We took our time travelling down (our final destination was only about two hours from home) and we called into a few scenic spots along the way. The Elizabethan Gardens at Roanoke were lovely, and very, very English (not just because of the giant England flag over the gate). It felt rather like a pleasant Sunday afternoon pottering about an English country estate. Until you reach the outer limits and find that you are in fact on the edge of a very breezy and sandy tiny island. Which makes it all the more impressive that they’ve grown so many plants that would usually find themselves at home in Blighty. The gardens were planted to honour the original English settlers that landed in the Outer Banks during the reign of Elizabeth I. There’s a common theme all along the East Coast of the USA, as we must now have visited a handful of different places that all have some slightly different claim to being a “first” of some kind for English settlers. I’ve lost track of who claims what now. Anyway, on Roanoke Island there was a colony of English settlers who arrived and then later disappeared without trace, and there is still speculation about what might have happened to them. All I know is, the Elizabethan Gardens are really quite pleasant for a nice afternoon stroll. There is a quite charming statue of QE1 herself, although unfortunately she has been given the title of HRH rather than Her Majesty. Tut tut.
After a nice lunch in a tiny island bar that was showing English football (happy husband), and an interesting drive over several bridges, down one never-ending long straight road and through a lot of sand dunes (with the husband remarking that “the Outer Banks look a lot like Iraq but with nicer houses”), we finally reached our hotel, the Inn on Pamlico Sound. It’s tiny, more like a large house than a hotel really, with its own private access to the water and lovely views from our room and its balcony. The husband wasted no time settling into the room while I settled into a rather deep and warm Jacuzzi. Happy days. We did manage to make it onto our balcony for an amazing sunset too, with the huge orange sun slowly melting into the sea.
After a fantastic night’s sleep, we started our second day with a three course gourmet breakfast. I then felt like I needed another nap…… Still we forced ourselves out for the day, on the ferry across to Ocracoke Island. The ferry carries about 25 cars on its 40 minute journey and it’s FREE. Again, Gosport Ferry, take note!
Ocracoke Island is roughly 15 miles long and only a few metres wide for much of its length! The village is at the far end of the island but it’s impossible to get lost as it’s just one long (very long) straight road all the way. We pottered around the village, which took about two hours, although around one hour of that was spent in a coffee shop, so you can tell how small it is! We visited the British Cemetery (obvious from the large Union Flag flying over it) to see the graves of the Royal Navy sailors who died when their ship sank off the coast of Ocracoke in the 1940s. Other than that, the island is filled with lots of tiny craft, surf and antique shops. It reminded me of Penzance, not only because of the nautical background but it also had a strong hippyish and New Age feel to it.
Once back on…. Well, I was going to say “the mainland”, but actually the Outer Banks is a string of islands, so …… Once back on our temporary home of Hatteras Island, we found ourselves a cheap and cheerful place to eat (having not had any appetite since the morning’s mega breakfast). I ordered a plate of spaghetti which was advertised as being “with salad”. Now, in the UK this means a lettuce leaf and a slice of cucumber and tomato. Not so in the US. I had a full sized plate of salad in addition to a kilo or so of spaghetti. It certainly filled a hole.
The day finished off with another Jacuzzi before sinking into bed for another lovely night’s sleep. So the next day, we felt we should do a spot of physical exercise. We started with a cycle ride to work off another three course breakfast extravaganza. Well, I say “cycle”. On the evidence of a distinct lack of brakes or gears, a substantial amount of rust, and the biggest seats you have ever seen in your life, I think we were actually riding comfortable, if slightly unroadworthy, armchairs. We stopped off at another British Naval Cemetery (this one rather exclusive, with only two occupants) and had a rather up close and personal meeting with a deer in the forest. She didn’t seem at all bothered that we were there as she was munching her breakfast only a few feet away, with trucks pootling past on the road alongside. That set the bar for wildlife rather high so we were then spectacularly underwhelmed by the sunbathing turtles and the large flock of geese and goslings that we spotted later on!
Next we called into Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is the tallest lighthouse in the United States. It’s also rather fetchingly black and white striped with a lovely pink base. Sadly the balcony at the top was closed for potential repairs, so we declined the kind offer of being relieved of $16 for the pleasure of walking the 270 odd steps to the top without the reward of being able to get out and see the views. Instead we had another pleasant amble on our mobile armchairs via the beach and some interesting back roads returning to our hotel. Surprisingly, on one of the tiniest little sandy lanes you are ever likely to come across, we actually got stuck in a traffic jam between a truck and a UPS lorry. Well that was unexpected. We also saw an amazing osprey’s nest right at the top of a really tall but bare tree in someone’s back garden, complete with said osprey monitoring our every move from its spectacular vantage point. Watching us like a hawk, you might say. Almost as good as the deer from earlier.
For the afternoon we felt we should give the legs a break and exercise the old bingo wings instead, so we went for a spot of kayaking in the sound directly behind our hotel. We paddled out a fair distance and felt quite chuffed with ourselves…. until the husband measured the depth of the water and found it to be approximately three feet deep. So much for being out on the open seas…….
After all the exertion it was time to kick back and relax for a change and so I fell into another Jacuzzi. Which probably had deeper water than the sound in which we had been kayaking. Somehow, later on, we roused ourselves once more in time for dinner, which we opted to have in our room. Yummy yummy yummy. That’s about as eloquent as I can get right now. That is how relaxed we were. There was another beautiful sunset and the breeze had dropped completely so the water was like a millpond. And so to the end of another amazing day.
Our final day started with an amazing sunrise (sadly no stargazing in the early hours though, as it had been too cloudy overnight). And another huuuuuge breakfast. Followed by a nap in the sunshine on our balcony, punctuated by several failed attempts to think up a cunning plan to stay in the Outer Banks forever. As no decent ideas materialised, sadly we had to check out of the hotel. We had a nice leisurely amble home, stopping at the Wright Brothers National Memorial which is the place where the first aeroplane flights took place. Scary/amazing to think it was only 110 years ago, and how far we’ve come since then. It was amazingly windy at the monument, so it’s quite obvious why they picked that particular spot to undertake their trial flights.
And so we’re now back home, washing done, back to reality, although I’m still feeling incredibly relaxed and think it might take a little time to readjust to normal life. I’ll try my best not to reach full normality.