Oriental, North Carolina…I have time, I can travel
May 24, 2017
Although we are home from our winter in Thailand, I am still retired. Being open and available to opportunities that present themselves is key to a successful retirement.
I met Jeanne in Thailand when she moved into our building for a month. I admired her nerve and her interest in the world. She had already been travelling alone for 2 months throughout SE Asia, as a single at times, as part of a booked group at other times. Being 67 did not deter her from walking 5 or 6 km every day or tasting all the street food.
She was quick to join into a group of regulars who had happy hour every afternoon in our yard. She talked to everyone and listened for the best places to tour, to eat and shop for fresh fruit. Her energy was infectious. I got to know her when her phone was so full of pictures that the red bar couldn’t be ignored for another day. I helped her download them to her computer and set up a Google Photo album. Her blog site needed a little help too.
Oriental, North Carolina
Before she left for Malaysia, her last stop before returning home to North Carolina, she told me about her “girl’s retreat”. Every year she has access to a large guesthouse in her hometown of Oriental. She invites people that she connected with in her travels abroad and her life at home, women that made a positive impression on her. When I received my email invitation in March, I was ecstatic!
I decided that I had time and AirMiles so booked a flight from Calgary, through Toronto to Raleigh, North Carolina. A rental car and 3 hours got me to Oriental on Sunday evening, May 7.
The Stallings House, where we stayed, was built in 1890 and sits on a large lot facing the 3 mile wide Neuce River. It has 5 bedrooms on 2 levels and an open third level with several beds. A sitting room, large dining room, kitchen and several bathrooms fill the rest of the house. There are 2 wrap-around verandas overlooking the river. This old home is often rented for weddings or large family gatherings. Jeanne did quite a lot of work on the house and bartered the use of this great accommodation for a week every year.
The Retreat May 8-11
There were 16 people stayed in the house. I was from the farthest away. There were 2 women from New York State that Jeanne had met in Viet Nam this winter. There were 4 women from western NC who had travelled with her to China in 1982. Another woman from Atlanta met her in Australia on another trip. Jeanne’s cousin and a friend arrived from northern NC and another woman arrived from Florida. There were more but too many stories to keep straight.
There were about 25-30 local women who came and went through the week.
Things to Do
We spent the week doing a variety of activities that were mainly planned by the people who attended.
- The town mayor/bank manager, Sally, used to visit the house as a girl and shared her stories with us from a book she is writing about her life in Oriental.
- Flora, a 70 year old who won the over 60 North Carolina beauty contest demonstrated her incredible skills as a belly dancer
- pedicures, facials and massages were also done on the lawn by the river
- boat trips along the rivers and creeks in the area provided beautiful views and more history on the area and its connection to fishing and sailing
- Miss Faye, who is a 94 years old, teaches several exercise classes a week. She spoke on why the same streets have different names in Oriental. She allowed us to visit her yard where she feeds about 40 turtles dog food every night in a creek behind her house. They come when she calls. She is also a Senior Olympian and Humanacare Game Changer. Check out the link about her and her daughter.
- Pat brought driftwood, paint and wine to spend the afternoon deciding what we saw in our wood and bring it to life with colour. Most women got right after it with excitement, even before they had their wine. It surprised me the number who were very uncomfortable with this creative activity. Their elementary art teachers must not have been very supportive. Now that I’m in my 50’s I don’t really care anymore what others think of my creative projects.
- Cheryl took a small group of us who live outside the state on a boat trip to Cape Lookout. We travelled through the inland waterway, past Shakleford Banks to the lighthouse at Cape Lookout. There were wild horses, dolphins and an enormous sea turtle along the way. Many fishermen were fishing in small boats and there were several shrimp boats with the large booms holding the nets out to the side. We were gone all day.
Things to Eat
- Finola and her husband, originally from Ireland served us high tea on proper china with cucumber sandwiches and scones with cream and jam.
- Miss Lilly, who was on a cooking show, “Chef and the Farmer” spent the day with us teaching us how to make proper biscuits. She used lard, buttermilk and self-rising flour. The lard and buttermilk went into a well inside the flour and was squished together until it was “silky”. Then it was swirled in the bowl until it incorporated enough flour to make a ball. The biscuits were squeezed off the ball, flattened in the hand and the edges rolled under. The baking sheet was filled and then baked. I’ve never seen any technique like that before. The results were delicious, especially with some local honey brought by a woman in the group.
- We visited Georgie’s crab shedding operation. When crabs get too big for their shells, they molt their shell and purge all their digestive tract and lungs. Within 2 hours they start to grow new shells and organs. If they are taken out of the water and put into the fridge, they can’t grow a new shell. The upper skin is removed with scissors and you are left with a crab that is only meat. Georgie came to the house one evening and dredged the crabs in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and deep fried them. Eating outside on the lawn by the river at long tables made the food taste great. The crabs, though, would be delicious no matter where you ate them.
- Carol made chef salad for everyone’s lunch one day. This is Laura eating the salad. Carol is enjoying the pedicure.
Food of North Carolina
Other things I ate for the first time
- pimento cheese dip and sandwiches. Everyone in North Carolina seemed to have their own special recipe, but the general ingredients are grated cheddar/monterey jack cheese, pimento, mayonnaise/Miracle Whip and maybe a little grated onion.
- Grits mixed with chopped ham and bacon, butter and eggs then baked as muffins. It also reappeared another morning baked in a casserole dish. Laura arranged for Kentucky bacon and sausage to be sent to the house for this event.
- low country boil. After the Girl’s Retreat, Jeanne invited some old high school classmates from the class of ’67 for a “Big Chill” weekend. Pat cooked up a boil for me before I left at the end of the week. It consisted of new potatoes, corn on the cob chunks, kielbasa and beautiful shrimp caught the day before. They are all boiled together with Old Bay Seasoning. The food is drained then dumped onto a table covered with newspaper and you just pick out a little of each, and a little more, and a little more… There were several cocktail sauces made with differing amounts of hotness available and lots of paper towels. What a feast!
- Not new but a catfish sandwich for lunch the first day. Crispy fish topped with coleslaw and served between 2 slices of white bread.
- North Carolina IPA and wheat beer
- And I caught a fish…
Lots of relaxing and story sharing
I had the best time with new people in a new place and I can’t wait to get back to this part of the world again.