Cocktails at UNC's Carolina Inn: Spooky Dragon Eye Martini

Halloween Cocktail, The Dragon Eye Martini from the Carolina Inn
Make the Dragon Eye Martini at home
The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, North Carolina turns 90 this year. There's a lot of history within those walls. I love to go to the Carolina Inn just because it feels so Southern. I was there last week for the special Aviator Brewery Dinner, which was a lot of fun. I was told that they will start to have more beer dinners so I'll keep you posted on that.

Southern Hotel, The Carolina Inn, Southern porches
Love a Southern porch. Who's that handsome man in a Carolina Blue shirt? I claim one. Look, both men are checking email or the weather. 

Hmmm, the Inn is reported to be haunted, too. I've been told that Dr. Jacocks is quite the friendly ghost. Personally, I don't care to find out. Here's some advice if you get spooked easily, don't ask for room 256 because you may not be alone. Dr. Jacocks, the Inn's beloved ghost, loves to lock guests out of their room. You see, he lived at the Inn for 17 years after his retirement. I don't blame him. I like room service, too.

The Carolina Inn has fun with this story. It serves a special Halloween dinner every year, and even offers guests special spooky overnight packages. The cocktail to order this year is the The Dragon Eye. 

If you can't get to the Carolina Inn this year, you can make this at home.

Festive martinis

The Carolina Inn's The Dragon Eye Cocktail 

·         1 oz. Malibu Rum
·         1 oz. Midori
·         Splash of Roses Grenadine
·         Topped with OJ ( shaken and served Martini style )

Eyeball is lychee, blueberry and red jam.

the lobby at the Carolina Inn, Pops of color with Lilly Pulitzer
Yes, those pillows are Lilly Pulitzer

And if you go, check out this great mirror and table in the lobby bathroom. I really like it. 

pops of color with hot pink at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Carolina Inn completed a renovation last year. I love the bathrooms near the Fairview Dining Room. 

Want to Go:
211 Pittsboro Street
Chapel Hill, N.C. 


Southern Chat: Study Says Americans Don't Use Their Vacation Days

When I worked full-time, I was always taking vacation days. I used to take so much vacation that I had to make up time. I always wanted to travel. And if I didn't travel then I wanted to sit in front of the television, and binge watch "Sex and the City." I did not have any problems taking a vacation day at all. 

Senigallia, Italy. Adriatic Sea.
I snapped this photo in Senigallia, Italy on a recent press trip. I live for travel. 

I received a news release this week on vacation deals, and something jumped out at me. I couldn't believe it. 

In a study released by The U.S. Travel Association, it revealed that Americans are taking less vacations than at any point in the last four decades. It stated that the U.S. workforce forfeits $52.4 billion in time off benefits annually

“If this trend continues, the vacations of our childhoods could be a thing of the past—completely unknown by the next generation. That would be a true loss for our families and our country,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

under water in the caribbean.
Many travel companies such as OnBoard.com are putting together holiday packages so Americans will use up their vacation days. I just got a flyer for a Disney Cruise this week. They must know I'm itching to take one, and someone has been reading my internet browsers. 

You can read the news release , but as a person who loves to travel and take time off, I find this news disturbing. I cannot imagine not taking vacation days if I worked in a traditional office setting. 

My husband works a lot, but then I make him take time away from the office for my writing, but he makes up the time on the weekends when we return home. He likes to use any time that he may left over to take time off at the holidays. He gets only two paid vacation weeks a year, but he gets a lot flexibility. Two weeks of paid vacation is not really a lot of vacation days. Are companies these days giving workers more vacation time as compensation, but are employees too busy to actually take the vacation? 

The Hines on the road 
In an interesting news twist, luxury travelers are definitely taking vacation and for longer periods of time. Luxury Retreats, a world renowned luxury vacation rental provider, with a portfolio of beautiful luxury properties ranging from $700 to $16,000 per night report that the average length of stay for vacationers has increased by as much as 60% between the holiday travel season of 2012 and this year. 

luxury retreats villa in Tuscany, luxury rentals in Tuscany
Hello, Tuscany! I think I would be very happy here. This is a six-bedroom villa and it rents from $721 to $1,063 per night from Luxury Retreats. Now, I could save up for this one. Now through March is when you get the BEST rates on this villa. Italy for the holidays, anyone? 

In the report,  Florida Gulf Coast vacationers stayed on average 7 nights in 2012, whereas this year the average stay is 12 nights. This trend has continued in other regions as well including Europe, Caribbean, and other U.S. destinations.   And luxury travelers like to take more exotic vacations. Popular holiday vacations for this year are as follows: Barbados, St. Martin, Big Island and  Maui in Hawaii, Riviera Maya and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, Koh Sumai and Phuket, islands of Thailand, and Costa Rica and Belize in Central America. 

Barbados vacation villa
Barbados is a hot destination for the holiday according to Luxury Retreats. This 3-bedroom villa in its portfolio rents for $500 per night from April to mid-December. It doubles in price from December to April. They key in staying in luxury properties for those who may need to save up for this traveling style is to not go during the peak season. 

With properties like these in its portfolio then I don't think I would ever want to leave if I checked-in.  Maybe people work all year then take December off. 

French Alps Chalet Home
This gorgeous 7-bedroom chalet rents at Luxury Retreats  from $9,998 to $16,326 per night. 

No wonder someone booked a property in the French Alps for 139 nights. This chalet is just DREAMY, but not realistic travel for me. 

So, what about you? Do you use your vacation days? This Ritz-Carlton Club villa is calling my name in St. Thomas. It's moving to the top of the list for me. This would be like the best of a hotel with more space. 

villa in St. Thomas, Ritz-Carlton Club  Residence via Luxury Retreats.
Ritz-Carlton, I love you. I fell for you in my teens, and have never gotten over my crush. I'll be dreaming about this residence now until I go. 

Disclosure: I have nothing to disclose here except I think Americans should take their vacation days. I hope this post will motivate you to check out of the office, and into a hotel or villa. 


Washington Duke Inn in Durham, N.C. Ranks Tops for Afternoon Tea says the Tea Lady

I don't like to call myself an expert on afternoon tea, but I get around when it comes to afternoon tea service. It's kind of the thing that I like to do during my travels.

places to have afternoon tea in N.C., afternoon tea at Washington Duke Inn in Durham, N.C.

I make my husband and children partake in it, too. In the past year, we've had tea as a family at The Jefferson Hotel and The Primland  Resort in Virginia,  as well as the Jekyll Island Club in Georgia. We've had tea at the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte and I have had tea at The Umstead in Cary, The Carolina Inn, the Ritz in Paris, The Fearrington House Inn, and at the Empress in Victoria, British Columbia. It's fairly clear. I like afternoon tea.

I've not had tea in every hotel that offers afternoon tea in North Carolina so until that happens, I'm not going on record saying that the Washington Duke has the best afternoon tea service in my home state, but I will publicly declare that the Washington Duke Inn is my favorite place for a traditional English style afternoon tea.

places to have afternoon tea in N.C., afternoon tea at Washington Duke Inn in Durham, N.C., tea sandwiches

Here's why. I'm a tea sandwich and scones kind of girl. Scones and tea sandwiches are my favorite things about having afternoon tea. I am traditional with my tea selection, too. I like black teas served with cream and sugar. I rarely indulge in sweets in afternoon tea, either nor do I chose green teas.  My children love the sweets, but if someone offers me a cucumber sandwich and a scone, I promise you, I will choose those items every time over the sweet offerings.

best place to get scones in N.C, scones, afternoon tea, Durham, N.C, Washington Duke Inn.

The Washington Duke Inn has great scones and sandwiches. They have great sweets, too for its tea service, but I'm always too full on Devonshire cream and strawberry preserves to take a bite.

Constance Lue, the Tea Lady of N.C.

On my last visit to the Inn, I was introduced to a true tea expert. For the media, the hotel had Constance Lue,founder of the Old North State Tea Society, as special guest. She's like a living encyclopedia for tea facts. She likes Darjeeling tea, and she tells me that if you purchase tea from a grocery store then "darling, you aren't drinking tea!"

She loves scones as much as me, and she said, "if a hotel tells me they make their own clotted cream then I know it's not true clotted cream and is probably not very good. Devonshire is the only place that makes true clotted cream." She says there is a lady in N.C. that is originally from Devonshire, England and she can make good clotted cream, but she's about the only person that can get that homemade clotted cream pass from the tea lady.

Afternoon tea is a very social meal. Ms. Lue taught us to break up our scones into tiny bites, and put cream and jam on every bite.

Savory and Sweet tea bites, places for afternoon tea, Washington Duke Inn,

Ms. Lue adds that the Washington Duke Inn is one of her favorite places for afternoon tea, and she hosts the annual Old North Tea Society tea at the Inn every year. I think she agrees with me on my assessment of the Inn's tea. She says the desserts are an important part of the afternoon tea process, too and the Washington Duke Inn balances its offerings of savory and sweet perfectly. I think that is what I like about the hotel's tea service, too. Some hotel teas that I've attended for tea like to showcase the desserts more than than the scones and sandwich bites. I have enjoyed those teas, but I prefer the traditional English style. Honestly, some days I would be fine with just scones and tea, which is called a cream tea and is hard to find in North Carolina.

afternoon tea at Washington Duke Inn

I adored meeting Constance Lue, and her travel companion. They live in Oxford, N.C.  Ms. Lue teaches tea etiquette at the local community college to young students.

Personally, I think partaking in afternoon tea is something that every young person should do, and it's a favorite activity of my children now.  It's something I hope they will do with their children one day. I took my son to Washington Duke Inn for tea when he was just seven, and my daughter has yet to have tea there which I need to make happen.

 I love the fact that Washington Duke serves tea in the Fairview Dining Room. A lot of hotels serve afternoon tea in the lobby, and that can be a little distracting, if the lobby is busy.

afternoon tea places for kids in N.C.

And who knows, maybe in 30 years, I can become North Carolina's new tea lady. Right now, we have a wonderful reigning queen, and she is a delight.

The Washington Duke Inn serves afternoon tea daily during the holidays. For more on the Inn's tea service visit the dining page for the Fairview Dining Room.  Reservations for tea are required. The Inn will make a special menu for the children's tea.

Want to Go:
Washington Duke Inn 
3001 Cameron Blvd
Durham, N.C.

Disclosure: My opinions can't be bought about my luxury hotels and afternoon tea. My opinion of afternoon tea at the Washington Duke Inn comes from being both a guest who has paid and also as a member of the media. This story was made possible by a recent complimentary media event and I'm so glad they invited Constance Lue to be the guest speaker. I learned so much from her, and it will always be a great memory of mine. 


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