores, and garage sales make me miss working in theatre and wish I could run around town hunting for cool props and set dressings as my job. Maybe someday. Eventually, I’d seen all there was to see in the flea market and found my way to the building where the Scandinavian Christmas Fair was taking place.

Oh man, it was so freaking weird walking into that building. Apparently Minnesota has a smell, because when I walked in the room it smelled like home. Do you ever smell something and it takes you back to a certain time and place? Well, this building at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds took me right back to Minnesota. Weird. Furthermore, with people speaking native Scandinavian languages I finally understood where the Minnesotan accent comes from. A super bizarre, but simultaneously awesome discovery.

Scandinavian Christmas Fair, NC State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, NC.

Scandinavian Christmas Fair, NC State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, NC.

The Scandinavian Christmas Fair wasn’t as big as I had expected it to be, but there were free samples. Huzzah! I tried about four different kinds of cookies and put a lifesaver shaped brown hard candy in my mouth and then promptly rushed to the nearest trash can to spit it out because it was black licorice flavored. Yuck! I paid $1 for a brownie in a bag which was quite tasty and $2 for a Swedish saffron bun, which tasted like a sugar cookie in the form of a dense dinner roll. Not my favorite. I also paid 50¢ for a Swedish chocolate treat which was a truffle shaped sweet sort of like a partially cooked brownie with coffee flavoring and topped with coconut shreds. Yum.

Next I ventured to the State Farmer’s Market. There were pine trees galore and the smell was marvelous! I seriously considered buying a little wreath or something to put in the car and carry the smell with me, but I decided against it in the end. In continuing with the trend of the day, the Farmer’s Market also had lots of free samples. I tried multiple different types of apples and at least two different types of apple cider. One was definitely better than the other, but not the best I’ve had by any means. Oh, and I also had a sample of some delicious baked good that I forget the name of, but it was delightful. I left the Farmer’s Market with a bag of apples and a few carrots. Sometimes when the options are so overwhelming, I just settle for something simple.

I love Google Maps. I really do. Google Maps is probably one of the most significant technological advancements of my lifetime and has saved me many hours pouring over maps and writing out directions. However, sometimes, it’s kind of annoying. For instance, upon leaving the Farmer’s Market I wanted to go for a hike. Earlier, I had found the Neuse River Trail through a Google search, but when I typed “Neuse River Trail” into Google Maps it literally just picked a random part of the trail and gave me driving directions to near-ish to that spot. So not helpful. If I had wanted to park in a stranger’s yard and walk along the road I would’ve done that to start with. I looked at the map and saw a park that went through the trail so tried to go there. For some reason the park was closed, but I found another park a little further and finally managed to find a trail head. While this limited the time I had to go hiking, I suppose if I never had any misadventures I wouldn’t really have anything to write about.

Neuse River Trail, Raleigh, NC.

Neuse River Trail, Raleigh, NC.

The hike turned out to be a walk on a paved path, but there weren’t many other people around and I found a cool place to sit and watch the river for a bit so I still enjoyed myself. After my butt started to go numb on the stump I was sitting on I continued walking and found a park. I swung for a bit and played for a minute on the playground and then I headed back to the car. The walk to my first stopping place by the river had been further than I thought it was, so by the time I got back to the car it was quite dark out.

I drove in to Raleigh proper and met my host for a drink at a place called Paddy O Beers. Like the cool kid I am, I had left my wallet in the car so my host had to pay for my drink. Thanks friend! After our beer we went to get something to eat. Though first I went to my car to get my wallet. On my way to Oak City Meatball Shoppe, to meet my host and his friend I came across a Holiday fair on one of the streets in downtown Raleigh. Of course I had to stop and wander through. There weren’t a ton of people there, but there were quite a few. The fair had a carousel and a ferris wheel and there were a few food trucks and beverage stands. I walked down to the end and then back up and stopped and watched this artist, Dan Nelson work on an event painting, painting the street we were on as we stood and watched. That was pretty cool. It was like watching history being recorded. Then I met the guys for a quick bite. I wasn’t actually that hungry so I just got a side of grilled asparagus and red onions. It was delicious. I love asparagus!

After our bellies were full my host and I went to this bar called Foundation, while his friend went to go pick up another friend of theirs. Foundation is one of those fancy places you have to have a membership to get into.

My host's fancy membership card to the bar Foundation, Raleigh, NC.

My host’s fancy membership card to the bar Foundation, Raleigh, NC.

It was a pretty hip underground bar. I liked it, though I probably wouldn’t have gone there myself, it was too expensive. After one drink at Foundation, my host’s friend came back with two more friends and a dog. The five of us (including the dog) went to Boxcar Bar and Arcade. My host kicked my butt at air hockey and then we played foosball, first versus each other and then together against these two other guys. We tied them twice and in the third game they slaughtered us. I think it was mostly because I was really over playing foosball at that point and wasn’t really trying anymore.

We then left Boxcar to go say hello to some of my host’s other friends at a different bar across the street. For those of you keeping track, this was the fourth bar we’d been to that night. I was bar hopping! The final bar was called Crank Arm Brewing, it was a bicycle themed brewery. I got to crank the arm and make this really huge display of gears and wheels and chains on the wall move. It was super neat.

We stayed until after Crank Arm closed (they closed at 2:00 a.m., we just didn’t leave until around 2:30 a.m.). We then decided it was a perfect time to go make cookies, so we went to one of the guys’ houses and we made chocolate chip cookies in the middle of the night. We hung out for a bit eating our cookies and listening to music and eventually my host and I went back to his place. Somehow we stayed up for a while longer and finally went to bed at 6 a.m.! I couldn’t tell you the last time I stayed up that late.

It was a pretty fun night though, even if it did throw off the next few days. Rather than heading to Myrtle Beach, SC first thing in the morning, at around noon my host and I went to the North Carolina Museum of Art and went to the special exhibits on M.C. Escher and Leonardo da Vinci. I enjoyed the M.C. Escher exhibit more than the da Vinci one, probably because the da Vinci one was mostly interpreted copies of pages written in backwards Italian. I probably would’ve liked it more if I spoke Italian and could try to read the notes backward. It turns out the Codex Leicester, the name of da Vinci’s papers, was on loan from Bill Gates. Yep, Bill Gates paid over 30 million dollars for it back in the 1990s. Seriously? Who would pay 30 million dollars to privately own a book of such incredible scientific and historic importance? Bill Gates apparently. Ridiculous. I guess I should thank him for so graciously lending his private book to be viewed by the masses. Thanks for sharing the cultural wealth Bill Gates.

M.C. Escher’s exhibit was awesome. I’ve always been both fascinated and frustrated by his work. Fascinated because it’s really quite amazing the way he bends reality and frustrating because I just don’t understand sometimes how he does it so freaking well. It was really cool seeing some of his more well known works in person including: Waterfall, Hand with Reflecting Sphere, Day and Night, and Drawing Hands.

Finally, as I was about to leave North Carolina and head to Myrtle Beach, SC, I got another Tinder Super Like notification. He seemed pretty cute, and I told him I was about to leave but he offered me mini-golf and I’ve literally been wanting to play mini-golf for years, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So I went on a decently fun date to Frankie’s Fun Park where we played a round of mini-golf and an arcade game before I hit the road and was on my way to South Carolina.

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