My husband and I were able to get away for a long weekend recently. It is one of those things I wish we'd done more of when our children were younger. Money and childcare were definite obstacles. But even if you can't go away together, it is so important to find time to focus on being friends and lovers, not just parents, housemates, etc. The marriage relationship needs to be nurtured in order for it to thrive, and since it is the foundation of your home and your family, it deserves priority over other activities in your life.
Mark took a day and a half of vacation, and we left on Thursday afternoon, headed 4 1/2 hours west to Asheville, NC. We both love the mountains and our oldest son lives there. My travel-savvy daughter suggested we try Airbnb instead of our normal Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn, and although Mark was skeptical, I went ahead and booked us a place in Swannanoa, between Asheville and Black Mountain. Airbnb is an online marketplace where people list homes, apartments, or rooms to rent to travelers coming to their city. We were able to rent a lovely "in-law" apartment with a full kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom in a home on a peaceful, quiet, and beautifully landscaped country lot. The owners have renovated their home into a "duplex", and they live on one side and rent out the other side when their grown children are not visiting. The cost was less than an average hotel room, with much more comfort and convenience!
Jade Tree Place
view from the front porch
We spent Friday at the Biltmore Estate, America's largest privately-owned home, built by George Vanderbilt II in the 1890's. Sitting on over 8000 acres of beautiful gardens, meadows, and woodlands, the gorgeous Gilded Age limestone mansion was modeled after French Renaissance chateaus, with steeply pitched roofs, turrets, and much sculptural ornamentation, complete with gargoyles. The home has 250 rooms, including 45 bathrooms, 33 bedrooms, a bowling alley, a 70,000-gallon swimming pool, 4 kitchens, and a gorgeous banquet hall, flanked by a triple fireplace at one end and an impressive pipe organ up in a raised gallery at the other end. Tours through the house are self-guided, and audio headsets are available for a fee. We did that once, and learned a great deal of fascinating information about the construction of the estate, the Vanderbilt family, the lifestyle of the very rich at the turn of the 1900s, the workings of a large estate home, and much more. This time we just wandered through, admiring the furnishings and architecture. There was a exhibit going on, of wedding fashion featuring costumes from iconic movies such as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Out of Africa, and more. The house was decorated with gorgeous floral arrangements to go along with the wedding theme as well.
This type of day is really my "thing", and not so much my husband's. My right-brainy self loves history, architecture, art, gardens, romance... all that wandering through a gilded castle in the lush Blue Ridge mountains on a perfect June day invokes. My engineer, left-brained, very practical husband is not much impressed with all that, BUT this outing was his idea, and he participated gladly, noticing many of the details and early uses of technology - electricity, indoor plumbing, etc. And he knew that visiting this place makes ME happy. I appreciate the effort, because more often than not, we wrangle over what to do together, trying to find things we BOTH would choose, instead of deferring to and enjoying what the other person prefers for a time. It feels good to know that my man spent a day doing something I enjoy, simply because he wanted me to enjoy it.
On Saturday, we spent the morning walking through lovely downtown Black Mountain, exploring some of the crafty shops ~ well, me exploring the shops while Mark sat on a bench outside; he can only tolerate so much, after all. Then we met up with our son, Alex, and drove to Chimney Rock State Park. This is the kind of thing we did a lot of in our younger, camping years with our family. But Mark and I are both out-of-hiking-shape. Still, we pushed ourselves up the 500 very-structurally-sturdy steps from the parking area to the top of Chimney Rock and were rewarded with amazing views. I struggled a bit more than my hubby, but the boys were patient to wait for me when I needed to pause for a breather on the way up, and down, and again on the 1.5 mile trek to the waterfall that we somehow thought was a good idea. I did it though, although my back hasn't been quite the same since. I probably need to do a little physical training ahead of time before I attempt something like that again. I really feel pathetic even saying that, but age and relative inactivity means I'm not as sprightly as I once was.