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My Trip To Winston-Salem

I had the honor and privilege of touring Winston-Salem last week as a guest of the Visit Winston-Salem. Since I had never been to the area, it was an exciting invitation, and  I knew little about the city except for the tobacco connections and was open to adventure. I received my itinerary, packed for three nights and four days, and headed north. 

To prepare for my trip, I read up on R.J. Reynolds.  I knew he had a wife and four children.  I knew they built a fabulous "farm" outside the city in the early 1900s, and his legacy was stamped all over town.  I did not know that I should have been researching his wife, Katharine, as she was the powerhouse for the estate, the way he ran his business, and the changes in his office and their lives.  So, if you go, you must research both as they had a very progressive marriage, and her education and ideas can be seen in every facet of the business and their home. 

Once checking in to the darling Indigo hotel, our first stop was dinner and drinks at The Katharine Brasserie & Bar on the first floor of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel.  The Kimpton is located in the original offices of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.  The building is the architectural muse for the Empire State Building and is considered the father of the one in New York City.  I have a blog post dedicated to my hotel tour, as it was incredible.  The inside of the building in the lobby in front of the elevators will make you feel as if you are inside the Empire State Building heading to the top.  I could not get over the similarities and the little details preserved.  As I stated, I have a whole post coming, but if you are in the area, you must pop in for drinks and dinner at The Katharine Brasserie and then take some time to really walk the lobby and take it all in. 

The Katharine Brasserie is incredibly charming, and the food was delicious. With the décor and feel of a grand French café, the space is endearing, and the sight of the open kitchen transports you to a small corner café in France.  I did not learn until later that Katharine Reynolds studied French cooking, and the menu and vibe reflect her love of French food. We began our meal with an Old Fashioned after choosing from their extensive selection of Old Fashioned cocktails. I decided on the Nearest, and my friend Nicole chose the Campfire, and we both were thrilled with our selections.  Having spotted dessert nearby, we decided to go light on the meal to enjoy two desserts, so we both had the French Onion soup (the best I have eaten) and split the Poached Shrimp Cocktail and the charcuterie plate. My second choice for an appetizer was the oysters on the half shell, and when I return, I will be ordering; they looked incredible. We chose two for dessert, as planned, and I had the Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee, and Nicole chose the Pot de Crème and left nothing behind.  Every single bite of our dinner was better than the last.  I can not recommend this choice enough.  After dinner, we walked the block back to our hotel, Hotel Indigo, and enjoyed the crisp air and the promise of a good night's rest. Hotel Indigo is another fascinating property formerly known as the Pepper Building.  I love that so much of the city's history has been restored and buildings have been revitalized. Walking into the hotel each evening, you can just feel the warmth and presence of the history it still holds. 

The following day it was raining, but after more than one cup of coffee, we headed to Reynolda for a property tour, including the extensive garden, the home and museum, and the village and restaurants. It was here we learned of the life, strength, and legacy that is Katharine Reynolds. Reynolda, the masculine form of Reynolds, was once one property and the brainchild of the wife of the great R.J. As we were told repeatedly, she was progressive, a forward thinker, and fought for the women and the community she served. The entire estate consists of the 1917 estate for the family, a substantial garden, and everything they needed to survive.  Since the estate was in the country then, Katharine ensured they were supplied with every business they needed.  The village, modeled after an English village, included dairy barns, a post office, a blacksmith, a carriage house, a cattle shed, a school, a central power and heating plant, along with homes for the driver, the chauffeur and stenographer, the village’s schoolmaster and the farm’s head dairyman and horticulturist. Once you step on the property, they never have to leave. 

We started in the village with lunch at Theodore's, which was just as charming as delicious. Everything we ordered and saw everyone else eat was incredible; I don't think you could go wrong with anything. After lunch, we toured the gardens and were treated to a tour of the greenhouse and the vast gardens, consisting of both an upper and lower space.  Listening to the master gardener, our tour guide, speaks of how forward-thinking Katharine was blown me away.  He has transformed the gardens and replaced plants that no longer thrive with varieties and new plants that do while considering how she would have modernized the space if she was still in charge.  The greenhouse is a 1913 - Lord and Burnham purchased it as a kit with add-ons from a catalog.  After arriving, the curved glass greenhouse would have been assembled and still stands today as one of just a few in the United States.   

After the greenhouse and garden tour, we headed to the main house for a guided tour of the home and the incredible collection of American art it houses.  The place alone is breathtaking and decorated much as it was then.  The house was another of Katharine's projects as she worked with the architect and builder to ensure it was exactly what she wanted.  Each bedroom had a sleeping porch and its own bathroom, which was unheard of then. The vast white house with an iconic green roof is a true sight of beauty that will stun you when it catches your eye as you enter the property.  I would plan an entire afternoon to visit the whole property as you will need time to eat at Theodore's, of course, tour, shop in the village, and grab some coffee and homemade donuts before you leave at Dough Joes. Don't skip a shop or a building as they each tell the story of this incredible family, the home's history, and its commitment to the community, then and now. 

Dinner this evening was in the Coal Pit area of downtown at Six Hundred Degrees. The restaurant is new to the site and is nestled between the iconic smokestacks of Reynolds Tobacco Co. Both Nicole and I enjoyed our meals, and the drinks were delicious.  We again started with an Old Fashioned and the Cheddar Potato Frico, which was absolutely divine.  I love anything that combines potatoes and cheese, so that option had me at the title. I ordered the Risotto with salmon and absolutely loved it, and Nicole chose the trout and felt the same.  Our meal finished with a giant chocolate chip cookie served in a skillet with ice cream.  I know that description is simple, but it is all you need to know.  It was divine. 

This is an excellent choice if you are looking for a great meal.  Neither Nicole nor I loved the lighting or the music, but I would absolutely go again, and if they tweak both of those things, it will earn that extra star from me.  Also, do not skip the pull-apart bread with your appetizer.  Holy delicious. 

The next day we headed out on a Segway tour of the city, Old Salem, and downtown with Triad Eco Adventure.  I was pretty nervous about riding a Segway, but after a few minutes, I found I loved it and never wanted to take a city another way.  They are fun to ride and easy to master, and we zipped around the city, the parks, the many sections of town, and back to drop them off in just about two hours.  After tasting Old Salem, Nicole and I grabbed lunch at Muddy Creek Café and met our tour guide at the unbelievable MESDA museum. This museum is not to be missed, filled with incredible examples of early southern decorative arts. You will be amazed at the displays they have created and the wallpapers, paints, and pieces available for viewing.  It is truly unbelievable

Old Salem is a fascinating experience.  This historical sight is filled with treasures and the stories of the Morovian people who settled in the area in 1766.  As you walk the streets and tour the open buildings, you feel like you are in that area right before our country became what it is. The homes are precious, marked with the dates they were built and their owners. It is absolutely something you need to walk, tour, and enjoy.  We stopped at the bakery and loaded up on sweets, their famous Moravian cookies, and more than one sugar cake. As we left, we drove past God's Acre, the cemetery, and you can't help but feel peace as you see the rolling hills and the stunning land.  This was a must-see for us, and I am glad we took our time and enjoyed it all. 

Be sure to stop to see Salem College, located in the center of Old Salem.  This school was founded in 1772 by the Morovians as a school for girls allowing the girls the same rigorous education that was allotted to the boys.  It was exceptionally progressive for the time, and wonderful to see it still in session as a liberal arts college today. 

Our last evening, we spent watching the sunset outside at Mozelle's. It was the perfect end to a really fantastic trip.  We sipped drinks, ate the freshest and most delicious food of the trip, and tried to take in all we had seen and done.  We both agree the Segway tour was incredible, with learning so much of Winston-Salem's history and the women who worked hard to make things better for others. I highly recommend this spot for sitting outside, enjoying the weather and the setting sun, and just letting yourself unwind.  There is something magical about this place. We stayed long, ate well, and ate an incredible coconut pie. Do not skip the appetizers; we chose the Edamame Hummus and the Fennel fries. I had the tomato pie for dinner, maybe the best I have eaten, and Nicole chose the risotto topped with fried chicken as the server recommended.  We both left very little of our meal.

As we left town the next day, we stopped for coffee and treats at The Powder Room, which is both darling and delicious,  for lavender lattes and mixed berry bread pudding.  This coffee shop is beautiful and fun to start your day in.  If I lived in the area, you would often find me working in a corner. The lavender syrup is made in-house and was precisely what my lavender-loving self desired. The darling girl who met us for coffee described The Powder Room perfectly, "a combination of Allison in Wonderland meets Studio 54".  It is really amazing. 

Stuffed and ready for the day, we stopped into two spots for shopping and learned so much about the woman who owns and runs all three businesses.  The Snob Shop, high-end consignment, and Trouvaille Home are both must-sees.  The owner of all three, Anne Rainey Rokahn, is a master stylist, designer, and curator of all things home, interiors, antiques, and resale.  My favorite tidbit about her ... she opened her own coffee shop so she wouldn't have to leave the area for fantastic coffee. That is definitely my kind of woman. 

I have already told my husband we should go back.  He loves history and would soak it all up with joy in his heart.  I also told my parents they needed to plan a trip as Old Salem and Reynolda would really interest them. My parents love American Art, and the display at Renolda is incredible.  This would also be an excellent trip for friends who love to tour, shop, and eat.  Winstom-Salem is a beautiful community with so much going on.  We skipped out on the beer crawl and the film festival as the time didn't allow it.  Both looked so fun, and I would have loved to take in both with the downtown as lovely as it is. 

All in all, I give this time in W-S five gold stars. 

Some must add-ons for your visit ... 

Louie and Honey's Kitchen - get the cinnamon rolls!!
Fiddle & Fig (shopping)
Elizabeth's at Hanes Park (shopping)
Small Batch - beer and incredible milkshakes that go viral on Instagram

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