Christmas Decorations ‘Inn’ Trinity Park

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The King’s Daughters Inn at Trinity Park in Durham, NC

The Trinity Park district, near Duke University’s East Campus, is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Durham, North Carolina. The King’s Daughters, a 1920s brick Revival along Buchanan Boulevard in Trinity Park, stands as a bridge between the past and the present. In former days, this two-story structure served as a retirement home for aging, single women—a safe haven made possible through the generosity of the Duke family and the Sheltering Home Circle of Durham, which is a local, non-denominational Christian chapter of the International Order of King’s Sons and Daughters.

With the rise in popularity of large-scale retirement homes in place of the dormitory-style living offered at the King’s Daughters Home, the Sheltering Home Circle of Durham closed its doors in 2006. The white-pillared Colonial beauty reopened in 2009 as the privately owned, 4-star King’s Daughters Inn. The 17-room hotel also serves the Durham community as a place for meetings, weddings and afternoon teas.

Last year around this time, I stopped by the historic Inn hoping that it would be decorated for Christmas. It was! I returned again this year to take pictures of anything I might have missed. (Staff informed me that the Inn is generally decorated in the same manner every year, but I did see a few things I’d overlooked last year.)

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The Inn consists of an eclectic mix of antique furniture and decor–all faithful to the styles of the 1920s. The Christmas decorations blended in beautifully.

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A wing on the second floor bore a 1920s art deco vibe.

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I captured a little more of the wall art this year.

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The Inn is designed to feel like a welcoming home, and as such, I found the doors to all the unoccupied rooms wide open last year. My favorite accommodation was The Trinity Suite, a second-floor getaway overlooking the Trinity Park National Historic District and offering a sun porch (through these french doors) for both relaxing and dining.

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The Christmas tree and poinsettias on the sun porch of the main floor were classic and beautiful. The afternoon light made the scene even more spectacular.

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The King’s Daughters Inn captures and holds for our attention a bygone era tracing back nearly a hundred years. Seeing the halls decked for Christmas added to its charm.


Lake Norman Fall Cruise (2016)

Boating season has no end.

This axiom was put to the test Saturday, October 22nd, when I boarded the Jolly Roger (a.k.a. my sister’s family’s boat; unofficially named) for a fall cruise around Lake Norman. It was a crisp 46 degrees sitting still…and we weren’t going to be sitting still.

Approximately twenty boats—a combination of Benningtons and Cobalts—participated in Lake Norman Marina’s annual fall foliage cruise, and we had the pleasure of being one of them.

During the cruise, we passed locales like Sherrills Ford, Monbo, Long Island, and Buffalo Shoals. Translated, we went up the lake, turned around before it got too shallow, and came back.

Here are a few photos I took that day. Enjoy!

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Boats lining up at Lake Norman Marina for the fall cruise: There were a few pops of color along the shoreline, but the day was more about enjoying the lake with other marina patrons.


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The shoreline tried, it really tried, to impress us with some fall foliage, but it was a bit early for full-on fall color.


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A view of the Marshall Steam Station from the lake.


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When we reached the halfway point of the cruise, my nephew in particular enjoyed watching the boats turn around and face us.


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Adults, kiddies and canines, too, enjoyed the cold but sunny day boat ride.


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I took quite a few photos of the furry seafarers in front of us. Judging by their able footing, they’ve cruised Lake Norman a time or two  before and were clearly enjoying their sunny day adventure.

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The cruise ended back at the marina with a cookout and a promise that next year, the cruise would be a week or two later in hopes of more colorful foliage. Green or brown, yellow or red, the cruise was very enjoyable and Lake Norman Marina could not have been a more gracious host.

..But the day didn’t end there for the Jolly Roger and its crew. We set out later that evening for a cruise up river, er lake, to a waterfront restaurant. On the return trip, the sunset was the cream on the top of a very good day.

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Autumn at The Umstead

It arrived last week.

Autumn.

Every October, I fret that the fall foliage will fail to impress here in central North Carolina. Then, as Thanksgiving draws near, the leaves do their thing and it is spectacular…and I remind myself to remind myself next year to hold my horses.

Saturday afternoon, I found myself at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, North Carolina, for a late lunch with my older sister.

If you’re a fan of coffee, I recommend the Espresso Fizz. It was delish and went surprisingly well with the pickled fried chicken.

In case you need some convincing:

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The ice cubes were made of frozen coffee, and a dash of cinnamon gave the Espresso Fizz a pleasing punch of sweet-spicy flavor.

After lunch we took a walk around the hotel, which is always a treat. (I’ve written about the Umstead before.) Although this five star establishment is right off of Interstate 40, it’s tucked into a wooded haven.

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A view from inside the hotel hinted at the beauty awaiting outside.

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Gas fire pits and heaters make the back porch at Umstead attractive to guests nearly year-round.

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These roses were a reminder that it was actually 75 degrees on this particular Saturday in latish November.

Umstead’s lake, located at the rear of the 12-acre resort, is tranquil and offers walking trails and benches. This time of year, these amenities were encased in vibrant colors of autumn.

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Locals and visitors alike are fortunate to enjoy this lovely place, which U.S. News and World Report has ranked as #1 in Best North Carolina Hotels.

Ayr Mount (Hillsborough, NC)

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There’s a big world out there, and sometimes you don’t have to venture too far from home to encounter something new in it. All that might be required is a slight detour; such as the one I took today after church to flee the I-40 bustle.

I took the Hillsborough exit (261), which promised a laidback route through one of North Carolina’s oldest towns. The historic borough was abuzz with activity near the River Walk and local restaurants. A brown sign for Ayr Mount that I’d never noticed before caught my eye. Intrigued by the name, I followed it. (Note to reader: If a sign said, “Jump off this bridge,” I probably would not follow it.)

I parked in a gravel lot. As I surveyed graceful, weeping trees and acres and acres (about 60 to be exact) of meadows, woodlands and gardens surrounding a brick plantation house, I wondered how I had lived in the general vicinity for eleven years and not known that this place existed.

Let me say this now in case I forget later: Anyone can walk around Ayr Mount or sit on the grounds any time they want to! Well, at least until closing, which today was 6pm. (There is a $12 fee to tour the house. Parking is free.)

Now for a little history, the rest of which can be found here. Ayr Mount was the home of the Kirkland family, whose patriarch, William Kirkland, immigrated to North Carolina from Ayr, Scotland, in 1789. Despite humble beginnings, William Kirkland became a well-respected merchant, amassing wealth and building Ayr Mount in 1815. The plantation remained in the family until 1985. In 1993, after extensive restoration, the new owner donated the house to the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. Today, thanks to the Trust and those who came before them, Ayr Mount stands representative of early American architecture, culture, and heritage.

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Ayr Mount was built in the Federal style. Its all-brick exterior was rare for the time–most houses in the region were wood frame. I found the rear of the house (shown here) to be just as pretty (prettier?) than the front. The interior, which I did not tour, possesses unique features for the time as well, such as 14-foot ceilings, intricate woodwork, and plasterwork.

A small garden edged the rear of the house. The most vibrant showing this time of year was a profusely laden yellow Angel’s Trumpet bush.

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Beyond the stone patio stretched acres of meadows and woodlands, with views like this one:
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Visitors can either walk through the grass and get their feet nice and wet (like I did) OR the grounds can be seen to their full advantage by traveling Poet’s Walk, which is a one-mile walking trail that loops around the property from the house down to the banks of the Eno River and back.

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Poet’s Walk at Ayr Mount

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Bird houses, plantings, and seats are peppered all along Poet’s Walk. I didn’t go down to the Eno River (which would have made for a nice picture) for fear of totally (as opposed to partially) ruining my good Sunday shoes.

The Kirkland family cemetery is right along Poet’s Walk (and is the first sight seen from the parking lot).

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Generations of Kirklands were laid to rest in the family cemetery on Ary Mount.

In my humble (and arguably morbid) opinion, the cemetery was one of the most striking sights on the property. The trees and plantings, along with the wrought-iron gate and stone perimeter came together to produce a sense of tranquility. Amidst this reminder of the end that we each face (if the LORD tarries), an epitaph rose high with this faithful proclamation: “Resting in hope of a joyful resurrection.” …And hope, believers in Jesus Christ know, does not disappoint.

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