Sunday, December 07, 2008

Chocolate With Tam at the Umstead

An unexpectedly uplifting experience yesterday:

I went to "tea" with five friends, as the guest of one of us, photographer Karen Tam. We were celebrating a combo of birthdays and Christmas. Tam took us to the Umstead, a still-newish hotel at Research Triangle Park that has been years in the making. It's extremely well-appointed and it's expensive.

So we dressed up. That alone can feel ennobling, if you spend a fair amount of times in jeans and Uggs before a computer screen.

And then, here's what really got me. Every detail there was so well done that it made me feel like doing everything better. It's a remarkable experience to be somewhere, however briefly, where everything is done as well as humanly possible.

The armchairs, the proximity to the fireplace, the pastries, the hot chocolate, the way we were treated -- wow! And the thing is, it wasn't even all perfect at first crack. The first round of hot chocolate wasn't hot. Ardis, who is bolder than I, mentioned this. The lukewarm chocolate was whisked away and a woman in an elegant black suit came out and apologized and we were then elevated to the rank of visiting queens. (It's always inspiring to see someone turn a glitch into an opportunity for an even better performance.)

I came away feeling more full of purpose, more capable, and (amazing in combo with the other two) more relaxed.

This is the way outings and vacations are supposed to work, and this one was only three hours.

Me and the buds had good time talking too. We do this three times a year; some of us have been friends for 39 years, others only about 35. We shrieked less than usual and were very grown-up in keeping with the fancy setting. Though we did each wear one of Jan's 1940s hats with feathers and veils.

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mamie said...

I have heard many rave reviews about the Umstead. And I love the idea of a setting elevating our expectation of ourselves!

Now, where are you going to go to shriek as much as usual? Equally important endeavor, in my opinion!

MitMoi said...

What a lovely post-card of enjoyment and appreciation of the blessing of friends and things well done.

I'm warmed from just reading.

billie said...

I love the thought of you all there in hats, being treated as queens!

I'm so totally out of it, though. At first I thought you had tea and chocolate in Umstead Park! Which would be cool in its own way, but you'd probably have to leave the hats and heels behind. :)

Peggy Payne said...

Well, these three comments are almost as delightful as a redux of "tea." Thank you all.

Perhaps we should go all go into the woods of Umstead State Park and shriek -- in a celebratory way, of course. Party hats and hiking boots and some of those roll-out birthday party whistles.

K.B. said...

I love high teas, nice restaurants, spa days out, or even just a nice coffee, a small splurge of some sort, or even a big one. My sisters and I usually have some kind of "spoil me" event planned every time I get into town, and I always remember each event fondly -- while looking forward to the next one. :)

Um. Not that we let wherever we are ever stop us from shrieking. A friend once went out with the three of us for lunch and teased us by calling us the Monkey Girls. We've merrily co-opted the phrase for ourselves ever since!

Peggy Payne said...

Groups of women in the 50-80 range seem to be especially capable of raucous joy in restaurants. I think it's a great thing. Y'all have a really nice tradition.

Peggy Payne said...

I meant age 50 to age 80. Not number at table.

K.B. said...

When I'm irritated on a bus or the Tube or whatever by merrily shrieking schoolkids or by loudly shrieking people in a restaurant, I always have to tell myself, "remember, you've done that!" :)

Peggy Payne said...

I'm so old-timey that I still expect people to be quiet in libraries. That and remembering to swipe a credit card instead of handing it to the clerk--those have been tough.

Stephanie Bass said...

Hats make one sit up straight-- especially if they're about to fall off from being a little big, or heavy. The hats made us into women not to be trifled with. And you didn't mention the Power of the Veil on that royal blue hat you wore--- to insert a boundary of mystery and respect between you and anyone else. So hats are truly empowering, especially when re-ordering the not-so-hot chocolate.

Peggy Payne said...

Oh, the veil! The veil!

What a discovery--thank you for reminding me, Steph. Talk about an effect on the psyche. Might pass once you get used to it, though, as with the thong.

K.B. said...

I do like quiet libraries. :) It was a great shock to discover that my father had been right: there is a time and a place for everything!

K.B. said...


"a boundary of mystery and respect between you and anyone else."

I personally would like to think that there's a boundary of mystery and respect between me and everyone else at all times. I remind them by always trying to have the same easy-going, laid-back temperament of a house cat... ;)

Peggy Payne said...

Wow, a house cat. What a perfect choice of model. And Stephanie of the foregoing comment has (or did have) quite an assertive one.