December 22, 2011

The Vine Cottage Inn - Hot Springs

Even though we were going to Hot Springs to see The Homestead, we decided not to stay there. Instead, we chose to stay at this lovely bed and breakfast called The Vine Cottage Inn that has been in operation since the early 1900s. It is located literally a block from The Homestead.
We were greeted by the innkeepers – Jo and Jonah – who have been running the B&B for about seven years. Very hospitable and easy going couple.
We were shown to our room called “16” – a very easy name to remember. Michael and I were caught off guard when Jo told us we didn’t have a key to our room, but instead a courtesy lock for when we go to sleep.   Being from a major city, we were not 100% comfortable with it at first, but got use to the idea.  They also leave the front door to the inn unlocked all night. Talk about trusting thy neighbor!
We found out that Hot Springs is only home to about 500 people, and crime is pretty much nonexistent. It is extremely refreshing to know that there still exists a place where you don’t have to think twice about “Did I lock the door?”
So here we go - the pros and cons of our experience at The Vine Cottage Inn:
·         The innkeepers are just amazing people – extremely nice and hospitable
·         The breakfast was by far my favorite – Scone, French toast, fresh fruit, sausage, eggs over easy, juice and coffee. You could tell it was made with love.
·         The location – extremely close to The Homestead, and the many other outdoor activities available in Bath County Virginia
·         24/7 Coffee, Snacks and Bottled Water! Ding Ding Ding!
·         Fireplaces were always lit
·         Extremely cozy – felt like I was staying at my grandmother’s house for the holidays
·         Felt very safe
·         Free Parking

·         No keys to the bedrooms – although Hot Springs is extremely safe, you don’t know the other people who may also be staying at the B&B.
·         Room 16’s bathroom was a little small. Michael is 6’3’’, so for him he felt like a giant in it.

The Vine Cottage Inn

The Homestead right down the street - literally

Off to Hot Springs Virginia

After we spent the night in Asheville preceding the wonderful visit to the Biltmore Estate – we were off early in the morning to Hot Springs, Virginia, the fourth stop on our road trip.
Hot Springs is home to The Homestead, a resort built in the 1700s.  It is pretty much located on top of the Allegheny Mountains. The Homestead is known for decorating heavily during Christmas, thus why we wanted to stop. It is also a “middle” point to Williamsburg, Virginia – the last stop on our trip.
On the way to Hot Springs we enjoyed scenic views of the mountains, and even stopped to take some nice photos at photo opp areas marked alongside the highway.
We had to pass through Tennessee and West Virginia to get to Hot Springs. I guess the GPS knew we were looking for scenery as it was a beautiful drive.

Candlelight Tour – Biltmore Estate

After spending all day at the Biltmore, and having an amazing proposal in the gardens, Michael and I returned at night to experience the candlelight tour.
The candlelight tour at the Biltmore is pretty much the same tour that we experienced during the day, except you experience it at night.  All the Christmas lights are on, the fireplaces are lit, and there are some wonderful instrumentals and carolers in the center garden within the house.   Unfortunately, if you only do the night tour you cannot do the audio tour, which is amazing. Thank goodness Michael and I already did the audio tour, so we knew exactly what we were looking at, and the history behind it.
We didn’t spend as much time in the house during the candlelight tour just because we spent so much time during the day. It was well worth seeing though: Very enchanting – like you are in a dream. (Again, no photos allowed inside).
The Biltmore at Night

Our Engagement - 12/18/2011

I was walking the gardens of the Biltmore, or what I would like to call the piazza as there was really no "gardens" there, just rocks and some statues. I was taking pictures of the Biltmore when Michael waved me over to this beautiful little gazebo overlooking the mountains - "Come look - it is so beautiful over here."

It took me a few minutes to come over as I was trying to take some artsy pictures with the camera. After a few good shots I walked over to look at the mountains. When I was looking out over the wall a gift appeared in front of me - "You get one more present on this trip", Michael said as he presented to me a wrapped rectangular Christmas gift (Before we left on our road trip he gave me an iPad so I could blog and browse the Internet during the days on the road - thus is why he said "one more").

I was really surprised as I was totally not expecting another gift since he did such a great job with the first one. When I opened the present, it turned out to be a scrapbook that Michael created via an Apple scrapbook program through iPhoto. When I flipped through the book I came to realize it was a collection of photos we have taken on all of our travels together with sweet captions that marked almost every page - such as "I love this girl so much!" and "We have had some great times together".  And of course Michael had a couple misspellings, which I caught right away - but you know, I LOVED IT because that is him.  It brought even more character to this wonderful gift.

Toward the end I stumbled upon a world map with the caption "Are you ready to travel the world with me Ashley?" and the next page said "Are you ready to sail the world with me Ashley?" I started getting an inkling that the next page was going to ask me probably one of the most important questions I will ever hear in my life - my heart started pounding and I flipped the page:

"Ashley... Will you" - I turned to Michael and was like "Seriously?" (But of course in an excited way). Michael said "Turn the page!" - So the next page finished this amazing question with "Marry Me?" - I turned to my right and Michael was on his knee asking the question over again - and without hesitation I said "YES!"

We hugged and kissed, and started crying (tears of joy of course!). This lady who was right by Michael finally realized what just happened - "OMG Congratulations! Let me take some pictures!" as she pretty much grabbed the camera off of Michael.  The pictures of the mountains behind us were the photos she was able to capture.

And a great part to this story is that literally a few seconds after Michael proposed at the Biltmore, a woman came out wearing a wedding dress, with photographers following behind, as 12/18/2011 was her wedding day. Talk about an AMAZING omen!

One of the pictures I took while Michael was waiting under the gazebo

This was the mountain view under the gazebo
Looking through the scrapbook Michael put together

December 21, 2011

The Biltmore Estate During the Day

The third stop on our road trip was to Asheville, North Carolina to visit the Biltmore Estate built by George Washington Vanderbilt in 1895. This is the largest private home in the United States, which sits on acres and acres of land.

We chose to stop and visit the Biltmore because they decorate this lavish home so beautifully during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, they do not allow photos inside the house so we were unable to capture the beauty of how they celebrate this wonderful holiday...I will try to summarize the beauty:
Miles and miles of pine garlands with red bows and white lights wrap the 3 story spiral staircase, each room, fire place mantels, ceilings, and more. Poinsettias are strategically placed throughout the house (or should I say mansion), giving it that warmth feeling with its red vibrant color. Christmas trees are in almost every room of the house, with the largest one being in the main hall which reached 32 feet.  The house was decorated wonderfully to give you that Christmas-ie feeling!
We took the audio tour, which I STRONGLY recommend. It is only $10 more per person. It gives you a background of all the rooms you will visit. It also told the story of how George Vanderbilt obtained his riches, and why he built the house. George seemed like a really kind man, who treated all of his workers like family.  The best part of the audio tour was how it took you back in time with its detailed descriptions of the rooms and the activities that use to take place in the home.

The Biltmore during Christmas time (and really any time) is a must see in the United States. That grandeur home is such an icon and I hope it is still here for hundreds of years so thousands more can truly take in its beauty.

Biltmore Estate - Asheville, North Carolina

December 20, 2011

McAdenville - Christmas Town USA

McAdenville was our second stop on our five stop road trip. The reason we chose McAdenville is because its nickname is Christmas Town USA. The whole town is decorated with Christmas lights – every house, tree, church, and building lights up the night’s sky.
The most popular way to see McAdenville’s Christmas lights is by car. However, Michael and I chose to walk it. It is about 2 miles of Christmas light decorations and takes about an hour and half to walk the whole thing.
Definitely get there right when night falls, because the later it gets, the worse the traffic gets. HOWEVER, Michael and I found a shortcut by mistake. The shortcut (which I would recommend to anyone who wants to walk McAdenville) is to enter at the middle of town (use side streets, instead of exiting off of I-85). There is plenty of parking available. Do not go to the middle of town if you want to drive as you cannot access “the line” of cars from the middle.
Also, don’t expect vendors of any kind in McAdenville. There was no food available; however, one church was selling coffee and hot chocolate (I think). So definitely come with a full tummy, or expect a late dinner.
Overall our expectations were definitely met. It was beautiful, charming, and very festive. And the best part of all was the passerbyers greeted us with a warm smile and a “Merry Christmas!”
McAdenville, North Carolina

The Robin’s Nest Bed and Breakfast

Now this is what I call a Bed and Breakfast! (Robin's Nest Bed & Breakfast) We were welcomed by the spunky and energetic Mrs. Robin (thus the name of the B&B). She showed us around the house, and then up the stairs to our room named “The Blue Jay Room.” 
The Blue Jay Room was HUGE! Queen sized bed, with a Christmas tree to the right. And OMG the bathroom was a dream. A huge clawfoot tube was the central focus, with beautiful hardwood floors and charming décor. 
The B&B overlooks downtown Mount Holly.  We had to stay in Mount Holly, as McAdenville (the place we were visiting for the Christmas lights) was a residential neighborhood with no hotels.   Mount Holly is about 10 minutes away, which was perfect!
So here we go, the pros and cons of our experience at the Robin’s Nest Bed & Breakfast:
·         The breakfast was AMAZING! Moist quiche, with homemade banana loaf, fresh fruit with yogurt, sausage patty, coffee and orange juice.
·         24/7 Coffee! Thank god for the 24/7 coffee (plus to-go cups!)
·         The Blue Jay Room was beautiful and big
·         The innkeeper was extremely nice, and easily accessible
·         Afternoon snacks were left out to munch on throughout the night
·         Small and quaint
·         Location was perfect to McAdenville
·         The Clawfoot Tub in the Blue Jay Room (for those who love to take nice long relaxing baths)
·         Train passing in the morning. Although this is not the B&B’s fault – the train is an inconvenience for those who like to sleep in
·         No bottled water available (at least what we could see)

Michael and I definitely want to come back to the Robin’s Nest as there were tons of other places to explore close to Mount Holly.  

Robin's Nest Bed & Breakfast - Mount Holly
First Floor of Robin's Nest Bed & Breakfast