Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Day in Raleigh, North Carolina

We have visited a string of state capitols, so we were glad to make a trip to Raleigh to experience North Carolina's with our friends Connie and Steven.  Unlike many states, North Carolina has not rebuilt a new and more modern capitol building since this structure was completed in 1840.
We toured the outside grounds of the capitol complex and found this grouping of four of North Carolina's citizens. In bronze we find James Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Andrew Johnson. They were all U.S. Presidents in the 1800's. Standing in front in blue is Mark--a very temporary North Carolinian who is struggling to find anyone to support for U.S. president in 2016.

Also outside was this statue of another U.S. President that everyone would recognize--George Washington.

Inside the rotunda of the capitol was another presidential statue. Sculpted by an Italian artist in the 1700's, we were surprised to find out that this was supposed to also be George Washington. But this Italian artist had never met or even seen a picture of President Washington. So he used his own profile for the face, and dressed our first president in traditional Roman clothing.

As we looked up from that rotunda, we saw the most plain dome and and atrium of any capitol building we have visited so far. These North Carolinians didn't waste any money on fancy gold leaf or decorative murals in their capitol.

This Raleigh capitol building is one of the least-changed state capitols of its period. It was built on a $50,000 budget, so those stone-looking walls are actually faux paint that is peeling in places.

Likewise, the solid wood doors feature painted-on wood grain that wasn't terribly convincing.

We respect the fact that North Carolina hasn't sunk a lot of money into its state capitol, since now it is only used as an office for its governor and Lt. governor. The legislators have been moved to a larger building across the street. The money they have saved on the capitol has been well-spent instead on the museums in Raleigh. We were pleased to find that most of the museums have no admission fee, and are very well done. We spent a good part of our day inside the Museum of Natural Sciences, where four different whale skeletons swam over our heads.

This would be the jaw bone of a great blue whale. That hoop-shaped jaw is great for corralling the tons of krill they consume.

On the other hand, the huge skeleton of the sperm whale features this narrow snout with teeth, good for eating squid and fish.

There were also some impressive shark jaws, good for eating museum visitors and anything else these huge sharks want to eat.

We also visited the dinosaur displays, as well as the present day animals that roam North Carolina now. But Denisa's favorite section was up on the fourth floor--the butterfly conservatory.

The butterflies were buzzing around us, and Denisa was stalking them for pictures as soon as one lit on a blossom it was attracted to.

God has provided creative methods of camouflage and protection for some of these delicate butterflies. This one looks like it has owl eyes on the back side of its wings to scare off or confuse predators. Many of the birds that eat butterflies are eaten by larger birds like owls. So staring into an owl's eye is very intimidating to some butterfly predators.

But some of the strangest butterflies on the outside, are the most beautiful when they open their wings. Instead of being attracted to the lovely pink blossoms in the flower bed, this blue morpho seemed to be attracted to Mark's blue shirt.

She kept returning to his shirt, and the two of them did color coordinate very well today.

Mark discovered that being a butterfly magnet has its down-sides, however. When they crawled on his face and neck he was ready to change shirts.

Besides the Museum of Natural Sciences, the North Carolina History Museum was also open and free. We were on museumed-overload today, so we didn't go in. But we did take a picture out front of Steven beside the Saura Indian woman (who lived along the Dan River in the 1600's).

Our next stop was to the Videri chocolate factory. Knowing that we love factory tours, we were a little sad to find that the self-guided tour was reading some signs and looking at stacks of chocolate wrapped in plastic.

The free chocolate samples were tiny, but Denisa did relish the sign on the tour that described the health benefits of chocolate. She has now convinced herself that she must eat more chocolate in order to remain so healthy.

Our last stop in the Raleigh area was to another North Carolina county park. Five miles south of downtown in Wake County, it is the "Historic Yates Mill County Park." The park includes a visitor center with lots of information about milling in the 18th century. There were videos and models that explained the milling process of using water power to turn a wheel that would eventually grind the corn and wheat into meal and flour. We also learned that many of the sayings we had heard all our lives came from the mill. "Rule of thumb" refers to the miller rubbing the flour between his finger and thumb to check to be sure that it was ground to just the right fine-ness. "Rumor Mill" was coined because this was a community meeting place where neighbors had time to gossip while they waited on their grain to be milled.

Surrounding the lake is the old Millpond Trail, where we got a distant view of the mill and a little exercise.

We had a great day in North Carolina's capitol city with some great friends. We also got to stop in to visit Mark's cousin, Kathy, who lives in the Raleigh area. We forgot to take pictures that day, but we so enjoyed seeing her new home and spending time with a family member we don't see often. She said we were the first cousins to make the trip to North Carolina to see her, so we felt a little like family pioneers. Now we are planning to relocate to another part of the state, and then we'll be meeting Connie and Steven for more adventures east of here.

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