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Sunday, April 19, 2009

On Being the Local Experts For Visiting Friends

You will not live on the Crystal Coast very long before you find that you have more friends from where you moved now than you did when you lived there. There is nothing mysterious about the situation, people love to travel, especially when there is a beach in the area. Having a personal tour guide makes the trip even better. If you add the prospect of some fresh seafood, and great weather after a cold winter, the idea of visiting your old neighbors becomes irresistible. We love having company from places we have lived previously. Often you end up getting to know people better when they come to visit than you knew them when they were neighbors. So far we have only had positive experiences. Perhaps details of a recent visit we hosted will show how much fun can be had by everyone.
Having guests come visit requires that you get out and learn your area. Most visitors come with little idea of what to do and depend on you for almost all their ideas. We have developed a number of activities that are suitable for guests. A lot depends on the individual guests, what they want to do, and sometimes what they can do.

Recently one of my college roommates came for visit. We started their visit by meeting them in New Bern for lunch. My friend is in a wheel chair so we had do a little extra planning, but things worked out very well. We arrived a few minutes ahead of them so we could find some nearby accessible parking. By communicating with our cell phones, as they came down Middle Street in New Bern, I stepped out, flagged them down and pointed them towards a nearby parking spot.

We had already checked that Captain Ratty's had a table that would work, so we were instantly seated, and it did not take long before my friend and I were enjoying a delicious appetizer of lightly fried oysters. The rest of the meal went very well. After visiting a few shops, we headed off to take advantage of this past weekend's free admission to the Tryon Palace gardens. Again we had talked to folks in the Welcome Center ahead of time to make certain we could navigate a wheel chair through gardens without any problems. We had a great time looking at the flower gardens and the vegetable gardens. We even browsed a plant sale that was taking place.

Around five pm after the ladies had checked out the palace gift shop, we got on the road to Beaufort where I had recommended our guests stay. We often have friends stay with us, but unfortunately we do not have a ramp for a wheel chair. After my friend and his wife checked into the Beaufort Inn, we headed off for quick tour of town and then dinner.

After perusing the specials on menus along Front Street, we picked an old favorite, Spouter's, for dinner. Both my roommate and I chose the fried soft shell crabs. Not only were they lightly breaded and perfectly cooked, but they were also huge. They were some of the best that I have ever enjoyed. The two ladies had pasta and bouillabaisse and were both impressed with their entrees.

After dinner my wife and I headed back to Cape Carteret with plans in hand to meet the next morning. We were back in Beaufort Saturday morning by 10:30 am. We wandered around Beaufort until the ladies struck gold in a book sale being conducted by the Beaufort Library. While they filled bags with books, we headed off to visit the Publick Day at the Beaufort Historical Site. After checking that out, we headed back to the book sale where without any surprise we found the ladies were still shopping.

We decided to head on to the Maritime Museum while they finished filling their bags with books. About half way through the museum, they managed to catch up with us. As always, we really enjoyed the museum. It never fails to be a treat, and our friends were very impressed with it. After the museum we had a somewhat forgettable meal by the water in Beaufort. When visiting a small restaurant where you have not eaten in a while, you can end up being a little disappointed or pleasantly surprised. We usually will not take visitors to a restaurant unless we have eaten there in the last three months. However, our plans changed at the last minute, and we took a gamble that did not work out. I knew that we should have gone for fried clams at the Crab Shack in Salter Path.

After lunch we headed off for a quick car tour of Fort Macon where we saw several folks dressed as Civil War soliders. It is a good thing that we had not planned to stop since there appeared to be no parking places. We continued on down the beach, stopping at a couple of locations to enjoy the waves.

We had offered our friends the choice of visiting the Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores or going for a hike to the sound at Emerald Woods. They chose the Emerald Woods trail. It turned out to be one of their favorite parts of the trip. The full trail all the way down to sound is completely accessible. My wife did worry when I took my roommate and his wheel chair onto the dock, but we were fine. He really enjoyed the opportunity to take some photos right on the water.

After that we gave them a tour of Bluewater Cove where we live and Swansboro. We tried one of our favorite fancy restaurants, but the wait was over an hour. We ended up at our favorite local spot, The Fairway. Our meals were exceptional and our friends were very pleased.

As we rode back with them to Beaufort to gather our car, it was obvious that they had enjoyed their visit to our little piece of paradise. We were very happy the weather cooperated and gave us two near perfect days. We have been at Tryon Palace when it is hot so we were very pleased by the almost perfect temperatures there.

When my wife and I drove back from Beaufort to Cape Carteret later in the evening, we started planning where to take one of my cousins and his wife who are spending the night with us this Thursday.

We enjoy being hosts, especially when our guests leave with a new appreciation of the Crystal Coast and nearby attractions. Showing people what a wonderful place the Crystal Coast is remains high on my list of good fun.

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