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travelgirl recommends: Rath Yatra; Herons at the Umstead Hotel and Spa


Rath Yatra -- Festival of Chariots

Puri, India

July 16, 2007

Every year, in a small temple town on India's east coast, the gods take a vacation. The three deities that reside in Puri, Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra, are placed in raths, or chariots, and drawn by thousands of devotees to a temple two miles north. Pulling the rath is believed to be symbolic of life's journey and is a practice that blesses those involved. Ranked as one of the grandest celebrations on earth for its elaborate colors, multitude of participants and ability to unite people of all backgrounds, this is also the only day when non-Hindus and foreigners, who are not allowed in the temple, can openly view the sacred deities.

For more information on Rath Yatra, visit or e-mail the Orissa Tourist Office at



A cool bird has landed in North Carolina's red-hot Triangle area. Its habitat: The resplendent new Umstead Hotel and Spa located in Cary, just between Raleigh and Research Triangle Park.

Herons, named after the graceful, high-stepping native bird, is sending local gastronomes into orbit. From a theatrical open kitchen, Executive Chef Phil Evans serves up regional faves like salt-brined pork loin with succotash as well as a la carte items like Maine lobster with grits souffle. The space is delightfully designed with South American tiger-striped wood, cozy banquettes, curved ceilings and thoughtfully chosen local artwork. Sommelier Steve Eudy graciously guides you through the immense wine list with a soothing Carolina drawl.

Can't you just feel the sunshine? Actually you can: Grab a seat on the terrace and soak up tranquil views of the lake and butterfly gardens. Flocks of guests and well-feathered locals are already gathering at Herons' bar to sip spa-inspired cocktails and sample wine flights paired with scrumptious kitchen morsels. Surprise treat: Fly local.

RayLen's Category 5 Red Wine, named for the Carolina Hurricanes Raleigh's beloved hockey team), is a winner, as is the home-grown Shelton Riesling. The overall vibe at Herons is hip but not haughty. A welcome addition to a sizzling dining scene, this is one bird to watch.


The Umstead Hotel and Spa

100 Woodland Pond

Cary, N.C.