Visitors give insight into what's great about NENC


By Holly Audette

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer may be the lazy, hazy days for some, but it’s our busiest time in the hospitality business. Guests arrive for a much-needed vacation or a business trip and often look to us to introduce them to options for activities and dining.

It is encouraging to hear positive local experiences from our guests and to learn how they view the region through more objective eyes than our own. Guests frequently tell my husband and me we are the area’s biggest cheerleaders, so I do not pretend we have objectivity about our northeastern North Carolina communities we love and embrace!

Part of the reason positive observations have such impact is we often hear only the negative ones and often those come from among us. Those living here have many public options for griping and those messages are frequent, loud and clear. Nothing to do, not enough restaurant and shopping choices, not enough free things.... The list goes on and on.

But if you have ever lived elsewhere or been much of a traveler I daresay you may have a different understanding about what is positive about our rural communities. Over just a few days I saw much of that through our guests’ perspective who took advantage of many of our suggestions and experienced much the region offers.

Fourth of July through the eyes of visiting husband-and-wife educators, who returned to us for the second time in a few weeks and left us this message which read in part, “That was hands down the best 4th of July celebration I've ever had. Elizabeth City does a great job with the fireworks and the festivities downtown.”

Local restaurant Paradiso hosted a Fourth of July celebration with their waterfront view and gave these folks their last available reservation. The owners’ and staff’s personal hospitality helped make a big impression on these folks, which obviously contributed to a very positive impression of Elizabeth City. I have to admit, the fireworks were spectacular and seeing all the boats and folks gathered in the harbor reminded me of just how special our quality of life here really is.

Other guests took advantage of our suggestion that they make a day exploring Hertford and Edenton. They loved the story of all the artists who do renderings of the turtles on the cypress trees in the river around the “S” curve bridge and were sold on having a pressed pimento cheese sandwich and premium ice cream at the “step back in time” lunch counter at Woodard’s Pharmacy. They were in awe of the beautifully maintained historic architecture in Edenton and understood why the town is so often included on lists of the most beautiful small towns in America!

Two couples meeting for the first time at breakfast decided to venture to Merchant Mill Pond in Gates County for some hiking and kayaking, and to Camden County the next day for Dismal Swamp offerings. This leisurely activity allowed for lots of “get to know you” time to cement their new friendship. The hustle and bustle of more urban life can make that opportunity scarce.

We also had four couples this week all looking to relocate. Still in the prime of their lives, they were especially interested in how they could invest their time. They did not want to be idle but instead have fully vested, active lives. We discussed diverse options like substitute teaching, mentoring, museum volunteering, the arts, gardening and the various civic groups here. These guests enjoyed our local farmers market that provided treats for our dogs, the downtown offerings, golf, locally owned area restaurants and trips to Currituck for the vineyard, acoustic sunsets and the farm-to-fork microbrewery. One couple arrived back with a gift of a huge bag of sweet corn picked from a local field just 20 minutes earlier!

But in the end, all of our guests agreed with us that what really sets this region apart is the opportunity for relationship. So much to do but at a pace that allows for growing relationships. In the scheme of things, with life so fleeting and civility waning, that’s what our region provides to those who appreciate it, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

Holly Audette is a small-business owner active in political and civic causes.