Spring Break Vacation -- by Robin
If you read my earlier blog, you may recall that it was with trepeditation, yet hopefulness, that I traveled for the first time alone with my son. Marc, my husband, couldn't get away due to tax season.
We went to visit a friend in Asheville, North Carolina, and from the moment the trip started, it was as if it was tailor made. The universe had a plan, and both Seth and I had a great, if not tiring, time. It made me feel good as a mom to know I was capable of 24-7 parenting on my own, though having support from my friend who is a wise, nurturing grandma and former guidance school professional gave me an extra shot of confidence.
We flew Delta from NY...the only non stop flight we could find. It was a small plane you boarded from the runway, a new experience for Seth. On the plane, he had the opportunity to enter the cockpit and meet the captain and co-pilot and pose for photos. And, the fact that it was a short flight was a bonus for an energized kid.
My friend, Michele, met us at the airport and we drove straight to Hendersonville, a nearby town. Bringing back memories of my trips to Woodstock, NY, I enjoyed strolling the streets and perusing the various shops both in town and along the way. (Honeysuckle Hollow was a favorite.)
I was just so glad to be somewhere else. Life had been feeling particularly stressful of late, and I needed a break big time. From the moment we exited the plane, my body started to relaxed.
At my friend's suggestion, we checked into the Renaissance Hotel in Asheville, and it was a good choice. The location offered an easy walk to town, and Seth enjoyed the indoor pool, room service, and mountain view from our window. The staff was friendly and accomodating. The first night was particularly eventful, and one that Seth will never forget. The smoke alarm went off in the hotel, and at 10pm we had to walk down 8 flights of stairs and evacuate the building. Turned out there was a small electrical fire in a supply closet on the second floor, and once the fire trucks came, it was readily extinguished. Seth was in all his glory. It was as if we were on a movie set. Nothing gets him more excited than seeing fire trucks or firemen, and he got to pose for photos with the firemen and to first hand see them answer a call.
The next day we took a Gray Line Trolley Tour of Asheville. It gave us a helpful lay of the land downtown and beyond, and the driver/tour guide narrated as we drove along. It's a convenient way of getting around, as you can get on 'n off, since Asheville isn't a town where you can just hail a cab on a street corner. (A big change of pace for us New Yorkers.)
The following day, and a highlight of the trip for Seth, was our excursion to Franklin where we went mining at Mason Mountain Mine. There you can purchase buckets of dirt at varying sizes/prices that are stocked with gems and minerals, and you sift through the dirt with water to discover the buried treasures. Mason's gem expert Sandy will happily weed through your findings and let you know what is most of value. If you like, you may pay extra to have your stones cut, polished and made into a finished piece of jewelry. We didn't go that far, but we carted home four weighty bags of raw sapphires, emeralds, quartz, rubys, etc. Seth can't wait to do it again one day.
We had delicious BBQ food one night at the rousing Fiddlin' Pig, and it was a total hoot. We lucked out and got a table front 'n center by the bluegrass band, and clog dancers performed as well. It's very family friendly, affordable and great fun.
We shopped at Biltmore Village at the wonderful New Morning Gallery. If you are a fan of arts and fine handmade crafts, decorative accessories and furniture, this is the place for you, as is Asheville in general. The town is strewn with galleries featuring everything from pottery to jewelry.
On Easter Sunday, we visited Biltmore, America's largest house. It features 250 rooms of arts and antiques at George W. Vanderbilt's historic property. They host year round events, and Seth participated in an Easter egg hunt, we toured the spectacular house, tasted Zinfandel and more at the Biltmore Winery, held and pet baby chicks and other animals, etc. You can also eat and shop there, sleep at the Inn, ride a Land Rover, take a carriage ride, hike, float on a raft or kayak, etc., etc. The activities are endless. And, it's nice just to chill and take in the grandeur of it all, including the gardens.
Downtown Asheville, Seth enjoyed visiting The Health Adventure at the Pack Place Education, Arts & Science Center. They currently feature exhibits/play areas with Clifford The Big Red Dog. While well done, Seth was more interested in the supermarket section and taking a stab at the many mindbending puzzles featured on the second floor. It's a particularly good place to visit with very young children, and comfortable for parents.
On our last day, we took a cab ride to Black Mountain with the new Black Mountain Cab Company, and had a delightful conversation with Kim, one of the owners/drivers. She was good company and recommended a great dinner spot, Ole's Guacamoles (great tilapia) . Kim's taxi company also offers the lowest prices for a cab ride to the airport from downtown, and they plan to offer excursions/day trips to cool places in and around Asheville, so check them out. For general information about Black Mountain, another nice small town to explore, visit http://www.visitblackmountain.com. It's about 20 minutes from Asheville.
Seth and I had such a nice time away (some special mommy-son bonding time), that we wound up staying an extra night. The weather couldn't have been better. I got in some quality shopping. Spent time with a good girlfriend, who also made dinner for us one night at her home on the moutain. (I could see why she moved there from New York.) We drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway and took in the views. We could have stayed even longer, and I know we'll return. Seth said he wants to live there. We'll see what the future brings. Next trip we'll pack his hiking shoes and go from there.