Walkable Durham

Modern cityscape

Downtown Durham surrounding the ATC is also walkable and entertaining, as you have seen already with my public art post and the murals post I did earlier. This is a downtown where the things you want to get to are close and accessible. Durham has many small parks and beautiful buildings, lots of trees, creeks and waterfalls that make it as pleasant as can be on a muggy August day.

Inviting parks are tucked into large intersections, odd-shaped lots, parts of blocks between buildings. I really enjoyed all the parks in Durham.
One of the parks I walked through
In this small park, you can’t even tell from here that you’re in the city center.

With the parks and all the greenery, I spotted some wildlife.

Attractive street downtown.

I enjoyed the architecture I saw, including old buildings and churches, as well as the modern work.

The beautiful Carolina Theatre
View of the Durham Armory, with yet another park, and our hotel in the background.
The moon peered out between these two buildings one evening to say hello.

When I was on a search for a particularly hard-to-find mural in an earlier post, I ended up in a narrow alley absolutely accidentally. Turns out, that’s where the mural was. After I took the photo, I admired the alley that reminded me of European cities.

Beautiful alley, with sneaky mural hiding behind a locked gate and a tree to the left.
A typical European street, but in Durham, NC.

I walked slowly, taking photos, and came upon a woman and a man, hanging a piece of wooden and painted artwork on a wall in the alley. The woman saw me and, as she stepped back to look at the object, asked for my input. “I just found this and we thought it would look nice here. What do you think?” she asked. I told her I thought it looked great. Do you agree?

To the right of the door, you see the newly hung painted wooden art.

Naturally, we got to chatting, and they found out I was visiting the city and I commented on the beautiful alley. “Oh!” she remarked, “And of course you know the story of Alley Twenty-Six?” I did not and eagerly asked her to tell me. “Well. There used to be a building here, where we are standing, but there was a fire. It burned everything except those two walls you see there over our heads.” “And….?” I asked, salivating in anticipation. “And they left it just as it was!” she said, delighted, “and those walls remain today.” That was the entire story. “Thank you for telling me about that,” I said, happy to honor her delight in that history. I have since done some Internet research to try and find out if there really is a fascinating Alley 26 story, in case she left it out in her excitement at telling me. But I found nothing except a bar named after it that makes its own bitters and cocktail syrups that sound amazing and I’ll probably order some online.

Crepe Myrtles in full bloom
This sign made me laugh.

One night after his conference, Pedro and I decided to go find a brewpub. He chose based on the name alone. After a good amount of walking in the sweltering heat of the evening, we arrived at Ponysaurus. The entrance had misters which helped a little with the heat. We sat at the bar and chose a few beers to try, then made the long walk home.

On a particularly hot and steamy afternoon, I had been walking around Durham streets in full sun and simply dying. I pulled out my phone and looked for a place to get a cold drink and settled on Bull City Ciderworks, which was walkable from where I was at the time. For a sleepy afternoon, I was surprised to find the music blasting and the place packed when I arrived. Clearly, I had chosen the right spot. When I went inside, I saw a dozen people in drag and was almost delirious with happiness. I had not expected to find this community, and it made me feel safe and at home to be in that crowd.

I got in line for a cider, with my back to the crowd. It was a long line. When I finally arrived at the counter, I asked with a huge smile “What have I unexpectedly stumbled into?” “Oh yes,” smiled the bartender back at me. “It was great, did you catch the show?” Huh? I turned around and saw the place had nearly emptied behind me and people were putting tables and chairs away. “We had a fashion show and it went SO well. It was really awesome, the models were all wonderful.” I had missed it. I ordered my cider and found a seat.

Quickly, people were changing and leaving. I had to somehow connect. After feeling like an outsider for days because of an unfamiliar city, I felt like an insider here (because of raising a trans child and trying to stay connected to that community), and was sad to see them leaving me. So I hopped up from my seat and began chatting with a few of the models and asked for photos and everyone was willing to comply. It was about the happiest friggin moment of my whole trip.

Trying to share somehow to let them know I wasn’t merely a gawker, I said that I was a mom of a trans child and one of the models got very excited and began questioning me about my kid. S/he works at a Durham center for LGBTQ kids and wants to know how to connect with more parents of those kids. I had to confess I was from Oregon, and my “kid” was 25 years old – neither of us is the target audience. 🙂

I’ll end this post on that fun note. I’ve got one more post from Durham and it’s of the Saturday farmer’s market – the last thing I did in the city before it was time to go home. I’m going to go work on it right now so hopefully it’ll get posted tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed exploring Durham (and Raleigh) with me.

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