Thursday, June 30, 2022

Asheville, NC Vacation - Part 4 - Grove Park Inn - Historical Tour

Welcome to my second post about the historic Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina.  The link here tells about the building of the hotel.  The information included was part of the historic tour that one could listen to while walking from place to place on the property.  I had a good time looking around, listening, and imagining.  The hotel had displays and exhibits everywhere.  I just wandered about and enjoyed.  It reminded me a bit of the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, which I wrote about here and here several years ago.  Like the Broadmoor, this hotel was also built as a retreat for health in a mountainous region.  Edwin Wiley Grove was a very rich man.  His fortune came from inventing Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic, a way of taking quinine for treatment of malaria without experiencing the awful taste.  He was very successful.  Mr. Grove then decided to build a hotel.  Below, you can see two pictures taken during the building phase.  The rocks to create the Inn were hauled from the area and 400 men worked long, long days to finish the hotel in a year's time.

Below is a picture of one of the gigantic fireplaces in the main room/lobby area of the Grove Park Inn.  

This is a very unique feature built into both the giant fireplaces - an elevator for each.  Yes, this is how one accesses the upper floors of the main historic section of the hotel.  Elevators built into the side of the fireplaces.  They each are small, require an operator, and you go in one door and exit another door when you get to your floor.  I was a little scared the first time we went up, but the elevator operators were very friendly and knew a lot of fun tidbits about the hotel and the area.  Still, it felt a little 'Harry Potter'-ish.  Ha!

As I said, there were exhibits and displays and photographs and videos all over the hotel.  This was a display of the original advertising for 'Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic'.  It actually says 'Makes Children and Adults As Fat As Pigs'!  Back when this medicine was in use, being well-fed and roly-poly was considered a blessing.  It's an odd little ad though.  Ha!

As with many historic places, there have been odd and unexplained things happen.  The picture below is of the type of dress that 'The Pink Lady', the local 'ghost', would have worn.  'The Pink Lady' was a young woman who perished in a fall from the 5th floor to the 3rd floor of the hotel in 1920.  

There have been many famous people who have visited this hotel over the many years it has been open.  A local writer has a book that's available to purchase and I, of course, got a copy.  In Tales of the Grove Park Inn, Bruce E. Johnson, shares stories and history of the area.  I haven't read it yet, but I'll let you know how it is when I do read it.  

Bruce E. Johnson also wrote a book about 'The Pink Lady' entitled An Unexpected Guest.  I decided to treat myself to that one too.    

The last pictures I will share are all from an event that happens at the Grove Park Inn each holiday season, The National Gingerbread House Competition.  I didn't know this, but the competition has occurred for 30 years at this hotel.  There was a whole section and display regarding the creative people that come to share their 'gingerbread' art.  Loved it.  

I can make gingerbread cookies and do some fun things with cookie cutters, but these creations are amazing!  Who wants to enter this year?  Ha!  I texted my daughter the pictures and said she and her husband should try it.  She just laughed and said it seemed way beyond their skills.  


My last post about Asheville will be Saturday and I'll show a couple of North Carolina bookstores that I visited (and picked up a couple of additional books).  Take care, stay well, talk to you soon!

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Asheville, NC Vacation - Part 3 - Grove Park Inn and Local Crafts

Today, I'm going to share a bit about the second place we stayed in Asheville, NC.  As you can see above, the Omni Grove Park Inn has a unique exterior.  It's been around for over 100 years, built in 1913 I believe.  It is in a beautiful part of the town of Asheville and the natural vistas are really stunning.  There is a golf course and several restaurants and a shopping area where local crafters sell their beautiful creations and also have workshops.  Lots of fun to walk around and explore.

Here are several pictures that I took as I meandered the trails and stairs and hillsides.  The hotel is built on a slope and one can see the golf course below.  There is also a spa with a pool and other amenties that was built mostly below ground so that the views would not be spoiled.


As I said, there was a local shopping area, the Grovewood Village, that was just across from the hotel.  You can take a look through the link if you like.  The area is where 'once-upon-a-time', the weaving and woodworking operation of the Biltmore Industries was housed.  Local artists have studios and there is also a classic car museum.  Lots to see.  I'll just share pictures of some of the things for sale outside the shops.  Interesting, right?  You can make them bigger to see better.  My husband really liked the raccoon.  We didn't bring it home though.  Ha!


Tomorrow, I'll have one more post about the Grove Park Inn and show some of the historical features and also talk about a special 'contest' that occurs at this location every year.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 27, 2022

Reading update and what's to come in book groups...

I'm going to take a break from sharing about our Asheville trip and tell you guys what I've been reading lately.  Also, I'll share what the four book groups I try to attend are planning to discuss for the month of July.  I think I've mentioned that my goal is to attend as many meetings of these groups as I can.  I'm not 'making' myself read all the books.  I don't want them to seem like 'homework'.  I do very much enjoy chatting books with others and getting to know booklovers in my 'new-ish' town.

First, what I've recently read and enjoyed:

Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer - This book was very good, in my opinion, though it headed in different directions than I had first thought.  The cover suggests a 'Gothic' theme to me and there was definitely a bit of that in the story.  Hannah Larson and her son, Nicky, go to Cambridge, England for the summer to visit with a relative that is quite ill.  Ashton Hall is a historic manor house and it has lots of secrets.  While there, Nicky, who is extremely curious, finds the skeletal remains of a woman in a hidden room.  Who was this person and how and when did she die?  As I said, lots of secrets.  Hannah and Nicky are both involved in helping the local authorities find answers.  Plus, Hannah learns more about herself, her son, her marriage, and what she wants for the future.  This was not a typical 'Gothic' mystery but more of a woman's journey to discover how she wants to live and also how other women lived in the past.

The Island by Adrian McKinty - This book was a definite thriller in every way.  Non-stop action.  Breathless pace.  Characters to like and characters to hate.  I felt like I flew through this in about 5 minutes and forgot to breathe.  That being said - when I got finished, I had mixed feelings about how the story played out and also about several of the characters.  Tom and Heather are married.  Tom, a widower, has two children, age 12 and 14.  Heather is quite a bit younger than Tom and his kids have not warmed to her at all.  The family goes on a trip to Australia where they hope to sightsee and have fun, while also keeping in mind that Tom will be speaking at a work conference.  As I said, the kids were not very enthusiastic about a bunch of things.  In order to smooth rough waters, the family talks their way onto a ferry going to a small island off the coast.  They hope to see koalas and other wildlife.  Hmmm...bad decision.  An accident occurs, the family is taken captive by the people who 'rule' the island.  Crazy, crazy people.  Heather finds herself having to remember some of the things that her father, a military sniper, taught her about survival.  She has to protect the kids.  I'll be curious if anyone else has read this book and what they think about it.  I suspect it will be made into a TV series or something.  It has that quality.

Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton - I have read a couple of earlier books by Fiona Barton and decided this would be a good one to read after my previous 'mega-adventure' book.  I did like this book a lot and also listened to a great author event with the Poisoned Pen Bookstore Podcast.  In previous books, the author, a former investigative reporter, used a journalist as a recurring protagonist.  In Local Gone Missing, she goes in a different direction and has a Detective Inspector Elise King as her main focus.  Elise is actually on medical leave from the police after having breast cancer and treatment.  She is doing well, but is torn about how her life will go from here on out.  She lives in a small seaside town of Ebbing.  A music festival weekend occurs, with much resistance from some of the locals who like their town small and quiet.  However, many weekenders are starting to come to Ebbing and the festival has enthusiasts as well.  Unfortunately, two teenagers overdose and a local man disappears during that weekend.  Elise becomes involved in the investigation, unofficially at first.  There are secrets and connections that were not apparent in the beginning.  Eventually, Elise is asked by her boss to come back to work and lead this investigation.  I had a good time trying to see if I could solve the case before the end of the book.  The author said that Elise will make an appearance in her next book and I'll be looking forward to that.


I'm now reading the first of Sarah Stewart Taylor's books, The Mountains Wild, with Maggie D'Arcy as the main character.  Loving it so far.  And there are two more books out in this series.  Yay!

As to my book groups and what's on for July - here we go.  I'll see how I do with these and if I choose to read them all.  Let me know if you've read any of them and what you thought or the same about the books mentioned above.

July 7 - 'As Time Goes By - Historical Fiction Book Club' - Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

July 14 - 'Brown Bag Book Club' - The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett 

July 21 - 'Shrouded In Mystery Book Club' - The Blackhouse by Peter May - (I've read this one more than once and love it.  Looking forward to discussing it with a book group again.)

July 28 - 'Talking Texas Book Club' - It Happened In Texas by James A. Cruchfield 


I'll have more Asheville posts later this week.  Take care and hope you are all well and having a cool (or hot if you like that) summer!

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Asheville, NC Vacation - Part 2 - Biltmore Estate and Monet

Welcome to my second post about our recent trip to Asheville, NC.  I'm going to begin today by showing two pictures of the area around our hotel, The Inn at Biltmore Estate.  There were some walking trails that wound around the hotel and I think I mentioned that it was green and lush there.  As you can see in the first picture, a shower had just occurred.  Beautiful vistas.


In the next pictures, we'll resume our tour of the actual Biltmore Estate.  I mentioned that I'll be showing the activity/exercise section of the house and also the staff rooms.  Those exercise rooms were below ground, down, down, down the stairs.  

This is the bowling alley that was created for the Vanderbilts and their guests.  I guess bowling was popular way back and it looks pretty 'normal', right?  Ha!

Here is the underground swimming pool - no water included.  Apparently, it has a crack or leak somewhere and so has not been filled with water for many, many years.  We also saw the dressing rooms for the family and guests to don their swimsuits.  The men had the ones that look like shorts and t-shirts.  The women - those dresses and long sleeves and leggings and even foot coverings.  It was considered improper for women to even show their bare feet.  Amazing that more of them didn't drown with all those clothes on.  

A picture of the 'workout' room.  It was funny that many workout tools and gadgets are much the same today.  The rowing machine to the left isn't much different.  The two shower looking things in the background were apparently 'needle' showers that were supposed to stimulate the skin as a person was pummeled with water.  Health was a big concern and people came to the mountains to get fresh air and breathe well and recover from illness.

This is the kitchen where all the food was prepared.  It wasn't actually all that large and looked sort of normal.  

An electric 'dumbwaiter' to carry the food to the upstairs dining rooms.  There was another 'hand cranked' one on the other side of the room.  Guess the electric didn't always work.

The staff dining room.  Looks very 'Downton Abbey' doesn't it?  Obviously not all the staff could eat at the same time.  I imagine there were more than 10 of them (the number of chairs).

This is part of the laundry area.  Washing, drying, ironing, etc.  Lots of work done here.

And that's all the Biltmore Estate tour.  There were gardens, of course, but I didn't take all that many pictures.  We had reservations for lunch at the Stable Cafe and one didn't want to be late.  You had to have reservations for everything - lots of people.  The Stable Cafe was created out the former stables.  Instead of horse stalls - there were booths.  It was kind of fun. 


The last thing I'm going to share here is a bit of the 'Monet' exhibit that was part of our package  It was called 'Monet & Friends -- Life, Light & Color'.  and was located at another part of the estate.  They have art and music exhibitions at this center often.  There weren't actual Monet paintings, but there was a sort of 'show' that you attended with visual, audio, and even smells.  You can click through and read about it if you like.  I didn't take a lot of pictures (don't think you were really supposed to).  You went in, sat, and listened.  So beautiful!


I'll be back next week with three more posts about Asheville.  The first two will show the second place we stayed, the Omni Grove Park Inn.  I'll show some of the crafts we saw at a shopping/craft section of that area and I'll have a post telling more about the history of the Grove Park Inn.  Lastly, I'll have a post about two bookstores that I visited.  Thanks for coming by and taking a look here!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Asheville, NC Vacation - Part 1 - Biltmore Estate

We recently returned from a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, and this is the first of five posts where I'll share a bit of what we saw and learned in this 'new-to-us' part of the country.  As you probably know, the house pictured here is the Biltmore Estate.  It was built in 1895, I believe, and it's really grand.  It was owned by George and Edith Vanderbilt.  We stayed at the Inn on the Biltmore property and had a package that included an early morning tour with a guide and a very limited number of people.  For us, that meant arriving before the Biltmore was open to others in the public.  Our tour was conducted by a very knowledgeable young woman and included one other couple and us.  Perfect!  We were warned that there would be a lot of stairs (over 300) and a lot of standing (which there was), but it was very, very interesting.  Our guide told us that she was from the Asheville area and that she had first visited the Biltmore when she was 12 years old.  She said she knew right then that she wanted to work there.  As I said, she gave a great tour.

I'm going to share several pictures below, but not write a lot of commentary.  Today's pictures will show some of the more formal rooms and family bedrooms and tomorrow, I'll show the activity/exercise areas and the staff quarters.  Plus I'll give a couple of pictures from the area of our hotel and also a bit about the 'Monet & Friends' exhibit that we saw the second day we were at the Biltmore.  Hope you enjoy my little 'tour'.

The lion outside the Biltmore House.  We wandered around a bit as we were waiting for our tour to begin.

This is the beautiful entry area at the Biltmore House.  Light and greenery abound.  As we began our tour, our guide told us that each room has a different type of ceiling.

I took a picture of the ceiling here in order to illustrate that our guide was correct.  Every room was different.

This is the major dining room and I'm not sure how many could be seated at this table (expanded).  There are 25 chairs at the table in this picture.  Maybe 60 or so to the full extension.  The dining room was massive and gorgeous.  

The organ loft in the dining room.  We were able to visit that loft toward the end of our tour.  There is an organ there now and it plays throughout the day.  The view from that balcony was just 'wow!'.

A smaller dining room that was used as a breakfast area for single visitors, both male and female.  Married people had breakfast in their guest rooms, but apparently, Mrs. Vanderbilt was something of a matchmaker.  Unmarried guests could chat together here with all propriety.  

This is a shot of the library.  It was massive and amazing.  I've forgotten how many thousands of books the guide said are in the Biltmore.  Not all are in the library.  Books are everywhere.  

Another shot in the library.  I tried not stand on my head trying to see all the titles!  Ha!

George Vanderbilt's bedroom, the largest bedroom in the house.  It was indeed massive and made that bed look very small.

This was a hidden closet door off to the side of the bed in Mr. Vanderbilt's bedroom.  It was one of many 'hidden' rooms that were found all over the house.  

Edith Vanderbilt's bedroom was not quite as large as George's.  Beautiful though.  There was a family sitting room between their two rooms.

I show this picture as an example of  a guest room for unmarried female guests.  There was a private bathroom off each guest room and also a sitting area with a desk.  Those beds looked very short to me though.  


I had many more pictures of the tour, but can't post all of them.  Way, way too many.  This gives you a glimpse of the 'upstairs' part of the house.  Tomorrow's post will show the staff areas and exercise rooms.  Just think of how many people it would take to keep this Estate running.  So many....