As a self-respecting, degree-waving Auburn graduate (’71), I had never met an “RTR” that I could appreciate. My husband and I stepped off the plane in Raleigh/Durham on our first visit and were met with a banner proclaiming: Welcome to RTR – Research Triangle Region. There it was in big letters. No denying it. But, over the next four days, we came to truly admire and enjoy this part of the country with all of its natural beauty, its cultural diversity, its academic excellence, and its culinary offerings.
We were there mainly to visit my cousin Ginger and her husband Reitzel, life-time Athens, AL residents until a couple of years ago when they moved to be near all of their children and grandchildren. Well, “near” as in “outside of a 5-mile radius” as requested by their loving son-in-law. Ha! Thanks to their gracious and thoughtful hospitality and planning we covered a lot of the area and were treated to insightful and enlightening commentary.
The first noticeable difference between Alabama and North Carolina? So Many Trees. The location, too, is great. Two hours to the coast (think Nicholas Sparks’ novels and the Outer Banks) and two hours to the Smoky Mountains. In Raleigh/Durham, there are many rolling hills.
Straight from the airport, we went to the Brightleaf District (referring to the tobacco industry that was the main economic source for many years) and a small, retro-looking cafe called Fishmonger’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar (). Since both of our morning flights were so short they “didn’t have time to get out the beverage cart,” I was dying of thirst. Hallelujah for some cold, sweet tea! The oyster baskets weren’t bad either. 🙂 Conveniently across the street were some tempting shops, of which my favorite was Parker and Otis — a broad selection of specialty foods and unique gifts ( ).
Then we went on to the campus of Duke University. We became Duke fans when our son Matt attended a basketball camp when he was in Junior High School. A very influential Duke player on the team at that time came as a guest that week –yes, Christian Laettner — and Matt was hooked. He came back and requested all kinds of Duke paraphenalia for his already orange and blue bedroom. We started following March Madness. Matt’s dream vehicle became a “Duke-blue Dodge pick-up truck.” You get the idea. Thank goodness, he never actually asked us if he could ATTEND Duke University. We learned last week that tuition is now $60,000 PER YEAR, and I’m sure it would have been almost as prohibitive in the mid-to-late ’90’s. All that to say that Steve and I felt a little bit as if we were walking on hallowed ground when we toured Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Duke University Chapel, the campus bookstore, etc.
The next day we drove through the University of North Carolina campus, and the day after that we saw North Carolina State. It’s a good thing the rivalries between these three schools are respectful and friendly. With such close proximity, things could get downright dangerous! On another plus side, my cousin and her family are in a great spot if they encounter health issues. The medical facilities at these universities are world-class.
Very popular restaurants that we tried and would highly recommend are:
- Foster’s Market — The website alone will have you drooling. http://www.fostersmarket.com/
- Bleu Olive Bistro — We went for Sunday Brunch, but anytime would be delicious. http://www.bleuolivebistro.com/
- The Q Shack — If a person can gain weight by smelling, then this is where it would happen. OH. MY. http://www.theqshackoriginal.com/ Not fancy, but so, so good.
- Dame’s Chicken and Waffles — http://www.dameschickenwaffles.com/ Choose your preferred type of waffles from Classic, Sweet Potato, Gingerbread, Fresh Blueberry or Vegan. Then choose your favorite “Shmear.” Some of the options are Strawberry-Creme, Chocolate Hazelnut, Orange-Honeycomb, etc. Go and taste a shmear, and you’ll understand why they matter.