Banjo-picking bluegrass star Earl Scruggs credited his home state for being the soul of his characteristic talent. “My music came up from the soil of North Carolina,” he said. Driving through the state’s northeastern Piedmont region, an area rife with old pine growth, flowering dogwood trees, maples, oaks, hemlocks, wildflowers and herbs, it’s easy to intuit his inspiration. Just glimpsing the foothill-peppered terrain, a swath lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the Appalachian Mountains, awakens something in the heart. That’s what makes the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary — basically a suburb of Raleigh — so unique. Enveloped by 12 acres of verdant woodland near William B. Umstead State Park, it overlooks a lake and a well-marked nature path. Surprisingly, though, the stylish hotel does not lie in the bucolic countryside. Occupying prime real estate just off the highway, a few exits from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, it nevertheless melds into nature as an urban oasis and greenspace just spitting distance from the concrete jungle.
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THE BREAKERS PALM BEACH
ARRIVAL/CHECK-IN: We arrived at 1 p.m. and were greeted by the valet team, who introduced themselves and took our bags. The front desk team were enthusiastic, and in a short time we were in our beautiful room, where a cold bottle of Champagne and some delicious chocolates greeted us. The bellman supplied some information, and we were ready to sit on the deck and look out at the beach and ocean. The view was expansive and soothing.
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ARRIVAL/CHECK-IN: I had been itching for a road trip or staycation for a while and decided to take a few days away from Los Angeles and head down to sunny San Diego and explore downtown and Coronado Island.
Umstead Spa channels the native terrain of North Carolina.
ARRIVAL/CHECK-IN: Talk about a grand entrance! After driving across the state of Pennsylvania and spending the last 40 minutes of our journey in a snowstorm, Nemacolin’s The Chateau coming into view was a welcome and gorgeous sight.
CRANE'S BEACH HOUSE
GUEST QUARTERS: A few hours before I checked in, I received a text message that Crane’s Beach House had an opening, and I was upgraded to its luxury villa. Needless to say, I was eager to see what awaited behind the doors of Villa No. 7; the door, by the way, was sealed with a “sanitized and sealed” sticker, and I later found the same sticker sealing the refrigerator door and toilet as well.
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