I’ve lived in the south all my life. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, I grew up there and then lived in Atlanta for a while, and from there moved here. That was thirty years ago. I tell people I live in Chapel Hill, because that’s where my street address lists me as living, but I don’t really. Like almost everyone else around here, I live in at least three places: Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough. As close as they are to each other (they’re like sister cities, brotherly towns) they each have their own personality, their own distinct histories.
Everyone in the rest of the world seems to know of Chapel Hill. That makes sense. Nobel Prize winners live here, and so do National Champions, and here is where you can attend the first – and the best – public university in the country. If you’re coming south, escaping the metropolis, the oasis of Chapel Hill is where you’d stop for an aperitif of culture. How a town so small feels so big, that’s a magic I’ve never understood.
Carrboro, right next door, is our tiny, countrified Brooklyn. Hipsters hang with the farmers; sometimes they’re even the same person. The best co-op in the Southeast and maybe anywhere else, Weaver Street, has an expansive green lawn in front of it, and it functions like home base for the entire town. It’s the best place for people-watching I’ve ever been. Up the street is the Cat’s Cradle, the music club where every touring indie band plays. Carrboro is where you go for coffee and ice cream, film festivals and late late-night fun.
Driving to Hillsborough, just fifteen or twenty minutes north, is like passing through a gateway into the past. Most of the town is on the National Historic Register. It’s beautiful. It’s the kind of town where the houses are so old they have their own names, like Tamarind and Burnside. There are also more creative writers per capita living here – novelists, poets, writers of soap operas, bloggers, and columnists – than there are anywhere else in the world.
A sense of place. Whether we know it or not this is what we’re looking for when we go somewhere, when we go anywhere. What makes this area different and peculiar in the best possible way is that there’s more than a sense of place here: there is a sense of places. Different pasts, presents and futures coalesce to create a patch of land like no other.
I love it here. I think you will too. Here’s a list of Five Great Things To Do while you’re here (but there are many, many more). Laura and I may see you at one of them. Enjoy.
- Farmer’s Market. They’re all over the place.
- Last Fridays in Hillsborough and Second Fridays in Carrboro, and every Friday on the Front Porch at The Carolina Inn.
- Coffee and people-watching at the Weave
- Cats Cradle
- Hillsborough Riverwalk