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North Carolina Drive, 2009
From Thursday, Apr. 9th, 2009 till Sunday, Apr. 19th, 2009
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 23rd, 2009, modified Wednesday, Apr. 29th, 2009 at 6:07 PM
This was a Visit the Cousins trip. Barbara had two first cousins in North Carolina. I had one in Marlboro, NJ and a 2nd cousin (same great grandfather), whom we've never met in NC.

We also thought it would be terrific to pick up the tail end of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.


Thursday, Apr. 9th, 2009 — New Jersey
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 21st, 2009, modified Wednesday, Apr. 29th, 2009 at 6:20 PM
We didn't get out of the house until 3:30 PM. Little did I know that it was the start of a three day weekend—the start of the Easter Weekend. Traffic was pretty horrible. As the Cross Bronx Expressway was jammed the GPS led us through a scenic tour of the backstreets of The Bronx, including Arthur Avenue, and into Manhattan via the 207th St. bridge.

Coming down to the bridge via the Saw Mill Parkway would have been a better choice. One must take the recommendations of the GPS with a critical eye.

New Jersey traffic was crowded but moving. We got to Vinny & Barbara's about 1 1/2 hours late—could be worse. We went out for dinner at a delightful local Italian restaurant. A great meal let us quickly forget the trials and tribulations of getting there.

Vinny and Barbara gave us a print they had of a painting my father had made many years ago. We gave them Vinny's father's entry record into the U.S. It was deeply appreciated.


Friday, Apr. 10th, 2009 — Washington, DC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 21st, 2009, modified Wednesday, Apr. 29th, 2009 at 6:25 PM
We left Vinny & Barbara's around eight AM and got into Washington around noon. The hotel in Arlington let us check in early, so we could ditch the car. We ate a local lunch, and headed off to see the end of the Cherry Blossom Festival.

The weather was warm and sunny—a beautiful day. D.C. was mobbed with tourists taking Good Friday off. With lines around the block, visiting any museums was out of the question. We wandered down to the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial, the heart of the Cherry Blossom Festival. We enjoyed walking around the Memorial and I took a lot of great photos.

We wandered to the Mall as we continued our walking tour. Lovely sculptures belonging to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden featured The Burghers of Calais by Rodin, the same sculpture we saw in Paris last year! Then off to the reflecting pool in front of the capital.

Exhausted, but not giving up, Barbara had never seen the White House, so off we went. There we were presented with a special treat. Sasha and Malia Obama came out on the upper balcony and waved to the spectators at the fence. An eerie sight was the presence of sharpshooters standing on the roof of the building.

Back in Arlington, we lucked out with a Spanish Tapas restaurant named La Tasca (not Tosca). A pair of Spanish dancers treated us with stamping feet and castanets—very romantic.

Back at the hotel we were asleep in seconds!
Saturday, Apr. 11th, 2009 — Raleigh, NC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 21st, 2009, modified Monday, Dec. 6th, 2010 at 5:16 AM
We woke up in Arlington to a seriously rainy day. We decided not to stick around and headed off to Raleigh.

Richmond was on our route and a 16th century Tudor mansion, Agecroft Hall, there attracted our eye. The weather cleared enough for us to enjoy the house tour. We picked up some fantastic crab and shrimp salad at a local seafood shop recommended by the GPS, PT Hastings Gourmet Seafood, to munch on for lunch.

The GPS also found Janet's without too much difficulty. We went out for more great Italian food and dessert, imported from Brooklyn at Assaggio's Italian Bistro.
Sunday, Apr. 12th, 2009 — Raleigh, NC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 21st, 2009, modified Wednesday, Apr. 29th, 2009 at 6:29 PM
Easter Sunday

Janet was hosting Easter Dinner for us and two of her friends.

In the morning Janet's friend Kathy joined us for a walk around Lake Lynn. Lake Lynn is an artificial lake about 3/4 mile long which is a popular walking site for Raleigh residents. It was a beautiful day and I brought my video camera. The lake teems with wild life. There were water birds everywhere, domestic and wild, and turtles. I got some fun video of geese squawking at each other.

That afternoon, Janet served up a roast leg of lamb, always a favorite of ours, and three different cheese cakes for dessert.
Monday, Apr. 13th, 2009 — Raleigh, NC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 21st, 2009, modified Wednesday, Apr. 29th, 2009 at 6:32 PM
Visiting Museums

We drove into Raleigh with Janet for a look at the city and to visit some museums.

First on our trip was the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences—a beautiful natural history museum. It featured exhibits on North Carolina wildlife with walk through dioramas, live insects and reptiles, and a few very fine dinosaur and mammal fossils. We had a couple of nice salads in the cafeteria.

Across the street was the North Carolina Museum of History—featuring furnishings, crafts, and photography illustrating North Carolina's history and people. A special feature in the museum was the recreation of an early 20th century apothecary. It had an extensive collection of various late 19th and early 20th century patent medicines for whatever ailed you (or didn't). An old time soda fountain was part of the exhibit.

On the ground floor was a horse drawn carriage built by the Brewster Carriage Company, predecessor of the Brewster Aircraft Company which built planes during the World Wars. My maternal grandfather worked for both companies, first hand building automobile bodies, then helping build aircraft. He worked there most of his life. Barbara's father worked there with him before World War II.

Both museums were quite extensive and recently constructed. North Carolina spends a lot of money to attract tourists and it shows in their museums.

We went back to Janet's to enjoy more of the Easter Dinner from the day before.
Tuesday, Apr. 14th, 2009 — Winston Salem, NC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 21st, 2009, modified Wednesday, Apr. 29th, 2009 at 6:38 PM
Next on our journey was to visit Nick Morganelli, a 2nd cousin of mine (We both share the same great grandfather.), in Winston-Salem.

A couple of years older than I am, Nick and Sandy run an exotic bird shop (parrots, macaws and such), Luv-N-Birds, as their retirement avocation.

This day, they took us to his house and showed us their personal birds. These included a magnificent red macaw he'd raised by hand, as well as ringed neck parrots, miniature macaws, and others in the parrot family.

We went out to lunch at one of their favorite casual restaurants. After lunch we visited Reynolda House, the early 20th century home of Richard Joshua Reynolds, the founder of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The house featured fine early 20th century art as well as an extensive pipe organ.

Afterwards we drove through Wake Forest University which has its beautiful campus in Winston-Salem.

Dinner? — delicious! — and a fun waiter too.
Wednesday, Apr. 15th, 2009 — Winston Salem, NC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 21st, 2009, modified Monday, May. 11th, 2009 at 2:36 AM
Off to a late start, we visited a few Winston-Salem attractions. This started off with an hour long visit to Old Salem Museum and Gardens which features a historic recreation of Salem's original Moravian (Czech protestants) village.

Lunch was at Childress Vineyards, established by a local auto racing impresario. We got a one on one winery tour, which was nice. Of course we had to pick up a couple of bottles of wine.

Since we were in the neighborhood we stopped at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. It featured trains and antique cars, but as it was late in the day, we missed the major train ride. So just had a quick look around and visited the museum store before we headed back to town.

Next was to visit Nick and Sandy's store, Luv-N-Birds, where I videotaped another magnificent macaw and parrot family birds. We picked up Sandy, who was running the shop, so we could head off for dinner.

For dinner, Nick and Sandy's three 8 year old grandsons joined us at a local cafeteria restaurant for southern fried chicken and other treats.
Thursday, Apr. 16th, 2009 — Asheville, NC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 21st, 2009, modified Wednesday, Apr. 29th, 2009 at 6:47 PM
Leaving Winston-Salem, our next destination was Asheville, in western North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Arriving near lunchtime, we headed off to Biltmore, considered to be the largest private home in the United States.

Attacked by hunger we had so-so sandwiches at the Bake Shop, but they did sate our hunger. We had a close call as I dropped our (expensive) tickets somewhere, but someone turned them in and we were able to retrieve them quickly. The self-guided tour of the building and wandering around the gardens were fantastic. The building and grounds are beautiful and kept in first rate condition. I had fun photographing the thousands of tulips arrayed in different geometries. And we did some walking in the groomed arboretum.

One could have spent days there. We hope to go back.

Tired, we hopped on the van back to the parking lot and enjoyed the driver's humor and Willie Nelson accent. Our GPS found Annette and Richard's home in Arden, a suburb of Asheville, without difficulty and they welcomed us. Annette and her husband Richard rolled out the carpet for us and we enjoyed their hospitality and dinner at home.
Friday, Apr. 17th, 2009 — Arden, NC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 23rd, 2009, modified Wednesday, Apr. 29th, 2009 at 6:48 PM
As both Annette and Richard worked we were on our own in the morning and early afternoon.

A beautiful day—we navigated briefly on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the North Carolina Arboretum to see their gardens. Unfortunately it was a little too early in the Spring to see much as far as that goes, but they did have a Bonsai garden that was partially populated and a very nice 1 & 1/2 mile trail through the woods, which we greatly enjoyed.

Afterward we headed to downtown Asheville for lunch at a recommended barbecue place, Ed Boudreaux's Bayou Bar-B-Que, and our first tour of downtown for the day. Barbara admired a glass chicken & chicks in an art gallery window.

While there, we stopped by the Grove Park Resort and Spa to take in their historic buiding and walk-in fireplace and ogle the Ferrari in the driveway.

Back to the house for a nap. That evening, Annette and Richard drove us to a favorite old tavern in town for pizza dinner, Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria. By coincidence it was right next door to where we had lunch!

Afterwords, they took us on a tour of a different part of Asheville from what we saw earlier. This included one of the oldest indoor malls in the U.S, The Grove Arcade, and a park where on Friday nights people gather with drums of all kinds and spontaneously jam all evening. This attracts a large crowd of counter-culture and straight types alike to dance or just enjoy the spectacle. We saw an assortment of people and things, from living statues, to an assortment of cars parading up and down the streets. Asheville is also know for its large collection of beautifully ornamented Art Deco buildings—great photo ops.
Saturday, Apr. 18th, 2009 — Roanoke, VA
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 23rd, 2009, modified Friday, May. 1st, 2009 at 2:05 AM
Our vacation was drawing to a close. As we had been wandering farther and farther from home, we gave ourselves two days to drive back.

For the first day of our return trip, we decided to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, a famous two lane scenic road that skirts along the mountain tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains and would take us through Virginia.

We had an inauspicious start. Stopping at the info center near where we got on, we were informed of a road collapse near our start causing a nine mile closing, in a place without an easy alternate route, causing a rather round about detour.

Before we left the highway, we stopped at a shop nearby that features crafts manufactured by local artisans. These were not inexpensive goods but highly crafted works of art. We saw more of the glass chickens and chicks we admired downtown. As our trip was under budget, thanks to all the hospitality, we splurged on a white mother chicken and two striped chicks for our living room.

The detour, the first of three, rather than being an inconvenience, took us through some splendid farmland. Some farms were beautiful with attractive buildings and wooden fences. Others were showing signs of how difficult it is to make a go of farming these days.

We took a shortcut we were warned about at the info center, up a mountain to get us back on the Parkway as early as possible. This led us on a road as hair raising as some roads we encountered in Italy—sharp switchback curves and no guardrails! It reminded us of the detour we took to get to Volterra in Tuscany in 2005.

We found the best barbecue on our trip in Linville Falls, an isolated mountain town, and we paid a visit to the namesake falls for a little hiking and taking photos.

Our drive was most picturesque but as evening fell we decide to call it a day. A good size city, Roanoke, VA came up as a waypoint so we picked a place there for the night. An armed guard at the Holiday Inn and one at the first restaurant we tried seemed to indicate the Roanoke had fallen on hard times. We ended up at a Ruby Tuesday's with one of the most calorie laden menus we'd seen.
Sunday, Apr. 19th, 2009 — Westport, CT
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Apr. 23rd, 2009, modified Friday, Apr. 24th, 2009 at 3:45 AM
Glad to be on our way, we passed through West Virginia, a new state for us, then Maryland, then Pennsylvania. We found a local restaurant in Greencastle, Antrim House, trying to avoid another chain. The menu was a little retro, not necessarily in a good way, but we were satisfied.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and we were home before sunset.