It still feels like summer in South Florida, and although we do a very good job of pretending the seasons have changed, it is not the same as breathing mountain air and sipping apple cider while temperatures drop below 50 degrees.
Fortunately, we are not far from some beautiful states that do experience Fall, so when the time is right, we can immerse ourselves in crimson and gold within just a few hours drive.
We set out on our week-long road trip on Halloween with our first stop at Savannah, GA. Savannah is a coastal city, and temperatures have been mild, so not much color there. For a city that is well known for its ghosts, it was pretty tame on Halloween night. After a quick walk over to famed Forsyth Park and its majestic Fountain, (the fairy was a bonus), dinner on river street and a nice sleep, we piled back into the car and headed toward Charleston, SC. Things were looking up. Still no color, but the temperature was beginning to feel like fall, so it was time to put away the flip flops and pull on a sweater.
Charleston is a beautiful old city that deserves to be experienced slowly and deliberately, as everything Southern should be. Unfortunately, that was not our objective for this trip, so we took a quick walk around the market area, had a great meal at Cru Cafe and headed toward Asheville, NC.
Asheville is where we hit the motherload of all things Fall. The city is home to the grand Biltmore Estate which is decked out for the season at this time of year. We stopped outside for a couple of photos before touring the inside where more than fifty Christmas trees are on display. We purchased a ticket that included a tour and tasting at the estate winery for an added bonus to this already perfect day.
The house is amazing at any time of year, but it shines in November and December. In the acreage beyond the grounds you will find Scarlet Oak and Red Maple trees. People say their colors were muted this season, but I beg to differ. The photo below is of a Morning Maple, which is commonly used in landscapes throughout this region. If you don’t get your fill of magnificent fall colors at the estate, around town, or in Biltmore Village, just hop onto the Blue Ridge Parkway which is easily accessible within minutes from the city.
Finally, long pants, closed toe shoes and a jacket! We found Fall in Asheville! The air is dry and crisp and when the wind blows through the trees, it brings a shower of fall leaves – heaven on earth!
Our home for two nights was the Cedar Crest Inn, a beautiful Victorian house built in the 1800’s. (photo borrowed from website.) Spacious rooms, a bountiful breakfast and sipping wine on the sun porch are just a few reasons why we will return here. Asheville is different from most Southern cities that we have visited and has an eclectic , avant garde vibe. Breweries, eateries, art galleries and local theater blend with tradition and history to create a sophisticated, yet small town feel. One of my favorite discoveries was the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar which best exemplifies the combination of tradition and trendy. There are lots of cozy nooks throughout the three-level store which invite all to sit and sip while checking out their wonderful collection of used books.
It just feels right to find a biography of Rosalynn Carter sitting prominently on the shelf.
You cannot leave Asheville without stopping by the Omni Grove Park Inn. ‘Built for the ages’ was part of the 1913 grand opening speech delivered by Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. One look at this stone fortress solidifies that notion as the Inn has forever claimed its place in history. Former presidents, statesmen and dignitaries throughout the world have visited here. You can too, for a hefty $450 + per night minimum rate.
We contented ourselves with a seat on the patio overlooking the world class spa below with vistas of the valley beyond. It is the perfect place to enjoy drinks and conversation while basking in the casual elegance of this luxurious hotel.
Asheville is a place where anyone can find their niche. From grandeur to grunge, this city delights all who visit.
About three hours from Asheville in the Blue Ridge foothills is the pretty little town of Young Harris, GA. We spent two days there, driving through the mountains and eating fried apple pies from Mercier, the best apple orchard in the region. When we weren’t discovering antique stores in quaint towns like Dahlonega or Blue Ridge, we searched for waterfalls. Discovering one that we have not seen before feels like opening a special gift on Christmas day. This two-tiered waterfall at Helton Creek near Blairsville was not clearly marked from the road, but after you drive the winding road for a few miles, then reach the parking lot, it’s an easy to moderate hike down to the first tier, then up a well marked path to the second tier, pictured here. Unfortunately, you will have to imagine the bottom tier since I could not capture it all in one frame.
Vogel State Park in Blairsville, GA is a great place to camp, picnic, fish or paddle a boat. They have several cabins for rent, or if you are the adventurous type, park a camper or pitch a tent and stay a while. We paid a $5 admission and drove through in about twenty minutes, stopping to admire nature along the way. I am a big fan of state parks, and this one is a well maintained beauty.
With a highly successful Fall trip behind us, we turned South and headed home. Impossible to pass up an opportunity to visit Jekyll Island, GA, we spent one night there to divide the twelve hour drive. Of all the places that bring joy to my soul, this is the one. Not a leaf in sight, but my heart delights!
Malcolm and I never need an excuse to travel, but it is fun to have a goal, and this time it was to experience Fall, if only for a few days. Goal accomplished.
Life is a gift to be lived, shared and enjoyed with the ones you love. Live yours to the fullest!
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