Sunday, April 10, 2011


The Tootsie Roll
Looking at the date of our last entry, you'd think the Box was parked permanently. Actually, he took us to several car dealers, where we tried out various vehicles and then settled on a Toyota Sienna van made in America. Yes, we are now officially soccer moms. Well, technically, it will be Susanne's main mode of transport, and I will stick with the Toaster.

You see, with all its wondrous features, the Box is a wee bit narrow for two adults to sit comfortably side-by-side for hours at a time. (For some reason, Susanne has resisted the idea that she have her left arm amputated to provide more room in the car.) Because we have been wanting to make a visit to Susanne's sister Robin at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and to the Biltmore House at Asheville, it seemed the right time to bite the bullet and get a new, larger vehicle. And, like icing on a cupcake, Robin wanted to buy Susanne's low-mileage Subaru.

Nice as it is, the Sienna has none of the panache of the Classic xB that we all know and love. Its shape reminds me of a church-made Easter egg or a Tootsie Roll, elongated and rounded, even swirly, with none of the squared-off corners that raise my temperature. It does have heated leather seats, and a navigation system you can talk to, doors that open like magic, and a push-button start (didn't we have that feature 40 years ago?). It's got a moon-roof and satellite radio (but only until the free period runs out), and something like 14 cup holders. Oh, and it's Predawn Grey Mica in color. They used to call that dark grey.

Well, when we left town to head to W-S, we left the Box for his annual spa treatment at the Scion dealer. It must have felt so good to get clean oil, new hoses, filters, and fluids. And a nice shower at the end. The dealer takes your car back to your house for you, so the Box stood guard in the driveway during our absence, fooling all those "mean guys" who want our Lesterware.

The Storefront
Five or six hours of driving is hard on us old timers, so we generally leave around noon and stop somewhere for dinner and the night. (And this time, we were driving two cars! The new one, of course, and Susanne's Subaru.) Often it's at Staunton, Virginia, where we stop, a charming town with loads of historic buildings. I was allowed to make the reservations there, and I chose a place called "The Storefront -- A Very Small Hotel." It's a former coffee shop converted to a B and B for one person/couple/family at a time. You occupy both floors, which include a coffee bar, a kitchen, bath, and bedroom. While it was not the lap of luxury, it was a little different, and it was specially-priced for March, something that appeals to the Scottish blood in my veins.

After unpacking, we strolled along the main street and window shopped. We had a nice meal at a bistro-style place. I had some of the best eggplant ever.

A lovely tea service from Replacements.
In the morning, we ate the continental breakfast provided at the B and B and then headed back to actually enter some shops. Susanne bought a cloth bag and a metal "frog" to hold flowers. We had a nice time talking to a couple who runs a furnishings store, full of the kind of stuff that appeals to us. I came across a beautiful tall case clock from York, Pa.

Then it was back to I-81 to continue on to meet Susanne's sister Robin at her place of employment, Replacements, Ltd., outside Greensboro, NC. We let the lady in the navigation system guide us, and we took a nice scenic route. I was hoping it was an efficient route, too. We hung around in Replacements a bit and then met with Robin and a notary to sign some papers transferring the Subaru to Robin's ownership. I enjoyed searching for a bargain (few and far between) and ogling the gorgeous sterling silver tea services with their mile-high price tags.

Robin and Ellen's parlor
Soon we headed to Winston-Salem, and for the first time I got to see Robin's new house. She and her partner Ellen had purchased and rehabbed it over the winter, and it is spectacular. It dates from the early 1900s, and has survived the years with virtually no substantive changes. It needed lots of cosmetic work, a new kitchen, and an improved powder room and bath. And these two women knew exactly how to get the job done right.

The house is spectacular, colorful, comfortable, and just like something out of a book on decorating. Our several days spent there were very comfortable and enjoyable. We had several great meals at local restaurants, joining Robin and Ellen's friends on two occasions, and shopped in some cool "funky" stores for home decorating.

We enjoyed presenting Robin and Ellen with a housewarming gift, paintings of the famous local Star Barn done on a box Robin had purchased last year. The artist was our talented friend Jane, whose distinctive style captured the decline of the Star Barn, which happily seems to be headed for restoration and moving to a new site away from the Interstate.

Soon it was time to take our leave. Susanne and I headed south toward Asheville, a great town nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina. It's known for its fine arts and crafts and its somewhat relaxed and Bohemian atmosphere. We checked into the Homewood Suites, which would be our base of operations for the next four days.

Biltmore House
It's impossible to recall the sequence of all that we did, so let me just sketch it for you -- we drove around to get acclimated; we visited two antiques and funky junk stores and made some small purchases; we had lunch one day at a real "southern" place, where I enjoyed a sweet potato pancake with peach butter and pecans (sorry, I can never remember what Susanne had); we visited Biltmore House, America's largest home, once the residence of the famous Vanderbilt family; I stopped into two churches after admiring their dramatic architecture; we had lunch (chicken salad for both of us) in an old Woolworth's store (I think this video is most effective with no distracting background sounds) now converted to an art gallery, with a great old-fashioned soda fountain; we pretty much enjoyed the breakfasts and light dinners provided by the hotel for all its guests.

Like Staunton, Asheville has great old architecture. And around the entrance to Biltmore House there are a lot of shops housed in 1900s-era buildings. One of the churches I visited was located there. Even McDonald's was housed in a new building sympathetic to the old ones.

Dolly welcomes Susanne to Tennessee.
Soon it was time to head north, so we packed up and started out, enjoying a brief stop at the arts and crafts pavilion on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just outside of Asheville. The lady in the Sienna who tells you where to go took us north through Tennessee, where we stopped at a dandy new welcome center. You will never guess who we ran into! Yes, Dolly Parton! (She is on the right.)

We drove until we reached Lexington, Virginia, home of Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute. It's a lovely southern town with narrow streets, very historic in feeling. We pulled up to the1868 Magnolia House Inn, where we were warmly greeted by our host and shown to the Equestrian Suite at the top of the stairs. It was comfy and had a fireplace and fine linens and was full of "stuff" that made it feel like someone's house and not a hotel. The living room, where we spent only a few minutes during our stay, had the same feeling.

The 1868 Magnolia Inn
In the morning we were served hot coffee and juice and a delightful meal of potatoes, sausage, and baked blueberry French toast, covered with pecans. It was delicious, and we enjoyed chatting with the other host, who told us that she and her husband were running the B and B for a while for the owners. They have bought another house across the street and plan to open their own B and B. They will do well, I am sure.

After breakfast it was back to the highway for the last leg of the journey.

We had considered stopping in Baltimore to see our family there, but by that time I had developed a nasty cold, so I was not being very good company and pretty contagious. We went straight home instead, tired but happy to have seen Robin and Ellen and to have visited a beautiful area of our country that was largely unknown to us Yankees.

If you can stand it, continue on to see some photos of our trip.

The main street of Staunton, Va., is a poster for
historic preservation. On the other end of the street
 is Woodrow Wilson's birthplace.

A display of colorful pitchers at Replacements, Ltd.

This sterling punch bowl would look nice on our
side table. It's only $10,000. Donations accepted.

 Ellen and Robin's beautiful old-fashioned
back porch, complete with sky blue ceiling.

Ellen and Robin admire the Star Barn box.

Robin's cat (one of two) sittin' pretty.

Robin gives Susanne a birthday gift --
the coveted Turkish olive bucket!

Guess who now has this half-a-Dutch-
barn-door to hang over their
living room fireplace.
 Here I am in front of the famous staircase
at Biltmore House, patterned after one in a French castle.
I could not help inserting this photo
of the original staircase at Blois.

We liked the European atmosphere of this
courtyard, created by the house on the left and
the elaborate stables on the right.

The Bake Shop kept calling to us. We 
had a sandwich while others enjoyed
snickerdoodles and other treats.

The aforementioned snickerdoodles.

Susanne peeking out from a porch.

These flappers were taking a break in the Biltmore gift shop.

I admired this architectural detail on the 
stable. Is it a milk bottle?

The Episcopal Cathedral of All Souls
stands just outside Biltmore's gates.

The church is square inside and quite ornate.

Even McDonald's, around the corner from the church,
has an early 20th-century look.

Here's downtown Asheville.

Architectural salvage in an old tobacco warehouse.

The Woolworth's lunch counter.

This public art graced the street in Asheville.
This town had a nice streetscape, too.
Asheville's Basilica of St. Lawrence, features
impressive brickwork.

Here is the interior of the Basilica.

We stopped at the Folk Art Center on the Blue
Ridge Parkway. They show contemporary versions
of traditional arts and crafts.

This is the cool Tennessee Welcome Center
where we met Dolly Parton.

The main bedroom of the Equestrian Suite
at the Magnolia Inn in Lexington. 
 There was a second room in the suite for people who snore. 

Our suite was right at the top of the stairs.

Our host Mary serves coffee in the morning.

Mmm, mmm, the blueberry French toast.

We had a nice seat by the window.

It was grey and dreary, but the sky was dramatic
over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

Crazy, I know, but I always feel we are back home
when we pass the big paint can near Chambersburg.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome here.