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22 February, 2015

Becky defied her jet-lag to pen our first blog of the tour:


“Since we will be spending over two weeks over here in the States, we felt it was important to begin the acclimatisation process (both meteorological and gastronomical) early on. So it was on with the thermals and the woolly hats and off for a big breakfast. We are fortunate to have the wonderful tenor and all-round good egg, Ben Clark, with us on this tour as a replacement for Jim who has sadly not been able to join us, and one of Ben’s many attributes seems to be having friends in the right places – he came armed with suggestions for the best places to eat in Durham. So an early group set off at 8am in one of the two family-sized vehicles we have hired to get us around for the next few days, and a group of lazier individuals set off an hour later, for a cafe named Guglhopf, which served typical American-style breakfast with a slight leaning towards German cuisine. Delicious!

“It was then generally felt that there was a need to walk off the stodgy repast (particularly amongst the ‘lazy’ party). One group headed off to downtown Durham for a stroll around, whilst another group navigated their way, more or less directly – with only a few u-turns – to the Eno River State Park. We only had an hour or so before visiting the next recommended restaurant for lunch so we couldn’t follow the longer trails, but the six of us had a delightful walk along a snowy path following the semi-frozen river amongst spindly trees.


Will ‘Gandalf’ Dawes: “You! Shall! Not! Pass!”

“It was pretty bracing so we were glad of our warm hats and toasty under garments. The path was fairly icy in places so we had a few near-accidents but luckily we were all wearing suitable footwear so no limbs were broken. There were plenty of opportunities for rests as Andrew couldn’t resist taking photos along the way (as ever!) – it was indeed a beautiful scene.


“We were pretty amazed to be hungry again after our big breakfast and we were certainly not disappointed by the portion sizes in Pullen’s BBQ restaurant. Thank you to Ben’s friend’s mum’s sister (or something!) for the suggestions. Never before have we encountered sweet potato fries being served with a pot of brown sugar!


“Since we did have a concert later that day, it seemed sensible at this juncture to turn attention away from our stomachs and towards those important parts of our anatomy somewhat higher up our bodies. Our voices were distinctly sluggish due to jet lag, as at this point it felt closer to bedtime than mid-afternoon. We therefore needed to do a fair amount of singing to wake them up. It was wonderful to be back in the stunning Duke University Chapel and to have the chance to acclimatise our voices to the spacious acoustic.


“By 8pm, when the concert started, we couldn’t help realising it was 1am UK time and started to wonder if our Compline programme, In Pace, might prove a little too soporific in the face of extreme tiredness. But happily nobody fell asleep in the concert (well, I can’t speak for the audience of course!) even though it felt as though our vocal cords were tucked up in bed in their pyjamas dreaming of pancakes and maple syrup.

“Astonishingly, some of us still had the stamina for a post-concert drink in a very nice wine bar not far from our hotel. But I’m afraid this blogger could only stay for one drink (a delicious Californian Gewurtztraminer) before retiring for the night – after all, I had to be up early to write this blog!”