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I'm Dreaming of a Wet Christmas

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Matt and I enjoyed spending Christmas at a cabin in Sapphire, NC so much last year, that we decided to do it again this year. What we didn’t know was that the entire Southeast would be experiencing the most bizarre Christmas weather on record.

My visions of a white Christmas, of gazing out at snow frosted trees stretching as far as the eye could see while curling up next to a roaring fire were replaced with….

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Okay, so maybe the weather wasn’t entirely cooperative, and maybe I spent much of Christmas wondering if we were going to get washed down the mountainside in a mudslide, but even the weather couldn’t put a damper on our Christmas spirit, especially when spent at such a wonderful place.

Because we did nothing more than sit inside by the fire and stuff ourselves with Christmas cookies for 4 days, there isn’t much of a story to tell, but this place was so exquisitely cozy and lovely, that I feel compelled to share the highlight reel.

Here's the Christmas in Sapphire Top 10:

#1: Buying a Christmas tree from Tom Sawyer Tree Farm. Sure, I had already put up 4 trees at home, but what's one more, right?

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#2: Sapphire Heaven, the most wonderful cabin on the planet.

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#3: Cozying up by the fire with hot coffee, hot chocolate, cocktails, or my sweet pups.

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#4. Making goodies in the coolest cabin kitchen ever.

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(While I would love to take credit for this amazing red velvet cake, the credit goes to Magpies Bakery. All I did was make the trees! But hey, they are pretty awesome!)

#5. Wonderful dinner at Table 64 in Cashiers, NC.

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#6. Christmas Eve at the Log Cabin Restaurant in Highlands, NC.

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#7. Never getting out of our PJs on Christmas Day.

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#8. Christmas Dinner at the cabin, decorating with whatever I could find.

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#9. One beautiful day where the sun came out and we were able to host Matt's family for lunch (just before the torrential rains returned!).

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#10. A lovely dinner with Matt's mom at The Orchard in Cashiers.

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I hope each and every one of you enjoyed a very Merry Christmas and that the New Year brings you much joy and happiness!

Posted by vicki_h 08:47 Archived in USA Tagged mountains highlands north_carolina rustic blue_ridge sapphire cashiers log_cabin Comments (1)

It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas

A pre-holiday weekend at Barnsley Resort

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Nothing gets you in the mood for Christmas like a quaint English village festively decorated with an extraordinary number of Christmas trees, countless twinkling lights, and a firepit on every corner. That’s exactly what we found at Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, GA when we were invited to spend a weekend just weeks before Christmas.

The history of the property was a story in itself. A story of love, despair, restoration and hope, it read like something from a historical romance novel.

The original Barnsley Estate was a dazzling mansion named Woodland, built by Godfrey Barnsley, an extremely wealthy cotton broker, for his true love, Julia. Godfrey ignored the Indian legend that said the land was cursed and he began construction on the graceful Italianate villa and its elaborate gardens in the mid 1800’s, only to have Julia fall ill and die before the home was ever finished. In his grief, Godfrey ceased work on the grand manor house.

He resumed construction when Julia visited him in a dream and told him to finish the home for their children. The house was completed and Godfrey lived there with the children but a series of calamities befell them. First, his infant son died, followed by his daughter. Chinese pirates killed another son. The house was then severely damaged during the Civil War. Finally, Godfrey left the estate for New Orleans, to try to rebuild his ruined fortune (he never did). His daughter, Julia, remained at the house. Her husband was crushed by a falling tree. Julia's daughter, Adelaide married and returned to the house, but her husband died shortly thereafter.

In 1906, a tornado damaged the lovely house, ripping away the roof, forcing Miss Addie to move into the kitchen wing with her sons as the house fell into ruin around her. One of her sons, Preston, grew to be a prize fighter, but sustained a serious head injury and was institutionalized. He escaped from the institution, returned to the cursed estate, and gunned down his brother, who died in Miss Addie's arms.

Miss Addie lost her love of the estate and let it fall into neglect. When she died in 1942, the house was roofless and crumbling, it's once beautiful walls now buried in vines and kudzu.

The estate was auctioned off and the land was used for farming for several decades as what remained of the manor house crumbled, and the beautiful gardens grew wild.

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The gardens and manor house proceeded to fall into disrepair. In 1988, a Bavarian prince purchased the dilapidated estate and its 4,000 acres and asked the Cherokee Indians to bless the land and remove the curse. He then revived and expanded the gardens and salvaged the ruins of the once beautiful home. Over time, it has been developed into a beautiful resort, built to resemble a quaint English village, with a central Town Hall and adorable cottages that house the resort’s cozy guest suites.

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With no idea what to expect, we were absolutely enchanted when we pulled onto the property. “Quaint” is simply inadequate. Barnsley’s charms were immediate. We were assaulted by a tasteful display of extraordinary Christmas décor, delightful cottages that looked like something from a fairy tale, and an enormous suite in a cottage that would have put a smile on even the Grinch’s face.

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The property was opulent, without being overdone. It felt genteel, elegant, and genuine. Nothing felt contrived or counterfeit. It was truly like stepping into another time and place, a place where Christmas reigned supreme.

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We got settled and set off to find the Wine Snob’s social hour. The Wine Snob is the gentleman's actual job title at Barnsley. His only purpose is to ensure you enjoy your wine while you are there. On Friday evenings, he hosts a complimentary social hour where he selects a few choice wines that he offers with fruit and cheese for your sampling pleasure.

Wine tastings make me a little nervous. I was afraid it was going to be like our experience with the sommelier at Blackberry Farm, who was so offended by our cheap wine choice (at $95 I didn’t really consider it cheap….) that he refused to even pour it himself and sent the waiter over to do the dirty work.

I was worried I wouldn’t sniff it properly or that my pre-sip swirl would lack the verve with which a true wine connoisseur would approach it.

Even if I managed to sniff, swirl, swoosh, and sip properly, what if he asked me for commentary? What would I say?????

I could just hear myself, “It has hints of frankenberry and bitter clown tears. I think it would pair nicely with a mild bout of depression.”

Would he be able to look into my eyes and know there was a time when the only wine I would drink came in a plastic bottle with a screw top?

Wine Snob.

It sounded so intimidating.

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I am happy to report that the Wine Snob was anything BUT a snob. He was the sweetest man EVER. He didn’t mind that we were not sophisticated wine drinkers and proceeded to provide us with a stellar tasting of two very unique wines, despite the fact that it was pretty obvious our taste currently resides in the $12 range.

With time to kill before dinner, we walked the grounds and marveled at the old world ambience and how simply gorgeous everything was.

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We found ourselves at K.O. Dugan’s Tavern, a rustic bar named after prizefighter K.O. Dugan, the great-grandson of Godfrey Barnsley (yes, the one that shot his brother). Filled with leather club chairs and a stone fireplace, it also sported an excellent selection of fine scotch and bourbon.

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We spent too much time at Dugan’s getting holly jolly, and missed the evening s’mores. Yes, in the evening, the resort sets out complimentary s’mores makings at the fire pits.

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HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED THE S’MORES?????

No matter, it was time for dinner.

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Dinner was at the Rice House, the resort’s fine dining restaurant located in one of the historic homes on the property. The white glove treatment that we had been enjoying so far throughout Barnsley Resort continued as we were seated before a roaring fireplace.

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We opted for the prix-fixe four course menu, and as we typically do, we chose almost the same four courses, deviating only on the main entrée.

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We both started with the apple cider brined plantation quail served over course ground grits with a fall vegetable “nest,”, sorghum-jalapeno, and quail jus.

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For seconds, we both had the vanilla poached Maine lobster with cheese, local apple, garden herb wafers, grapes, corn salad, Woodford sea salt, and truffle aioli.

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For our main, Matt had the bison ribeye, while I had the nightly special which was an extraordinary pork loin. We both agreed that, while both were excellent, mine was the winner.

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For dessert, we both ordered the Georgia pecan pie with bourbon-soaked pecans, sea salt, and dulce de leche gelato.

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We made the leisurely walk back to our cottage, drinking in the beautiful Christmas lights along the way.

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The next morning, we slept in. We had a 10:00 spa appointment, so there was no reason to be in a hurry.

We grabbed breakfast at the casual Woodlands Grill before heading to the spa. Like everything else at the resort, it was draped in garland, lights, and wreaths, making us feel like we were part of a Christmas parade, everywhere we went.

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They had an ENORMOUS breakfast buffet, but I didn’t want to eat that much food before a massage. Eat a bunch of food and then have someone push around on you? No thanks. That’s an awkward moment just waiting to happen.

It didn’t stop Matt.

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The next hour was spent at the spa getting a wonderfully relaxing massage.

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Because he was willing to go to the spa with me, I had agreed to go sport shooting with Matt. Barnsley is well-renowned for their gentlemen’s shooting club. It offers sporting clays as well as a variety of wildlife hunts in the nearby woods.

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Matt was doing the 100 clay shooting course, which was set up on 15 stations throughout the forest. It was a gorgeous day, so I asked if I could tag along.

Each station had two clay throwers and included 6 – 8 shots using a Caesar Guerini over and under shotgun.

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Matt finally talked me into trying to shoot one clay. The 12-gauge shotgun only weighed 8 lbs. but it could have weighed 40, for all I could do to lift it. Despite the number of times I assured Matt and our guide that this wasn’t a good idea, they insisted I try to hit a target.

Can you believe I hit it? I couldn’t. I know they couldn’t.

I immediately retired from my brief clay shooting career while my record was 100%.

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It was such a gorgeous and unseasonably warm day, that we wanted to stay outdoors as long as possible. We decided to visit the Barnsley equestrian center. Matt had never ridden a horse.

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No, riding a pony at the county fair does not count.

As they saddled up a couple of horses, we visited with the other guests of the barn.

There was an adorably fat goat, a miniature white donkey and horse who were obviously inseparable, and a little pig that was so fast, it’s picture was nothing more than a pink blur.

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I’m happy to report that Matt’s first trail ride went extremely well. Thankfully, I was paired with the “lively” horse who preferred to drop far behind the other two before taking off at a spirited gallop until he caught back up. “If you don’t watch him,” the guide said, “He’ll bite the other horse in the butt when he catches back up. That’s just what he likes to do.”

Great.

He also liked to rub his body all over the hay bales in the field, like an oversized cat with a scratching post.

“Just lift your feet up on top of the saddle until he’s done,” our guide kept telling me, “Or he’ll get hay all over ya’.”

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I left a little stiffer and a lot smellier than I arrived.

After our ride, we took a walk through the remains of the estate house and the gardens. The house had lovely decorations inside and it gave it a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere. Julia never saw her house, but they put a tree up in her parlor every year.

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We grabbed a late bite at the Beer Garden, Barnsley’s choice for casual al-fresco dining. It was the place for craft brews, giant pretzels, bratwurst, and fresh grilled burgers covered with gooey cheese.

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We lounged in the afternoon sunshine until it was time to get ready for the Christmas party. Our weekend invitation to Barnsley was a gift from one of Matt’s generous charter clients and it included an invitation to their formal Christmas party.

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I’d love to tell you all about it but,

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Well, almost.

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Sunday morning came too soon, mainly because we’d been dancing until the wee hours of the morning with our good friends Jose and Jack, but also because we were loath to leave this beautiful property.

With no spa appointment or tight dress to squeeze into later, I dove headfirst into the breakfast buffet.

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We took a final stroll through the property.

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There was nothing left to do but head home. Goodbye giant Santa and his rabbit! Farewell huge Christmas tree! Au Revoir Wine Snob and fat goat!

You threw me all the Christmas spirit you had and now I’m ready for old Kris Kringle, goodwill towards mankind, and all things merry and bright!

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Next Stop? A return to the Christmas Cabin in Sapphire, NC....

Posted by vicki_h 09:39 Archived in USA Tagged georgia ga adairsville barnsley_gardens barnsley_resort Comments (2)

Let the Shenanigans Begin: Girls Weekend Asheville!

When Matt told me he was going on a duck hunting trip with the guys in November, I knew it was time to plan a girls’ weekend. Travel in our household must be fair and equitable. It was necessary to keep the balance.

I immediately sent the Batsignal into the sky to alert the girls.

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Bags were packed, credit cards were shined up, and husbands were kissed goodbye. We left with modest goals: laugh, shop, and eat. With only 48 hours, it was best to keep things realistic. Finding a cure for cellulite or mastering Italian wasn’t within the realm of possibilities. This trip was for us. It was for reconnecting, renewing our bonds, and wearing pink wigs while drinking copious amounts of wine and beer.

We were headed to Asheville. Asheville has a walkable downtown that is packed with almost 100 eateries in only 1 square mile with everything from Indian street food to classic Carolina barbeque, two dozen breweries (it’s not nicknamed Beer City, USA for nothing), countless craft bars, and endless shopping. It was a perfect location, only 2 hours from home, where everything we wanted was stumbling distance from our loft.

We headed over in 2 cars in an attempt to minimize the mayhem that having all of us in one vehicle might create. This attempt was unsuccessful. Mayhem began almost immediately.

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My crew arrived slightly before the other car, and it was too early to check in at the loft, so we made the short walk to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge to kill an hour. We also managed to kill 2 glasses of wine, a cider float, and a dark chocolate pot de crème. Also massacred were my genuine intentions to “eat reasonably” on this trip.

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It was obvious that I would simply have to rationalize my eating. Chocolate comes from cocoa. Which is a tree. That makes it a plant. So chocolate is a salad.

It was a crisp fall weekend and fun was in the air.

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Within an hour, the rest of our group had arrived and we were able to meet at the Lofts at 16 Church for our check-in. Because our trip had been planned at the last minute (one needs a lot of advance planning time to book a place in Asheville, NC for a fall weekend), we couldn’t find a place large enough to accommodate all 7 of us. So, we had opted for 2 adjacent lofts.

It was perfect. The lofts were roomy and beautifully decorated. They also offered us some privacy and separation from one another in the event that we felt it necessary to segregate and talk about each other before the weekend was over.

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The original plan involved a 9:30 p.m. dinner reservation at the Admiral so that we could stay late and enjoy the “funky dance party” that takes place around 10:30.

I should have known that “plans” were not going to work with 7 women. At precisely 6:37 p.m. I received the following text from the downstairs loft:

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You don’t tell an apartment full of hungry women that they should just eat some crackers because dinner will be in 2 hours and 53 minutes.

Reservations were quickly cancelled and we made the short walk to Salsas. There would be a wait anywhere at this point, but at least we knew at Salsas we could get some chips to hold everyone over so that we didn’t have a “hangry” incident (hungry + angry = not good).

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Salsas had a cool outside window where we could order margaritas and chips and salsa while we waited for a table.

Salsas was a small, cozy restaurant that touted itself as “Mexican Caribbean.”

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The menu was a smorgasboard of things we couldn’t pronounce and didn’t understand, but that sounded delicious: molcajetes, pom pom poms, paquetes….we didn’t know where to begin.

We started things off with the Anafre Bean Dip, a savory mix of beans, ancho sauce, avocado sauce, queso, sour cream, and pico de gallo served with giant, warm corn chips.

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I went safe with the slow roasted pork quesadilla, but I have to give kudos to Alison who went bold with the pom pom pom, which turned out to be a pile of awesomeness crammed into a giant Puerto Rican pilon.

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After dinner, we grabbed some cocktails at MG Road, but even as mesmerizing as the giant disco ball was, we were tired from travel day and called it a night.

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Our original plans for breakfast the next morning were to head to Biscuit Head, but when we got up, we decided to find someplace that didn’t require driving. I mean, that WAS the point of staying downtown, after all.

I made a quick change and diverted us to Mayfel’s (SEE….I CAN be flexible. I can.)

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Mayfel’s is an eclectic little place that serves up some of the finest southern cooking in Asheville, served with a side of funky.

Breakfast started off with beignets and mimosas, or champagne for those of us who don’t really see any reason to mess up a perfectly good glass of bubbly with pulp. The beignets were warm and crispy on the outside and soft and doughy on the inside, dusted with powdered sugar and served with jam. They were almost as good as the ones from Café du Monde, but came without the mimes and trombone players or the hoarde of onlookers with cameras and sun visors glaring at you from the line on the street.

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The best things about breakfast at Mayfel’s: 1) You can order southern sides like collard greens and fried okra with breakfast and 2) the biscuits are as big as your head.

I had a giant biscuit topped with fried chicken and slathered in creamy sausage gravy with a side of smoked collard greens.

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I ate the whole thing because I didn’t want to look back later and say, “I could have eaten that.” I just can’t live with that kind of remorse.

It was time to do some shopping, so we headed down Wall St. only to find that some mad knitter had gone and covered everything with sweaters. Seriously. There were sweaters on the light poles, sweaters on the parking meters, there was even a sweater on the giant iron. The yarn bombers appeared to have left nothing uncovered.

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We spent the next few hours browsing through Asheville's quaint downtown, filled with unique shops, artisans, and street performers. As we shopped, everyone found something that matched her personality.

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After we were all shopped out (okay, that was a joke – that never really happens), I had a surprise for everyone. I had told all the girls to bring hats, wigs, boas…whatever tacky crap they had in their closet and throw it on.

Seriously, why do they always do what I ask? It’s like magic.

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WE WERE GOING ON THE AMAZING PUBCYCLE!!!!

What is the Amazing Pubcycle, you ask? Why, it’s a pedaling bar that blasts awesome retro music while you pedal around the city with drinks.

Why the costumes, you ask? Why, to add to the fun and levity of it all (or possibly so that no one would recognize us, should someone we actually knew be in the vicinity of said Pubcycle).

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I can hear you now, “Let me get this straight…You’re drank while pedaling your way through the city on a moving bar? How was this possibly a good idea?”

Because there's nothing quite like pedaling a giant mass of steel and wood uphill to the tune of cheesy '80s music while two fisting a beer or solo cup filled with wine. Everyone we passed….the drivers, shoppers, pedestrians, cyclers…..couldn't decide whether to laugh or be jealous and stare in awe. (Jealous. They were definitely jealous.)

Sure, our thighs were burning a little, but that was nothing a few drinks and a rousing chorus of "Girls Just Wanna' Have Fun" couldn't fix.

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I wasn’t sure how this was legal, but I didn’t care. It was a helluva lot of fun. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it.

At least until we ran out of drinks. And then it was a bit like being in the gym, tipsy, if the gym was in the middle of the street.

As with all good things, the Amazing Pubcycle eventually came to an end and despite attempts at bribery, crying, and clinging to our seats, we had to get off.

It was someone else's turn.

And to avoid an uncomfortable scene where the bride-to-be and her bachelorette party starting beating us off the Pubcycle seats with their giant inflatable penis, we made the wise decision to scoot.

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We ran all the way to Barley's for pizza.

All the way across the street.

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After pizza, it was a quick change back into our respectable selves for a trip to the Battery Park Book Exchange, a delightful combination of champagne bar and old book store.

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After the champagne, I had another surprise for the girls. We were heading to the Wake Foot Sanctuary to reward our tired tooties for all the shopping and pedaling they had done that day.

None of us really knew what to expect. We were a little leery and after a few glasses of champagne, not sure how seriously we could take a foot spa.

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I turned out to be AMAZING.

I can't recommend this place enough.

We were each changed into slippers and ushered into a quiet oasis - a dark room filled with large comfy chairs, each with its own giant copper tub of warm sudsy foot soak. While getting a foot soak, each of us also had someone simultaneously giving us a head/neck/shoulder massage or a foot/leg massage, depending on our preference.

Wake was able to transition 7 loud, laughing, wound-up women into silence, relaxation, and serenity in a matter of moments. We all agreed it was one of the most awesome things ever.

It had been a pretty fabulous day. The only thing that could wrap this party up was a quest for the best burger in Asheville. We found it at the Rankin Vault Cocktail Lounge. This tiny hole-in-the-wall served up a monster of a burger with a giant side of tater tots.

The burger was a an oozing mess of cheese and bacon and it was absolute perfection.

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After that, the girls were nestled all snug in their beds while visions of tater tots danced in their heads.

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Sunday morning brought one final carb-loaded breakfast and Early Girl Eatery served it up just right in the form of the Porky Bowl, filled with grits, fried potatoes, barbecue pork, and an egg coated with Benton's Bacon gravy served with a giant biscuit and a gob of gooey blueberry jam.

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It was a delicious ending to a decadent weekend.

It was that kind of weekend where, when someone at work on Monday asks you what you did over the weekend, your first response is, "Why? What did you hear?", that kind of weekend that puts a smile on your face for the next 5 days, that kind of weekend that makes you laugh until you pee a little.

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Here's to the girls!

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What's Next??? Come with us as we escape to Tortola!

Posted by vicki_h 13:11 Archived in USA Tagged mountains north_carolina nc asheville girls_weekend girls_trip Comments (0)

Into the Woods: Unplugging in Big South Fork

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Picture yourself trapped in the middle of the woods without electricity, wi-fi, or cell phone service. You have no car. The only way to get out is to hike through the woods for miles until you reach a dirt road….a dirt road with nothing on it for 4 miles.

No, this is not a story about how Matt and I crashed the plane and foraged our way through the wilderness surviving on pine cones and crickets. This is a story about our recent vacation “off the grid” at Charit Creek Lodge in Big South Fork, although, no weekend that begins by hiking your luggage in on a 2 mile trail can really be called a “vacation.”

I have tried and failed to wean Matt from his technology addiction. Even on vacation, he is continuously plugged in. The photos below demonstrate the severity of his dependence on electronic things and the difficult challenge that I face.

Matt on his phone in Hawaii:

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Matt on his phone in the BVI:

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Matt on his phone in Philly:

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Matt on his iPad on Jost Van Dyke:

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Matt on his phone in Italy:

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Okay, so he's not actually on the phone in that photo. I just wanted you to see that he's reading Twilight, because that's funny stuff.

Matt on his phone at the Chattanooga Aquarium (as evidenced by the "flip phone," this problem has been ongoing for quite some time.....):

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Matt on his phone in Anguilla with a curious donkey looking on - I'm pretty sure the donkey is saying, "Man, what are you DOING?"

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The only way to uplug Matt is to take him somewhere with no cell phone service and no wi-fi. If there is no electricity and the nearest road is at least a 2 hour walk….all the better.

When I stumbled upon a description of the Charit Creek Lodge, I was immediately intrigued.

"Charit Creek Lodge is a rustic wilderness lodge located in a valley in the heart of Big South Fork. While reasonably accessible, it is both peacefully isolated and remote. It is accessible by hiking, biking or horseback only. The lodge is a wonderful place to escape the modern world. The lodge is completely off the grid with no wi-fi, phones, or electricity. Hand-built fences zigzag the collective area, encasing it within a hollow, emerald grassland peppered with wildflowers. All cabins offer toasty, wood-burning stoves and comfortable bedding. Every meal is fully-prepared beforehand by the staff, dinner experienced by the comely flicker of kerosene lamps. Chosen foods are familiar to Southern, home-style cuisine, featured plates ranging from cornbread and cast iron fried chicken, candied yams and spicy turnip greens, and fresh chocolate cake or apple pie. Bellies filled, residents may proceed to the rocking chairs upon the decks to stargaze into the infinitesimal beauty of the Cosmos, exceedingly clear amongst the solitude of nature. Novels may be read by candlelight or roaring fires kindled outside, all the while listening to the chorus of cicadas, glow bugs streaking the star-ridden sky above. The experience of Charit Creek Lodge is true charm. It offers a classical feel like no other. It returns visitors to their center, their sense of peace and belonging in the world. The spirit becomes reawakened by the placidity of nature in this place, and after gazing back in time here, one returns to the daily grind at home increasingly self-aware."

Forget the placidity of nature and the reawakened spirit. They had me at fried chicken and apple pie.

Friday:

The drive from Knoxville to the remote dirt road where we would access the hiking trail was about 3 hours, so we grabbed a pizza and hit the road, boots and backpacks loaded and ready.

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It was a perfect fall day with a clear blue sky and leaves at their peak.

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The drive took us through Rugby, TN. I don’t know how I have lived in Tennessee for 25 years without hearing about Rugby.

Rugby was founded by Thomas Hughes, the novelist famous for Tom Brown’s School Days (don’t feel bad, I haven’t heard of it either). Hughes was an idealist who founded the town to provide a place for the younger sons of titled English nobility and give them a means of gainful employment. Because their elder brothers inherited the family wealth and titles, these youth were dependent on handouts from the family patriarch yet were prohibited by social custom from actual employment. So these younger sons wasted their days drinking, gambling and chasing after loose women.

Hughes’ idea was to provide a place of their own, where they could learn a trade and be productive members of society. He funded the construction of a little Victorian English village in the Southern highlands of Tennessee. At its peak Rugby had 65 buildings, more than 350 residents, a large inn, a weekly newspaper, tennis courts, and even a factory that canned tomatoes. For a short while the experiment seemed to be working.

Unfortunately, when given the chance to spend their days working instead of drinking, gambling and chasing after loose women, the only ones that ended up working were the ones pouring the drinks, dealing the cards, and hiking up their skirts. Within about a decade it became obvious that the settlement of Rugby wasn't working out, and most of Rugby's original settlers moved away or died. (Probably from cirrhosis or syphilis.)

What the late nineteenth century social experiment left behind was this village of quaint and beautiful Victorian homes and a number of mostly English ghosts in the heart of Dixie. Today Rugby is merely a ghost of an ideal village that almost was. What’s left behind is a charming village of beautiful homes, churches, and shops.

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We spent some time walking through Rugby’s picturesque streets before getting back on the road for the final stretch to Big South Fork.

After a long drive down some winding dirt roads, we found ourselves at the trailhead. Unfortunately, it was the WRONG trailhead because I am not very good at reading maps. There are several ways to hike into Charit Creek Lodge, the shortest being only a .8 mile hike. This was obviously the one I had targeted because I had to make sure we got there in time for pie dinner. The trailhead I actually took us to required a 2 mile hike. Still, not too bad.

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The hike in was a beautiful display of blue sky and show stopping leaves, so I was secretly glad we went the long way.

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The trail eventually took us to a clearing down in a hollow where the Charit Creek Lodge sat nestled among the golden trees. There was a main lodge building with cabin accommodations on each end and the communal dining hall in the middle, a kitchen cabin, 2 field cabins, a bath house, and the adorable "corn crib," a small cabin for 3.

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Each of the 4 main cabins had a front porch with rocking chairs and a screened back porch, perfect for wasting the afternoon with a good book while drinking in the crisp fall air. The interior of the cabins was made up of one large room with several double sized bunk beds with cozy bedding, some handmade furniture like tables and benches, a wood stove, and a gas lantern for light.

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There was also a shiny red cooler.

"What's that for?" I asked, knowing good and well that no one was packing in ice and cold beer.

"Varmints," was the quick reply.

Because we were in the backcountry, we still had critters to deal with. I thought being in a cabin eliminated the need to worry whether or not a bear was going to smell my toothpaste. Apparently this was not the case. We were told that, if we left “smelly” items out, we could expect bears, raccoons, possums, and mice to join us overnight.

Had I known that, I would have simply elected to bring no food whatsoever and brushed my teeth with soap. However, I naively thought a cabin eliminated the potential for a varmint infestation and I had an inordinate number of sugary, carb-y, chocolately things from Trader Joe’s hidden in my backpack.

Thankfully, we were given the cooler so we could store our goodies without any fear of waking up with a mouse on our forehead.

We got our backpacks unloaded, hanging our clothes on neat wooden pegs at the foot of our bunk and headed out to dinner. We barely made it in time.

We were greeted warmly by Booger, the resident dog.

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He showed us to the dining hall which was warmly lit with lanterns and set beautifully with mismatched china and mason jars of fresh lemonade.

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Dinner didn't disappoint: roasted pork loin, carrot soufflé, green bean casserole, macaroni & cheese, and soft yeast rolls. The food was served family style at communal tables and there was literally more than any of us could eat.

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Charit Creek also serves beer and wine for a modest charge, or you can bring your own if you don't mind backpacking it in. I assumed Matt didn't mind and had loaded his pack generously with several full sized bottles.

For dessert, there was a decadent scratch made chocolate cake. I think it was better than my grandmother use to make.

The only thing that could appropriately follow a dinner that good was a nap by the fire pit.

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Saturday:

It was so dark in the cabin and the bedding was so comfortable that we all slept late. The soft sound of rain on the tin roof didn't help matters. Eventually, we dragged ourselves out of bed and made some coffee on the camp stove.

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We got a fire going in the wood stove and within minutes, our fire alarm was going off because the smoke was drifting into the cabin instead of drafting up the flue. It was so dark in there, we couldn’t see.

We felt foolish and sheepishly opened the doors. About that time, we heard the fire alarm go off in the cabin next door and instantly felt less stupid.

Despite many attempts, I have not yet figured out how to control the weather. Consequentially, I can’t seem to avoid the occasional vacation day that begins with a never-ending torrential downpour.

It was gray and raining when we woke up. We buried our disappointment under piles of pancakes with real maple syrup, quiche, bacon, and cheese grits.

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For those of you that aren't from Dixie, I will explain what a "grit" is, although I have found that trying to explain grits to someone from up North is a lot like trying to explain why fish love riding bicycles.

Many people think grits are made from ground up bits of white corn. This is a lie spread by Communists and Yankees. Nothing as good as Grits (except moonshine) can be made from corn. In reality, that mysterious Manna that God rained down upon the Israelites during their time in the Sinai Desert was Grits.

Sure, some grit scholars might disagree with me and say that grits are actually made from dried corn or hominy that is ground and then cooked with water. Obviously, these people have never eaten proper grits or else they would know that they are actually carried down from heaven on angel's wings.

Grits are symbolic of the South, like cornbread, guns, sweet tea, NASCAR and SEC football. Furthermore, it's a sin, comparable to saying "you guys” instead of “y’all,” farting in church, or saying "Huh?" when references are made to the Vol Nation, to put sugar on grits. Grits are appropriately served with salt and butter, maybe the occasional smattering of cheese.

Now you know. Go make some grits. You can thank me later.

With our bellies full of buttery grit goodness and pancakes, there was nothing to do but cozy in and watch the rain from the back porch.

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Around 10:00 a.m., the rain stopped and we decided to do some hiking to make us feel better about how many pancakes we had consumed at breakfast. We set off on the Slave Falls trail, planning to connect to the Twin Arches loop and then return to the Lodge. In all, it was about 9 miles of hiking and would get us back with a couple of hours of down time before dinner.

The rain had made the woods soft and quiet and the smell of earth and wet leaves hung heavy in the air.

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I love hiking. I love the peacefulness of the woods. I love the sounds and smells. I love the time spent lost in my own thoughts or talking to Matt for hours on a trail.

What I DON’T love about hiking is when there is a “call of nature.” Thankfully, it was Matt that received the call, not me.

We were about 2 miles into the trail when Matt made it clear he had some “business” to attend to and that we should move on down the trail. John, Teresa, and I moved on down the trail for about 15 minutes. I assumed this was a simple stand-up event and thought Matt would have caught back up to us by then. Guessing it might have been more of a “squat and hold onto a tree branch” event, I told John and Teresa to go on and I would wait for Matt.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

It had now been about 30 minutes since Matt peeled off. I was alternating between being worried that he had suffered a more serious “event” than anticipated and had to return to the Lodge and being annoyed that I was now stuck in the middle of the woods alone. I didn’t know if I should turn back, keep waiting, or try to catch up to John and Teresa.

After several more minutes, I realized the only logical explanation for that length of time was that Matt was indeed experiencing an unfortunate gastrointestinal episode, no doubt brought on by too much butter and lard, and had returned to camp. That being the case, he would probably prefer to be alone and my best option was to try to catch John and Teresa, who were now a good half hour ahead of me on the trail.

It was about 5 minutes into my solo walk that I started thinking about bears. I don’t usually think about bears in Tennessee like I do in Montana. However, Big South Fork is home to a thriving black bear population. Hiking alone is not a good idea in bear country. Bears are more likely to attack a solo hiker than a group.

I started walking faster.

I found myself looking at every shadow, every hill….What was that??? Did that shadow move?????

Before long, I was literally sprinting up the trail. I decided it was better to trip over a root and knock out my front teeth than to be mauled by a bear. Sure, I may never be able to eat corn on the cob again, but that's what knives are for.

I reached John and Teresa, heaving and sweating.

“What’s wrong?” they asked.

“Matt never showed up. He may be sick,” I said.

“He’s right behind you,” Teresa said.

Sure enough, I spotted his orange jacket about 50 feet behind me in the woods.

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Trying to decide whether to be relieved or irritated, I settled on sympathetic, because Matt had obviously had a significantly worse experience than I had.

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We made our way back to Slave Falls, which was severely anticlimactic. The fall was little more than a dribble.

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The good news was that I had worked up a hearty appetite with all that worry and running, despite the mound of pancakes still in my belly.

We stopped at a clearing called “Jake’s Place” and had smoked trout wraps with cream cheese and dried bananas and mangoes.

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After lunch, we completed our hike with the Twin Arches Loop, which was far more scenic than the Slave Falls trail had been. We managed to finish the hike without any more dramatic events.

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We arrived back at Charit Creek Lodge around 3:00 p.m. Dinner was served at 5:00 p.m., so we had some down time for naps in the hammock, reading on the porch, or enjoying a glass of wine in a rocking chair.

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We returned to the dining room for another spectacular meal: Meatloaf, fried Brussels sprouts, asparagus casserole, sweet potatoes, cornbread, and apple pie.

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We wrapped up the night by the fire pit and retreated to our cabin for another cozy night’s sleep.

Sunday:

We enjoyed a leisurely morning with coffee, biscuits and gravy, sausage, and frittata.

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Then it was time to pack up and hike out. The hike out was as beautiful as the hike in. Despite the fact that the hike out was ALL UPHILL and that my stomach was distended with a mountain of biscuits, it was a glorious morning.

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As I threw my pack on my back, I was surprised to find that I did feel reawakened. I did feel peace. Charit Creek truly was a magical place and it exists as an oasis in the middle of the woods filled with crackling fires, warm friendship, and fluffy biscuits. My spirit did feel renewed.

And that’s not just the apple pie talking.

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Next stop: Hitting Asheville, NC with the girls!

Posted by vicki_h 07:18 Archived in USA Tagged hiking tennessee big_south_fork jamestown_tn charit_creek Comments (0)

Bad Trips Happen ....Getting Bamboozled in Beaufort.

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On occasion, Matt’s charter flights involve the drop-off of a passenger to some fun locale, and sometimes, this happens on a weekend. This makes it easy to slide right into a weekend stop somewhere new. Recently, Matt had a drop-off flight to coastal NC on a Friday night. What a perfect way to spend the weekend somewhere on the beach. Right?

The flight was planned, the bags were packed, the trip was happening – or was it?

I had it all planned out. We would fly into Beaufort, NC on a Friday night and drop Matt’s charter client off. He wouldn’t be flying back with us, so we would make the short 20-minute flight to Ocracoke Island where we would spend 2 nights in an adorable inn, have seafood boils delivered to us on the beach, ride old fashioned bicycles, search for seashells, and have romantic dinners in quaint little seafood shacks.

But none of this would actually happen. At least not this time around. A week before our Friday night flight, Ocracoke flooded. Actually, the entire southeast coast flooded, but the small low lying barrier islands were hit particularly hard. When Ocracoke was still closed to visitors on Wednesday night, we made the decision to cancel and change our Friday plans.

No worries. I always have a Plan B. All neurotic planners do. What you do know about us is that we put a neurotic amount of time into planning the perfect trip. What you don’t know is that we usually put a neurotic amount of time into planning 2 trips….you know….in case the first one doesn’t work out.

My travel nightmare (okay, maybe that’s a bit strong, we’ll call it “Vicki’s Least Desirable Scenario) is to show up somewhere I have never been WITH NO PLANS.

No, I take it back. That IS a nightmare.

I don’t deal well with lack of structure and uncertainty.

I realize there are those that disagree with me. They believe you should never plan a trip. They say unplanned trips lead to spontaneous adventures, new friends, and unexpected experiences.

I say these people are imbeciles.

I say unplanned trips are how you end up sleeping in a car because you don’t have a reservation, get diarrhea from that restaurant that was rated #789 out of 800 (but you didn’t know that, now did you?), and run out of clean underwear because you didn’t count on getting lost for 2 days on those back roads without a map.

Spontaneous travel is for 20 year olds. I want to know where I am sleeping, where I am eating, and how many changes of clothes I need. I want to know the thread count of the hotel sheets and whether the bathroom has a hair dryer. I want to know whether or not there are any meatballs on the menu and if they are made with lamb or beef. I want to know what the day and nighttime temperatures are going to be and where the closest place is to get a ginger nut latte with an extra shot of espresso. And I want to know it at least 2 months before I go.

I shifted us to The Alternative Flood Plan, which would involve flying into Beaufort, spending Friday night at a lovely Inn with a romantic seaside dinner out, following by a B&B breakfast, a quick trip on the morning ferry to see the feral horses on nearby Shackleford Banks, lunch in Beaufort and a return home. No need to spend the whole weekend since Ocracoke was out. We’d be home by Saturday afternoon.

I packed one change of clothes, minimal toiletries, and we were on our way.

It was clean. It was simple. It was fine.

Or so I thought.

My mistake was not wearing a headset in the plane.

I never wear a headset. I find them bulky and uncomfortable. Okay, fine….. I don’t wear them because they mess up my hair. I opted to read a book on the flight over as Matt and his passenger chatted away.

By the time we arrived, the plans had already been made.

Not MY plans.

That’s where all the trouble came in, you see.

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Friday:

We left Knoxville on a Friday afternoon and headed to Charlotte to pick up Matt’s passenger. We had time to grab a quick lunch so we opted for something close to the airport. Have you noticed that airports aren’t usually in the best parts of town? That means restaurants near airports typically feature all-you-can eat Chinese places in strip malls or places with names like “Larry’s Sunshine Café” or “Super Taco.”

I’m not really a fan of restaurants near airports.

We chose the least offensive looking place and found ourselves in an old school BBQ joint, complete with shiny yellow gingham tablecloths, oversized plastic ketchup dispensers, and lots of waitresses wearing Lee jeans and too much eye make-up. I was starting to think we’d made a HUGE mistake when our smiling waitress showed up with a basket of free hushpuppies.

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HUSHPUPPIES.

FREE.

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The food wasn’t fancy, but it was good: finely chopped BBQ pork with a tangy Carolina vinegar-based sauce, crispy fresh fried okra, and savory Brunswick stew with sweet tea. It was just enough to make a southern girl happy.

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We made it back to the airport, picked up the passenger, and headed to Beaufort, NC. I had never been to that part of the coast and I was looking forward to a nice night out and a little bit of sightseeting the next day before heading home.

When we landed, Matt said, “There has been a change of plans.”

Anyone who knows me or has read my blog knows that that is quite possibly the worst sentence you can ever say to me. You would probably get a less violent reaction if you told me I was actually adopted and my natural parents were both serial killers or that I had an incurable skin fungus.

Matt saw my face clouding over and quickly explained, “The weather looks bad for flying back tomorrow. When I mentioned that, my flight client told me that it would help him out if we could stay until Sunday night so that he doesn’t have to drive home.”

Okay, this didn’t sound too bad. I mean, I had done enough research to know there were enough things in Beaufort to keep us occupied until Sunday. We could just extend our stay at the inn, add in a few of the other restaurants I had seen online, and do some shopping. What’s not to like about a whole weekend at the beach? This might be fun.

That’s when Matt really let the bomb drop.

“We’re going to stay with him at his condo tomorrow and go to a dinner with him that night. He also invited us out on his boat Sunday.”

Just like that, I was no longer in control of my plans. I had no information about where I was going, where I was staying, where I was eating, or what I would be doing.

You would have thought I had just been told I had an unplanned pregnancy, not an unplanned weekend.

I was instantly clammy. My breath came in shallow little gasps. I was pretty sure I was going to pass out.

Matt dove in with gusto, “It sounds really great,” he said, “He’s got a 4 bedroom place on the beach all to himself, tickets to a ‘Sea & Farm’ dinner being hosted on Harker’s Island by Beaufort and Blind Pig of Asheville that he wants to take us to, and he said he’s taking a yacht out for the day on Sunday with some nice food and drinks and we can tag along.”

“Why don’t we just get a rental car and do our own thing?” I asked, the panic starting to rise.

“I already told him we’d do it.”

And that was that.

I’m not much of an optimist. For me, it’s not about whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. I want to know what restaurant the glass came from and whether or not it was on my list.

This was definitely not on my list.

Unfortunately, I was stuck with it, so I unbound my internal optimist and took the duct tape off of her mouth for just a moment.

“This could be pretty awesome, you know,” she immediately started to jibber-jabber. “I mean, a condo on the beach, a private dinner, a yacht….this is a rich, classy guy….this has to be AWESOME, right?”

I quickly put the duct tape back on her mouth, but maybe she had something…..could this be awesome?

Probably not. The reason I keep my internal optimist bound and gagged is because I tend to be more of a "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is" kind of girl.

Matt and I are not the type that luck into free luxury condos, private events, and yachts. We are not going to win the lottery. No one is going to give us a free car because we are the 1,000,000th customer at the gas station. We are the people that are most likely to step in the one dog turd that exists in a 10 block radius. That is our reality.

And this all sounded too good to be true.

Not that it really mattered. There was nothing I could do about it now. I was no longer the captain of my own ship. In fact, I was shipwrecked.

But we still had tonight at the Inn. At least I knew that would be good.

When I was looking for a place to stay in Beaufort and found that the #1 rated inn sported an inordinate number of floral polyester bedspreads and fake plants, I knew I had to look outside the usual reference sites. I dug a little deeper and found a new inn that had only been open for a couple of months, so…. no reviews, but the Inn on Turner looked perfect.

The Inn on Turner was a historic home with only 3 quaint rooms decorated in beachy chic located in the middle of historic Beaufort. We arrived just as they were serving complimentary wine and champagne with snacks.

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Champagne? I had already forgotten about the next day’s disastrous plans.

I had champagne! Strawberries! I loved this inn!

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The innkeepers had made us a reservation for dinner at Blue Moon Bistro. It was a very pleasant stroll through Beaufort’s quaint streets to the restaurant. I spotted adorable wine shops and stores that I was looking forward to checking out the next day. This was getting better and better!

We found the Blue Moon Bistro in the historic 1827 Dill House, just about a block from Beaufort’s waterfront. The dining space was small and intimate with just the right amount of candlelight.

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We started with the “big bowl” of Caesar salad and the fried oyster plate. For dinner, Matt ordered the creole style shrimp with Andouille sausage and jasmine rice. I couldn’t resist the autumn gnocchi with butternut squash, shaved Brussels sprouts, and balsamic glaze. We followed that with a spice cake served with turbinado sugar ice cream.

After dinner, we stopped off at a little bar that had been recommended by the innkeepers - the Backstreet Pub.

You know that dream where you are standing in front of your class at school in your underwear?

Yes. It was like that.

Do you ever walk into a place and know you’ve made a mistake the second you enter? But the place is small, local, and everyone looks up just as you walk in so there is no option of a clandestine escape?

As soon as we stepped inside, I felt like I had just walked into someone’s family reunion uninvited. The awkwardness of not belonging was compounded by my glance at the bar which showed NOTHING BUT BEER.

Just beer.

We were now non-beer drinking, overdressed outsiders in a local’s bar that served only beer.

I did the only thing I could think of.

I immediately ran to the bathroom and left Matt standing there alone to deal with the painful process of figuring out what to order in a bar full of staring strangers.

He doesn’t hate beer, so he managed to find something he liked and he found a cider for me, so it wasn’t a total loss. We quickly drank our bottles and tore out the door like our pants were on fire.

It had been a long day, we were tired, and I was all stressed out worrying about the “no plans” problem tomorrow presented.

There was nothing left to do but go to bed.

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Saturday:

I woke up tired because I spent the entire night Friday trying to figure out how to make plans out of the mess that had taken over my weekend.

A rental car. That would solve everything. We could do our own thing, show up at the condo just before the “dinner,” and still salvage most of the weekend. The next day, if we decided the yachting with strangers was simply too awkward, we could find something else to do and meet the client back at the airport.

It was perfect.

Except that there were no rental cars. Anywhere. Not until Monday.

I know because I called them all. I even called a guy named Jimmy at a place called A Diamond Rent-A-Car.

Sigh.

I decided to make the most of it. Not because I am a decent person deep down inside, but because, like any animal trapped in a corner, at some point, you simply realize that playing dead is probably your best chance of self-preservation.

At least we had today. We could stop in all those fun little shops, have a nice lunch, and go see the feral horses at nearby Shackleford Banks.

As we had a hearty breakfast at the Inn, I checked the ferry schedule and saw that we could head over to Shackleford Banks at 11:00 and return at 12:30. That would give us time to have lunch, shop for a few hours, and still meet up with the client in time for the 6:00 dinner.

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It would be FINE.

Shackleford Banks is the southern-most barrier island in the Cape Lookout National Seashore and is home to approximately 100 wild horses. They are thought to be descended from Spanish mustangs from early Colonial settlers and have been roaming the island for over 400 years.

Even though it was a gray and drizzly day, it was pretty neat to see the horses. The barrier islands are also a treasure trove of seashells, so we spent an hour wandering along the windswept dunes before getting back on an early ferry to head back to Beaufort.

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Beaufort was incredibly quaint. I was looking forward to spending some time looking around after lunch.

As we walked to lunch, I made a mental list of all the places I wanted to visit.

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We stopped at the old Beaufort Grocery to get some lunch. I immediately loved the mismatched dish towels that were scattered on the tables for napkins. The place was warm and lively, and it seemed like everyone knew everyone (probably because they had all been at the Backstreet Pub the night before….). The small town quaintness of it was nice.

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As I was settling down to eat my “damn fine gumbo” and crabcake sandwich, Matt’s phone rang.

It was the Inn.

“We really can’t store your luggage any longer. We need you to come pick it up.”

What?

But.

But.

But….we didn’t have a car. That meant we had to get a taxi to head out to the “condo” right then.

“I wanted to do some shopping,” I said. I’m pretty sure I was whining when I said it. “I don’t even have clean underwear or clean clothes for tomorrow. I need some shampoo.”

“It’s no big deal,” Matt said. “He said his condo was just right here. We can take a quick taxi, drop off our stuff, and run back over here.”

Well, okay. That sounded okay.

It would be FINE.

The taxi ride to the condo was 30 minutes.

30 minutes.

IN A TAXI.

30 minutes in a taxi in NYC and 30 minutes in a taxi in North Carolina mean very different things. You may as well be taking a taxi to another country.

This meant that 1) it was a really damn expensive taxi ride and 2) we were not close to ANYTHING now.

It was 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and we were stuck at the “condo” with no car and no way to get back to Beaufort unless we wanted 2 additional, expensive, 30 minute taxi rides.

“This sucks,” I said, visibly sulking.

“Let’s make the most of it,” Matt said as he looked for the key the client said he had hidden in the grill. “I mean, it’s probably a really nice place and we have it all to ourselves for the rest of the day.”

It was really nice. If really nice means that it hadn’t seen a decorator or a housekeeper since 1981.

It was frumpalicious. It was like entering an early 80s time capsule in a bad motel.

It was a pulsating pit of despair filled with wicker light fixtures, lumpy furniture, and dusty floral arrangements.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if I had been prepared, but I was expecting this:

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And I got this:

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Ugly condo? Strike one.

To make matters worse, we had no transportation, no food, and I was wearing my only pair of clean underwear.

We sat on the beige, vinyl sofa and waited for the client to return. When my butt started to stick to the vinyl, I decided it was time to at least go for a walk on the beach. There was that, at least.

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He finally got back at 3:30. While he graciously let us use his car to go find some clean clothes and shampoo, he reminded us that we needed to leave for the Blind Pig dinner by 5:15.

It was a 1 hour round trip drive to Beaufort and back. That left us 45 minutes to shop, IF we didn’t want to get cleaned up before dinner.

So much for the cute stores in Beaufort.

No matter. There was still the Blind Pig dinner to look forward to.

And I was really looking forward to it.

It would be FINE.

The Blind Pig Supper Club of Asheville, NC creates unique and exclusive dining experiences through chef collaborations and off-the-chart locations. The chefs are incredible, the menus are show stopping, the locations are phenomenal and are kept secret until 48 hours before the dinner, and the experience is touted to be simply amazing. Tickets are pricey and sell out quickly for each dinner.

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I know, because I have tried to get us to a Blind Pig dinner for years.

And I was finally going to one! One on the beach, no less.

The dinner was a farm to sea dinner titled “Brogue” and would be held on nearby Harker’s Island. Seven acclaimed chefs would create a one-of-a-kind 7 course dinner with wine pairings for 137 lucky ticket holders.

I had to admit I was excited.

We got back to the condo around 5:00 p.m., just in time to change our clothes and head to Harker’s Island.

We noticed the client was wearing his athletic gear.

“I don’t think I want to go. I think it’s going to rain,” he said. “If it’s okay with you, we’ll just go to my friend’s restaurant in Morehead City.”

Let’s see…..Go to exclusive, high-end, private beach dinner or eat at crappy restaurant in Morehead City…..

OF COURSE IT WASN’T OKAY!!!!!

Unfortunately, I was powerless to voice an opinion because 1) I wasn’t the one who had been invited to the Blind Pig dinner by one of the hosts and 2) I had no transportation.

I was expecting this:

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And I got this:

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No Blind Pig dinner? Strike two.

After my “sort of okay” dinner, I feel asleep under my excessively floral comforter and wondered about that yacht.

Would it be fine?

Sunday:

The weekend had been in a steady spiral of decline since we received the call from the Inn to pick up our luggage.

This spiral of decline became a full on cataclysm of horrific proportions when I woke up to find the car was gone and there was no coffee.

WHO DOESN’T HAVE COFFEE?

It was Sunday morning. I had no coffee. I had no transportation. The closest place where I might find coffee was 7 miles away.

Clean underwear, I can live without. Coffee? Oh hell no.

This was a disaster.

To make matters worse, Matt doesn't drink coffee so he had no interest in trying to help me build a distress signal out of seashells so that a passing airplane might save me. The lack of coffee coupled with his complete indifference to my misery just added fuel to the already smoldering fire that was burning in my soul that weekend.

The cherry on top? The guy left a pack of bagels and a jar of peanut butter on the counter and sent Matt a text to “help ourselves.”

I did nothing but sit and stare at the ugly carpet for the next 3 hours.

Like Seligman’s shocked dogs from the 1960’s, I had stopped trying to control my environment and simply gave up and embraced my helplessness.

I didn’t even try to kid myself by saying, “Well, there’s still the yacht….”

I didn’t hold out much hope.

It would not be FINE.

The client had explained that he had rented a “yacht” (his word) and that they would be filming all day on it for his marketing firm. His “guy” was going to pick up some good food and drinks. We’d head over to Cape Lookout where Matt and I could take the dingy and explore the island, hang out on the beach, or relax on the yacht.

“It’s a YACHT,” he said, emphasizing the word the way one would speak to a child when I asked about somewhere to sit if it got too cool, “There’s a nice big indoor salon. It’s great. We’ll even have live music.”

With no car of our own, it’s not like we really had a choice, now did we?

Friends, the “yacht” was the piece de resistance.

It was a big, ugly fishing boat.

I wish I was kidding.

I guess, if length is what determines yacht status, it was technically a yacht. I guess we should have asked him to be more specific.

I was expecting a luxury yacht, with wine & cheese where I would sit on a large outdoor lounger and sip champagne as I forgot the wretchedness of the past 24 hours.

What I got was a large, dirty, utilitarian fishing boat with no outdoor seating, a darkly lit indoor salon filled with ugly green cushions with water stains and dirty carpet, and a white 5-gallon bucket filled with ice and Bud Light paired with a giant brown paper bag of turkey subs.

The music? One of the guys brought his banjo.

I can’t make this stuff up.

I was expecting this:

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And I got this:

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Crappy Fishing Boat? Strike Three.

I suddenly realized why this guy was a Senior VP of marketing.

He could sell anything.

I will call this photo "Matt's Portrait of Dispair." I particularly like the 1978 Olan Mills close-up effect.

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We had been sold a classy beach condo, an exclusive beach dinner, and a yacht tour. What we got was a dumpy room, an average dinner, and 8 hours on a barebones fishing boat with beer and Jersey Mike’s.

As I headed down to the bathroom to cry in silence, the Captain looked at me and said, “The toilet doesn’t work so good. If it won’t flush, pump it a few times.”

Priceless.

There had been some tense moments in the past 2 days as our plans unraveled again and again. By the time we got left on the boat, however, all that was left to do was laugh. We couldn’t stop laughing.

We laughed until we cried.

Then Matt offered me a turkey sub, and we laughed some more, especially when we figured out there were no napkins, plates, or condiments. Just dry turkey on wheat.

Sure, I would have loved to have taken a bubble bath in a high rise condo on the beach, enjoyed wine pairings with famed chefs in the sand, and snacked on canapes on the teak deck of a luxury sailing yacht, but I found myself laughing with Matt at the hilarious turn of events as we stole a few private hours in the sunshine on the beaches of Cape Lookout.

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Some weekends are for meeting new friends and being whisked away to exciting elite locales to experience a life you only get to see on the pages of magazines.

Other weekends are for bonding with your spouse in a dark condo with peanut butter bagels.

In my life, there is room for all of it.

It was FINE.

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Next up? Join us as we head to the hike-in only Charit Creek Lodge in Big South Fork!

Posted by vicki_h 10:26 Archived in USA Tagged north_carolina beaufort Comments (4)

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