Staying at a B&B is always fun, in my book, especially if the proprietors know what they are doing. Howard and Kristine certainly do. Our breakfast was served at 8:30AM. Surprisingly, we were on time without any problem – that’s what happens when you sleep like a log! All the tables were filled – we sat at the center table so we were privy to all the action in the room. Service was great – and so was the food. Yogurt and fruit, steaming Blueberry pancakes and breakfast sausages were accompanied by juice and a hot beverage. Votive candles lit each table center. I faced the back glass door and could see the garden. When the guest who had been sitting at the glass window left, the Howard blew out the candle, which created a cloud of smoke that spread wings and then dispersed into nothing when Howard walked back to service another guest. Such poetry in the environs of O. Henry and Thomas Wolf.
An overcast sky tracked our progress as we packed and set on the road to the North Carolina Arboretum. Our schizophrenic GPS sent us to the service entrance, but we were able to quickly find the main gate. There are a lot of trails that meander the grounds – and it is a very popular destination as hikers of various levels hit the trails. We stuck with the Carolina Mountain Trail and covered a good hour of walking. Some rays of sunshine managed to thread through the clouds. In the visitor center, the Wicked Plants exhibit was a fun depiction of how people have used plants in less than nice ways over time. Very well done.
Our next stop was the Biltmore Estate – another destination that was a challenge for our GPS. But there was a reason for this one – it turns out that you cannot even drive onto the estates without buying an entrance ticket. It’s about 2 miles to the interior gate, with fields filled with geese and tall grass. Very impressive, but for the short time we had, it would not be worth the entrance fee. We have been through Biltmores in Los Angeles and Phoenix, and figured that we’ve seen the basic style and ambiance of early 1900 opulence and could go on to other things. By now the sky was communicating with the ground, forcing the use of our windshield wipers.
The last item on our list before we left the area was The Folk Art Center on Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s set in a national park setting. We didn’t get too wet as we raced from the car to the exhibition hall. What a neat place! Two artists were demonstrating – glass blowing/stretching and fabric stamping. The entire first floor is filled with all types of local artist crafts – jewelry, quilts, handwoven items like clothing, placemats, blankets, and scarves, as well as wood carving, pottery, painting and more. On the second floor there is a permanent exhibit, as well as an artist gallery. A weaver’s paradise, indeed.
Time to head on to Charlotte to visit our good friends Anita and Ian. I have know Anita from my SoCal days – that would be over 26 years! She and Ian have a fabulous house in Charlotte, with two Sheltys – Jack and Hope – as well as Katy the cat. Of course the gods were conspiring against us once again – rain and rush hour is not the best combination. So much for timing. That’s what you get when you lose track of the days of the week. But we still got to Anita’s at a reasonable hour. We had a great time catching up, sampling wines with hummus and locally made goat cheese that was the creamiest and lightest and freshest tasting that I have ever had (sorry, Crow’s Dairy, although yours is good too). Dinner was at Sante’s in Matthews, North Carolina. Anita works with the owner/chef so we got a little pampering, which never hurts. Have you ever had watermelon with feta cheese? It’s a remarkable combination. My grilled shrimp with orzo, artichoke, olives and feta popped with a splash of fresh lime. I inhaled a tomato bisque topped with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. I don’t have to tell you that the flourless chocolate cake disappeared in a flash.
As with all good things, weariness from our long days caught up with us. Pleasant dreams.
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