Sunday, January 8, 2017

Asheville Getaway Weekend (Dec. 16-18)

On December 16, 2006, Jesse proposed to me at the Biltmore House. We celebrated our engagement by dining in Asheville, touring Biltmore by candlelight, and showing every random stranger my ring.

Fast forward ten years, we thought it would be a fun trip and much needed getaway to return to the Biltmore in December. Our last overnight trip together was when I was pregnant with the triplets, so it had obviously been a while. Jesse made all of the arrangements, including for his mom to spend the weekend at our house. 

Exactly ten years since proposing, we returned to Asheville for our weekend away. We're both so drained every Friday night. We left as soon as Jesse's mom arrived, drove the two hours, got dinner at a Mexican restaurant beside the hotel, then crashed. We slept nearly 12 hours uninterrupted. It was glorious!

Our only real plan for the weekend was to go to Biltmore, which left a lot of time to fill. Jesse wanted to go see the new Star Wars movie. I wanted to go for a hike. After brunch at Cracker Barrel, we headed to the parkway for a hike. This past summer our family visited Craggy Gardens. At the time we took a family friendly hike. My plan for Jesse and I was to drive to the same area and take the more difficult Craggy Pinnacle Trail with the 360 degree panoramic views. After twenty minutes on the parkway, we were forced to abruptly turn around!

My mind had been made that we were going on a hike. There was another trail (Max's Patch) that has been at the top of my list for many years, but it was nearly an hour from where we were. I pulled into the first random spot off the parkway I could find that promised a trail. It was a nice enough trail at first.

I enjoy hiking with a purpose. I expect an end result, such as hiking to a waterfall or reaching the summit for amazing views. I'm content with an open field and stream. This random hike was just a narrow, never-ending walk in the woods. It felt no different than walking in the woods at home.

There was one spot that cleared a bit and had a nice view. Jesse and I walked for 40 minutes, before deciding to just turn around.

We climbed some boulders and stopped for a cheesy photo session. The sun was blinding, so there were quite a few outtakes.

The next item on our plan-as-we-go agenda was a nap in the hotel room. Jesse and I called around for dinner reservations at the Grove Park Inn so we could see the gingerbread houses. They were booked at each restaurant, so improvised with downtown Asheville. We saw a few gingerbread houses at the Grove Park Arcade. 

Feeling nostalgic, we thought it would be fun to eat at the same restaurant we went to after Jesse proposed. I'm not sure if we had lower standards when we were in college or the restaurant has really declined, but it was not the same experience. The food was practically inedible. We left most of our food,

then wandered the local shops.

The highlight of our trip was touring the Biltmore. Jesse had purchased tickets for the candlelight hours. Our scheduled entrance time was after 9 pm, yet we arrived  just after 7. We had plenty of time to kill!

Jesse tried to take me to the gardens to the exact spot where he proposed. It was pitch black and felt like we were trespassing, though we never crossed any closed gates or saw signs of closings. Still, my anxiety got the best of me, alone in the darkness. I urged Jesse to turn around after what felt like hours of wandering. I idiotically chose not to wear my winter jacket, and consequently was freezing while outside. The only place we could go to warm up were the gift shops. We window shopped for a long time, then sat under an outdoor heater for an entire hour. We had fun people watching.

Of course we had to take an obligatory photo in front of the house. We've easily gained over 100 lbs as a couple in the last decade, as the pictures clearly show. We could have never predicted when we decided to get married what events would occur over the next decade. In some ways, our lives have been very predictable. We graduated college, began our careers, bought a house, and had kids. On the other hand, I don't think either of us would have planned to work at so many schools (seven between the two of us) or have so many children so close together. There have been plenty of challenges over the last decade, but I have never once regretted saying yes.

I didn't bother taking many pictures inside the Biltmore. I knew I couldn't take anything that compared to online photos. Plus, it's impossible to convey in a photo the size of the rooms. They are breathtaking!

I've been to the Biltmore a handful of times throughout my childhood and young adulthood. This was the first time I've toured it since becoming a mother. The only photo I took was of this room. This is the room where Cornelia Vanderbilt was born, and where she never gave birth to her sons. I found it so intimate and beautiful that thousands of people regularly tour the exact room where they took their first breaths.

We returned to the hotel room and went to bed. Not wanting to keep Jesse's mom with the kids any longer, we drove home right after checkout. Every family vacation I plan is jam packed with things to do. It was nice to take a more relaxed approach and be able to enjoy one another's company again.

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