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11 June 2011

From South Carolina to Duke to Eat at Joe's

Day 19: Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Danielle had left for work and Andy was still hanging around the house when we left in the morning around 10:30. We stopped for a small breakfast at Venus, a nearby diner with a very un-Southern decor but very Southern employees. Before leaving South Carolina, we made sure to gas up the car (the gas here is the cheapest along our route).

Driving along the 95 in South Carolina, you are bombarded with signs for South of the Border, a kitschy roadside collection of tacky restaurants, gift shops, and attractions. Our hosts recommended that we definitely stop by there, and so we did. It was pretty empty, and a weird sight to see in the middle of the Carolinas. We drove on and missed the "welcome to North Carolina sign", so we drove back and stopped for a picture. Ueli drove us to the NC welcome center, where we picked up a map and got another photograph. Then onward to Durham, which took only about 2 hours. The freeway traffic was less consistent and slightly more frustrating to cruise along.

I had planned to visit Duke University in Durham, because I will be studying there this next spring as part of my LSE degree. When we arrived in the city, Ueli and I had a few minutes to kill so we briefly stopped by the East Campus of Duke University, which is the emptier side of campus, reserved mainly for freshmen. Then I drove us to the West Campus and looked for a parking space, which I found at the botanical gardens. We rushed to the admissions office to make our tour, walking furiously through nearly 100-degree humid heat. My camera battery was nearly dead so I plugged it into an outlet at the office. We then joined a tour group as it left. We had two guides, one of whom was a rising senior and was pre-law. I felt that I should have been giving him a tour/advice!

Duke University was impressive. The buildings were all hens of stone in a neo-gothic style, yet the interiors are all newly renovated, clean, and high-tech. The main library building was particularly noteworthy, and the buildings were all open to explore. It has the feel of an old East Coast school but also very modern. I think I'm really going to enjoy studying here next year! After the tour, Ueli and I walked to the Fuqua Business School; the receptionist was very nice and congratulated me on my (sort of) acceptance. We walked around the clean and modern hallways of the business school and then outside past the main athletics buildings on campus. I'm particularly excited to be going to Duke during basketball season!

We then left Duke and stopped for a sandwich and some hydration at Jimmy John's nearby. Then I took the wheel and drove us north into Virginia. It was about 2.5 hours to Richmond. The freeway was now surrounded on either side with big trees, and I could tell that this was a different type of environment than the swamps of the southeast. Our host Abigail was not fully ready for us yet, so Ueli and I visited the VA State Capitol, which was also the capitol of the Confederacy. (I find it very weird that people from this part of the country actually feel proud of the Confederacy and look fondly upon their Civil War History. It was a war to preserve a way of life based on slavery and, anyway, they lost the war!) We didn't have a good map of Richmond, yet I easily figured out how to get to Abigail's apartment with her texted directions. We met her, her flatmate Chelsea, her boyfriend (we're having a hard time remembering his name - there have been so many people that we have met!), and her cousin Forrest.

Abby took us on a driving tour of Richmond, taking us down Monument Avenue, through downtown, to the church where Patrick Henry gave his famous "liberty or death" speech, and to the overlook with the "view that named the city" - Richmond, Virginia, is named after Richmond, England, just next to London, because the bend of the James river in Virginia reminded the founder of the Thames near London. After our tour, Ueli and I had a late dinner at Joe's Inn, which is only a block away from Abby's house (another amazing coincidence! Pat, our friend from Florida/South Carolina, recommended that we eat the Greek salad at Joe's, but he had no idea that we'd be staying so close)! Seriously, there have been so many amazing unplanned coincidences on this trip. It's unbelievable. Anyway, the Greek salad really was the best I've ever had - the feta cheese is imported directly from Greece and is truly what stands out. Ueli had a vegetable lasagna. We returned to Abby's house, entering through the back door and sleeping on her fold-out couch.

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