One of the highlights of my mainland trip in October was heading down to North Carolina for 24 hours in Durham to visit my brother-in-law at Duke University. You may remembered he graduated in May from Brown (a full recap of that fun trip here), but he’s getting his master’s at Duke and had one year of NCAA eligibility left so he’s playing soccer again, too! I was especially excited, because in a quick change of events, Dane was able to get a full week off work and meet me in Durham. Here’s a little recap of our whirlwind stay if you’re interested 🙂
I left Harrisburg at o’dark hundred and hopped on a quick flight to Raleigh. I was so excited to see Dane after two weeks away from one another. I know it kind of sounds crazy that two weeks made me miss him when we used to go months, but I guess we’ve just gotten into the swing of civilian life that not seeing one another daily isn’t the norm! Seeing the sunrise from the air is always something I appreciate – it’s a treat to see the glow and know the rest of the world is just waking up down below 🙂
The first stop was to get my some breakfast. I was starving! He took me to the cutest little place Happy + Hale that he had scouted out the previous day walking around with his brother. The avo toast was AMAZING!
After that, we met up with Erik to walk around campus and then through the Sarah P Duke Gardens. It was a slightly overcast day, which made the lighting kind of terrible in these photos, but it was glorious for walking around. Not too hot – YES PLEASE. The campus is so beautiful and all the old architecture kind of took my breath away. We walked inside the famed cathedral on campus and all the stained glass was stunning. I loved all the colors. I can only imagine how pretty it is when the sun is shining and the colors are bouncing around. I wanted to walk further inside to snap more photos of the glass, but of course I had on the loudest heeled boots imaginable and didn’t want to create a stir while others were trying to focus. The gardens are equally gorgeous and I just kept thinking about how pretty a wedding there might be! I think if you walked the entire way around the place it would take a few hours, but the sun was starting to come out, we were all a little hot and Erik had to get ready for his game a little later on.
One of the other highlights of our short trip was being able to check out 21C. For those that don’t know, 21C is a museum hotel concept that fully immerses guests into a museum experience – it’s SO FREAKING COOL! They currently have seven properties open, but a location is opening soon in Kansas City. I had seen the hotel concept on a travel website and when the stars aligned and I would be in the same town as one – I knew we needed to stay there. When they asked me to come and check it out – I was ecstatic! Named a Condé Nast top hotel in the South for 2017, the Durham 21C is a multi-venue contemporary art museum offering more than 10,500 square feet of art-filled exhibition and event space, a full-service boutique hotel with luxurious guest rooms, and home to Counting House restaurant.
It’s a boutique hotel (which I love), so no detail has been forgotten – unique door hangers, a rubber ducky in the shower, velvet couches en suite, chocolates on our pillows and more. The 21C trademark is a fuchsia penguin, so you’ll see them popping up here and there in the following photos. The current exhibition is “The Supernatural”, so a lot of human and animal compilations – some weird, some scary, some so freaking complex but all totally transfixing. It seemed like around every corner there was something new to explore.
I was OBSESSED with the above installation. It’s an American flag made of tiny plastic GI Joe figurines that have been painted. A full explanation from the artist:
Here’s a peek at some of the other exhibitions. The lighting was a little dim to highlight the exhibits, which is why some are so dark, but I hope you think some of these are as cool (and creepily realistic) as I do/did! The hotel itself is a former bank building, so the basement still houses the original bank vault that they’re transformed into a sitting room. It’s SO FREAKING COOL! If I haven’t emphasized that enough yet about this particular location 😉 No one was in there when went downstairs to check it out, so I was a picture taking queen. They even re-did the floor to hundred dollar bill tile, which was a cool touch.
The exhibitions at the hotel change every 6-8 months, so you could stay at the properties a couple times per year and have a completely different experience. I think that’s just half of what makes them so cool! After we had walked through most of the exhibitions, we got ready for Erik’s game. Some of our friends live in NC now, so we were able to grab coffee really quick before we headed to the stadium. It’s so good to see familiar faces in new places! Dane and I also grabbed a quick dinner at one of the most delicious spots of the entire trip – Cosmic Cantina. I was skeptical after seeing them tout themselves as The Best Mexican Food On The Planet, but damn – it was so good. In fact, we ended up going back again after the game with Erik to eat more. It was so freaking delicious and I’m still drooling thinking about their hot chips and guac!
The Duke soccer game and atmosphere was totally different than the ones we went to at Brown, but it was still a fun night, despite it getting pretty chilly as it got later and later.
Duke won, which was exciting! We were exhausted after a pretty whirlwind day so after the game we grabbed a drink with Erik and then called it a night. We had a big drive back to PA the next day. Falling into bed never felt so good! We woke up pretty early the next day since we had about 7 hours of driving ahead of us, but we didn’t head out of town before eating one last meal. Can you tell we are big eaters?! Ha! We went to an adorable little New Orleans-style cafe called Beyu. It was delicious! 10/10 recommend!
After we ate, we peeked into a couple of the shops along the main drag of downtown Durham, but wanted to get a jump on our drive, so headed out of town at exactly the 24 hour mark for me! Of course, we stopped at Bojangles before we headed out of the South and I don’t regret the amount of sugar in this sweet tea for even an instant 😉
Our time in North Carolina was way too short. Dane and I have both spent a good amount of time there in our lives and maybe one day this crazy life of ours will take us there for good – ya never know! We both love it so much. Whew – if you’re still reading – bless you! This was such a special trip for us and I wanted to share all the fun snaps I took and catalog them here for the memory bank.
Have you been to Durham?