New Bern weekend a relaxing getaway

Published 6:57 pm Saturday, August 29, 2009

Still exploring and discovering North Carolina, my wife and I ventured last weekend to New Bern.

(As an aside, we learned to pronounce that town’s name – it’s two words on paper, but one when you say it – several months ago when she went there for a meeting. I learned from her. Come to think of it, most of what I learn I learn from her.)

We’ve lived in North Carolina for more than a year now and I began exploring as soon as I arrived (which gave me about a six weeks head start on her, because I got here before she did), venturing first to the Outer Banks to find lighthouses, which I had seen only in pictures until that first exploratory venture.

Sherry recalled that traveling to New Bern and returning in one day, with her meeting sandwiched in the middle of those two drives, made for a long day. With that in mind, I cranked up my computer and “Googled” hotels in the New Bern area, eventually settling on the Hilton there, because it said it had been recently renovated and was neighbors with a marina.

We left fairly early (well, it was before noon) Saturday and were in New Bern in time for a late lunch, which we ate at Morgan’s Tavern & Grill because that’s where lunch had been when Sherry was there for her meeting. The food was good and the service was excellent.

Sufficiently stuffed, we wandered a building or two down the street to Mitchell Hardware, which I found fascinating. The store is characterized as “an authentic turn-of-the-century hardware store,” and that doesn’t mean the most recent turn-of-the-century. The store was established in 1898.

Today, the hardware store feels like that characterization, but its wares are appropriate to today.

I was impressed, too, that it successfully serves both New Bern’s tourists and its residents. If you stop and think about it, that’s a significant accomplishment.

On some shelves in the back of the hardware store, I found books by local authors. Sherry had already introduced me to one of those authors when she bought three of his books and brought them home with her on her first trip.

He was Phil Bowie and the three books she brought me those several months were most decidedly escapist fiction, but they were fun and I devoured them in short order.

On last weekend’s trip, I “discovered” Tom Lewis and bought his Pea Island trilogy there in Mitchell Hardware.

Better known than those two, of course, and also calling New Bern home, is Nicholas Sparks, who wrote such books as “Nights in Rodanthe” and “Message in a Bottle.”

When we left the hardware store, it was raining. Sherry was adamant about shopping (Sherry is just about always adamant about shopping) and it seemed a much better idea to me to take my new books and go back to the hotel and spend a rainy afternoon reading.

So that’s what we did: She went shopping and I went back to the hotel. I sat overlooking the marina and listened to it rain while I read about half of the first book in Lewis’ trilogy. I had a great afternoon and, I learned when she got home about dinner time, she did, too.

We had dinner that night in the hotel’s restaurant and turned in pretty early.

The next morning, on our way out of town, we found Port City Java where I drank a cup of coffee and Sherry exclaimed over what was probably the most elaborately “decorated” (stripes of chocolate across the whipped cream on top of… you get the idea) cup of hot chocolate I’ve ever seen.

We took our time driving home and agreed as we drove that New Bern had left a very favorable impression and that we would return soon.

David Sullens is president of Roanoke-Chowan Publications LLC and publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald and the Gates County Index.