The drive was quick and easy with plenty of chatter going on. No fighting. No whining for a snack and no asking for ETA's. We arrived at the Red Barn on a Thursday evening. (It could been the purple barn for all we knew.) With the thick of night already upon us there was no need to tarry, so grabbing our luggage we all trudged inside to survey our weekend home. Rustic charm and a welcoming warmth greeted the group...
(the first 2 pics are "borrowed" from owner because I didn't take pics when we first arrived)
|Facing the front door...|
|Upstairs was so spacious|
We spent the duration of the evening, which for most of us ended up being until 1 or 2 in the morning, getting caught up - or for some of us becoming more familiar. That night I went to sleep with a smile.
Boy Stealing Goose
Morning came quickly as it always does and 6 out of the 10 of us loaded up into one car to begin our day with a tour of the famous Biltmore House. The rest who opted to stay behind for some much-needed rest would also get to keep their $50. Yes, that is the price to see the inside of the Vanderbilt mansion and if you want to know what you are looking at as you roam about from room to room, you will need to shell out an extra $10 for a device that looks like a remote control. One employee informed us that this device would explain the history behind the Biltmore home from beginning till present and would be worth every penny.
So we all paid our $10 and were handed the keys to the true knowledge of the Biltmore mansion! It was a beautiful morning coupled with a new adventure. A mix that brought out the best in me. (Well, not all may share this sentiment).
|I don't know...what else do you do beside a statue of a lion??|
The six of us skipped hand in hand up the stairs and into the largest home that I have ever set foot in. Okay. We were not hand in hand and we weren't skipping either, but I almost skipped. Touring the Biltmore Estate has been on my list of to-dos for quite some time.
Upon entry I noticed that the floors leading to the indoor garden (apparently anyone of affluence in the 1800s would have one) were marble. I pressed the instructed buttons on my remote control. My efforts were rewarded with elevator music and a pleasant voice explaining the statue in the middle of the indoor garden - Boy Stealing Goose. Some of the gals and I exchanged looks and laughs over what seemed the start of an absurd tour. By the way, my hopes of getting lots of cool pics for this blogged fizzled at the entry when I noticed the sign that stated, "No pictures". Boo! Below is the only shot of the inside I dared to capture.
|I know. You can't tell what that statue is! My hands were shaking!!|
Each room was full of character, amazing architecture and astounding detail. Exquisite decor, beautiful paintings, and wall coverings that even included Spanish leather kept me dumbfounded throughout the tour. I was beyond impressed and didn't regret the money spent. And I had to agree with the employee at the front. Our recorded tour was well worth the $10, cheesy re-enactments that made me chuckle and all!
Here we are on one of the balconies...momentarily surveying the incredible views and trying to imagine what it must have been like to live at this home.
Equipped with our remotes for a guided tour...listening intently...
|Can you imagine this view off your own balcony??|
Here is just a recap of how we goofed off...
I loved walking the grounds and only regret the lack of time to view the gardens in their entirety.
Everything about this home was grand. Sitting on these stairs made me feel as if I was in Europe somewhere touring the castles.
|Someone take me to Europe!!!!!!!|
***Lunch in Town***
After traipsing around Biltmore for a few hours we all worked up a hearty appetite and had plans to meet up with the rest of the crew. There was a quaint "village" across from Biltmore that featured plenty of restaurants to choose from and shops to patron. Win, win.
|Some of us were intense about that menu!|
The day wore on, but there was no plan to end the festivities. From the Biltmore village we made a pit stop at Elk Grove Lodge. Sorry no good pics. It was not a good time for picture-taking.
I could have ended the travels there, picked up something to go at the Earth Fare we drove by and headed back to our place but I'm glad we didn't. (One of our many YouTube videos that we watched was Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake's Hash-tag skit. The hash-tag jokes were flying throughout the entire weekend. This car ride was riddled with them. #Iknowthispostislong #ittookhourstodo #dontcare)
Downtown Asheville was up next and we were not let down...
Downtown Asheville was up next and we were not let down...
Friday Night Drums
After driving around for awhile we finally found suitable parking. We unloaded and headed toward the center of town.
Before you saw, you could hear a rhythmic beat beckoning all to come near. With peaked curiosity we make our way towards town center. Meanwhile, I find myself distracted by a living statue, who has set himself up on the corner. Throwing a tip in the planter, I pose with my finger pointing right at him. I know. Real original. He surprises me by grabbing my finger, turning my creative pose into a "pull my finger" pose. Nothing happened. I promise.
The drumming beat only grew louder, reminding us of our destination. We join the growing crowds and I'm rendered speechless. There were about 100 folks of all walks of life, ages and skill sitting along the steps. They seemed to be following a designated leader. Some folks joined the center of the circle and danced. I couldn't tear my eyes away. Emotions ranged from curiosity to what in the world, to oh my goodness! But the beat was alluring...trance-like. One woman, possibly in her 60s, danced with the energy of a 10 year old. Another woman, with dread-locks down past her backside steered her two sons (one of which was an infant in a stroller, and the other about 10 with his own set of dreadlocks forming) through the crowd and set up her own bongos. I am always curious about people, but at that moment was more so. What are their stories? The flapper woman, the angry dancer, the girl who never stopped but appeared to be in some other world. It was obvious that for many this was a weekly event that they greatly anticipated.
We finally pull ourselves away from the eye-widening spectacle and head off to a restaurant that can seat us all without having to wait too long. It was a great day and my only concern as I laid my head on my pillow that night was whether or not I offended anyone with my random behaviors and crazed comments. Oh and I might have danced a little on the outside of that drum circle...
Ahhh, no agenda. Do whatever you want to do. My activities ranged from sitting around the fire ring chatting to wandering the grounds aimlessly. There was even time to catch up on some "Revolution of Rap" videos from the Jimmy Fallon show with a couple of the ladies. It's always good to get some meaningless, mind-numbing entertainment. I must confess I walked away making sad attempts to come up with a rap of my own.
Enjoying the horses...
And finally we walked out into the pasture to get our last group picture for the trip. We were about to eat dinner, prepared by the lovely family that owns the Red Barn so there was not much time to play around with shots. It is what it is, my awkward pose and all...
The Last Night & Closing Thoughts
We made our way into the dining room, thanked our hosts for the lovely meal and began dishing ginger glazed chicken, asparagus, coleslaw and bread onto our plates. A delicious meal that not one of us had to plan or prepare was the perfect way to start the evening.
As we share our meal laughter fills the dining area. More than one conversation is taking place. Before long a game begins...a game of questions. Two cups are passed around the table with instructions to draw a slip of paper from each one. A name is drawn from one cup and a question is drawn from another. Conversations pause making allowance for everyone to take their turn.
Good natured jokes flit around the table, as each unique sense of humor feels safe to bloom in a trusting environment.
"What is your very first memory of ____?"
"When I think of _____, I think of______."
Some questions take a serious and meaningful turn...
"How has ___ been a good friend to you?" or "What do you think is _____'s best quality?"
Unbidden tears form as quickly as the laughter, while gratitude and appreciation is expressed. In essence what is being said is thank you for extending friendship to me.
I. Need. You.
The truth of the matter is we all have a need for friendships and community, made evident once again that night.
We carried coffee and dessert outside and formed a circle around the fire pit. And this time we had a fire, built by one of the young men in the family that resided on this property. (This family was a wonderful host, giving space but also friendly when we peppered them with questions about their home and even some about their life.) You would think that by this point we would be out of words. Nah....
Morning came once again bringing the trip to a close. We load our cars and returned home to our expectant families. When I arrive I find this message waiting for me: "Welcome home mom - *Beep*". Feeling loved by family and the new friends I made!