Wilmington, North Carolina, not only has a wonderful Unity community, but the city was also a rendezvous point for several friends and acquaintances. Our neighbors Bob and Jan drove up to visit some friends here, and attended Suzanne’s “Making the Connection” presentation. We met them for brekkie at our favorite diner, Waffle House. I was stunned that Bob, a Yankee from Massachusetts, had not yet sampled Southern country ham. He asked our server how it was different from regular ham, and she said, “Well, it’s a little saltier…”. (That description slightly understates reality, but we both had the country ham, and Bob seemed none the worse for the experience. My Lovely Bride will not even sample mine on most occasions, but she had a teeny tiny bite that morning, but not a second. For the uninitiated, country hams are generally salt-cured, not cooked, but are sometimes hardwood-smoked, and aged for several months to 2-3 years, hence the higher salt content and price tag for this Southern delicacy.
We had just enough time to recover from a big breakfast when we met old sailing friends Geoff and June Cluett from England and South Africa. We walked the Wilmington Riverfront and had a great lunch at “9”, a bakery and restaurant owned and operated by a transplanted Red Sox fan from Boston. (In spite of that handicap, the food was superb!) I had the special mac and cheese with smoked shrimp and bacon, an unusual but totally delicious dish. We swapped sailing stories and updates on sailing friends with Geoff and June and got an invitation to their new home in Hanging Langford, Wiltshire. (I used to think that only Brits could come up with such unusual names for villages, but having passed signs for the towns of Four Holes and Ninety Six in South Carolina, I realized that this was a common characteristic among Anglo-Saxons on both sides of the Atlantic.)
June is an artist, and I regretted that she wasn’t with us when we passed this notable shop. I had not realized that Pablo Picasso had such a variety of business ventures.
While driving around Wilmington, a thoroughly charming city, I spied our next home… I have always wanted a mansion with large white columns, and this one looks like it would fit the bill nicely. Since it’s actually a museum, and not for sale, I thought I might get the plans and ask The Villages architectural committee for a variance to build a replica in America’s Friendliest Hometown. What do you think???
Our last event in Wilmington was a dinner at Brasserie du Soleil with a friendly group from Unity’s book and speakers’ clubs: Cliff and Judy Birtwistle, Patti Howell, Val Mahoney, Beth Ventre, Charlie Robertson, and Lauren Wingate. These wonderful folks were absolutely charming, and we had a great time getting to know them. The meal was absolutely superb (I had the Scottish Salmon en Croute, with mustrard, chives, spinach and turnips, and Suzanne had the Sauteed Sea Scallops with creamed leeks, spinach and port wine sauce).
My Lovely Bride rarely eats dessert, but by the look on her face, she seems to have lost all her inhibitions about attacking this chocolate hazelnut torte with gusto. The entire evening was very special; thanks to all of our hosts for their warm welcome and friendship. They truly live up to The Port City’s reputation for Southern hospitality.
On Saturday, we drove 350 miles from the Atlantic to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our next event was to be in Mills River, very close to Asheville, North Carolina. We pulled in at 5:30 PM and found a beautiful parking spot in the Unity Church’s parking lot right next to a prayer labyrinth.
It was a cool night, in the mid-50s, and we left the windows open and slept like babies, until about 0430, when a rooster about 50 yards away started announcing the start of his day… after his fourth “Cock-a-doodle-doo”, I suggested that perhaps we’d be having coq a vin for dinner…
Come back tomorrow for more on our stop in Mills River/Asheville!