27 March 2010

Outer Banks interlude

I think I'll be posting pictures of the North Carolina Outer Banks for the next few days. As I think I've said, part of my living the life in Saint-Aignan is my annual trip back to North Carolina, where I grew up out on the coast. My mother, sister, other extended family member, and a few friends still live here.

So until I get back to Saint-Aignan and get my bearings again, I'll just post N.C. pictures here.

A fragile line of dunes separated our hotel
from the beach and the ocean waves.

My mother, aunt, and I left Morehead City Thursday morning for Manteo and Nags Head, by car. The trip showed me that they have been busy building a lot of new roads in Eastern North Carolina. One is a very long elevated bypass around the town of "Little" Washington, N.C. It's four wide lanes spanning an extensive, marshy river estuary.

The beach at Nags Head

Another is a long section of road that runs east and west, again four wide lanes, from Raleigh out to the town of Columbia, on the Albemarle Sound. At Columbia (a tiny town in a swamp, not to be confused with the capital of the State of South Carolina), you find yourself on the old narrow two-lane road through the marshes out to the coast at Manteo, on Roanoke Island. Roanoke Island is thought to be the place where the English established their first colony in America, in 1585.

The Blue Heron Motel on the beach at Nags Head

The first English child born on American soil was born on Roanoke (or on nearby Cedar Island, some historians think) and named Virginia Dare — her first name in honor of Elizabeth I, the "Virgin" Queen. Soon after, the colony failed and all the settlers vanished into the mists of time — or into the extensive forests that covered the land back then. When ships returned from England to bring supplies, the colonists were nowhere to be found.

The beach early Friday morning, as the overnight rain ended

At Nags Head, we spent the night in one of those quintessential American establishments called "motels" — which is short for "motor hotels." We had two large, well-equipped and well-furnished rooms right on the beach, with many of the comforts of home. Each room cost about $58, or 43 €, including all taxes.

We ate dinner in a typical N.C. seafood restaurant — lots of breaded and fried seafood — where the waitress was a young Polish woman who spoke good English but with a definite accent. I wanted to ask her how she ended up living in Nags Head but didn't do it.

My mother and I waiting for our dinner
to arrive at the Dunes Restaurant

I took pictures out on the beach and around the neighborhood of the hotel on Thursday evening when we arrived, and again Friday morning before we left to drive the 75 miles down to Ocracoke. It rained overnight but we had a nice day driving down the Outer Banks... until we got to Ocracoke Island and the ferry landing. A strong storm came up and the 2½-hour ferry ride turned into a real high-seas adventure.


  1. Oh, I'm so glad you included that great photo of your mom and you :)) I bet she and your aunt really, really enjoyed having this road trip, especially with you!

    We had a long ferry trip once during a blasting rain storm, going over Lake Champlain from NY to Vermont. It was an hour of nothing but heavy, hard-hitting rain. That was a first for us!


  2. Beautiful pictures of the ocean and the dunes. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I'd suffer the ferry ride for some of that some-kinda-good seafood!

  4. Nice pics. Your mom looks great.

  5. Every time I ask someone from Europe why they are here, they always respond, "I married an American."

  6. Nice to see your mom!

    I've gotten some interesting responses by asking waiters how they happen to be in whatever far-away place we were. Many of the waiters in Yellowstone were sponsored by a special "tourist worker" program of the American government (there were the usual college students too). The visas didn't expire until some weeks after the end of their summer work, so they could go touring afterwards. A number of them had come multiple times.

    It would be interesting to go back in time and see what the East coast looked like before it was settled. Except for the malaria, of course.

  7. Thanks Ken... I visited the eastern coastline years ago, and always thought I'd like to return and explore. Now I'm sure I'd like to! Nice to see you and your Mom.

  8. That's a good photo of you and MA. I know you enjoyed that seafood! I bet you eat mostly seafood and BBQ on your furloughs;-)

    So we'll be hearing about a storm at sea soon...that's something I never want to experience since I get seasick on calm waters.

    Those first settlers didn't know what was in store for them in the New World. I'm glad I'm living in the 21st century.

  9. Hi Ken, Your mother looks great. Do I detect 'un air de ressemblance'? Looking forward to your next post about the bumpy ferry-crossing :) Enjoy the second part of your stay!


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