Saturday, April 14, 2012


When we first arrived in Durham in 1981 it was a very different place from the Durham of  today.  The university has long had an affect on it, but tobacco had a bigger one for most of the 20th C. It was still a sleepy, southern town.   Ninth Street's biggest store sold hardware and farm tools.  The street had a bit of a scrubby, run down air to it.  The only sign that things were  begining to change was  the arrival of Ninth Street Bakery which was a bit like an oasis in the desert.  Slowly over the next few years new stores began to open. 

A restaurant called Anotherthyme opened (I think I remember that correctly and I think that's the spelling).  It was rather health-food-y/hippy-ish serving brown rice and over using soy sauce on the healthy steamed vegies.  Then a lovely little health food grocery store opened - Wellspring - which was decidedly better, having wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables and a great cheese section.  In time Wellspring grew, opened several new stores in the area and was eventually bought by Whole Foods.

Now Ninth Street seems to be totally given over to restaurants catering to the university crowd along with a  few other interesting shops.  There is a book store and another store with an interesting mix of women's clothing, shoes, high end knitting yarn and interesting knick-knacks.  Good old Bruegger's Bagels, one of the earlier shops to open since the 80's is still there.  And, of course, Brightleaf Square is still there and a few more tobacco warehouses have been turned into apartments.


This visit, however, I was bowled over by the changes in the main part of "downtown".  This is the section that is reached by heading down main street, past Brightleaf Square and over the rail road tracks.  I don't remember going into this area of town at all during the 1980's except to go to the main post office which is still there.

Quite a stately building, but there wasn't much else around it.  There was the towering CCB building (Central Carolina Bank), now owned by Sun Trust Bank and I seem to remember a Woolworth's, but that has been long out of business.  There was a not very interesting book store and a furniture store, but nothing else to make one cross the RR tracks.

We have also stayed in-town at the Durham Marriott on occasion.  The first few times it was rather down-at-heels, but it has been nicely renovated recently.

It has been a few years since staying at that Marriott, so quite a few years since I saw the down-town and WOW! what a difference I saw on this trip!

Like elves at work while I was sleeping, someone has been really transforming this area!  There are a number of lovely, square-like areas with trees and benches.  There are also so many more shops and restaurants.

I love the name of this one.
 Hard to see, but it's "Toast" and they sell Italian sandwiches and have tables outside.  There was also a great bakery called "Loaf" with some of the best bread that I've had outside the Bay area.

Here's a cafe/bar we stopped into for tea.

And the biggest surprise was how "hopping" it was!  It was Saturday afternoon and the place was packed with people sitting in groups, talking, using the wifi, eating cake.  Just a few years ago the streets would have been mostly deserted during the weekend.  This time there were people everywhere and this was not the only cafe open and serving.

A bit hard to see, but there are a number of tables filled with people relaxing on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

It was wonderful to see! Many of the old buildings are very charming and really worth the effort of restoring and putting to good use. There is still a way to go, and it is unclear if all the improvements will pay out and keep customers coming back, but it looked very promising.

Here is a picture of the front of "Loaf" where we bought bread, sandwiches and a  wonderful pastry. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Sunday in Durham

On Sunday we joined the throngs heading into Sarah P. Duke Gardens for Easter Mass.

The parking lots were totally full, but fortunately Chris had told us the day before that there are no parking patrol people out on the weekend.  So when we found a safe illegal spot in front of a garbage can, we took it!  And then began the walk into the gardens.

Spring is just arriving in Durham and everything was looking so pretty.

I didn't get any pictures of the field where Mass was, but there was a very large crowd.  Afterward we went to the Washington Duke Inn.  We had already been there for breakfast and were not interested in the big Easter Brunch they were having all afternoon, but they were serving lunch in the Bull Durham Bar so we ate outside which was just about perfect.  It was pleasantly warm and sunny and we sat in the shade.

Then we started the long drive home, which went quite well despite some extra holiday weekend traffic.  In closing, here is a picture of the peach water tower in Gaffney SC.

One more, which I realize looks a bit like something other than a peach!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Wrightsville Beach

I've been so slow getting this post done, mostly because of the bad internet connection, but I think I can finally do this!

The house was quite charming, older, but nicely done and made a very good first impression.

Dad and Matt got in one day of really good wave riding.

They are the two little dots in the water.

We did some reading on the beach which was surprisingly crowded for a cool-ish day in April.  Chris pointed out that UC Wilmington is very close by and that many on the beach were probably students.  As a result, we did have to listen to some bad music from the group behind us. :-)
And we wandered around Wings, the Wrightsville Beach store.