Although our real anniversary was in August, my husband, Tom, and I postponed celebrating until this past weekend.
We chose this time in part because August is always crazy busy and in part because we thought a weekend in the mountains would be more fun in late October, when the leaves are turning. Despite the weather, the trees were spectacular, especially the maples.
But when all was said and done, who could complain when you’re spending a weekend at the Grove Park Inn, even if the weather is less than optimum.
It was only our second visit there, and the feeling of luxury never gets old. Everyone who works there is always so nice, so solicitous, so kind. (Yes, I realize it comes at a cost, but 48 years of marriage should warrant a little extraordinary treatment, shouldn’t it?)
The Grove Park Inn has a huge common room with lots of rocking chairs and other comfortable seating in front of 12-foot wide fireplaces. I had heard that even this luxury locale had given way to modernity, and they have. The fireplaces are now gas logs, not real logs. However, they’ve done a great job of making them look as real as possible.
One thing that’s always a treat is to watch the wedding parties often gathered there, since the Inn is a great destination wedding venue. There were at least two that we saw. I must admit I have mixed emotions about having a wedding there. One of my daughters got engaged at the Grove Park Inn, and she talked with us about getting married there. When I looked into it, the cost seemed prohibitive. However, now that I’m on the far side of weddings for two daughters, I realize maybe it would have been a bargain. The Inn handles the food, the flowers, the cake, the venue, accommodations – you name it.
The one problem I see now is that while it’s your special day, there are many, many other guests who don’t know you and don’t care that you’re dressed in tuxes and evening gowns while they’re in jeans and T-shirts. But it was fun to watch the wedding parties making their way through the lobby.
A weekend at the Grove Park Inn means you’re in close proximity to Asheville, N.C. We stumbled upon a juried art show downtown, with lots of intriguing pieces of jewelry, paintings, sculptures, etc.
And this time we stopped at the home of poet Carl Sandburg just down from Asheville. I learned all sorts of cool things about Sandburg and his wife. I was first interested in the home because I had just learned that his home was originally built as a part of “Little Charleston.” Flat Rock, N.C., was started by about 50 families who wanted somewhere to get away from the mosquitoes and disease of Charleston way before the Civil War. But these families didn’t build cute little mountain cabins. Instead, many of them replicated their homes in Charleston. Carl Sandburg bought Connamera, one of those summer homes, in the 1940s. His wife had raised goats when they lived on the shores of Lake Michigan but decided she would like to breed goats in warmer climes. She made quite a name for herself as a breeder of prime goats and, at one time, had more than 300 goats. The house was a step back in time. The Sandburgs were far from pretentious. Their home was furnished with the same Sears Roebuck furniture they had ordered when they lived in Wisconsin and Chicago. When the home was given to the U.S. Park Service, Mrs. Sandburg and her family left everything except the clothes on their backs. Of course, the main feature includes rooms and rooms of book shelves with more than 17,000 volumes. The Park Service still maintains a herd of goats, all descended from Mrs. Sandburg’s breeds. If you don’t know who Carl Sandburg was, he wrote a 6-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln in addition to his volumes of poetry. He received several Pulitzers, still in their original wrappings and tucked in a drawer where Sandburg always kept them.
In addition to amazing food all weekend, we enjoyed a repeat of our last visit. The Grove Park Inn has a show that involves dueling pianos. Two accomplished pianists take requests, and part of the fun is trying to come up with a song they don’t know. This time, I noticed that has gotten a little easier for the musicians. While one plays a request, the other has a chance to look up a song on his iPad or phone.
Now, I don’t know if it’s because we grew up in a different time or place, but one of the pianists began to get a little frustrated when we requested three songs in a row that they did not know. Tom asked for “I gave my love a cherry” from “Animal House.” They didn’t know it and apparently couldn’t find it fast enough. Then I asked for “Weekend.” This was a song I asked the dueling pianists for the last time we were there – and those guys didn’t know it either. (I blame Harley Drew for this one. It is a Wet Willy song that Harley used to play on the radio every Friday morning to start off the weekend. When my kids were in elementary school, we’d roll down the windows and sing “Weekend” at the top of our lungs on our way to school.) Tom then asked for “Ode to Joy,” part of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – it was the processional at our wedding and seemed appropriate for our anniversary getaway. One of the pianists did recognize that one and came up with a few bars of the song. I finally asked for “Tapestry” by Carole King. The exasperated pianist apologized that he didn’t know that one, but he played “You make me feel like a natural woman,” and asked if that were an acceptable substitute. I was happy.
The music was lots of fun, and hey, I even reached my daily steps goal on my Fitbit just by clapping to the music.
So if you get the chance, try a fun night or two at the Grove Park Inn. It’s worth it.