Tag Archives: Duke Gardens

Not just Bull Durham anymore

We spent a quick 48 hours in Durham, North Carolina this past weekend. There’s alot to do in a small space and time.

Here’s a recap of our experiences and our recommendations for your next visit to Durham.

First, make note of RDU. That is the acronym for Raleigh – Durham airport. Delta and Southwest are both main carriers that fly in and out of the Raleigh Durham Triangle area daily. In fact, we had direct flights on smaller planes through Delta at a very affordable rate.

RDU is small and concise airport. It has two terminals and you can easily navigate them quickly and efficiently.  Everyone from TSA to the Starbucks team are friendly, representing true Southern hospitality. No need to run through here. You can see from one end of the terminal to the other. You’d have a hard time missing your gate a RDU.


Since we’re from Detroit, and I spent quite a bit of time marketing the Ford Mustang, Avis rental car was more than happy to rent us a bright cherry red new 3.8 Liter. Good thing they didn’t give us a 5.0! We had a hard enough time not putting the pedal down on the smaller engine. Avis is a short seven minute bus ride away from the terminal. The staff was friendly and very easy to deal with. They had us in and out and well on our way before we could say “Ford Mustang”.

Once we were there and settled in the vehicle, waze help direct us out to where our family lives. After a nice light breakfast together, Jake and I hopped back in the car to check out the area. Armed with a great list of things to do, we tried to pack in as much as possible.

Our first stop was the Duke Gardens at Duke University. When I was in Junior High, I was a huge fan of the Duke basketball team and Coach K. (Sorry to hear they lost the game this past Saturday.)

It was great to walk around the Gardens, view the foliage, watch the ducks on the pond.

Once you walk through the gardens, you can easily get to the Quad on campus and also see the Duke University Chapel. Now mind you, I did not find this to be a chapel at all. In my opinion, it was not small or chapel like. In fact, it’s a very European style Gothic cathedral. When you look up at the ceiling, it has large soaring arches down the center aisle above the pews. It also contains absolutely fabulous works of stain glass, adorned with small details including descriptions in the glass that look just like hand writing within the actual glass. Each pane has a description of which biblical verse the artwork is representing.

Also on display, was a great set of more contemporary art work by Sadao Watanabe (1913-1996).  His was a Buddhist, but transitioned to Christianity. His artform was a native Japanese-style stencil art that was formally used to dye kimonos. His goal was to communicate Christian beliefs to Japanese through artwork that they understood and were more familiar with.

Sadao Watanabe Permanent workation art artist duke university chapel

We spent quite a bit of time oogling at the ceiling, artworks and the construction that reminded us a lot of Europe, however needed to wander back to our car.

Along the way, we saw some amazing installations of the human form interpreted through wood and twigs. We took several photographs inside the sculptures to represent the size of the artwork in comparison to a person. (For reference, I’m about 5′ 9″.)

Fantastic, fun and interactive, that’s exactly what sculptures and art should be. Museums of the world, take note, we humans want to participate in art! We want to feel it touch it and be surrounded by it… Not just see it hung on a wall from a distance.

After our wander about the gardens, we hopped in the car and drove over to Ninth Street. It’s a quaint shopping and dining strip near the town. We checked out a small shop called Vintage Home South. The owner has an interesting offering. She collects older furniture and refinishes it. VHS gives the pieces a whole new look and feel. A more modern southern shabby chic with light shades reflecting the current home trends. She has beautiful mirrors made out of former doorways, denim sofas, and lots of other small items for your home. I could have easily brought a few things home. Too bad everything I loved would not fit in my suitcase.

Of course, around the corner, Guitar Jake found High Strung. High Strung specializes in vintage violin, cello, and guitar sales and lessons. We went in to check out the Laravees on display and meet some new musicians. A very friendly bunch over there with lots of talented folks. They’re also offering ukulele lessons these days, just like our friend, Chris Brantley, very popular and fun.

We decided that we would need to move on to Downtown Durham in order to see what’s going on in the small city. We drove by their baseball stadium, that is home to the minor-league team, the Durham Bulls. You may remember the film, Bull Durham from the late 1980’s. This film was indeed shot in Durham, North Carolina, downtown and the surrounding areas. Very fun to see the stadium. Unfortunately, the weather in January was not friendly to a live baseball game.

Just a couple of blocks away from the stadium, we found a great joint serving multiple flavors of ciders. Recently, due to some auto immune complications, Jake has gone gluten-free. I know, you’re all surprised because we have historically loved our micro breweries. Health must come first. We were excited to find a local place that brews only cider.

Bull City Ciderworks has more than 15 flavors of cider on draft incorporating varying degrees of sweetness, dry, savory, vegatable and fruity flavors. I overheard lots of folks say, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m into cider.” Once they tasted a few of the samples, they were hooked.

Jake and I appreciated the affordable flights you could get with either four or five different options of flavors. We tried not to duplicate our flavors so we could share as many as possible. We did end up leaving with a six pack of their Rhize Up and the Orange you a Hippie bottled versions of their cider. We highly recommend Bull City Ciderworks when you’re in Durham.

Then there is Picnic… BBQ Hog Heaven!

I can’t say enough nice things about the food and the people there. Wyatt, the pitmaster, happened to be a lawyer in the past and gave it all up to pursue his hog heaven dreams of having authentic great pork barbecue.

Now what does that mean? Wyatt has had giant smokers built where he can have four full size sides of hogs smoking at the same time in each smoker. Wyatt also sources these hogs through his partner locally. Although he didn’t say they were “happier than pigs in shit”, I did get him when he told us his hogs live on an actual farm with acreage. The hogs get to forage around in the woods like their ancestors of the past. Because of this partnership, his meat is lean and extremely flavorful. Trust me when I say Picnic is well worth the stop if you’re ever in Durham and want some barbecue.

Northerners, take note, they have vinegar based bbq sauce in the Carolinas.

Hope you have the opportunity to visit Durham, NC sometime in the near future.