Front Porch Café

Caroline Kilborn (2022)

The Front Porch Café in Manteo, North Carolina should be considered a hidden gem. This café was spectacular. Manteo was the most gentrified and modernized of all the towns on our road trip. There were beautiful restaurants and stores throughout the entire town, as well as beautiful views. But in a general sense, there seemed to be a vibe coated over this whole town that can only be described as “a relaxed family-friendly community”.

    But out of this entire town, Front Porch Café stood out to me. It was our first stop in the morning and it started my day off right. 

    The minute you walk in, you are greeted by the baristas' glowing smiles. I automatically felt welcomed. Their selection of coffee and accompaniments went as far as the eye could see. You were able to get an iced chai latte or a double-shot espresso. You could ask for any type of milk you wanted, oat, regular, almond, or even coconut. There were also multiple types of syrups if you wanted to add them in; I added vanilla and Gayatri added lavender. 

    I honestly thought that I had died and gone to heaven. The aroma of this café was just impeccable and it felt like a warm hug the minute you entered through the front doors. 

    The coffee was not the only impressive selection they had. Their pastries were out of this world. They had three different types of croissants, four different types of muffins, apple turnovers, and even more. It was mouth-watering just to look at all of it. 

    After at least 10 minutes of trying to figure out what to order, I got a large hot oat milk vanilla latte and then a chocolate-filled croissant. Gayatri decided to order a medium iced cold brew with lavender and CBD oil drops and then a spinach and feta croissant. 

    Along with the coffee and food that was at the front of the store there was also a lot of merchandise along the right hand wall. They were selling a bunch of Front Porch Café t-shirts, mugs, tumblers, and sweatshirts. Along with the actual merchandise they sold, they also sold a bunch of other brands. The one that caught my eye was Lake Champlain Chocolates. I grew up with these so to find them again in the south genuinely made my day. I bought their caramel-filled chocolate and hot chocolate mix. The experience we had at Front Porch could not have gotten any better. That was until our order was ready.

    My croissant came out first and it was spectacular. Usually, chocolate-filled croissants can be very overbearing when it comes to the actual chocolate flavor, however, this one was perfect. There was a perfect ratio between the pastry, the filling, and even the powdered sugar on top. And to make it even better, they warmed it up.  

    The coffee was also just as amazing. I have a specific way I like my lattes made, I do not like when I am unable to taste the actual coffee. However, luckily for me, it was made exactly right. 

    While I did not try the coffee Gayatri ordered, I did have a bite of the spinach and feta croissant. And it was delicious. I wish I was joking when I say that I cannot stop thinking about it. It was warmed up and melted so perfectly. It also looked so beautiful when we were both trying to figure out what to order. 

    The Front Porch Café was one of the best cafés I have been to in my lifetime. The decorations and actual merchandise were beautiful and seemed just so authentic. Then the actual coffee and food they sold were made to make your day better. I wish there was one close to Elon so that I could show people just how amazing it is. I would recommend this spot to anyone who is looking for a comfortable place to get just a really good cup of coffee. The vibe is amazing and now I want to go back.

Adventures at the Aquarium

Gayatri Chopra (2022)

The aquarium experience started long before I walked through the entrance. The second I stepped out of the car, the salty ocean breeze welcomed me to the place I was ecstatic about visiting. Aquariums have always been my favorite attractions, so my expectations were high for the Roanoke Island aquarium.

 

Much too soon, we had to leave the pier, and with a time constraint looming in the back of our minds, we rushed to the front doors.

 

Upon walking in the entrance of the aquarium, we saw our first indoor display. Showcased in a life-size shadow box was a massive shark jaw, complete with rows of pointed teeth. The description said the fossil was from a megalodon, a prehistoric shark much bigger than the measly eight-foot-long sharks today. I looked at Caroline with excitement; I’d always found sharks fascinating. Caroline, who wasn’t nearly as giddy as me, led us to the next room.

 

 

The aquarium had different kinds of exhibits; some were interactive and others were more immersive, and throughout it all, it was incredible to see the dedication to ocean conservation efforts the aquarium had. Halfway through our exploration, we were able to see those efforts in action. 

 

The aquarium was equipped with its own turtle sanctuary, a room overlooking the ocean with several tanks, each containing a very large turtle or tortoise, several of them decades old. We heard the stories of some of the animals and learned about how the aquarium is working to preserve the species, and after leaving the room, we walked through an immersive exhibit where we saved and rehabilitated a turtle figurine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stingrays that swam in the tank in front of me seemed friendly, and I was determined not to let my fears get in the way, so I plunged my hand into the saltwater and rubbed it on a stingray, taking it out as soon as I felt the cold and squishy surface. 

 

Still, the experience left me feeling bold, so I went to the next tank and looked in at what I could do. I ended up petting the shell of a hermit crab as it hustled from one side of the tank to the other and a spiky sea urchin in the corner. 

 

Afterward, we moved on to the next exhibits, walking past snakes and lizards, snapping turtles and a very rare albino alligator. The last wing of the aquarium was reserved for other classic ocean creatures. We walked around displays of translucent and glowing jellyfish, tanks of seahorses swimming and—my favorite—a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling tank of sharks.

 

By then I’d realized that every one of my expectations for the aquarium was met and more. It was definitely a place I don’t think I’d ever have enough time for. 

 

And of course, as all good trips go, we ended at the gift shop. We spent our last stretch of time allotted for the aquarium commemorating it with sweatshirts and stamped pennies as I told everyone how much I loved the aquarium. We pulled out of the parking lot and back onto Highway 64, and I looked out at the road, amazed at our time in the aquarium.

I began my journey with Caroline outside at the aquarium’s pier, stopping every few feet to take pictures of each statue and sculpture. There were fossilized shark teeth and turtle sculptures, but the main attraction was a fountain with an intricate school of fish sculpture as the centerpiece. The art led up to the water’s edge where it was easy to lose track of time watching rays of sunshine skirt around the waves. We looked out on the deep blue water at boats and bridges in the distance, and we watched as the foamy waves splashed up over the rocks at the edge of the ocean.

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As we walked in, our attention immediately went to a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling tank. Hundreds of fish swam behind the glass, all different sizes and colors. We watched fish three inches long as they swam alongside other species spanning three feet. Throughout the aquarium we saw these massive tanks and the creatures in their own miniature ecosystem.

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Afterward, we stepped into another interactive room. In the center were two tables, one filled with stingrays swimming around and the other containing a shallow pool, also full of sea creatures. Caroline challenged me to pet one of the stingrays, which the aquarium employees in the room assured us did not have their stingers. 

 

I was nervous at first, remembering another trip I took years ago where I chickened out on petting a stingray.

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