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Yes, we all know that CARY is an acronym for “containment area for relocated Yankees,” but I guess the northern invaders needed a nice place to stay?! Or maybe it was the SAS corporation?! Whatever the cause, the Umstead Hotel is world class.

Umstead autumn morning

Umstead autumn morning

Super courteous and warm welcome. Amenity arrival within minutes. Southern hospitality and laughter. Light and grace.

Chocolate? Well some people like that.

Chocolates made in house.

Chocolates made in house.

A bottle of wine and a note balance things out.

Amenity table.  Wine and chocolate.

Amenity table. Wine and chocolate.

Auto upgrade to a lake view room (216) with a balcony. Too bad it gets dark so early these days!

Balcony in the morning.  Nice place to read the WSJ.

Balcony in the morning. Nice place to read the WSJ.


The room is nicely appointed and the design, though a rectangle, is well done.

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From the bathroom.

From the bathroom.

The shower is not plastic in the least.

Not a plastic shower.

Not a plastic shower.

Huge tub for no apparent reason.

Huge tub for no apparent reason.

All told, we’re at five shower heads. Stay here.

Dinner at the nearby An restaurant was delightful. Very good seafood and an excellent and quirky wine list.

Mixology at the Umstead is OK. Very good for a hotel bar, but nothing to write down. The Sazarac experiment was a wash—literally. But the service is excellent if not obsequious. Great place to unwind.

Incredibly great dinner after a long day with students (and two talks, one of which was a surprise) at Poole’s Diner. Wow. Best dinner in NC ever. Simple, but supremely well constructed. And the bar made a fantastic Sazerac. The Sazerac is a difficult drink to make properly:
Ice down a tumbler. In a second glass mix:
1 t simple syrup
3 oz cask strength Rye (Sazarac 18 is a good bet, or Rittenhouse 100)
7 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
Stir down. Empty first glass and rinse with absinthe. Strain mixture into first glass. Express generous lemon slice over glass. See? Easy, but NOT easy at all to do well.

This go ’round at the Cowper is much better than my previous visit. More time to relax; a better room (number 31); some time to visit with Joji.

Here is the spectacular mission style living room where breakfast is served every morning.

Cowper Inn breakfast room high style.

Cowper Inn breakfast room high style.

Room 31.

Room 31.

Room 31.

The non-plastic shower in 31 through a big mirror.

Cowper shower in 31 (needs a new showerhead).

Cowper shower in 31 (needs a new showerhead).

A quest for mixology in Palo Alto was met with very limited success. Downtown has zero mixology as far as I can tell. There are some nice outdoor bars associate with restaurants, but you won’t find concoctions worth noting. Dinner nearby in Menlo Park at Flea Street Cafe was workaday and OK. Their bar makes drinks that are too sweet. Their approach to a Sazerac was interesting to say the least. After dinner we hit the Rosewood Sand Hill, which though very gorgeous has a remarkably mundane high end bar.

Four showerheads for the Cowper. All they need is a nearby bar that’s good.