Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Promised Land Chronicles, Part II


Graffiti from a wall in Winston-Salem, NC

After ruling out Wyoming and Montana for a possible retirement area after last summer’s cross-country adventure, Bob and I headed south this past week for a tour of Virginia and North Carolina. We checked out  western Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountain cities, Roanoke and Lynchburg, then drove into North Carolina to visit Winston-Salem, Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Wilmington. We had planned to visit Durham but ran out of time.


My favorite spot was Winston-Salem, where there’s an expanding downtown area that offers interesting shops and galleries. The city seems to have an active downtown association and a growing number of special events, like an international film festival, wine festival and a farmer’s market. With lots of old industrial buildings under renovation to become high-end residential and artist loft spaces, I can see this could be an enjoyable area to keep on our short list of possibilities.


Here is the year round gallery space on North Trade Street for Piedmont Craftsmen. Once a year they hold a huge member art sale in the town’s convention center.


It is getting harder and harder to find these small restaurant gems, but we seek them out diligently wherever we go. We had a lovely lunch here at 6th and Wine  in downtown Winston-Salem and afterwards I stopped in at Studio 2. DSCN5248

Almost every city we visited has been overrun by unattractive strip malls, chains and big box stores. The face of America may offer consumer convenience, but charm and individuality have disappeared, so enjoying a lively, expanding downtown arts district like Winston-Salem’s is refreshing and offers hope.

I’m not sure it’s the “promised land” I dream of finding in this country, but we definitely enjoyed sunshine, mild weather and beautiful scenery all along the way.


  1. I lived in NC for 6 years. I couldn't take the summer heat so we would not have chosen it for retirement except for Asheville. I could live there, if I HAD to live on the East Coast. I do love Winston-Salem. It is a wonderful old southern town.

  2. wonderful you are being so organized about finding your retirement area. I have read about this area too and considered it. NC has a lot of craft schools I think. and is becoming quite a retirement place and is way warmer than upstate NY.

  3. Hi Gerrie, I really like Asheville, too, but my husband doesn't, so that is out. I'd love to check out the northwest but it's SOOOO far away from family and I want to stay closer to our children.

    Suki, the creativity in NC is what draws me there -- that and I love both mountains and ocean and being in NC gives me access to either in just a matter of hours. Not sure what we'll do but we do agree that major cities are not going on our list, too many people and too much traffic. Even Raleigh was too populated for us both. You might LOVE Asheville.

  4. Well, we will be moving to NC in the next couple of years (probably Charlotte on a lake somewhere) but still keeping the house on the beach south of Wilmington. You will certainly be welcome!! I LOVE Wilmington and Charlotte!

  5. Jeanne - I'm so sorry you didn't make it to Durham (where I live). I've lived in this area since 1975 and, though I have a hard time with the summers, the rest of the year totally makes up for them. And Durham has become such an incredible small city!! It is becoming known as the place to come for food, for sure! Great new restaurants opening all the time now. Lot's of art, both local and international - the Nasher Museum just had a Picasso show, every third Friday there is an art walk with many galleries holding openings, etc. I don't know if the politics of an area matters to you, but Winston-Salem is way, way more conservative than the Durham-Chapel Hill area. Any chance of another visit?

  6. Beth, that area of NC was Bob's favorite. He remembered that your condo was nearby -- must talk to you about renting it for our next exploration.

    Marni, the politics of an area matter enormously to me. I will definitely be back, especially since my daughter and niece live in Raleigh. Hopefully you and I can get together then. I wanted very much to see Durham but couldn't pass up the chance to get to the ocean, even if just briefly. Could tell that Chapel Hill would be a place I'd enjoy, very lively university town.

  7. Well ....Come On Down! (I feel like the announcer on The Price Is Right) As you know I live even further south but the areas you mentioned are popping with art and a lively cultural scene. This isn't an easy decision but I'm sending you good thoughts as you work on this.

  8. I think driving and looking for 'your place' is so much fun. You look at a town with all new eyes. I drove from Oregon to central CA before I found 'my town'...keeping the list clearly marked. I wanted a college, art community, good city government, weather etc...sounds like you are narrowing down your favorites...good luck!

  9. Terry,since there's no rush at all on making a decision, we can have fun exploring without any pressure.

    Blue Sky Dreaming, I'm feeling amazingly positive that I'll know the right place when I see it and that when I do, there will be exactly the home available for us that will make us willing and ready to sell and move. It's got to be easy and relaxing and feel joyful all the way through for me to know it's the right choice. How's THAT for placing my order with the universe?!?!

  10. I taught a workshop in Roanoke in 2008, and I remember how wonderful the downtown was-- great restaurants, galleries, shops-- it seemed like a great artist community-- but Winston-Salem sounds similar.