Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Weekend roadtrip

We had planned to see out 2008 with a roadtrip to some Southern states based around Atlanta GA. However we realised that we needed to make a financial decision between buying the stonework for the pizza oven or going on the holiday. We chose the pizza oven mostly because we are obligated to complete it within one year of the county approvals but also because we are practical people!

Feeling a little glum I had a look at our list of potential weekend getaways and quickly joined the dots to determine that we should visit NC's capital city Raleigh to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit before it finishes in early January.
So last weekend we took the 2 hour drive up the I40 to visit this city that surprisingly we had not been to before (on our way home from Asheville last year we spent a night in Durham to see Duke chapel and then had lunch at the Raleigh Farmers Market but didn't enter the city)

Dead Sea Scrolls and the Natural Sciences museum
At the museum we did some fun things for Lucy including visiting the discovery room (seen left) before visiting the scrolls. Whilst we didn't find the exhibition to be very well organised (we had timed tickets but we ended up in a small hot waiting room full of pushing Americans trying to get through to the scroll room) we found the exhibition to be very interesting. Lucy wasn't too impressed given the large numbers of people which meant we didn't stay for long. The exhibition was in 2 parts - the first being the history around the discovery and sale of the scrolls in the late 1940's and 50's and the second being a dark room with several scroll fragments. Ironically Duke had a scroll exhibition in 1950 where 3 full scrolls were displayed but declined to buy them. At this exhibit we saw 11 small fragments of various biblical and non-bibilical texts. It was awesome to see some Genesis, Exodus and Isaiah extracts and see how the translations are still the same today.
NC State Capitol building
We toured the old Capitol building just down the street from the Natural Sciences museum. It was fun to see the George Washington statue, a unique one around the world as it shows him dressed as a Roman general writing in Italian on a tablet. (Apparently this just proves the ignorance of North Carolinians as he probably wouldn't have approved of this) It was also interesting to learn that NC has provided 3 US presidents, Andrew Johnson being one of only 2 presidents ever to be impeached (more NC embarrassment!)

Dining at Vivace
Although there wasn't long to plan this trip I did track down a list of the top 20 restaurants in the Triangle area (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill). Focussing on Raleigh we decided to try out Vivace, a modern Italian restaurant just 5 minutes from our hotel. We loved it! Great food, atmosphere and spectacular service. Andrew enjoyed the lamb carpaccio, Lucy discovered gnocchi and condensed milk gelato (separately!) and Fiona closed the extensive Italian wine and cocktail menu very fast. We will definitely visit here again next time (or maybe we'll just work through the top 20 list?)

Captain John S Pope Lamb Farm
Whilst in Raleigh we took the opportunity to visit a lamb farm in Cedar Grove, an hour north of the city. These are Dorper lambs that are raised on grass and hay alone (no grain feed, no hormones, no antibitotics etc) on a property owned by the Pope family for over 200 years. We saw lots of cute lambs, a llama, sheep dogs and toured the old farmhouse. Farmer Bob was very generous in spending the morning with us to drive to the farm and then tour us around. He even took us on a detour on the way back to see the town of Hillsborough (one of 3 previous state capitals before Raleigh) Lucy loved seeing all the animals but kept complaining that the farm was 'smelly'. We came back with an esky/cooler full of lamb with plans to meet up with Bob some time in the new year to order some more.

NC Museum of Art
After the farm visit we stopped in at the NC Museum of Art for a late brunch. Another excellent meal with fresh orange juice, scones, poached eggs and waffles. It might not sound that exciting to our Aussies friends but finding an independent restaurant that provides excellent food and service is hard to find in the Southern US so we revel in these opportunities. We then took the opportunity to look around at some art (Lucy ran around the galleries in great delight after being strapped into her car seat for most of the morning). Unfortunately there wasn't much worth seeing, with the displays comprising of minor painters working in the style of famous counterparts. Given that we have seen the real Caravaggios, Rembrandts and Vermeers this museum was pretty disappointing. Even the classical wing had just 1 mosaic (of unknown origin), 1 roman general marble statue (with no head or limbs), 3 greek amphoras etc etc (these all looked like unworthy leftovers from European museums). The museum is to triple in size in 2010 with some brand new buildings - I just hope they buy some art worthy of the construction.

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