Coker Arboretum

The weather has finally been warm enough to where I actually enjoy walking to class. I am lucky that my walk to classes on campus takes me through the beautiful Coker Arboretum and it has become one of my favorite spots to not only walk through but also to just sit and relax. The Coker Arboretum is managed by the North Carolina Botanical Garden and is one of the Garden’s oldest tracts!

I have gone here countless times when I just want to reflect on my day, practice mindfulness or read a good book. It is peaceful, beautiful and serene and everyone who comes in to the Arboretum appreciates it for these reasons and respects the area. The Arboretum is open from dawn to dusk every day, as well as year-round but is especially beautiful now in the Spring when everything is in bloom.

The Coker Arboretum is a Haven in the Heart of Chapel Hill and one that is well worth finding. On the 100th anniversary of the Arboretum, the curator Dan Stern, wrote a tribute to the first 100 years of the Arboretum, which was founded in 1903. I have been able to enjoy the Arboretum for several years and I know that I will continue to come back to visit and enjoy it long after I have graduated from UNC and hope that others will do the same.

Icelandic Adventure

After spending time in the city of Reykjavik, I headed out for the second part of my Icelandic adventure. Although it was very different than being in the city, it was no less amazing. I took a guided tour through an outdoor expedition company called Goecco. We met at the Hallgrims Church in the center of Reykjavik and from there we started our adventure by traveling along the south shore of Iceland. Our first stop was the beautiful Skogafoss falls and from there we traveled to Reynisfjara black beach in the city of Vik.

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Leaving Vik we drove through the biggest lava field in on the planet and across the black desert of Skeidarasandur. (Fun fact: Iceland has 200 earthquakes a day and has 150 active volcanoes!) We finally arrived at the highlight of the tour, Vatnajökull – Europe’s largest glacier, which is located in Skaftafell National Park. The glacier was a brilliant shade of blue and so clear that you could see down into it where layers of volcanic dust were captured beneath the gigantic blocks of ice. We stayed on the glacier for hours, walking around taking in all of its beauty and listening to the sounds of the water running beneath the glacier.

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Our next stop was Jökulsarlon, the Glacier lagoon. Surrounded by mountains and the pristine glacial water was full of floating icebergs and seals who make it their home. The glacier beach was also nearby and I got to touch a piece of the ancient iceberg that had floated ashore!

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These places are just a few of the many highlights from my trip and overall, the Goecco excursion was an amazing experience and the tour guides were knowledgable, personable and funny. I would highly recommend it to anyone and would do it again myself in heartbeat! Iceland is one of the most beautiful and surreal places that I have ever seen and hope that one day I can go back and experience even more of it.

Reykjavik, Iceland

This past week, UNC had spring break. I decided to travel to Iceland for eight nights and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I stayed in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and largest city and it was unlike any place that I have ever been to before – a coastal city, but also one with thriving economic and cultural activity. Colorful homes and shops line the city, which is one of the cleanest, safest and greenest in the world. One my first day in Reykjavik I climbed to the top of Hallgrímskirkja church and got an incredible view of the entire city.

The things to do and see in Reykjavik are endless. From beautiful mountain views across the water to delicious authentic food and cultural landscapes that are must sees. I tried to fully grasp the culture of Iceland by eating as many different authentic foods as possible and the best thing that I discovered was Sheep’s Bone Marrow. When I first saw it on the menu I admit I was a bit nervous, and when it came out to the table still in the bone, I was even more nervous. But, after my first bite I was hooked. It was delicious, and paired perfectly with Iceland’s famous Viking Stout. 

Reykjavik intrigued me because it had both a cosmopolitan and also a small-town feel to it. I could have wandered through the colorful streets for days on end and found new and beautiful places every time, and with a huge number of cute cafés and independent shops to visit when you get tired of walking, it is a feasible thing to do.

Eno River State Park

With the past week finally beginning to feel like spring, there is nothing I want more than to spend time outside relaxing in nature. The best place in the area that I have found to do this is the Eno River State Park. The Eno River flows through both Durham and Orange County and past mature forests, historic mill sites, and river bluffs. There are almost 30 miles of trails that provide the perfect place for a leisurely walk or run, practice photography or just enjoy nature.

Growing up in Durham, the Eno River was part of my every day as I not only lived by it but would also go running on it every day. The Eno River State Park is interesting and unique because there are several sites along the trails that you can explore, including the Pump Station Trail , which is known as the best spring wildflower trail in the park. The Pump Station Trail is an easy 1.5 mile loop that will take you through Durham’s first water pumping station!

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Some of the other great trails include: the Laurel Bluffs Trail, the Quarry Trail and Bobbit Hole Trail. Each trail is distinct and I hope to continue exploring the Eno River State Park until I have walked or run all of the trails – and if the weather continues like this it should be a welcome challenge.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Growing up in Durham, Duke Gardens was always a magical place to me. It was somewhere that my family and I would go almost every week and there was simply nothing better than going to explore the Gardens on a nice day. Children can run around in the open field near one of the ponds, or you can grab a light lunch at the cafe that is nestled inside the garden. There are also miles of pathways and trails to walk along, and in the spring with all the blooming flowers you will not want to leave. Unfortunately, I do not get to go to Duke Gardens every week now but the place still holds a sense of beauty and awe for me and I go back as often as I can.

One of my favorite things about Duke Gardens is how old and established all of the plants and trees are. The Gardens just celebrated their 75th anniversary in 2014 and many of the trees and plants have been around that long! The Magnolia trees are some of the most beautiful that I have ever seen and a stand as a symbol for Duke Gardens.

The gardens are also divided into four areas: the Historic Core and Terraces, the H.L Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, the William Louis Culberson Asiatic Arboretum and the Doris Duke Center Gardens (including the Page-Rollins White Garden). With these distinct garden areas there is always something new to see and explore, regardless of if you only have a few mixtures or few hours – you will always find something!

You can learn more about Duke Gardens by taking part in some of their programs and becoming a Friend of Duke Gardens, which insures that the Gardens are maintained and supported for years to come, so that everyone can have a change to appreciate their beauty!

Lucha Tigre

There is almost nothing better than waking up late on Sunday morning and going to brunch. The mixture of breakfast and lunch is my favorite meal to have on weekends and one of the best that I have found in Chapel Hill is at Lucha Tigre. Lucha Tigre is a fusion of Latin and Asian cuisine and the result is both delicious and unique.

The restaurant is sleek and creative and the atmosphere caters to college students, as well as families and older couples. On nice and sunny days the ideal seating is outside on the patio which is open to the sun. Picnic tables allow enough seating for groups of friends and on weekends Lucha Tigre also has a DJ play music from 12pm to 4pm and serves bottomless mimosas which are always a big hit.

The brunch menu is on the smaller side but filled with flavorful and interesting dishes that will make you want to try everything. I have already been three times and have always loved what I ordered. Last Sunday I got the Chilaquiles, which is corn tortilla chips tossed in tomatillo salsa, topped with pulled pork, cotilla cheese and crema and an egg. I also tried the Banana-Nutella Empanadas. The empanadas were filled with sliced bananas and chocolate-hazelnut spread, and topped with strawberries and homemade whipped cream. The two dishes were drastically different but both fantastic, each in their own way.

While I have only been to Lucha Tigre for brunch, I can imagine that their lunch and dinner is just as good. I plan on going back again soon and trying another new dish!

Honeysuckle Tea House

I stumbled upon Honeysuckle Tea House last summer. Nestled into the countryside of Chapel Hill and surrounded by woods and gardens, it is beautifully serene. The Tea House itself is open air and made from repurposed materials and there are many comfortable spots to relax. While they are currently closed for Winter, they re-open on March, 16th and I can not wait to go back!

Honeysuckle Tea House serves a variety of herbal teas, locally roasted coffee, honeys and tinctures – many of which are made on site. Last time I went, I got a mint tea that was made with mint from their herb garden and it was refreshing and delicious.

Looking out onto the gardens and into the woods, you can almost forget where you are. The open walls make the setting even more relaxing and my friend and I stayed for several hours just talking and enjoying each others company. Honeysuckle is a definitely a place that everyone should visit at some point as it shows a new perspective of Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas.