Thursday, January 08, 2009

What did you get for Christmas?

I got a loophole.  Yes, that's right - a loophole.  I'll explain...  Jason and I took a cue from our anniversary and had an agreement to spend only $20 on each other.  So when it came time to open our gifts, I received a pair of hiking socks and hiking poles.  (Hiking was something we sort of discovered we enjoyed during our many trips to the English countryside and we've talked about wanting to make a proper hobby of it.)  But wait, that's not all.  Jason pulls out his iPhone, which he had already navigated to the Grove Park Inn's website and showed me what he had booked for us for New Year's Day:

A couple's spa retreat and two nights at one of the most gorgeous resort hotels in the United States.  Oh, the humanity!  The sweet sweet humanity!  After the full-blown insanity of the holidays, have you any idea how good this sounded?

However, after the initial euphoria wore off, I was all - "Hey!  You totally cheated!  You spent like a thousand dollars!  No fair!  How can my puny little gifts to you compare to this??"  But of course, Jason reminded me that this wasn't just my gift.  It was for him too.  So it didn't count towards the budget.  The loophole.

So all that was left now was to eagerly look forward to our departure.  We stayed in on New Year's Eve and went to bed relatively early so we could get the earliest possible departure the next day.  

We arrived in Asheville and pulled up to the Inn at around lunch time.  Doesn't it look like something out of a fairy tale??

A quick bit of history on the Inn...  Construction began in July of 1912 and once the resort was completed, it pretty quickly became a fashionable place for wealthy people and high society to summer.  One of their most infamous guests was F. Scott Fitzgerald. During the summers of 1935 and 1936, he occupied rooms 441 and 443.

The mission of the Grove Park Inn was "to provide its guests with a unique respite from the outside world".  Some of the methods used to encourage this restful environment were possibly a bit unorthodox.  Guests were discouraged from bringing children without the manager's approval and if people in The Great Hall got to talking too loudly, they were discreetly handed cards asking them to quiet down.  (I personally wish they would reinstitute that last practice.)

The Inn is like a tourist attraction within itself.  We spent a couple of hours walking all around it, admiring the antiques and holiday decorations.  They had dozens and dozens of Christmas trees, all with different themes.  My favorite was obviously the wine tree.  I only wish I'd brought my tiny corkscrew along...

Outside on the porch overlooking the golf course and mountains.

Later, we headed into downtown Asheville to look around.  It's such a cute and interesting little city with a thriving arts community.  There were gorgeous murals or "controlled graffiti" everywhere.

A quiet back street...

The Grove Arcade, a historic public market.

And once we got too cold to be outside anymore, we headed back to the Inn to relax.  We found a quiet corner with a gorgeous view of the mountains and read and drank wine for a few hours.  We saw the most gorgeous sunset but couldn't capture it on film.  It was, quite possibly, the most relaxing day I've had since our trip to Croatia.

After sunset, we headed to The Great Hall to enjoy the roaring fire and the Christmas tree and the excellent people watching.  Oh yes, and some more wine.

Perhaps a little too much wine?  I have no idea what happened here.  This is how I woke up the next morning.  Even the deer seem confused.  Good thing Friday was an all-day-spa-day.

And what a spa day it was...  Even though our treatments weren't until late, we spent the whole day there, lounging and going from pool to pool.  The whole spa is made to look like a cave, with stone walls and massive rocks hanging from the ceiling.  There are lots of different pools, all different temperatures and two of the indoors ones are theraputic whirlpools with underwater music and waterfalls.  They even had a huge outdoor whirlpool which felt amazing against the contrast of the cold mountain air.  There were also big fire pits outside where you could be totally comfortable and warm in just your spa robe.

For obvious reasons, photos aren't allowed in the spa but I found a couple of pictures online.  Pretty amazing, huh?

Just to give you some perspective on exactly how big those fireplaces in The Great Hall are...

They're large enough to burn 12-foot logs and also contain a hand-operated elevator each.  My favorite thing about them are the inspirational quotes engraved into some of the massive stones.

A last word on Asheville: eats.  Do not - I repeat DO NOT - dare go to Asheville and come back and tell me you did not have a meal at at least one of these fine establishments.  Mayfel's is an adorably quirky little place where the waitstaff were wearing pajamas and you can get a biscuit with gravy, home fries and bacon at pretty much any hour of the day.  My only regret is that I was not able to try their cornbread and pimento cheese melt.  I bet that thing is all kinds of smack-yo'-mama good.  Problem is, it's only on the weekday menu and we were only there for the holiday and weekend menu.

The other was this (also adorably quirky) diner-type place called Early Girl Eatery.  They have a lot of vegetarian items on the menu but also plenty for meat eaters.  Jason got the Early Girl Benny which was their version of a Benedict - grit cakes topped with tomato, spinach, poached eggs, tomato gravy and avocado.  I went with an old stand-by create your own omelet and a biscuit with herb gravy.  Deeee-lish.


Ginger said...

Did you and Jason get all the info about the ghosts and hauntings at the Grove Park Inn? The Pink Lady story is awesome!

So glad y'all had a great time!

Alice said...

I'm sending my husband to your blog to learn about the loophole. It's the best gift you can give. :)

Jessi said...

Ihave been wanting to go the pictures...maybe that can be my anniversary loophole!

Suze - Cheshire, UK said...

I just drooled on my keyboard. (That fireplace looks hot!!) Kidding - yummy food - I gots to get me some of that!

Beth said...

Hoo boy, I want to be adopted by the Sangers!

Tonya & Michael said...

Oh, girl. We did a spa retreat there for Valentines one year and it was the absolute BEST!! Glad ya'll had such an awesome time!

Muz and Mo said...

Hiking boots!?!
That's GREAT! We can suggest LOTS of great places to go if you're interested:)