A Travellerspoint blog

USA

Sip, sip, hooray! Girls' Weekend in Nashville.

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It happens. I get soooo busy. So do all of my girlfriends. It's so easy to get caught up in jobs and kids and the stress that life brings and forget to make time for our friends.

That's why we make it a point to stop every once in a while to remind ourselves of the “work hard, play hard” motto and head out for a much needed girls’ weekend. Girls’ weekends are necessary for the mind, body, and soul.

It had been a while since the girls had been together. It was time to plan an epic weekend.

After tossing around several location ideas, we settled on the obvious….NASHVILLE!

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Why hadn’t we thought of this before?

Once best known as the capital of country music, Nashville’s shopping, nightlife, and culinary offerings have blown up in recent years. Nashville is a perfect blend of culture and Southern charm. There is so much to see and do that a simple weekend couldn’t even scratch the surface.

And it’s right in our back yard.

I told the girls to grab their cowboy hats. It was time for a boot scootin’, biscuit eatin’, sweet tea drinkin’ good time.

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We left Knoxville on a warm, sunny spring day and found ourselves cruising into Nashville just 2 ½ hours later.

What should we do first? Visit the Grand Ole Opry? Eat some hot chicken? Buy a cowboy hat?

We made our way to Germantown, a recently revived neighborhood just north of downtown. This 18-square block area is filled with cobblestone streets, charming homes that date back to the 1800s, architectural treasures, unique shops, and some of Nashville’s hottest restaurants. It’s urban, it’s chic, it’s walkable, it’s filled with coffee shops and eateries and wine…..in other words….it was the perfect place for a girls’ trip.

We scored these AMAZING accommodations on AirBNB:

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This duplex was simply perfection.

Only 3 of us had made it so far. Our 4th was not joining us until later that night, so we spent some time unpacking the 35 outfits we had brought for 2 days, quickly spruced up, and made the short walk to Butchertown Hall for one of the city’s best Happy Hours.

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Immediately greeted by the warm interior and the ridiculously wonderful smell of smoked meat, we were quickly seated and handed the Happy Hour menu. We proceeded to order ALL THE THINGS.

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OH MY GOSH! The $5 margaritas were perfect. And all of the food was so stinkin' good, specifically the brisket taco, and the queso with their house made chorizo, and the loin back rib nachos. Oh, and the sweet tea marinated smoked wings!

Oh, and the wood grilled oysters with chili sauce and chimichurri!

I’m getting hungry all over again.

After eating ALL THE THINGS, we grabbed an Uber and headed to Sinema, in Nashville’s Melrose neighborhood.

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Housed inside the refurbished 1940’s Melrose Theater, Sinema’s atmosphere and décor gave a nod to old Hollywood glamour. Downstairs had a supper-club atmosphere with elegant tables and a huge movie screen showing classic films. Upstairs we found a classy lounge with cozy spaces and a creative cocktail menu.

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I pride myself on my research abilities and, typically, there are not many surprises waiting for me when I travel.

Sinema’s ladies' room caught me by surprise, however.

How had I missed the fact that Sinema has one of the most selfie friendly bathrooms in Nashville? It’s actually KNOWN for it’s selfie-worthy loo?

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Sigh. There was a time when the bathroom was the ultimate private space – but that all ended when it became better known as a place where women stand in front of the mirror, phones held aloft, and capture images of their duckfaces.

We were guilty. We spent 45 minutes in the ladies room.

It took that long to perfect our 1973 Album Cover Look.

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After bathroom art and cocktail hour was over, we walked next door to The Sutler to wait for our 4th to arrive.

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Housed in the same location that the original Sutler Saloon operated in for over 30 years, The Sutler is the re-imagination of the original and houses an upstairs food and music venue and a dark, cozy downstairs lounge.

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As old people, we of course opted for the quiet of the downstairs lounge, planning to wait in the peace and quiet with cocktails in hand while listening to some chill music.

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What we didn’t know was that it was 90’s dance night.

No problem. We are adaptable.

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With all four of us finally together, we decided it was time to hang up our dancing shoes and call it a night.

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Friday morning was bright and beautiful. It was time to put on our walking shoes and our eating pants.

But first, coffee.

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We walked over to Germantown’s Barista Parlor. While the place is riddled with ironic facial hair, oversized eye glasses, and permanent looks of hipster-esque disdain, it also serves up amazing coffee and baked goods. Everyone knows that hipsters make the best coffee.

I would call the décor of the Germantown location “vintage nautical industrial,” not to be confused with the original East location which I would characterize as more “nautical industrial lumberjack.”

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There were plenty of laptops, skinny jeans, and unseasonable toboggans. As we puzzled over the hand carved wooden menu (no, I am not kidding), I settled on a Whiskey Caramel Latte, “The Judge” biscuit, and one of their homemade cinnamon sugar pop-tarts.

The coffee was velvety…creamy….delicious.

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The biscuit was perfectly moist (I hate a crumbly biscuit) and loaded with fluffy scrambled eggs, tangy pepper-jack cheese, and ….wait for it….chili glazed candied bacon. Served on a hand made wooden plate with a bandana (no, I am not kidding).

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The pop-tart was INSANE. It was nothing like a pop-tart. It was a rectangle of moist, doughy, flaky, gooey cinnamon filled heaven. I dropped a piece of that luscious icing on the floor and actually considered picking it up and eating it.

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What was supposed to be a “light bite to tide us over” turned out to be a gluttonfest.

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No worries. We had shopping to do and nothing fuels shopping better than sugar and caffeine (unless you count vodka, but that usually results in coming home with odd things like a pink ceramic elephant and size 24 sequined pants).

We rallied and headed out to see how much damage we could do.

9,456 steps and 14 shopping bags later, we were exhausted. I’m pretty sure one of my credit cards self combusted in my purse on the way back to the house.

There was only one thing that could get us moving again….FOOD!

It was 2:30. We just made it to Arnold’s in time to make the line before they shut the doors.

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This hole-in-the-wall meat and three only serves breakfast and lunch, and only Monday through Friday, and only until 2:45.

Arnold’s is no-frills. It’s typically filled with hard-working, humble, good natured folks. Except the day we visited. The guy in front of us was wearing white skinny jeans, had a man bun, and was driving a Bentley.

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They opened their doors in 1983. Almost 35 years and a James Beard Award later, they are still serving up the best fried catfish, mac n’cheese, and hoecakes in town.

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A meat + 3 plate at Arnold’s should cost you a modest $9.74. My lunch, however was $18.59.

Why?

Because I couldn’t stop at meat + 3.

Sure, I started off innocently enough with a simple hickory smoked chicken breast smothered in house-made BBQ sauce, spicy-sweet corn pudding, baked mac n’cheese, and collard greens.

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But then there were those crispy fried green tomatoes.

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And that lonely hoecake.

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Did someone say “hot pepper chocolate pie?” Yes, please.

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So, my meat + 3 quickly turned into a meat + 4 + hoecake + pie.

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We ate so much we shut the restaurant down. Literally.

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We decided to walk some of our lunch off by trying to find the WhatLiftsYou wings mural nearby.

Loved.

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After lunch, we literally crashed back at the house.

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That evening, we decided to stick close to “home” and find drinks and dinner in Germantown.

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We started at the best happy hour of all time at the Germantown Café. Every day from 3:00 – 7:00, this happy little restaurant serves up a menu of creative cocktails and amazing small plates for $5 each. And we’re not talking well drinks and peanuts.

Try offerings like veal meatballs and steamed mussels, paired with a French 75 or a house made mojito.

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After getting our happy hour drink fix, we walked to City House, still one of my favorite restaurants in Nashville.

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The restaurant is inside an old house, and we were seated in the cozy upstairs instead of the large and open (and loud!) downstairs.

We started off with a bottle of bubbly Prosecco and a bowl of warm, marinated olives while we perused the menu and tried to decide what else our stomachs could possibly hold.

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We found the answer in the form of their famous house-made belly ham pizza and the anchovy pizza with a bottle of red.

The first pizza was covered with mellow tomato sauce, anchovies, capers and house-made mozzarella while the second wowed us with belly ham, mozzarella, Grana Padano, oregano, and chiles atop the soft yet crispy crust.

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We had ambitious plans to visit The Green Hour for after dinner drinks and chocolate and the Back Corner for music, but we had to be honest…..we were TIRED.

Instead, we found ourselves back at the house with Pretty Woman on the projector screen, a plate filled with cookies on the table, a few bottles of open wine, and our pjs.

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Do-it-yourself collagen masks or the Walking Dead?

You decide.

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We had been blessed with GORGEOUS weather and Saturday was no exception. We roused ourselves and headed to brunch in Nashville’s quaint 12 South neighborhood.

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During the week, the Flipside is a casual burger joint with a retro diner vibe, but on Saturdays it transforms into Brunch Central, with colossal Bloody Marys, two-for-one mimosas, and tater tots loaded with eggs and cheese.

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Did I mention that you can get an entire plate of crispy bacon? A plate. Of bacon.

With maple syrup for dipping.

Bacon. Syrup. Heaven.

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After stuffing ourselves silly, we walked through the cute shops and streets of 12 South.

You have to love a shopping neighborhood that gives away adorable little glasses of sweet tea and has a cupcake ATM.

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We did obligatory photos with the I Believe in Nashville mural and the Draper James blue and white wall.

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We also shopped until we dropped.

We bought ALL THE THINGS.

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After much needed naps, we roused ourselves for the afternoon’s festivities – a ride on the Sprocket Rocket pedal bar through Nashville’s Honky Tonk Row.

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Pedal Bar is really just an excuse to drink on the street and yell at people while listening to loud music.

And where better to do that than Honky Tonk Row, Nashville’s famed strip filled with neon signs, fried bologna sandwiches, all day drinking, and youthful debauchery. Is it touristy and tacky? Of course it is. But where else in Nashville can you spend the night dodging no fewer than 956 bachelorette parties, see 20-somethings in new suits and even newer cowboy boots throwing up on the sidewalk at 7:00 p.m., and hear Kenny Rogers coming out of one door and ZZ Top coming out of the next while 75-year old ladies line dance in the street?

It’s like the Vegas strip ….just replace the sequins, limos, and Fat Tuesday yard drinks with Wranglers, John Deere tractors, and Bud Light in a can.

We had enjoyed the Pedal Pub on our previous girls’ trip to Asheville so much, that we wanted to see if it was as much fun as we remembered.

It was.

It was us old ladies and a group of early 20's bachelorettes and, I must say, we showed those young girls how it's done.

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We followed our pedal party with dinner at Germantown’s sophisticated 5th and Taylor.

I said the restaurant was sophisticated. I never said we were.

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We started off with their curried crab dip and crispy potato skins.

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I followed that with the filet. This came with a family-style order of creamy mashed potatoes, but that didn’t stop me from also ordering a giant plate of fries because 3 potato dishes in one meal is never too many.

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My filet was perfect, but I have to admit I was a little envious of my friend’s burger.

Dang.

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And, just because we could, we ordered one of every dessert on the menu: the fried apple pie with bourbon vanilla ice cream and hot caramel, the banana pudding, and the chocolate torte.

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Now you see them.

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Now you don’t.

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Much like my willpower.

And my slim waist.

Before we knew it, we were waking up to our last morning.

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We capped our trip off with a fully indulgent, all-you-can-eat breakfast at Monell’s, just a block from the house.

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We arrived early, so there was no wait, and we proceeded to stuff ourselves with fried chicken, bacon, sausage, ham, cinnamon rolls, fluffy biscuits with hot gravy, fresh peach preserves, home fried potatoes, cheese grits, scrambled eggs, pancakes, fried apples, and corn pudding until we had to undo our pants for fear of putting someone’s eye out in the event that we popped button.

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The weekend had been amazing. It was definitely a “laugh until you pee a little” kind of weekend filled with the best kind of girl time. We had a chance to relax, have fun, reconnect, and charge our batteries. We were reminded that we may be getting older, but we’re not slowing down.

Nashville had delivered.

Nashville is a city I can picture myself living in. I’d buy a beautifully restored cottage in Germantown, and spend my days as a barista in a warehouse-turned-coffee-shop while eating my way through every biscuit joint in town. I would un-ironically wear cowboy boots and drink craft bourbon in a hand-blown glass tumbler with a single oversized square cube of ice. My days would be filled with endless hot chicken, country music, and sweet tea.

And good friends.

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Posted by vicki_h 10:48 Archived in USA Tagged nashville germantown girls'_trip Comments (3)

Death Cookies on the Ballhooter

Skiing in Snowshoe, WV

Matt and I used to go on a ski trip every year. Yes , I used to ski. Back in the days when we were young and fresh faced, with strong legs and knees that didn't crack when we bent over.

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But that was many years ago.

I learned to ski in 1994, about 6 weeks after Matt and I met. Matt was an avid skier. His friends were avid skiers. Their wives were avid skiers.

I had never skied.

He invited me to go skiing with the group. It was learn to ski or get left behind. So, I learned. I was a very "okay" skier. I was never what one would call “good,” but I was competent. I reached the point where I could pretty much get down any slope on any mountain without dying, even if it took me half a day. I considered that an achievement.

By 1996, we were going out west at least once a year for a group ski trip. We did this for another 10 years. We did it big: Park City, Snowbird, Alta, Whistler, Telluride, Vail, Beaver Creek, Steamboat Springs, Jackson Hole, Deer Valley, Big Mountain, Big Sky. The year Matt turned 40, we realized: 1) Skiing was hard. 2) Skiing was cold. 3) Skiing was expensive. We packed up our ski gear, started going on a winter trip to the Caribbean every year instead, and never looked back.

Until a few weeks ago when a group of friends we’ve recently become acquainted with invited us on a ski trip.

I knew better. I never really liked skiing even back when we did it. I mostly went for the hot chocolate and fireplaces, but I was sucked in by visions of hot toddies and cute fur hats. I had forgotten that I hate the cold and I am terrified of skiing.

So we said “yes.”

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And that’s how I found myself in Snowshoe, WV on a frigid 17 degree day in a blizzard staring down a mountain. Once a decent skier, I hadn’t been on skis in over 10 years, and I couldn't shake the underlying fear that I would fall off the mountain and die.

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Add to this the fact that my body was also 10 years older than when I last put on a pair of skis. There is a huge physical difference between 36 and 46.

Yes. I was certain. I was going to fall off the mountain and die.

I decided on that first day that it was simply too freaking cold, too windy, and too “blizzardy” for me to make my return to the world of carving powder. While Matt went straight for a black diamond run (the man has no fear), I pulled up my fur hood, grabbed a hot beverage, and found a fireplace that I could sit beside while I contemplated exactly why I was here.

I cozied into our room at the newly refurbished Courduroy Inn and found a pen and a pad of paper.

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When I was young and had a decision to make, my Mom always made me make a list of pros and cons. I decided this would work well to address my current conundrum.

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I started with THINGS I HATE ABOUT SKIING:

The cold. What human voluntarily spends 8 hours outside when it is 17 degrees?

All the weird layers. By the time I have on my base layer, some fleece, my bulky ski pants, jacket, hat, glove liners, gloves, mask….I have to pee. Even under the best circumstance, I am like Ralphie in A Christmas Story and walk around as big as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. However, the layers are essential. All of them. Why? BECAUSE IT’S 17 DEGREES.

The boots. Mankind has invented the iPhone. We can turn the lights on in our house from another state. We put people in space, for goodness sakes. Why can’t someone invent a better design for ski boots? Try walking gracefully in ski boots. They make me look like Robocop or a transformer.

Skiing. Actually having to put greased up sticks on my feet and slide down a mountain is my least favorite part of the entire experience.

The Chairlift. An experience 100x more awkward and terrifying than getting on an escalator.

Snowboarders. They are typically obnoxious pre-teens with weird hats who like to crash violently right in front of me. And they seem to multiply as the day progresses, no doubt waking up at noon from their Playstation-induced comas, crushing a Red Bull, and hitting the slopes with one thought in mind: terrorize old people.

Death Cookies. Having done the majority of my skiing out west, on ACTUAL SNOW, I had not forgotten my first few ski trips on the gloriously horrible east coast, where small mountains are covered in fake, manufactured snow that freezes impossibly hard and responds nothing like actual snow under your skis. The worst are the "death cookies," hideous little chunks of frozen snow that are an inevitable by-product of fake snow and grooming. They hide in the blinding white glare, just waiting to take you out, if a snowboarder doesn't get you first.

Children. They are like heat seeking missiles. Every child on the mountain is determined to blindly shoot out in front of me at the worst possible moment, with zero ability to turn or stop, leaving me with a choice between plowing down a toddler or veering wildly into a nearby tree instead.

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Then I considered the things I LOVE ABOUT SKIING:

The quiet and solitude. Even if you are paired up with someone, going down the mountain is a very solitary experience. It’s just you and the snow. As an introvert, I must admit that I love the solitude of skiing, particularly since I often ski alone. It’s crazy peaceful.

The views. I hate cold, but I love snow. Even though the views in WV were not quite the epic and sweeping as the vistas out west, it was pretty. Snow crusted trees, an icy lake at the base of the mountain, and brilliant blue skies are pretty cool.

They physical exertion. Much like my love for hiking, I love the physical challenge of skiing. It's its own reward. As I have already indicated, I am not an athletic person. My level of physical agility is a -3 on a scale of 1 – 10. I’m not really sure how I managed to learn to ski. I never had lessons or an instructor. Matt pretty much threw me to it and I figured it out. Due to my maddening fear of speed and my inability to control myself on skis if any measure of speed is involved, I am an excruciatingly slow skier. I have mastered the art of slow skiing by traversing the slope all the way down. This has allowed me to manage even the most difficult black diamond runs, but it also requires a tremendous amount of leg power and results in skiing about 5 times farther than everyone else on the slope.

Hot drinks. I admit, a hot buttered rum tastes better after a long day of traversing the slopes, back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Fireplaces. Ski resorts are silly with them. You can’t walk 10 feet without running into one.

Apres Ski. As much as I don't like skiing, I love the moment the day on the slopes is over and you can officially enter into the delightful world of "after ski" with cocktails, munchies, and music by the fire.

Clothing with fur. I love anything with fur on it. Unfortunately, fur lined clothing in east TN is not generally necessary, making its appearance fashionably unacceptable on most occasions.

Carbs. Skiing requires that you eat lots of carbs. At least that is what I tell myself as I stuff another cheeseburger in my mouth.

And last, but most certainly not least: Heated towel racks. Where have these been all my life?

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Four hot bourbon toddies later, I had decided that this was going to be an awesome weekend.

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After lunch, the blizzard abated, but it was too late to ski, so I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the village, eating soup and grilled cheese, enjoying the snow, and reading by the fireplace.

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We met up with the group that night at Sunset Cantina in the village and dove into pitchers of margaritas, chips & salsa, and platters of nachos.

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Then it was off to bed early to prepare for a big day of SKIING.

Eeeeek.

We woke up to a beautiful blue sky day with no more driving snow and very moderate temperatures. It was a perfect day for skiing.

I loaded up on breakfast, just in case it turned out to be my last meal.

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Matt headed straight for the Western Territory, a couple of black diamond runs across from our inn. I knew the other ladies were taking lessons, so I was resigned to spend the day skiing by myself, which sadly, I actually enjoy.

I was nervous, though. When skiing for the first time in over 10 years, another warm body would have provided some comfort. I was totally on my own if I had an “incident.”

Unlike most ski resorts I have been to, where the village is at the base of the mountain and your first activity of the morning is to get on a lift, Snowshoe Village is at the top of the mountain. All I had to do was walk out the back door, pop on my skis…and go.

I paused at the bottom of the back stairs from our inn and simply enjoyed the sun on my face, the snow caked trees, and the views.

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Okay, fine. I was stalling.

It was time to put my skis on and attempt to go down the mountain. Alone.

And there it was.

Pure. Black. Fear.

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The truth is, I am afraid of skiing. I am afraid of speed. I am also afraid of falling, of suddenly finding myself sprawled out on the ground with a facefull of snow, arms and legs everywhere like some drawn-and-quartered alpine roadkill, skis knocked off and sliding helplessly down the mountain without me, and arms too weak to haul myself back up with my poles.

I may look perfectly calm as I go down the slope, but in my head, there is a terrified voice that is silently shrieking, “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!”

I’m not a total wuss. I have conquered black diamonds in Jackson Hole, WY and wild terrain in Snowbird, UT, but I know my limitations. For every black diamond I have mastered, I have also scooted down some run on my butt or taken off my skis to hike back up to find an easier way down.

To me, skiing is an unpleasant, vaguely unnatural combination of standing still and moving way too fast. You spend an inordinate amount of time waiting in very cold lift lines, trying not to fall over and take 20 people down with you like a stack of dominoes as well as countless hours a day sitting still and freezing on an open chair lift that creeps up a mountain. Moments later, you are expected to fly down an ice covered mountain. It’s madness. I don’t know who decided this should be recreation. I view skiing as less of a sport and more a socially acceptable form of high risk masochism.

Add to this my innate physical awkwardness. I am not athletic. I am not graceful. I am not agile. When I ski, I look like Bambi on ice.

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I studied the trail map to plot out a course that I believed would get me to the bottom of the mountain intact.

I found myself wondering about some of the trail names. Who names these things anyway? Grabhammer. Ballhooter. Gangway. Choker. They sounded more like descriptions of prison rape than ski slopes.

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While I have done all manner of slopes, greens (easy), blues (harder), blacks (hardest) without mishap, the truth is that my comfort zone sits somewhere between the green and blue runs.

I consider myself a turquoise skier.

I mapped out a plan that would start me off slowly on some easy greens and then work my way up to the blues. On this hard packed, east coast fake snow (aka, ICE), I decided a black diamond was out of the question on my return-to-the-world-of skiing-after-a-long-hiatus trip.

I surprised myself by making it down without incident and finding that I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

I swished and whooshed. It all came back to me. The air on my face was invigorating and the world was quiet and soft around me.

I remembered what I liked about skiing.

And then I reached the bottom of the mountain.

And the chair lift.

I’m just going to come right out and say it.

I am absolutely, completely, uncontrollably, inexplicably terrified of freaking chairlifts.

This has nothing to do with a fear of heights and everything to do with the awkwardness of getting on and off the lift and the infinite possibilities for calamity and embarrassment that it holds.

For those who have never actually ridden a chair lift, let me describe the experience.

First, you ski into a crowd of people who have formed several lines. You are expected to get in one of these lines without knocking anyone down or sliding across their skis. Then, you wait. Standing on skis is awkward in itself. Your body is pitched at a weird angle and you have to scooch and slide forward carefully as the line advances. When it is your turn to load, the real fun begins. If you are skiing alone, as I was, you have to advance toward the lift with strangers. When I am on skis, it’s best if I have about a 10 foot perimeter so that my wild flailing of poles won’t impact anyone else. This is impossible when crammed shoulder to shoulder with a stranger, waiting for a flying metal chair to sneak up behind you and slam you in the butt.

Ideally, you are lined up properly and the chair hits you square in the fanny, not off to the side, or at an angle, which will inevitably result in you falling over, the chairlift having to be stopped, and an attendant being forced to come to your aid, retrieve your poles, which you just flung at a nearby 10 year old, and help you onto the chairlift.

After you get seated, you fly through the air toward the top of the mountain.

At this stage, the chairlift is an awkwardly intimate place. You are thrust into close proximity with a total stranger in a strangely quiet environment for a painfully long time. First up is the anxiety inducing SAFETY BAR. Experienced skiers don’t like the safety bar. I live for the safety bar. I grab it immediately to lower it onto my lap and inevitably, smack my companion, who is oblivious to it, in the head. No one likes an over-anxious bar deployer, but that is my reality. It’s simply who I am.

After moving past the clumsiness of the safety bar, there is the worry of getting my dangling skis tangled up or hitting my companion with a pole as I try to find a good place for them to settle and spending the duration of the ride wondering if I will knock this person down in my frantic attempt to get off the lift without doing a faceplant.

Then there is the conversation. It’s too quiet not to speak. It is a silence that only the strongest can survive. As such, my seat mate is going on about the epic powder, sick lines, and awesome aerials while I am contemplating my snow plow…..do I need a bigger pie wedge?

Even though the ride on the open chairlift is FREEZING, I don’t want it to end, because the dismount is horrific. It never stops moving. You are simply expected to lift the safety bar at the precise moment, keep your ski tips up so they don’t catch the platform and pull you to a certain death, find the magical perfect moment to stand and let the chair push your legs gently forward off the lift, and ski gracefully down the dismount slope without running into that stranger that is 6 inches from your side.

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW HARD THAT IS???????

I found myself riding the lift with a woman about my age and her teenage daughter. This was an ideal scenario. It could have been a huge man or worse….a snowboarder.

I was proud of myself when I managed to dismount without killing my liftmates or myself.

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With my first run and my first lift ride under my belt, my confidence grew. I mapped out a plan for the morning, and spent the next few hours gliding competently (if not gracefully) down the intermediate slopes working my way toward the lift that would carry me to our lunch rendezvous spot.

I ran into Matt on my way to the Junction for lunch and we had time to do one run together. God bless him for not complaining about how slow I skied or how sissified the run was.

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We headed inside for drinks and burgers, and I felt like I had earned it!

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After lunch, Matt headed back to the blacks diamond runs and I decided I would ski for a couple more hours or until I got tired, whichever came first.

I was on my final run of the day. I was cold and my legs were starting to feel like wet pasta. I was patting myself on the back. No spills, no mishaps, and I had stayed out and skied almost the entire day…and I did it by myself.

I had taken my accustomed spot in the SINGLES line at the lift. And that is when it happened.

I was motioned forward by the attendant, indicating it was my turn to get on the lift. I looked to my right to see what stranger(s) I would be riding with. I blinked. I was certain there was a mistake.

I was standing beside two very small children.

Apparently, the attendant could smell my fear, because he quickly spoke up, “Their parents are behind you and have several more kids with them. Do you mind riding with these two?”

OF COURSE I MINDED! Did he think I knew how to converse with small people? I don't know anything about what kids like. Is Barney still a thing? And who was going to help them get off the lift? Even if they did fine, how was I supposed to get off the lift without killing them?

I simply nodded and found myself on the lift alone with Ava, who was 7, and Lawrence, who was 5. Seriously. These kids parents would have been better off to leave them in a cage with a wild hyena than to send them up a ski lift with me.

This could not possibly turn out well.

After 10 minutes of Ava singing all the songs she remembered from the car ride on the way over, Lawrence telling me about his breakfast, and both of them talking about the video game their aunt brought on the trip, I asked the necessary question, “Do you both know how to get off the lift?”

I was assuming some level of proficiency given that their parents sent them up with a stranger.

Lawrence waved his hand at me, “Oh yeah. We’ve been skiing for YEARS.”

YEARS he said.

When you are 5, that is a relative term.

I felt my heart start to pound in my chest as we approached the platform. What if I raised the safety bar too soon and one of them fell off? What if I raised it too late and they got trapped and fell off? What if I fell off?

I raised the bar. And waited.

And waited.

Oh dear, God. They weren’t getting off fast enough.

I was going to be trapped….doomed to ride back down in shame.

At the last possible minute, they slid off, leaving me no choice but to point myself in the opposite direction and leap off much later than was advisable. It was ugly, but I made it.

And the children survived.

Who said I’m not child friendly???

That was the point at which I decided to call it a day. One more run was certainly a disaster waiting to happen.

It had been a good day.

And it was about to get better.

I had a 4:00 appointment at the SPA.

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During the next 50 minutes, I forgot all about cold and lift lines and small, erratic children.

I had just enough time after my massage to get cleaned up and meet the group for our backcountry dinner adventure.

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We were handed helmets, given a brief (and unnecessarily stern) safety talk, and herded out to a line of very muddy Polaris RZRs. As our guys climbed in front, I shut my door and half of it fell off.

This was definitely going to be an adventure.

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We were led by a guide through the dark woods, about 2 miles, to a secluded little cabin that overlooked the valley. It was aglow with twinkling lights as the sun faded in the sky.

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Our small group was invited inside where a warm fire was burning in the fireplace and wine was being poured and handed around.

As the wine kept flowing, hot dishes of artichoke dip were brought out to enjoy with our fireside conversation.

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I literally wanted to dive face first into these adorable Mongolian fur pillows .

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After doing nothing more than enjoying several glasses of wine by the fire with our friends, we were told to be seated and our entrees were brought out along with baskets of hot, crusty bread with herbed butter.

There was more wine, lots of laughter, and the soft glow of the fire.

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After several hours, we were bundled back into our vehicles and we made the harrowing drive back through the woods.

It was a seriously awesome dinner.

We had tickets to a concert in the village after dinner and made it back just in time to find our way to the Shavers Centre and the Connections Nightclub.

Have you seen the movie Hot Tub Time Machine? Or any ski movie that was actually made in the 1980’s? The nightclub was a lot like that.

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It was so “old school ski resort” that it was almost cool.

Almost.

My favorite part of the show was the poster. Nothing beats a rainbow puking unicorn.

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After the first two songs, Matt and I decided that sleep sounded WAY more appealing than the band, so we headed in.

You know you are getting old when a good night’s sleep is far more appealing than a night out at a bar with a band.

I’m okay with that.

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We contemplated our options the next morning over breakfast.

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It was warm. Too warm.

The temps were going to be in the 50’s. The real snow that had ushered in our arrival was long gone and it was even too warm to make snow. The slush that yesterday’s warm afternoon created on the slopes had crusted overnight to a hard freeze.

Basically, skiing would mean a morning on ice that would turn into muddy slush at some point.

We decided to find other things to do.

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We shopped. We walked. We had lunch.

After a few lunch cocktails, we all decided to go tubing.

It was a brilliant idea.

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I love vacationing with people who don’t act their age.

We spent a leisurely afternoon with wine and books by the fire.

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Dinner was at the intimate Italian restaurant at our inn, just the two of us, with wine, mussels, crisp Caesar salads, and pasta.

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We met up with the group after dinner for drinks and a comedy show, which was surprising good.

We woke up to our final morning and I decided to go out with a BANG! and stuffed my face with the brunch cheeseburger. Why not?

It's never too early in the morning for a cheeseburger.

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Besides, I had managed to conquer my fear of the mountain despite being 10 years older and significantly less tolerant of pain or general discomfort, and I had done so without killing any small children.

Hooray for me!

The next time I am invited on a ski trip, however, someone please remind me that I prefer the beach.

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Posted by vicki_h 09:51 Archived in USA Tagged skiing snowshoe wv ski_trip Comments (2)

'Twas the Month Before Christmas...

‘Twas the month before Christmas, and deep in the hills;

I was looking for places to shake off the chills;

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Quick plans were made and the bags were brought down,

In hopes that we soon would go out of town;

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The puppies were nestled all snug in the plane,

While visions of merriment danced in their brains,

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We were loaded and ready, flying into the sun,

Headed east to the mountains for some quick winter fun-

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We landed in Flat Rock, delighted to see,

A cute little cabin, for Matt and for me.

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I barely had settled and took off my coat,

When what did I see? Well it was a goat!

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We rode into town filled with glorious stores,

And found Renzo’s Ristorante with pasta galore;

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And, what might be a perfect end to this day?

Why a twinkle of lights and great Christmas play.

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The next morning we woke and jumped in the car,

We headed to Asheville to pedal a bar.

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We sipped and we pedaled, we pedaled and sipped,

Then off for some shopping, we dashed and we skipped.

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“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,

“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donner and Blitzen;

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We heard someone shout and we just had to see,

Why, it wasn’t a reindeer, it only was ME!

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As our tummies grew empty, to Limones we ran,

For mussels, ceviche, and caipirinhas in hand;

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But so much fun had made our feet ache,

So we soaked our poor feet with massages at Wake.

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And then in a twinkling, we headed next door,

Where old books were waiting and champagne was poured.

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The next morning the fog was swirling ‘round slow,

As we headed for breakfast at nearby HenDough.

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The chicken was hot and the doughnuts were sweet,

And I ate and I ate, ‘til I just couldn’t eat.

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Then it was down to Georgia, for Christmas again,

At Barnsley Resort, with some of our friends;

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The place was glittering with Christmas decor,

We grabbed up the pups and went to explore;

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There was so much to do, that much did transpire,

We walked, and we shot, we drank wine by the fire.

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The light of the day passed into dim glow of night,

And we walked through the ruins with bright Christmas lights.

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With dinner in my belly and drinks in my hand,

And I couldn’t help but think, “My, this is grand;”

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The next day brought spa dates and pretzels and fun,

And long walks and donkeys, and little dog runs.

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And soon it was time to get dressed up, you see,

For a Christmas party that was so filled with glee.

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And before I knew it, it was already time,

For a final HUGE breakfast that was truly sublime.

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Then we sprung to the plane, it was time to go home,

And bring Christmas to our house, no more to roam.

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Then with my home in sight, I giggled with glee,

It was time to go looking for our Christmas tree.

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And I say to you all, it’s time for happy and bright,

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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Posted by vicki_h 08:41 Archived in USA Tagged christmas georgia asheville barnsley_resort pubcycle hendersonville flat_rock Comments (1)

Photo Blog: Fall Camping at Max Patch

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After my horrific experience in Napa Valley of falling down the escalator…..TWICE…I decided the best kind of trip would be one that was as far removed from modern technology as possible.

CAMPING!

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We decided to go to Max Patch near Hot Springs, NC. An easy 1.5 hour drive from home, Max Patch affords all of the awesomeness of backcountry camping with only a 20 minute hike. Of course, the hike is STRAIGHT UP, but one can endure anything for 20 minutes.

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Max Patch is a grassy summit at an elevation of 4629 feet. It has a tremendous 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains and is adjacent to the Appalachian Trail. It is also dog friendly, which certainly made the Roobs happy.

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We decided to pack up some friends, the pups, and do nothing but lounge in the sun, drink boxed wine, and sit by a crackling campfire while nature put on an amazing display for us.

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10 Things I learned while camping at Max Patch:

1) Invite friends with kids. They are very good for carrying stuff you don’t want to carry, cooking, and generally assigning tedious tasks to. It’s easy to trick small persons into thinking that picking up sticks for firewood is a game.

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2) Taking dogs can be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s a good thing because you don’t have to worry about any strange animals or weird people getting close to your tent while you are sleeping. It’s a bad thing because they literally bark each time the wind blows…because…you know….they want to keep you safe.

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3) Camping on a bald during a full moon is an extremely cool visual experience. It is, however, not an extremely cool bathroom experience. No shrubs, no trees, lots of bright light all night long. Do you see the problem?

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4) Feet expand when removed from hiking boots. The same law applies to tents and tent bags, clothing and backpacks, and sleeping bags and stuff sacks. Nothing that comes out of a backpack can ever go back in.

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5) When one is in a zipped up sleeping bag, the urgency of the need to relieve oneself is inversely proportional to the amount of clothing worn. It is also inversely proportional to the outside temperature and the degree to which the sleeping bag is completely zipped up.

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6) 98% of the stuff you lugged up that 20% incline that was called a “hiking trail” could have been left at home. The 2% left at home is what you really needed.

7) The agony of the hike up, the misery of setting up your tent and trying to remember how all the pieces go together, and the frustration of trying to cook an entire meal on a stove the size of your fist completely vanishes with the first glimpses of sunset.

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8) The agony of trying not to pee in the middle of the night when it is 40 degrees and the wind is blowing at 20 knots, difficulty of sleeping with every rock and stick on the mountain ending up under YOUR sleeping bag, and the worry of waking up every 37 minutes because you are certain you heard something outside completely vanishes with the first glimpse of sunrise.

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9) All food tastes better outside. Ditto for wine. Even boxed wine. Especially boxed wine.

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10) You will not sleep well. You will go home exhausted. You will be dirty and your hair will smell like a campfire. But it will be the best weekend ever.

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Posted by vicki_h 12:37 Archived in USA Tagged mountains camping north_carolina nc wnc max_patch Comments (4)

Bigfoot, beaten paths, and bubbly: A West Coast Road Trip 6

Arcata to Napa Valley: Will drive for wine.

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It was the final driving day of our trip. The hiking was over. A 4 ½ hour drive would carry us through more redwoods and park us in the land of wine and sunshine, where we would spend a couple of days eating and drinking our way through Napa Valley.

We stopped for breakfast at Los Bagels before leaving Arcata.

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At what is probably the only Jewish-Mexican bakery in the world, we found some deliciously creative bagels and strong coffee spiked with Mexican hot chocolate. It is probably also the only place in the world where you can buy knish, challah, rugalah, empanadas, and guacamole all under one roof.

I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to nosh and shmeer or simply shout “Que Delicioso!” and run out the door.

Before leaving Arcata, we stopped in at Wildberries Marketplace for picnic provisions.

We also made a quick stop at the drive-thru tree, because once you’ve seen the World’s Largest Oyster and a 60 foot Paul Bunyan and giant blue ox balls, you are pretty much obligated to drive through the Drive-Thru Tree.

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Best $5 I ever spent.

The sun was a dazzling ball of fire in the sky, the day was beautiful, and we were closing in on Napa Valley. The wine tasting would soon begin.

I started to get nervous.

I had a problem, you see. I knew how to drink wine (gulp, sip, swallow, repeat), but I had no idea how to taste wine. I could tell you if it was a red wine or a white wine. Maybe I could discern the difference between dry and fruity. But ask me if it’s a buttery wine or whether I can recognize an aftertaste of blackcurrant or tobacco?

Not so much.

In about an hour, I would be surrounded by people talking bouquets and appellations and macerations. I knew that there was a lot more to wine-tasting than how high to hold your pinkie.

I didn’t even know how to hold the glass properly. Temperature, smemperature. I tend to boorishly grasp the body of the glass like a running back heading for a touchdown rather than delicately holding the stem so that the heat from my body doesn’t affect the wine.

I am more the “I’m going to hold my glass however I fancy and commit to a life of drinking lukewarm wine and not give a crap” type of wine drinker. This serves me well when drinking wine from a plastic cup at the local BBQ place, but would make me stand out in Napa like a kazoo in a string quartet.

My wine taste also tends toward the unsophisticated. I am a fan of easy to drink red wine blends with clever names and labels that look like gothic horror scenes.

I am more:

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And less:

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In a panic, I quickly Googled “Wine Tasting.” I read a Wikihow on “How to pretend you have good taste in wine,” and I quickly memorized some important sounding words: jammy, tannins, stemmy, off-dry, viticulture, and unctuous so that I could rattle them off like I knew what I was talking about in hopes that no one noticed I knew nothing about wine tasting. I also only had to remember 3 basic steps: swirl, smell, sip.

As for the fourth “s”….”spit”….well, anyone who thought I was going to spit out perfectly good wine was just crazy. Besides, there is no way I could delicately spit out my wine. I would end up looking like a distressed camel and dribbling it down the front of my shirt. Sure, this meant my wine tasting would be more like a pub crawl, but I didn’t really see anything wrong with that.

Who doesn’t love a good pub crawl?

I had a plan. I would swirl. I would smell. I would sip. I would pretend it meant something. Anytime someone looked at me quizzically, I would just shout, “This vintage seems very fruit forward, rather flamboyant, don’t you think?” like someone with Tourette’s before quickly walking away.

I had this.

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Choosing from the seemingly infinite number of vineyards and wineries to decide where to visit had been overwhelming. There are over 400 wineries in Napa Valley. Because it was our first visit, I decided to base my selections on the “Wow!” factor. I wanted exceptional experiences. Each winery had to offer something beyond good wine. Wine be damned. Give me views, castles, and stone walls climbing with ivy.

Known as much for its architecture as its wine, Castillo di Amorosa definitely had a “wow” factor and was a perfect introduction to Napa Valley.

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Nestled in the hills just south of Calistoga in Napa Valley, Castillo di Amorosa was the labor of Dario Sattui, a 4th generation Italian winemaker who spent decades travelling and studying medieval castles and wineries in Europe. He started construction on the castle in 1994. The 121,000 square foot castle opened its doors to the public in 2007. There are 107 rooms, a Great Hall with 2-story replicas of Tuscan frescoes hand painted by Italian artists, a 500 year old fireplace, 8,000 tons of hand-chiseled stones, 8 levels, a drawbridge, a dungeon, a torture chamber, a medieval church, and an impressive wine barrel room with ancient Roman cross-vaulted ceilings.

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The “Castle of Love” seemed like a good place to start. It had a lot of “wow” factor, but also had a large and unpretentious tasting room that didn’t require reservations. This would be a good way to get our feet wet. We’d be wedged shoulder to shoulder with people trucked in on buses wearing flip flops and Pabst Blue Ribbon trucker caps. We couldn’t screw up there.

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We were surprised to find that it wasn’t very crowded. Where I expected something Vegas-esque, I found something quite charming.

There were relatively few people in the tasting cellar. We were quickly attended to by a flamboyant man with a pencil mustache, a purple silk pocket square, and a questionable accent.

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We were also surprised at the heavy pour.

Oh dear, sweet Lord. I could tell after the first stop that my winery itinerary was far too aggressive. It was simply not possible to do more than 2 wineries in a day, maybe 3 if you ate a lot of bread.

Unless you have a stomach pump hidden in your trunk.

Which I didn’t.

But secretly wished I did.

Napa Valley is Disneyland for alcoholics wine lovers.

We quickly crossed Chateau Montelena off the list, stopping only long enough to note how lovely it was, but passing on the wine tasting so that we would be able to survive our reservation tasting at Rombauer Vineyards.

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I would like to say I chose Rombauer because they are still a family operated winery after 35 years in business. Or because Koerner Rombauer’s great aunt Irma authored the internationally renowned cookbook the Joy of Cooking and that the winery appreciates the intimate relationship between food and wine. Or even because they embrace sustainable practices, even providing nesting boxes for barn owls who natuarally keep their vines free of pests.

But none of those things would be true.

I chose it because I really wanted to see this little hobbit door.

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The garden at Rombauer was delightful, with dramatic views of the Mayacamas Mountains, overflowing with flowers and plants, and filled with whimsical sculptures collected by the Rombauer family over the years. After our tasting, we purchased some wine and decided to have a picnic on the grounds.

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While Arcata had not shown me boobies, I had found a delightful selection at the small gourmet market there and we noshed on pasta salad, fresh fruit, marinated olives, garden salad, and two giant slabs of sweet bread while we enjoyed a perfect Napa Valley afternoon.

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After two tastings and a bottle of wine….we needed a little nap time.

We had chosen a private rental over the area hotels because it afforded us all of the amenities, plus complete privacy, for about half the cost. I am sorry to say that we were the very last short-term customers of this lovely pool house. The owners let us know that the local government had passed an ordinance that would prohibit future short term rentals of less than one month.

The pool bungalow was simply perfect.

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It even came with a very ferocious watchdog who parked herself at our front step. She is obviously well trained in the personal safety arts. Quite vicious, really. We felt very secure.

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We slept off our wine haze and woke up just in time for dinner.

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We had dinner reservations at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch.

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We dove enthusiastically into the Warm burrata with whole roasted garlic, estate olive oil and grilled bread and Grass-fed beef meatballs with caramelized onions, greens and tomato marmalade.

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Unable to resist the rich smoky smell of the grilling meat, Matt opted for the Heritage St. Louis ribs with green apple coleslaw while I went for the nightly special, a savory short rib with mashed potatoes and broccolini.

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Cocktails, wine, and a decadent Butterscotch pudding with almond cocoa nib streusel and house made ice cream rounded things out nicely.

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Drink wine all day. Eat all night.

I could get used to this.

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Our second day in Napa Valley was our only “full day” so we hit it with vigor.

We started the day off with brunch at Archetype, one of the most visually appealing restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.

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Strong coffee was in order.

I also found it necessary to order the largest stack of pancakes known to man, anticipating the amount of wine that might be consumed as the day progressed. I thought starting the day with a belly full of bread and sugar would certainly help.

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Matt’s waffle looked very nice, but I almost felt sorry for him as I shoveled another pancake in my mouth. This is the face of someone who just realized they misordered.

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We had 3 reservation tastings scheduled for the day and I was looking forward to each one.

First up was Kuleto Estates, which turned out to be our favorite winery overall from the trip.

Pat Kuleto had a vision of creating something akin to a Tuscan estate when he built his property high on top of a hill in Napa Valley. A restaurant designer by trade, Mr. Kuleto had a specific vision when he purchased the property and his vision became a stunning reality.

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After entering the gated estate, we snaked slowly up the 2 mile road that led to the winery sitting on top of a mountain with a vista of all of Napa below. Mr. Kuleto still owns the villa on the property but sold the winery and much of the land to Foley Family Vineyards who operate the winery tours, limited to only 6 guests by advance reservation only.

We found the actual winery was located at an elevation of nearly 1600 feet. The surrounding slopes were planted with vineyards. We were told that all wines made at Kuleto are Estate wines, with total production around 7,000 cases each year.

We were each handed a glass of wine to sip as we were given a lengthy tour of the property. The winery and surrounding property were stunning.

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After the tour, we were seated on a huge shady stone terrace covered with a grape arbor. The tables were long, warmly worn wooden tables and we each had a variety of glasses.

The wine tasting was long, detailed, friendly, and plentiful. There were plates of cheese to accompany each selection. One of the more experienced tasters in our group was able to convince our host to bring out a couple of bottles of their reserve wine and let us sample them after our tasting was over.

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What was missing was the snobbery and judgment that I had expected. I felt like I was drinking with friends.

This is where I learned why Napa Valley wineries are a heavy pour.

The wine clubs.

It is so hard to resist joining the wine club after several glasses of their delicious wine. You can’t help but find yourselves huddled together convincing each other that you really need continued access to this wine at home.

“We can’t buy this in stores, you know.”

“They only make 329 bottles of this wine each year.”

“It’s only $600 for 3 bottles. That seems like a good deal.”

“I can’t live without it. I just can’t.”

Somehow, we managed to avoid the wine clubs, but we did order some wonderful bottles that would follow us home and give us something special to look forward to once we had returned to the land of cheap table wine and the occasional bottle of Five Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's.

We spent several hours at Kuleto before it was time to head back down into the valley.

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Several people had recommend V. Sattui as a winery that would be a good stop if we wanted to fit something in between reservations. We had some time to kill before our second reservation, so we stopped at V. Sattui on the way.

The only thing I saw at V. Sattui that I liked was the exit sign.

Maybe I had ruined it by visiting such a quiet and exclusive winery first, setting my expectations a little high. Or maybe I simply visited V. Sattui at the wrong time, a time when no fewer than 20 tour buses lined the parking lot and visitors swarmed the property like ants, gobbling up overpriced jars of jam and snatching up cheese in the deli like they were free samples at Costco.

It was a touristy messfest.

The tasting room was out of the question. There were hundreds of people, all shoving their glasses to the front of the counter for a $10 taste, and then scooping up a baguette and an overpriced baseball cap before running outside to the barbecue to take a selfie. We quickly fought our way through the crowd to buy some picnic provisions before making a run for it.

It was a beautiful property, though. I wish I had visited on a less heavily trafficked day.

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We took our picnic supplies and made the short drive to Rutherford Hill where we had a reserve tasting as well as a table in their private oak grove picnic area.

Rutherford Hill was a quiet change of pace after the madness of V. Sattui.

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We enjoyed a leisurely tasting and purchased 2 bottles which gave us access to their private picnic area. There we tucked into the warm sunshine while enjoying smoked trout, cheese, artisan crackers, grapes, olives, sun dried tomatoes, and a delightful little red velvet cake.

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And Trader Joe’s Bacon Jam. Sweet, spreadable bacon in a jar. God bless America.

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Oh, and one of those baguettes that I had wrenched from the hands of some lady in a “I heart Minnesota” shirt as I ran screaming from the deli.

After our late afternoon lunch – now 12 robust samples and the best part of two full bottles down – we continued on to the fourth and final winery.

To be honest, my memory of this last stop is a little hazy. I recall standing in a wonderful sunny courtyard filled with waving lavender and staring into a giant mirror ball. There was a giant camel there. I am sure of it. And I would think I imagined the large wall covered with bits of bedazzled sweaters, but I have photographic evidence.

While a giant mirror ball, large camel, and bedazzled wall might sound like the ramblings of a drunken stupor, they were simply lovely parts of the artistic campus of Hall Wines.

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I recall the sunlight dazzling through the vineyard as we were taken on a sunset tour at Hall Wines and I remember having my glass regularly filled and refilled and refilled again with wine which, by this stage of the day, all tasted fairly similar and simply amazing. We sampled grapes from the vineyard and wine straight from the barrel.

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There were lots of sparkling lights.

And gobs of wine.

And sun.

And giant shiny rabbits.

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That my friends, is the perfect description of the final winery tour on any given Saturday in Napa Valley.

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There was nothing left to do but try to soak up some of the alcohol with greasy burgers, fries, and milkshakes and no better place to do it than Gott’s Roadside.

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I still have dreams about that cheeseburger.

As we drove up the mountain toward our little bungalow, the sky faded from blazing sunlight to a cool orange and another sun drenched day in Napa Valley came to a close.

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It’s hard to imagine, but my first thought the next morning was “Where should be go for our first tasting?” I purposefully avoided making any reservations for our final day because 1) I had no idea how hung over we’d be and 2) We had an afternoon flight to catch back to Seattle and I didn’t want to miss it. We had decided to play it by ear and fly by the seat of our wine soaked pants.

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Because I love the bubbles, I couldn’t leave Napa Valley without sampling some sparkling wine. I chose Mumm winery because it opened early for those that wanted to drink for breakfast and because it didn’t require a reservation.

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And because they interpret “sample” as “pour a full glass.”

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I also loved the fact that a tasting at Mumm is served at a table on their outdoor patio rather than indoors at a tasting counter. Matt does not drink sparkling wine, so he was content ordering a glass of Pinot Noir and watching me consume 4 full glasses of sparkling wine at 10:00 a.m. on an empty stomach.

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Maybe not my brightest moment, but when in Napa…..

After 4 glasses of bubbly with no breakfast, I was in desperate need of food, so we stopped in at Addendum, an adorable little add-on behind Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant in Yountville. I knew that for $16.50, one could get a basket of the same famous buttermilk fried chicken sold in the restaurant (or ribs!) and eat it at a picnic table with two sides, cornbread, and a plastic cup filled with wine.

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Because I needed another glass of wine.

We had about 2 hours to kill before heading to the airport, so we decided to drop in at Whetstone Wine Cellars. I had really wanted to visit Whetstone because they had a relaxed approach to winetasting that really appealed to me.

I was nervous because it’s a “call ahead” place and we had not, in fact, “called ahead.”

My uber nerd alarm was pinging as we walked across the grassy lawn lined with shady live oaks toward the 1885 French-style chateau that serves as the winery. I knew we were going to be rejected.

Instead, we were immediately greeted by Ace, the Ambassador of Whetstone, and his ball. and told by the staff to find a seat anywhere we liked. Only one other table was occupied, so there were plenty of tables on the lawn to choose from. We chose a couple of seats under a leafy tree.

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A staff member immediately showed up with a bowl of completely addictive rosemary salted almonds and asked if we’d like to do a tasting of if we’d simply like some wine. We chose a bottle of the 2015 Jon Boat Pinot Noir and she promptly brought it over.

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This was my favorite wine, by far. And, while Whetstone lacked the drama and views of Kuleto, the laid back coolness of the place appealed to me. This was definitely my favorite experience overall.

We lingered in the sunshine, liking salt off our fingertips, wrestling Ace’s slobbery ball out of his mouth, and swirling the decadent Pinot Noir in our glasses as long as we could.

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But magical moments are just that….moments, and too soon, they pass.

We were thrust cruelly from the sun dappled enchantment of a wine hazed afternoon into the trauma of the Sacramento airport, filled with screaming children, lines, and carts blaring their horns for us to get out of the way.

Just to sweeten the deal, we discovered our flight, purchased on American, was a “code share” flight and this required us to drag 4 suitcases and 2 backpacks from the American terminal to the Alaska Airlines terminal….in another building.

This would have been an impossible feat of agility had I been sober. However, after 4 glasses of sparkling wine, one Solo cup of Pinot Grigio, and half a bottle of Pinot Noir, it was a disaster in the making.

I can barely get on an escalator when I am sober and am only in charge of my person. When I am forced to roll my carryon suitcase onto the escalator with me, it takes on a special level of awkwardness.

But ask me to get on with my rolling carryon, a backpack, and a large rolling suitcase after spending the morning drinking bounteous glasses of wine? Absurd.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in admitting I am afraid of getting on escalators. It’s not like I am telling you I wet the bed. Escalators are six-ton moving machines with teeth. You may as well be asking me to jump on a moving bus.

When forced to get on an escalator, it’s not like I scream or cry or make a scene, but I do hesitate just long enough for the people behind me to get annoyed. As each riser pops out, I feel like there is only one optimum time to commit and step on and if I miss that precise moment, I will end up on a half-step, will lose my balance, and will catapult to my death at the bottom of the escalator. So…I stand there for too long, waiting for exactly the right moment to commit.

Getting on at the airport is the worst, because I not only have to worry about getting my body onto the right step, but I have to pull a suitcase (or in this case TWO SUITCASES), onto a step behind me. If I pull it on wrong, it will crash into me from behind and I will catapult to my death at the bottom of the escalator. If I push it on before me and then miss my optimum step, the gap will be too large and the suitcase will inevitably pull me forward and I will catapult to my death at the bottom of the escalator.

It’s die if you do or die if you don’t.

I was standing at the top of the escalator contemplating this impossible conundrum when I realized that the reality of two suitcases meant I would not have a free hand for the absolutely essential death grip on the railing.

This was madness.

I could spend the rest of my life at the American Airlines gate and simply live out of my suitcase until I ran out of clean underpants…or I could step onto that escalator.

It was do or die time.

I watched carefully. I saw the right moment. I stepped.

And I fell all the way down the entire escalator with two suitcases.

And it was not a pretty fall, like the kind damsels do in the movies. It was ugly. Beastly ugly. It was all knees and elbows and ugly faces framed by giant suitcases.

I would like to say this is the end of the story, but there was another escalator at the Alaska Airlines terminal and I fell down it too.

This did not help my fear of escalators.

I will be doomed to staircases for the rest of my life.

Until next time...keep your wine glass full and avoid escalators, friends!

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Posted by vicki_h 05:15 Archived in USA Tagged oregon northwest washington napa rainier olympic redwoods west_coast pacific_northwest Comments (4)

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