Posted on May 6, 2018
Asheville, North Carolina makes a great girl getaway destination–not only because of the beautiful Biltmore mansion (which housed the Glamour On Board: Fashion from Titanic The Movie exhibit I LOVED) but also because of five other fabulous finds.
Wonder beckons as you enter The Biltmore Estate through what seems to be a primeval forest. Here one of my favorite films, Last of the Mohicans, was shot. Nearer the house are 2.5 miles of garden paths to wander and a conservatory full of orchids and other delicacies. On this estate Frederick Law Olmsted, father of American landscape architecture, created his last masterpiece after designing New York City’s Central Park and Boston University campus. Gardeners wanting inspiration can plan a visit by the Biltmore Bloom Report and share with others by posting photos on social media at #BiltmoreBlooms.
The Blue Ridge Mountains and Asheville create quite the artist community. Two famous novelists, Thomas Wolfe, author of Look Homeward, Angel, and Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain, are from Asheville. The Waltons television series was set in the Blue Ridge and The Andy Griffith Show’s Mayberry was based on a nearby North Carolina town.
Not to be missed is The Grove Park Inn. It’s no wonder F. Scott Fitzgerald thought such a setting would inspire a comeback. Ten years after writing The Great Gatsby he rented a room during the summers of 1935 and 1936 to recuperate from tuberculosis and a gin addiction. Nearby at Highland Hospital, his wife, Zelda, an Alabama girl, was in a psychiatric ward. She died there in a fire in 1948 with eight other patients. Though even the Grove Park Inn couldn’t save the Fitzgeralds, it is today a honeymoon and anniversary haven. It also made a great place for old friends to relax.
Its stone fireplaces in the great hall are legendary, but we were thrilled to have a warm day to sit on the back veranda and catch up for hours. Sally had driven from Virginia and I from Nashville. We made a feast of a cheese plate, wine, and conversation in real time. We’d met in Head Start–friends since five– in Kentucky. We kept in touch by letters and cassette tapes while she raised four children in Africa and I raised two in Tennessee. I’d moved to Africa when she returned to the US and we hadn’t seen each other in years. Though we only had 24 hours in Asheville due to work schedules, we went go for it–what real friends do–grabbing the time and picking up as if there had been no time apart.
Thank you North Carolina for your charm and hospitality. Readers, where do you recommend for getaways with old friends?
Posted on September 3, 2017
I read within a poet’s book a word that starred the page:
“Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage!”
Yes, that is true; and something more you’ll find, where’er you roam,
That marble floors and gilded walls can never make a home.
But every house where Love abides, and Friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home-sweet-home: For there the heart can rest.–Henry van Dyke
Since moving home from The Dominican Republic in June, life has been a blur. Two days after landing, I bought a car, braved Nashville traffic (the city has been growing by 100 people per day since I left three years ago), and began reconnecting with family and friends from Knoxville to Kentucky. Trivia Night at ML Rose, Knoxville’s Market Square and hiking trails, movies, and malls… Nashville’s live music of Santana, Phillip Phillips, the Goo Goo Dolls and my guys at the Irish pub …an eclipse, a wedding, salsa… a nine- month job search finally ends.
Nine weeks after landing I’ve put 5,000 miles on my car. Some days the journey home still feels long. Expats warn that when we reenter the US after so long away we find everything changed. Nashville is now a maze of high rise apartments and new restaurants and shops. Everything, everyone seems different, including me, because life is fluid, and the only thing constant is change.
This weekend marks the official end of summer–my favorite season which is partly why I chose to live in two warm-weather countries for awhile. But I’m also looking forward to fall–my first in a long time–to process all that’s happened. Today… I’m simply thankful for what has been, for what is, and for what is to come.
An unexpected highlight of the summer was when an Australian friend visited me in Nashville, allowing me to share southern hospitality. When I left Africa over a year ago, Kate said we’d meet up somewhere in the world soon. An empty nester like me, she arrived in Morocco a month after I did in the fall of 2014 to manage a riad. She’s still in Marrakesh in the apartment complex where I lived when she isn’t traveling the world or visiting her kids. When she decided to come “see the South” and me, I first said to wait until I am settled in a home again so I can make her feel welcome. But Kate, knowing what I had learned and already forgotten–that home is anywhere friendship abides and we are at peace…that we don’t put off for later blessings we are offered today–came anyway. I’m so thrilled she did.
At our first Airbnb our host had written the poem above on a blackboard by the door. Truly home is where friends, family, love abides. I’ve been blessed by family, friends, and strangers who have opened their couches, cots, and rooms to me all summer as I’ve been seeking what’s next. Likewise, what a blessing to share with my soul sister my roots. Seeing again where I am from through the eyes of someone who marvels at church steeples, Broadway, and town squares… at grits, gravy and cornfields… someone who danced for the first time in her life when two friends pulled her on the floor to merengue and now wants to take dance lessons… were moments like other summer pleasures and people who have given me wings again.
My next post, a downloadable Seven Days in Nashville: Homegirl Guide.