We spent the past week on vacation "Down South." Tom and Anastasia are on the faculty of the Brevard Music Festival in North Carolina, and for Christmas our children all put together and give Joe and me a gift of two nights in the most wonderful bed and breakfast in Brevard so that we could visit them. We stayed at the Red House Inn in this room and were so comfortable. Our hosts were gracious, the area was pretty, the two concerts we attended (Elgar Variations and Beethoven's Ninth) were marvelous, the waterfalls we saw were beautiful, a dinner at Hobnob was memorable and delicious (Anastasia and I started with a fried green tomato and fresh mozzarella salad!), and best of all, we had lots of time with our kids!
The picture is of downtown Brevard. The actual place is more charming than the photo, with cute shops and lots of nice places to eat. Brevard is just outside the Pisgah National Forest and we traveled around there, visiting waterfalls and a trout hatchery. We were both sorry to leave Brevard. But we did because . . .
. . . our next scheduled stop was Asheville, which isn't far at all from Brevard. In fact, the first night T&A drove up at met us for dinner. Our purpose for going to Asheville was to visit The Biltmore. Joe knew quite a bit about it already, but neither of us was prepared for the scope of the place. The outside was just gorgeous and the inside opulently decorated. No detail was overlooked. There were 43 bathrooms, in an era where most family homes had one or none!
Joe also toured the gardens and I toured the shops, picking up a couple of things to bring home. We lunched in a courtyard between the house and the stable, and drove around the property to visit the working farm and pass the inn (yes, one can actually stay on the property).
The extravagance was thought-provoking. The Quaker lurking inside of me got to wondering what other ways that money could have been used, what good it could have accomplished. (Then, of course, the rest of me got to thinking about all that I have and whether I give away enough.)
We were both happy that we went to The Biltmore.
After leaving Asheville, we went west to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We drove and drove through and over mountains, stopping frequently to take photographs and to take in the beauty of the views. The temperature would go up and down as we went down and up the mountains. At one point we saw a mother elk with some young grazing in a field. We saw lovely wildflowers. Apart from the elk, we didn't see animals. But we saw trees and mountains and clouds. We drove through clouds (making me think of Judy Collins who'd looked at clouds from both sides now) and paused at the cabins erected by early settlers. We spent the better part of two days in the park and probably could have stayed longer.
Our lodging was in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a place we'd heard about for more than 40 years. It turned out not to be the Appalachian arts and crafts community that we'd hoped for, but a strip, longer than we could see in either direction, of "attractions."
At the risk of sounding judgmental or like a snob, frankly, not much of Gatlinburg was to our taste. We wandered out past Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood which we did not visit) to Sevierville one afternoon to visit a quilt shop, and the kitsch went on and on for miles and miles. All of these horror houses, wax museums, believe-it-or-not establishments seemed so incongruent with the beauty of the mountains.
And now our summer vacation comes to an end. Both of us return to work on Monday, refreshed, rejuvenated, and with some new perspectives. I'll write one more post about some details of our trip, and then be back to Business As Usual, here Near Philadelphia.