TL; DR | Chapel Hill was relaxing and welcoming, especially after having been chased out of Georgia and South Carolina by a hurricane.
The unfortunate part about our stay in Chapel Hill was that we were forced there two days early, thanks to Hurricane Matthew eliciting evacuation warnings for both Savannah and Charleston. This meant Emily’s parent’s flight to Charleston was cancelled (they were supposed to fly down for the weekend to see us), and we were forced to strike the city from our itinerary entirely. While this was highly disappointing, the fortunate part was that we were able to stay with our friends Ben and Allison in Chapel Hill for a fun and relaxing weekend away from the direct effects of Matthew.
Ben and Allison live in Carrboro, a town bordering Chapel Hill with everything you could think of for a hip, university community; fancy organic grocery co-op, good coffee, locally owned and sourced artisanal shops, and of course, lots of breweries. Ben and Allison were wonderful tour guides, showing us where to buy the best biscuits, beer, and books. They also took us to a wine tasting at the aforementioned co-op, which was surprisingly fun, as the entire event took place in a tent outside, barely shielding patrons from the downpour which went on all day (the remnants from Matthew).
We happened to be in town in time to attend an open house at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, just in case Emily does decide to pursue that MPH after all. The university is impressive -- the School of Public Health especially so -- but somehow the opportunity to work and make money is much more alluring at this point in our lives than going back to school. But who knows...we did have a lot of fun in Chapel Hill, and the cost of living relative to Boston is hard to beat.
We were invited to a party at the home of one of Allison’s fellow graduate students (Allison is currently finishing up her master’s at UNC), where we enjoyed pot-luck, home-cooked dishes and played cornhole on the lawn. We helped Ben and Allison host their own gathering the next night with lots of wine and grilled goodies, playing board games late into the evening, and we rounded off the trip with a tour of the UNC campus, throwing around a frisbee like we were students. If all this sounds a little too picturesque, it is because it was. That is the kind of liberal, hippy, bubble that Chapel Hill seemed to be (and that we enjoyed).
We were also able to connect with Emily’s uncle and cousin, both of whom live around the city. In keeping with the general vibe of the area, we enjoyed her uncle’s home-made kombucha and vegetables from the garden, and a welcome dinner at her cousin’s home where we received a tour of the massive, hand-built kiln in the backyard used to fire her pottery.
This low key, relaxing stop was welcome at this stage in our trip; as we wind down and prepare to return to jobs and an apartment (yes, we found an apartment from the road. Huge relief but also a bit frightening, not having seen the place in person yet…), it becomes harder and harder to live in the moment and appreciate all the freedom we have. Lately many of our carefree conversations about what we want to do on a given day have been replaced by planning logistics for our arrival in Boston, which is exciting and saddening. We were able to take a break from this slow wave of stress in Chapel Hill though, and we thank the hospitality of Ben, Allison, Emily’s uncle Peter, and cousin Lara for that.