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. 


Gradara, Italy: The Photo that Almost Didn't Happen

I'm back from a whirlwind press trip to the Le Marche area of Italy. I spent three days attending the TBDItaly conference in Rimini then spent two days in the Marche region touring the coastal area with four other travel bloggers.

Now that I'm back in North Carolina, I'm asking myself, "Where do I begin my Italian story?" Do I start with how my plane broke down on the runway and I had to be redirected from Munich to Bologna via Venice causing me to miss an entire night in the village of Cesenatico.

Yeah, I'll get to all of that and so much more, but instead I've decided to start my trip with this photo of Gradara, Italy.

I'm calling this the Photo that Almost Didn't Happen! 

Gradara, Italy, Castles, Medieval fortress, small towns in Le Marche
Beautiful and charming Gradara, Italy 
Gradara, Italy was not on our scheduled press stop. We had a tight agenda. We were in the National Park San Bartolo, and our eyes kept glancing toward a beautiful medieval fortress on the hilltop. We kept asking questions about the castle upon leaving the park, and we finally wore our tourism guide down by saying, "You know we love castles in America."

Since Gradara was our host's hometown, she decided to let us have 30 minutes to walk around the castle. We were so grateful for this privilege.

I fell in love with this town, and it probably made one of the biggest impression on me during this trip.

I'll share more of my photos soon, but be sure to glance at my Instagram account and Facebook page for more photos from my trip.

This map shows you the location of the Marche area in Italy. In my opinion, this area is an undiscovered jewel for tourism, When you travel to the Le Marche area, I believe you get a very authentic experience unlike other popular areas where tourists line the streets.

Photo from www.mapsofworld.com

For more information on the Italian town of Gradara, visit the Region Marche official tourism site

Disclosure: I was honored to be a TBDItaly Top 100 Blogger, and my visit to Italy was fully-hosted by #TBDI2014. It was a priceless experience, and my opinions about this trip are my own. 


Travel in Style: The Dovecote Style Team's Tips for Packing Light

I am on a mission. I plan to to arrive in Rimini,Italy on Wednesday afternoon with just one carry-on suitcase, and my Tory Burch travel tote that will moonlight as my purse on my flights. I'm arriving to Bologna, Italy from North Carolina for Travel Blogger Destination: Italy via four flights. I'm not taking ANY chances that my luggage will get lost by checking my bag.

I asked the Dovecote style team in Fearrington Village to help me pack, and get ready for this trip, which will bring together thousands of bloggers throughout the world. Fashion is certainly not my area of expertise. I like clothes and  I love home decor. However, I don't have an eye for those things to come up with my own ideas, but I know what I like.

My everyday style is simple. I do, however, have a weakness for two things when it comes to fashion. I like high-end designer purses, and artistic jewelry. My very first purse purchase was Gucci when I was 13 years of age. And you're not going to believe this, but my vintage Gucci will be used as a clutch for several cocktail parties scheduled for this trip, a good 32 years later. The vintage Gucci is definitely making it in the suitcase and if I'm lucky, a new Gucci wallet will also follow me home.

When I arrived at Dovecote  a few weeks ago, I met with lead stylist Marta Knezevic and her team. Marta, originally from Poland, is absolutely gorgeous and I took one look at her and said, "I want to dress like you."

She's been a personal shopper for celebrities and has worked in some of the most high-end boutiques in Darien, Connecticut. Being a stylist for a boutique adjacent to one of the most prestigious five-star inns in the country, The Fearrington House Inn, Marta knows how travelers like to pack, and how comfort and versatility are just as important as looking stylish for frequent travelers.

She styled me for my body type, which has changed since I've become 45. My waist is no longer tiny, and my hips no longer look as curvy as they did when I had a small waist. If you want to talk about fruit, I've gone from a pear to an apple. Marta says that my legs are skinny and should be a good asset to my style. As a result, tunics and statement necklaces work really well for me and my new mid-forties shape.

We had fun generating outfits that centered around a basic skinny black pant by the Equestrian brand. The pants they styled me in work well with flats and heels, but not tall boots.

"One has to wear boots with a tighter fit in the leg than these pants or it will just look sloppy," exclaimed Marta.

The Equestrian is a pant that travels well. It's also extremely comfortable, and fits all body shapes. I fell in love.

"We have loads of styles of Equestrian brand pants here in the shop, made for the long-legged and lean (the Keesha), the apple-shaped (the Ellie), or anyone in between (the Milo or the Deonna legging).The beauty of these pants is they look fantastic with ballet flats, kitten heels and boots. Their stretchy slim cuts allow for comfort and versatility. Why do I love them? They are classic, comfortable and chic – what more could you ask for in a pant?" remarked Marta

Once you find the right look for you then you can change the look of the outfit with a scarf or a necklace for variety. 

This is what helps you pack light. You pack a few basics, and rely on accessories for different looks.

Packing light is as easy as 1-2-3 says Marta. "Pick your perfect P. Taylor shirt (available in gorgeous colors this season such as a blush-nude and a perfect purple), pair it with your favorite Equestrian pant, and top with accessories. The accessories are key to making the ensemble look fresh and new. We love a Suzi Roher scarf with colors and patterns to match every outfit. If you prefer jewels, use necklaces as your accent piece. Remember that your body style should be considered when choosing your style of necklace. Or, cinch your P. Taylor shirt with a belt and add a statement bag. A statement bag is an easy way to make any outfit pop, whether a casual suede tote from Nashville designer Ceri Hoover or an exquisite beaded clutch from Sondra Roberts in New York."

I truly love the color blue. I chose the above outfit (a cashmere Magaschoni sweater, Equestrian brown legging) styled with both the Ann Lightfoot necklace and the Tilo scarf because I felt the best in this look. I am not really the type that keeps up with the fashion trends so I tend to wear what I like and what makes me feel most comfortable. However, as a former news journalist, I had to ask Marta the question that I'm sure you would all like to know. 

So what's HOT for fall and winter this year in terms of fashion?

According to Marta, "As for colors, mustard is all the rage (and made accessible in pants, where the color is not too close to the face), classic navy, grays ranging from a soft dove to a darker charcoal, and eggplant purple or Bordeaux. Think navy and gray for your neutral base and add a pop of color with the mustard or eggplant."

"Moving on to must-have pieces for your Fall collection. Capes, capes, capes! We feel like superheroes here in the boutique because we carry so many capes. We love them draped over the shoulders to keep warm during a fall football game and equally wrapped around the neck cozying next to a campfire. Boots are always in -- from the tall riding styles to cute booties that look great with both leggings and dresses. And, of course, leather. To us, leather is synonymous with fall and this year is no exception. Rather than just the standard leather jacket, we also have leggings from Anarkh, painted leather from Marc A Dolci, and the most incredible leather DRESS (yes, dress!) – it is simply stunning."

The Dovecote team helped me find my style for Italy, but the team can help any customer find the perfect outfit for any occasion. No appointments are necessary, and the style team works daily. I highly recommend their expertise. I also decided to invest in the basic black Ellie pant for my wardrobe. I came home, got rid of some closet clutter, and found about six tops that were brought back to life because of the new black pants and brown leggings. The orphan tops in my closet just needed to be paired with the right pants with the right fit. I have the perfect combination now. 

Great Packing Tip from Dovecote Style:

And when packing Marta says to roll everything like she did above with my sweater. Your suitcase will hold a lot more and the apparel will have less wrinkles. 

When in Fearrington Village, also take time to visit the Goat,too.  Great muffins and coffee. And don't forget the spa in the village.  It's one of my favorite spas for a pedicure in the triangle. 

My thanks to TBD Italy for selecting me as a fully-hosted travel blogger for this visit and for Dovecote in Fearrington Village for helping sponsor this trip and post. I think I can fly to Italy now feeling a little more stylish. 

Want to visit:
Fearrington Village
Pittsboro, N.C.


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