Munching the buffalo wings that we ordered, my summer school friends and I sunk into comfy sofas in the fourth floor common room in Keohane 4B. While praising the heavenly combination of medium spicy sauce and boneless wings, we envied our friends posting edgy Instagram pictures in Italy and Japan. Although I never got tired of the Gothic architecture on West Campus, I did not want to spend the entire summer in the Duke bubble. So I decided to explore Durham and found a variety of interesting places.

Little Dipper

The fondue restaurant is ideal for a fancy dinner after a long week of summer classes and research. The restaurant is a bit expensive, so I went with five “fondue buddies” to split the bill. We started our dinner with bowls of salad, but the actual fondue feast began when the waiter made a pot of melted cheese in front of us. Among six options for cheese fondues, we chose Baja Cheddar Fondue and loved it for its unique combination of salsa, hot sauce, and cheese. For entrée, we ordered “Zen,” including filet mignon and ravioli, which we dipped into a pot of boiling chicken oil to fry. Stirring the pot with a rescue spoon to find a missing ravioli and waiting for the food to be well cooked in the bowl proved to be fun challenges. S’mores fondue was the perfect end to the fondue night.

Rockin’ Rolls Sushi

I was disappointed that Ginger and Soy in the Brodhead Center was closed for summer, but I luckily found its replacement — Rockin' Rolls Sushi — only five minutes away from West Campus. The restaurant served sushi on a conveyor belt. Each plate had about two to four pieces of sushi and I could eat as much as I wanted for only $11. Spicy salmon roll, with crunchy rice puffs at the top and the shrimp tempura roll were my favorites. Every time my friends and I saw a row of fried shrimp rolls coming, we got ready to snatch as many as we could. We also did not hesitate from trying interesting dishes like the “crazy monkey roll,” which included fried banana with mayo and teriyaki sauce.

Mission X Escape-Durham

The escape room was a nice place to take a break from scorching Durham summer. The games had four different themes, including Vampire Manor and Butcher Shop, each with different levels of difficulty. With five friends, I tried Vampire Manor, the plot being that the players are trapped in a vampire castle and have to find a magical gem to escape. Despite the cheesy premise, we had a great bonding experience trying to find clues in a dark room with only three flashlights. Managing to escape with five seconds left, we also had the honor to display our picture on the wall of winners next to the entrance.

Quirky Shops on Ninth Street

When I first went to Ninth Street with my orientation week friends, I took a picture with them in front of a flower graffiti wall next to the Ninth Street Flower Shop. Although the photo is still the home screen of my phone, I did not have enough time to explore the street more and discover its interesting shops until this summer. Among all the stores, The Regulator Bookshop and Zola Craft Gallery stood out. Unlike other bookstores that I have visited in other cities, the bookshop had several shelves devoted to local authors. I sat down on a green sofa at the corner of the shop for a while and flipped through books titled “27 Views of Durham” and “Hidden Hillsborough,” reading about different perspectives of Durham from its long-time residents and looking at pictures of houses in Hillsborough. I then walked over to Zola Craft Gallery, a gift shop featuring locally made crafts. The sound of the wind chime on the door and the squeaky wooden stairs reminded me of my grandmother’s home. At the store, I bought a journal and a necklace for my sister.

Pleiades Gallery

Downtown Durham was among the first places I visited when I came to Durham. I knew the place for its highly-rated restaurants, but did not realize until I spent a Saturday afternoon there that it also has art galleries. The first floor of the gallery featured works of North Carolinian artists, ranging from bizarre mixed media works like a baby’s head made of ceramic with long nails at the top, to a painting on traditional Japanese paper. I found the temporary exhibition by an artist named Dawn Hummer on the second floor, called “Watermark,” particularly attractive. In the works, different shades of multicolored threads weaved together representing sceneries like sea waves and meeting waters.

Durham seemed like an oddly peaceful town to me as someone from a large city. But as I explored more, the town began to reveal its numerous charms.