Travel Writing

Travel, Interrupted

 

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Omni Grove Park Inn

Lesson learned in 2018: Perhaps avoid planning travel excursions during the holiday season when people are getting sick and germs are running rampant.

Last week, the day after Christmas, for the second year in a row, we had planned a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, with two days in Williamsburg to follow at Christmas. We’ve been trying to do a little more travel and less material gifts with our kids now that they are older teenagers. And so, last year, the trip was put off because my son, as a then senior in high school, had a ton of homework and presentations to put together for both school and his outside club, DECA. We postponed the trip in 2017.

This year, with vouchers in hand (because we had already paid for it), we rescheduled our trip. On the day after Christmas, the 26th, we got in the car for the nine hour drive to Asheville. By the time we got there that night, my son was feeling ill. By the next day, he was officially sick. We managed to get to the Omni Grove Park Inn to see the National Gingerbread House Competition that we had read about over the past couple of years. I was dying to see it. That afternoon, in the pouring rain, we made it to the Candlelight Tour of the Biltmore Estate. My son was really feeling badly, and so we toured the house as fast as we could so we could get him back to the hotel. The next day, we drove home nine hours, and the trip was over. Eighteen hours of driving for a day’s worth of sights, and there was still so much to see. Maybe next time.

Vacations get aborted because of illness all the time, I know, and I didn’t want my son to feel badly about it. It will always be there. We will go back. And my husband and I are excited to get back to Asheville and see what it has in store for us. It seemed to be a great city with extraordinary views, great restaurants, and tons to do.

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The Omni Grove Park Inn itself was stunning. The amount of Christmas decorations in the place were astounding. Two grand fireplaces flank the massive lobby where a hot chocolate house had been erected for the holidays. The views of the mountains off of the large veranda were stunning. The place was spectacular and radiated warmth, inviting you to stay a while. People were in the hot tub outside, even on a cold winter’s day. It was a resort I’d like to return to in the future. And the Gingerbread competition was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

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The First Place Adult Gingerbread House

The Biltmore Estate at Candlelight is remarkable. The largest privately held home in the United States, I referred to it as the Downton Abbey of America. Stately and charming at the same time, I could have gotten lost in the Library, which I thought was one of the two most impressive rooms in the house. The second was the dining room, with its stately grandiose fireplace and organ. I had to ask my daughter several times to help her understand: “Can you imagine living in place like this? I mean, people actually lived here.”

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Main Dining Room
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Atrium of the Biltmore, with Carolers and Musicians

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The Biltmore Estate Library

To hear one of the tour guides say that the Vanderbilt family was a lovely family and that Mrs. Vanderbilt picked out all the children’s Christmas presents every year and wrapped them all herself while placing them underneath the tree in the upstairs parlor made me feel happy. I liked knowing that nice (albeit super rich) family lived in the home and that it’s been passed down from generation to generation and open to the public to see is a great treasure for our country. The basement alone will blow you away if you haven’t already marveled at the rest of the home.

Asheville, we will be back. And next time, without any sickness to take us away.

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The Biltmore Estate at Night, Christmas Season 2018

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Stephanie Verni books available on Amazon.com and BN.com.