Last weekend was one that will hopefully stain my memory forever. Not stain like “Ugh, I wish I could get it out,” but stain like I hope it is soaked into the fibers of my brain for the rest of my life. This will prove difficult since I suffer from memory loss. I’ve never had a brain injury, I’m just super forgetful. Even thinking back on this trip I start to giggle just a little.
Last weekend my sister in law, Katherine, and I took my Mom on a trip for her birthday. We’ve never done a girls’ trip and thought this was the perfect reason to go on one. We wanted to surprise her because I LOVE surprises and obviously I mistakenly thought this trip was all about me. Unfortunately for me, due to scheduling and Mom’s work conflicts we had to tell her what we were up to. She of course was so gracious and excited and went on about how we didn’t have to do this, yada, yada, yada. So selfless, my Mom. Katherine and I had decided on Asheville, NC as our destination for Girls Trip 2015. I had always read in Southern Living about the good food, fun things to do, beautiful mountains, etc. so I thought it was a natural choice. And it was driving distance from Nashville which was also a plus. I arranged a…we’ll call it a “hotel” for now, you’ll understand my use of air quotes later. I researched where to eat and got us tickets to the Biltmore. I didn’t want to over-plan the trip because I wanted us to have the freedom to do things and not be bogged down with a schedule. Mom arrived Thursday night and we were good to go Friday morning after all of our kids got off to school. I did admit before we left that I felt a little like I did when I took Caitlin to St. Louis: Fear of the unknown but I had an iPhone so I’m sure we would be fine. Obviously, I gain a lot of security from my phone. Then, we were off!
The trip there was great. We had our snacks and magazines and we were good to go. We stopped in Knoxville and ate at Tupelo Honey Café which was ridiculously good. Four words: Warm Pimiento Cheese Dip. Just say yes. Don’t resist. (PS I just heard on the radio we’re getting THC in Franklin. Score!) Then we walked around the little downtown shops that I either didn’t know were there in college or they actually weren’t there when I was in college. After we putzed around a bit, we hopped back into the car and got on the road.
Once we made it into Asheville, we wanted to go ahead and get checked in to our “hotel” and put our bags in our room. This is the point in the story when I feel the need to back up a bit. When I was looking into hotels, I wanted to get a nice place but not something that would put me in the poor house. I looked at The Grove Park Inn which was magnificent. It looked like a dream. Unfortunately, dreams are pricey. Then I went on a travel website that was running a deal on a place called the OM sanctuary. The pictures looked pretty enough. It had gardens and trails all around. The rooms looked nice. And it was about 3 times cheaper than The Grove Park Inn. Score! So I booked it. It did mention words like “spiritual center” and “meditation” in the description. Whatever, we don’t have to be all new agey we just need a place to sleep.
It’s pretty right? A lovely retreat….
Fast forward to our arrival. This sanctuary is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I mentioned to my Mom and Katherine that this place could be all voodoo with people dressed in white but I’m sure it would be fine. When we walked in the front door there was a young girl sitting behind a desk. She was very friendly and gave us a key to our room. We headed upstairs and opened the door. As we walk into the room, the beds are looking a little small. I had reserved a room with queen beds and these certainly didn’t look like queens. Then we notice the room is rather bare. Nothing on the walls, not even a clock on the bedside table. There’s one lamp to light the entire room and no phone. What if we need something in the night? We start opening cabinets and drawers and find out there’s no TV. Did you guys get that? NO TV. We also find out there is no wifi. We laugh it off and talk about how our husbands would NEVER stay in a place without a TV. We, however, would be fine. I mean, we had our magazines that we hadn’t finished flipping through and our phones worked so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. We put our stuff down and headed out to check out the rest of the sanctuary. We turn a corner into the dining area and I couldn’t help but chuckle. In front of the windows, there is a gong. With a kneeling pillow in front of it. This is getting weird. I can’t be sure but judging my Mom and Katherine’s laughter I’m pretty sure they think it’s weird too. We walk out into the gardens and it’s pretty. It would’ve been prettier if the waterfall feature was working but pond scum will do in a pinch. Then we walk back and see some little cottages and some sort of meditation center. We thought about hiking down a trail then saw a warning to watch out for bears. We decided maybe we weren’t much into hiking. We opted to go to dinner. Eating is my go-to.
I didn’t have a reservation for dinner the first night, so we decided to go into downtown and walk around. As we’re driving we start to notice the people that are walking up and down the streets. It becomes apparent that we will most definitely stick out once we get out of the car. None of us have tattoos, mulitiple piercings, or a lot of skin showing. Where are the women in work out clothes and capris? Did they find a Costco? Where are the chain stores? Why are there dogs everywhere? Does everyone here have a dog? Are dreadlocks still a thing? Should I think about doing that to my hair? And what about these restaurants? I’m all for local but these all look like they serve Indian food and, well, my body rejects Indian food. Apparently it has negative feelings towards curry. We park the car and start to walk around. We’re all a bit skeptical of the restaurant situation and I’m in a bit of culture shock. We finally do see some women in capris and sandals but they’re headed in the other direction. They must’ve found a TJ Maxx. We trudge on looking for food and come upon a restaurant that seems to have Southern food so we decide to go for it. Turns out it was great and we could hear the live music coming in from outside. After dinner, we were pretty tired from the drive so we decided to go back to the sanctuary and go to bed.
When we got there, I asked the front desk girl if she had given us the right room, seeing that there were full beds in there instead of queens. She knew of the mistake but told us the only other room available had a handicapped shower but no tub. I looked back at Katherine and my Mom and they agreed soaking in basically a community tub was not on their agenda for the weekend. She took us up to the queen room and we got settled in for the night. Did I mention that at this point we had yet to see a guest in this sanctuary? But apparently they were booked up. No really, we did not see one guest. Weird. We get ready for bed and acknowledge that it’s a little strange not to have any background noise but it’s fine. The light of our phones in the darkness was enough. We were fine. First night in the books.
We had tickets to go to the Biltmore Estate the next day. We skipped the “light nutritious breakfast” the sanctuary had to offer and decided to take our chances with breakfast out. Once we got to the Biltmore Village it all started making sense. THIS was the place people from home had told us about. When they spoke of Asheville, what they really meant was the Biltmore Village. It truly was just the cutest little village with shops and restaurants. There was a Starbucks, for the love, yes. As we drove around we saw “our people”, the ones that looked like they were plucked right out of Target and replanted here. We grabbed a quick breakfast and decided to walk the village for a bit and go to the Biltmore Estate after lunch. We walked the shops and found a few treasures. I had reservations at The Corner Kitchen for lunch and it was quite yummy. We headed to the Biltmore Estate afterwards and were in awe of how far off the beaten path this mansion actually was. It sat 2.5 miles from the front entrance. You know when you see pictures of something then visit the place for the first time you’re left disappointed because it wasn’t as cool as you expected? This was not the case at all with the Biltmore. It was even more grand and spectacular than the pictures. The views were beautiful; the architecture was stunning; the rooms were every bit as plush as you would imagine them to be. The amount of detail that went into all the planning is hard to believe given how long ago the estate was built. We took the audio tour because why not? Hearing about the Vanderbilts and what went into decorating that house was amazing. They were extremely intelligent when it came to literature and art. I suspect this is because they had no social media feed to scroll through. I wish I had taken more pictures of the inside but I’m afraid my iPhone wouldn’t have done it justice anyway.
When we finished the audio tour, we went out to the gardens which were nothing short of breathtaking. We talked about what jobs we thought we would hold if we worked for the Vanderbilts. My Mom and I said we’d be in the kitchen and Katherine said she would be a lady in waiting that helped Mrs. Vanderbilt dress each day. I said I could also be the nanny as long as the kids weren’t bratty. I ain’t got time for bratty kids. We wrapped up our tour and went back to the sanctuary to take naps before dinner because apparently we’re old ladies. And with no TV, it was the perfect place for a nap.
On our way to dinner that night, we notice the area where the restaurant was was a bit run down, or if you’re a glass half full type, “up and coming.” I try parallel parking my car on the street which was only half successful with three of my wheels on the street…that last one had to stay on the curb. We felt mostly safe except I noticed some men sitting on their front porch watching us walk away. I’m sure it’s fine. They’re probably nice men right? We walk up to the restaurant and start chuckling. It falls right in line with how most of our trip has been…unexpected. The outside was extremely run down but I promised the girls I had researched it and it was highly recommended on all the “Best of Asheville” websites. I’m sure they were thinking: “Are those the same websites where you found our so-called hotel?” Luckily, my girls are gracious and didn’t actually say that. We went in and the restaurant was quite nice. It was cozy but very upscale. Our waiter started off a bit smug. I think he thought we weren’t the brightest because we asked him a bunch of questions about the menu. He may have also been a bit taken aback when I asked him if we were his dumbest customers of the night. He kindly said no. I also felt I needed to remind him that most people don’t know what all these fancy foods are either, they were just faking. (Nobody actually knows what compressed watermelon is and newsflash: It tastes the same as regular watermelon.) I think he started liking us after that. Or he was “blessing my heart” because he thought I was a complete idiot. The food however was excellent. Who knew a poached egg would make my meat better? Probably everyone on the paleo diet but it was news to me. We decided none of their desserts looked like anything we wanted so the waiter suggested we go to French Broad Chocolate Lounge. I was imagining velvet couches and people smoking while eating truffles. When I think “lounge”, I think velvet and smoking. Don’t ask me why. We took his advice and were shocked when we saw the line for this place was out the door. We waited 20 minutes just to get inside. We each got cake to share and I must say for a chocolate lounge they have some dang good carrot cake. The chocolate cake was probably our least favorite ironically.
We called it a night after dessert and headed back to our not-so-spiritual retreat. We walked up and I pulled on the handle to the front door and it’s locked. I turn around and tell the girls it’s locked at which point we all start laughing hysterically. What hotel locks the front door? It was 10:45. Is there no staff around? What if there’s an emergency? They just lock up the guests and pray the boogeyman doesn’t get in? This is crazy town. I guess this is why they save money by not putting phones in the room. No one would be there to answer it if you called anyway. We then notice a number on the front door for “security.” This must be a joke. I’d feel a lot more “secure” if there were an actual staff person in our hotel. We called the number and he gave us the code to get in. Whew. I’m not sure if I’d really say we even dodged a bullet by not having to sleep in my car. Black Beauty is pretty nice and she has a TV. This is one more amenity than our current room has. Score one for Black Beauty.
The next morning we went to brunch because why not? It was quite good and filling. Asheville doesn’t mess around when it comes to their hash browns. They’re legit and will add pounds to your life. Pounds, people. After brunch we did more browsing around town then decided later to go see a movie. We saw the movie War Room which was awesome! A tad cheesy at parts but overall really good with an incredible message. I had heard lots of good things about it from my friend who was promoting it for Lifeway (you can find his website here). The movie changed my attitude about how I need to pray and how important it is to my relationship with God and those around me. It’s definitely one to go see. We had decided to eat an early dinner then go to the movie so by the time the movie was out it was only 6:30 or so. This wasn’t the best news seeing that we didn’t really have anything left on our agenda to do and we weren’t supposed to drive home until the morning. The idea of going back to our the sanctuary and sitting in that room with no background noise made me want to go mental. When we got in the car we were all just kind of sitting there with our reality…back to the asylum. We couldn’t take it. No. Not another night! I was no better than the men. I needed a TV. Noise. Something. So I blurted out: “What if we just drive home tonight? It’s only 5:30 central time. We can go back and get our stuff and be home by 11:00.” CHEERS! LAUGHTER! YES!!!! HEAVENS YES!!!!! WE COULD GO HOME!!!!
We drove back to the sanctuary and packed up our stuff in roughly 8 minutes and practically sprinted out of that place. We would’ve said goodbye but again, no staff to be found or guests for that matter. We peeled out of the driveway with hope in our hearts. We had escaped the silent asylum alive. I may have lost a few of my marbles while I was there but no worries, I was already down a few anyway. We ate dinner on the road and made it back to Nashville by 11:00. It was glorious. We were giddy the whole way home. You’d never seen 3 girls so happy to be leaving their girls’ trip. What’s funny is we really did have a great time. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that much! I’m grateful that my Mom and sister in law were good sports about the whole hotel fiasco. If nothing else, I learned how valuable it is to take the time to read the reviews before booking a hotel. When we got there the first night my Mom found some reviews on her phone and read them aloud. We were crying from laughing so hard. They all basically said never ever stay at this place. I think I’ll keep my review to this blog instead of sharing it on the travel website. It sounds like they have enough haters on there.
We all agreed we must do another girls’ trip but next time we’d go to a city at least one of us had been to before and my sister in law would plan the trip. She’s a much better planner than yours truly. Although, I did get what I wanted out of this trip: time with my girl family and memories and laughs for a lifetime.
Mom and Kat, this trip couldn’t have had more misadventures if we had planned them. From the lack of towels and made beds to trippy cobblestones and confusing highways, it really was a series of unfortunate events. I’d do it again in a hot minute. Thanks for the laughs. Next time we’ll actually take pictures with our faces in them. Love you girls.
Follow me on Facebook & Twitter!
Follow me on Instagram: @cpallen216
Can’t get enough? Click here. I’ll send these to your inbox