I've been reading a lot about the Vanderbilt family recently, which has reminded me of our stay in Asheville, NC in 2013.
No we did not stay in the 250 room chateau built by George Vanderbilt in 1895. In fact we didn't even get near the grounds of the famous mansion. Tickets to get on the property cost $59.00. (We visited the Blue Ridge Mountains for free) But we did stay a mile away at the North Lodge On Oakland.
The Garrett House
Robert Garrett built this home for himself and his wife in 1904. It was one of 15 houses in the affluent town of Victoria, just a mile between the Biltmore Estate and downtown Asheville. Today the house sits on a grand lawn, looking across the road towards some very modest homes.
A New Look
The place certainly looked restful as we approached on a May afternoon. But what we didn't realize was that this home had been transformed into a tuberculosis rest home in 1923. The porches were closed in to provide more bed space.
There was a nice little welcoming porch with a bench, but I would love to have seen it when long porches lined the house. By the 1880's Asheville had become the nation's foremost medical center for tuberculosis research and treatment. Our little B & B getaway had once housed folks suffering from TB, the number 1 cause of death at the time. A pleasant thought.
The living room was very sweet and immaculate. It's hard to believe this beautiful home was condemned by the city in 1987. How lucky for all, that a couple bought the property and spent 5 years renovating.
Our room wasn't the largest, but we had loads of books to chose from and so many windows!
There was a small fireplace and lots of lush green outside every window. The bathroom made you feel like you were outdoors, with the flowered wallpaper and garden views.
I have no photos of our breakfast, but this is where we shared the table with some other guests and enjoyed a 3-course meal. You never know what kind of conversation you'll have at a B & B table. A know-it-all motorcycle couple balanced out a youthful couple who talked about being in theatre as children.
My best memory is, lounging in the gazebo. We popped some popcorn, that was available to guests and made some gin and tonics and had our own little happy hour in the garden. There was a trickling fountain, lots of bird activity and some lovely deep-toned chimes, that came to life with a gentle breeze!
Cherokee, North Carolina
It's hard to believe Don and I actually had reservations for this place with the peeling Wigwam Motel sign. But, it was autumn in the Smokie's, so we were lucky to get a room. Besides, we'd been curious about the town of Cherokee, headquarters for the Eastern band of the Cherokee Indians. We wanted to know more about this area, where years ago, many Cherokee hid in the hills and refused to join the forced movement to Oklahoma with on the Trail of Tears.
It's a little eerie to drive down the main drag of town and see these signs for motels. Does the Cherokee community feel okay about motels with tomahawks and names like Warrior Motel? Are they owned by Cherokee? Of course we could have tried out the Teddy Bear Motel if we'd wanted to be more politically correct.
It was dreary and cool as we drove down Highway 441, along the Oconaluftee River towards the main motel area.
If I'd been a little kid, I think I would have been totally freaked out by the kudzoo covering the hills behind the motels. The tall shapes seemed to hover like armless beasts, ready to pounce on passing cars.
Home Sweet Home
As we arrived we chuckled to ourselves. Is this really where we would be staying? I felt confident earlier, when I'd called for reservations. The woman on the phone seemed friendly and welcoming. But maybe I should have been concerned that this place didn't even exist on Trip Advisor or Expedia.
Hello!? Anybody Home?
There didn't seem to be an office and we couldn't find anyone to help us. We finally realized the manager also worked at the Sundancer gift shop next door.
We tracked her down and walked with her to a small room the size of a closet. She seemed a little overwhelmed as she sorted through a pile of notebooks looking for the spiral where she'd written my name down for reservations. I reminded her that we had requested a first floor, but she said she was sorry those rooms were all booked. To a group of bikers evidently.
Up We Go
She gave us a key and pointed to the stairs. Up we went, passing a tiny cart with a tan phone resting on a weathered phone book. We greeted a few who were using the balcony as a smoking lounge and headed into our room.
Feeling at Home
Don smiled as he unpacked. "Awesome wood paneling!" He always looks on the bright side. True, the paneling did bring back memories of my family room growing up. "And there's an ice bucket...and refrigerator and a choice of two beds!" But there were other things I didn't like.
There seemed to be some large, gnat-type bugs that were flitting in and out of the cracks and holes of the ceiling tile! Don and I are both fond of camping. We are not afraid of bugs. But I was not happy about this. I don't know what the little creepy things were, but I ended up standing on the beds (while Don laughed) and filled every opening with tissue from the bathroom. While in my detective state, I began investigating beds. I whipped off bedspreads and spoke to the sheets. "Prove to me that you are freshly laundered and pressed!"
Eventually Don and I relaxed. It was just one night, after all. I offered to make a trip to fill the ice bucket, which happened to take me past the area where the bikers were hanging out. They were actually very nice and not nearly as worrisome as the old gurgling ice maker with the rusty scoop. Don and I ended up sharing some kind of beverage (minus the ice) and it put us in better spirits. Eventually we worked up an appetite and walked down the road to a Cherokee owned restaurant where we enjoyed some Indian tacos. Then we were back to our home away from home for some motel TV and a birthday treat.
Poor Don has had his birthday on the road many a time, but usually we are able to celebrate with a little more style. At least we had picked up some pretty amazing cupcakes earlier and he did have some presents and pampering another day. He doesn't look a bit miserable in this photo. He is a very good sport.
In the morning I skipped a shower. The kudzoo looked intimidating from the jalousie windows in the bathroom. If you're familiar with the book/movie Jumanji, you'll understand my fear. It seemed to be creeping in through the cracks.
We packed up and headed down the road, passing the wonderful Pink (Tinkerbell) Motel. It brought out the kid in me for sure... "Oh please, please Donnie. Can we stay there next time? Can we?"
So, What's Notable? The bugs and kudzoo were the most memorable. The Wigwam Motel is one of the few quirky places I have no intention of revisiting. However, Pink Motel may need to go on the list!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!