Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Family Vacation - Asheville & Wytheville

Friday and Saturday were travel days, but we spent fun time together. After checking out of our hotel, we drove across the street to Biltmore Village. We started our day at the Cathedral of All Souls, the Episcopal Cathedral, built by George Vanderbilt. It's a beautiful church, with stained glass windows made by a father and daughter team who were contemporaries of Tiffany. The church was designed as the connecting piece of the community.

This window was dedicated to George Vanderbilt's father, Cornelius Vanderbilt.

From the Church, we went to the New Morning Gallery where they have "Art for Living". It's a gorgeous gallery that contains works of over 200 artisans. I think we spent a couple hours there, and Linda and I both bought small pieces there. If you're looking for gorgeous artwork, made by local artisans, this is the place to look.


After going to another gallery featuring local artisans, we had lunch at a fun little restaurant that was recommended. And, of course, North Carolina sweet tea. After leaving Biltmore Village, we went to the Basilica of St. Lawrence. It didn't have quite the same peaceful atmosphere as the cathedral.

Crypt of Rafael Guastavino, architect

We walked from the Basilica to Malaprop's bookstore. I could have stayed much longer, but we needed to hit the road to get to the hotel before Christie's daughter, Elizabeth, got off work. Really friendly staff at Malaprop's. I listened to one of the clerks talking to a young girl about their summer reading program.

Really fun chair at Malaprop's

Then we headed north. We stayed overnight on Friday night in the northern part of the state, and visited with Elizabeth. Elizabeth has an internship this summer. We all went to an Italian restaurant for dinner, and then played pinochle. It was a nice visit with her.

Christie drove toward home, and we stopped in Wytheville, Virginia. Mom and Linda were sitting in the back seat, and they read that it was the home of Edith Bolling Wilson. They also read about the large pencil on one of the businesses. We saw the pencil first, then, stopped at the Visitors Center.

Wytheville actually has a few museums, but we only had time to see the museum and childhood home of Edith Bolling Wilson, President Wilson's second wife. That's our kind of tour.

Christie and Linda

Then, there was lunch. Let me tell you about the restaurant and people that made this one of the highlights of our trip. Linda recognized Skeeter's, saying Rachael Ray recommended it. We debated, and then went in. Skeeter's is a joyful restaurant, around 100 years old. The waitress was so nice and we talked books. I laughed when a group of Harley riders came in. One woman stopped, and asked if she ruined a picture I was taking. When I said no, she said she'd go back and try again.

(The Skeeter dog is great!)

But, it was a woman named Mary Lea who made Skeeter's extra special. She was kind and charming. She came over, and bussed our table so we could sit down, although she was a customer, not an employee. She welcomed us, and said she saw us when we were outside, and almost told us to come in because we looked like we were having so much fun together. She highly recommended the chicken salad. Mom & Christie had that, while Linda and I went for the Skeeter dogs and sweet tea. And, when she heard we were traveling home to Ohio, and then I was going on the next day to Indiana, she prayed with us. She also took a couple wonderful pictures of the four of us.

Christie at Skeeter's

With Mary Lea

Mary Lea's own story is personal, and I won't share it. But, she brought joy to all of us, and we were so glad we met her along the way. Our visit with her, and our stop at Skeeter's, were special. It was a wonderful way to end the road trip before heading to Linda's house.

And, we're already planning next year's trip together! This may sound odd, but we're thinking - Hartford, Connecticut. (We have our reasons. You'll have to wait to find out why.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Family Vacation!

Once a year, my mother and sisters, Linda and Christie, and I head out on a family trip. It's really an excuse to spend a few days together, laughing and enjoying time together. We've done a Broadway and New York City trip, Nashville, Indiana, Ohio's Amish country and Canton area. We took the train to Chicago to see My Fair Lady. This year, we headed to North Carolina. Christie's daughter goes to college in North Carolina, and is interning there this summer. The Chihuly in the Garden exhibit at Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina gave us one more reason to go. (As if we needed any.)

I drove to Linda's home outside Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday. Mom & Christie came down on Wednesday, and then I drove to Asheville. We made a couple stops along the way. We had lunch and looked at some gorgeous artisans' crafts at Tamarack in West Virginia.

With Linda at Tamarack

Our second stop was just before reaching Asheville, when I abruptly swing into a scenic overlook so we could stretch and see the scenery. Beautiful, but it was even more beautiful when we reached out hotel in Asheville.

Me, Mom, Linda

We stayed at the Village Hotel on the Biltmore property. Wise decision. We could take the shuttle every place we wanted to go. And, we had a great room with a window seat. (I always wanted a window seat.)

After the long drive, we had dinner right there at the Bistro next to the hotel. Then, crashed back at our room. These photos were all from my sister, Christie.

Linda ordered the wine. I just pulled it over for the picture.


Window seat!

We left early for Biltmore, taking an early shuttle so we could beat some of the crowds. Here's what you see as you drive up to Biltmore.

Let me tell you about Chihuly in the Gardens at Biltmore. This is what it says on Biltmore's website.
"Chihuly at Biltmore represents the first art exhibition in Biltmore’s historic gardens, and the first garden exhibition of Dale Chihuly’s works in North Carolina. The world-renowned American artist’s work is included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide, and now, for a limited time only, they can be seen at Biltmore.

"Dazzling in daylight, the exhibition takes on a new dimension when viewed after nightfall; experience the brilliance and beauty of these awe-inspiring marvels of color, form, and light."

Dale Chihuly is a glass artist whose works have been seen before at other gardens, including the Desert Botanical Gardens in Arizona. I missed that exhibit. My own fault. 

I could have shown you over 100 photos, from daytime and nighttime. I won't. First, daytime photos because we did the gardens before the house on Thursday. Thanks to my sister, Linda, for sharing her pictures.

Me, Christie, Mom

Mom, Me, Christie, Linda

Christie and Me

Mom, Christie, Me

Christie, Mom, Linda



There was one Chihuly exhibit in the house, in the conservatory. We were lucky enough to hear the pipe organ playing when we arrived. If you're going to tour the house, I definitely advise you to get the audio tour. It's well-worth it. And, the final pictures from inside are from what is called "The Halloween Room". Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil and her husband actually held a party, and guests were allowed to decorate the walls. It wasn't actually Halloween, but the theme dealt with a musical piece, and the elements on the wall were from that piece.

Dining Room

The Pipe Organ

In the Halloween Room

The Halloween Room

After the tour, we had ice cream from Biltmore's dairy, and then went back to the hotel. There's a small shopping area right by the hotel, and we went there to see The Biltmore Legacy. This exhibit told about George and Edith Vanderbilt, and included pieces they had collected. My favorite piece? We went to Biltmore when I was eleven or twelve. At that time, it was in the house, and I always remembered it. Now, it's in this small exhibit. For his 21st birthday, George Vanderbilt received Napoleon's chess set and game table from a family friend.

We rested a little at our hotel before going back to Cedric's Tavern for dinner. It's named after the Vanderbilts' St. Bernard. We ate outside, and enjoyed the pleasant early evening before we picked up the shuttle again to go back to Biltmore.

We ended our day with the nighttime tour of the gardens. Honestly, I was more impressed with the daytime tour. You don't really have to do both. We all thought there were lights out, or the displays weren't properly lit that night. Several of the daytime exhibits definitely were not lit up. I don't know if something was wrong, but, pretty as they were, they didn't pop the way I expected.

Saying that, we had a wonderful day at Biltmore. Linda added the personal touch to our tour. She was reading a book about the house, and she gave us highlights as she came across them. Thanks to Mom & Dad, we're all history buffs. And, we always love our time together.

Tomorrow, on the blog, Asheville, North Carolina, and Wytheville, Virginia.