spiel stevenberg – wilmington, north carolina
Today we woke up ready for a jam-packed day. The beds in our hotel were uber-comfortable, like sleeping on clouds, and it took a bit of effort to throw myself out of bed, but I made it happen. After a complimentary breakfast buffet at the hotel, we took a shuttle to the airport to rent a car. The cabbie made sure to let me know that Wilmington has more car accidents than any other city in North Carolina. Again, good to know. I’m sensing that Wilmington cabbies are hell-bent on scaring the shit out of me.
March must be a slow travel time for the warmer climes, because at Thrifty car rental, we got upgraded to a convertible – a black Pontiac G6, to be exact. (The same thing happened when Alex and I went to California and were given a Chrysler Sebring convertible.) I was not about to complain. We got the keys, put the top down immediately, and hit the road to cruise the streets of Wilmington for obscure filming locations. It was on this initial drive that I tracked down the houses that were used for the exteriors of many One Tree Hill characters’ homes from the high school years – Peyton’s, Haley’s, Brooke’s, Felix & Anna’s, and Lucas’. We also found Keith’s Body Shop and the Greentree Inn where Nanny Carrie brought kidnapped Jamie and Dan Scott threatened her.
Then, we spotted a Cracker Barrell – our long-lost love from our Saint Anselm days. We had to stop there for lunch and enjoy our usual meal of chicken fingers, corn, and mashed potatoes. Yum. After that brief respite, we continued on the journey – tracking down the Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park from “I Will Dare”, as well as the houses used for Nathan & Haley’s season 5 home, Brooke and Rachel’s season 5 place, and Bevin’s home.
At this point we realized we were on a time crunch – we were almost late for the Hollywood Location Walk tour I’d pre-purchased tickets to. We booked it downtown and arrived just in the knick of time. I jammed the car – badly – into a Market St. parking spot, fed the meter, and jogged down the street to where all the other tour group members were already gathered. The host of the tour singled us out for being late, of course, and draped plastic gold beads – “Hollywood bling” – around our necks. It was embarrassing. But not as embarrassing as the fact that when I looked over my shoulder I noticed that I was getting a parking ticket for the shoddy way I parked the car. I sighed and ran back up to the car, moments after the cop had left the ticket. I re-parked the car – still badly, but at least it wasn’t jutting out into the street anymore. (Hey, I’d never deny that I am not the best parker. Unless it’s parallel parking – I’m an ace at that.)
I managed to get back down the street before the tour took off. The tour guide – who called himself Spiel Stevenberg and who was wearing Corey Feldman’s red velvet jacket from Dream a Little Dream, took us on a 90-minute walk around downtown. Some of the spots he pointed out were one’s we’d already visited, but others were new – for instance, I didn’t know that Empire Records was located right on South Front Street next to some Dawson’s Creek locations. He also showed us the alley where Mandy Moore told Shane West she was dying in A Walk to Remember, the bar from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (shout out to Tasia!), a few locations from Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, some Ninja Turtles locales, a few Creek and Tree Hill locations I’d missed, and the place where Steve Buscemi and Vince Vaughn got into an altercation with some locals, which ended with Buscemi getting slashed by a drunk Wilmingtonian.
Once the tour wrapped up, we hit an adorable fondue place called The Little Dipper. We managed to get in without a reservation – good timing, I guess – and enjoyed a superb four-course meal. It started with a cheese fondue, a blend of gorgonzola and provolone cheese with garlic, cooked in white wine, with bread chunks, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, grapes, and apples to dip. Next came two oversize chef salads with balsamic vinaigrette. Finally, a plate of chicken, pork, and filet which we cooked in chicken broth and dipped in either mushroom, creamy dill, or drawn butter sauces. Completely delicious. Not to mention that for dessert we had turtle (chocolate and caramel) fondue in which we dipped marshmallows, pretzels, strawberries, pineapple, bananas, and eclairs. We were absolutely stuffed, but it was worth it. Aside from tasting amazing, it was also an experience – my first official fondue-ing!
After that meal, we lapsed into true food comas, so our only recourse was to head back to the Country Inn. It was dark by this time, so all the trees downtown were lit up with white lights – it was beautiful. Once you’re there for 5 minutes, you can totally understand why so many films and television shows want to shoot down there. It’s kind of perfection.
Back at the hotel, I took the opportunity for another jacuzzi soak before climbing into the heavenly bed, watching some TV, and passing out.