December 10, 2017

Biltmore in the snow

It's rare to see the Biltmore Estate blanketed in significant snowfall, so when the skies turned blue yesterday afternoon we headed to see it for ourselves.

 Someone built a snowman on this cherub's head!
It used to be prohibited to take photos in the house, but now it's allowed. I suppose people were surreptitiously using their phones anyway and, after all, it's good publicity. 
The artifacts in the house are breathtaking enough, but they have some magnificent holiday decorations and Christmas trees this time of year. 
So here are some photos for you to enjoy.

The conservatory is festooned with greenery and poinsettias.

The tree in the dining room is too big to capture in a single photo. It is a "real" tree and actually gets swapped out once during the holiday season. 
As lovely as it is, I think I was especially taken by the three massive fireplaces at the other end of the room. You seldom see them ablaze.

And now some other pretty trees...

And a final photo of some lovely yellow begonias in the display on the hallway table.
A treasure to visit any time of the year, the house always looks especially ready for entertaining during the holiday season!

We got SNOW!!!

On Thursday, 12/7, the local forecasters had told us we would get a dusting of snow on Friday, maybe an inch, with of course, more at the higher elevations. Even in an area where a powdered donut dropped in the parking lot is enough to close school, this did not sound dire... just festively seasonal! There wasn't even a rush to get bread and milk on hand, though this time of year the ABC Stores are always busy.

Well, we woke up to the dusting.
And then it continued and continued all day.
 Until we had close to a foot of snow! 
The birds were happy that Russ had filled the bird feeder!
By dusk, things looked like this and the area was at a standstill!
Notice, we had lights... some in the area weren't so lucky.
The next morning, it was apparent that another inch or so had fallen overnight.

It was a pretty snowfall, with the snow clinging to branches and boughs.
By afternoon on Saturday, things were looking even prettier because the sun returned and the sky was a nice clear blue.
Typically morning snow is gone by around noon here, but this amount will stay for a while... well, at least for a few days.
The local paper, which hasn't been delivered in the last couple of days, said that this is the 15th biggest snow fall ever recorded for this area. 
Imagine that!

November 19, 2017

The Secret City and Gatlinburg

This weekend we traveled to Tennessee to walk with the Asheville Amblers walking club in Oak Ridge and Gatlinburg.

About a year ago I read (well, actually, I think I listened to the audio book) "The Girls of Atomic City" by Denise Kiernan. It is a fascinating account about women who came to a newly created, secret, secured city, not found on any map to work on a project that they were told would help win World War II. Though housed in dormitories and prefab houses in makeshift neighborhoods, they shared stories of their lives with one another, but were forbidden to talk about any aspect of their work. The secret city eventually came to be called Oak Ridge, TN, after their mission succeeded. The work at Oak Ridge involved extracting the radioactive uranium that was used to create the atom bomb. At it's height, the government city had a population of 75,000 people.

Well, the book piqued my curiosity and so, when the Ambler trip was announced, I was eager to go and see what was left of the secret city.

Our first stop was the American Museum of Science and Energy.

At the museum, we signed up for the walk and then viewed a short orientation movie about Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project.

Because the skies were heavily clouded with the threat of rain by mid-afternoon, it was decided that we would take our walk immediately so that we wouldn't get soaked.

The walk took us through a large park region which had a number of monuments related to the Manhattan Project. I was particularly taken by this friendship bell which is temporarily sitting on the ground awaiting a new structure from which it will hang.

If you read the plaque above you can see that it is a collaborative project between Japan and Oak Ridge, presented to celebrate the 50th birthday of Oak Ridge.

The photo below gives you an idea of how pretty the park area is, even on a cloudy day.
The rest of our walk, after we left the park, was mostly through rather modest and nondescript neighborhoods. We also walked by a lot of churches.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this pig car.
The fact that we rushed to get our walk finished as quickly as possible gave us and hour or more to explore the museum, which not only documents Oak Ridge history and related World War II history, but also has a lot of compelling, hands on displays about all of the common sources of energy... atomic, electric, coal, oil and solar.

It was quite fascinating, but we heard that the museum will be moved and likely downsized due to the current administration's lack of support for these national historic sites. What a loss that will be.

Late afternoon we left Oak Ridge and headed to Gatlinburg for dinner, overnight, and a walk on Sunday morning.

I didn't take many photos in Gatlinburg, but it was very busy there... lot's of traffic and lines at every restaurant. We ended up having an excellent dinner at Cherokee Grill... I recommend it!

Since we needed to get back home by early afternoon, we opted to take our morning walk on the main drag of Gatlinburg. So I took the daytime photo of our dinner restaurant then and here's a street scene. The main street of Gatlinburg which is the gateway to the Great Smoky National Park is a couple miles of tourist shops of all kinds... I think we passed at least 6 places where you could buy fudge, at least 4 pancake restaurants, several chain restaurants, many t-shirt and souvenir shops, Ripley's, Star Cars, three indoor mini golf courses, a wax museum, etc., etc. You get the picture. Well, actually, you can get an "old time" picture of yourself or your pet at about a half dozen places, too. 

It's refreshing to know that just a couple miles down the road you can enter the national park and be surrounded by nature!

November 10, 2017

Tryon Equestrian Center

Today we spent a sunny few hours at the Tryon International Equestrian Center which is actually near Tryon in Mill Spring, NC.

This amazing new facility will host the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2018. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, this huge campus includes a regulation outdoor arena, a soon to be completed indoor competition space, and several rings specifically for dressage, jumping, and other events. Adjacent land is being leveled for another large arena. Additionally there are rental cabins, a campground, a village with shops and at least a half dozen restaurants, many stable buildings, a general store, and the grounds are peppered with horse inspired pieces of artwork. The goal of the developers is not only to have a world class resort honoring "the magic of the horse" but to make it a year round destination for families of horse enthusiasts who also might be interested in exploring their nearby golf course, a lodge they have on nearby Lake Lure, and attractions in the nearby small towns and the area between Charlotte and Asheville. As our guide explained, a family might stay there because they have a child involved in a week long "horse camp," but the rest of the family can be zip lining, swimming, golfing, using the shooting range, exploring nearby towns and cities, visiting the Biltmore Estate, hiking, tubing or doing any number of other activities within a reasonable radius. They are aiming to have multifaceted appeal.

I took a few pictures to share.

These giant Rolex clocks top the main building which fronts the large arena. The outdoor seating in the foreground is part of "The Legends" restaurant.

Here's a view of the same building, note the clock tower, from across the arena.

From just about every location you can see construction going on... there is lots of earth being moved around and reshaped. Along with an interesting intersection off the highway to get to the property.

This Venetian carousel operates during special events and I'm sure it's as popular as it is pretty.

Signs direct you to various venues.

We ate our lunch at "The Legends" but most of our group ate at this cute diner.

There are lots of "horse farm" related places, like this silo bar.

Here are Russ and I near some of the art pieces.

We had hoped to see more horses in action. There is a jumping competition tomorrow, but then this weekend ends the season. I did capture nice images of this horse posing and then an action shot.

And here's another horsey shot.

We had been lead to believe that there would be a horse show of some sort, but as it turned out, we just had to rely on our luck to see some of the horses involved in tomorrow's event warming up in the various rings. 

After our excellent lunch, it was pleasant to sit in the sun and sip our afternoon coffee as we watched.

This is definitely a venue to keep on our radar and revisit as it continues to grow!

August 26, 2017

Lake Lure Flower Bridge

Yesterday I finally visited the Lake Lure Flower Bridge. The light was not in my favor as I took this photo of the arch at one end of the bridge.

But basically, the Flower Bridge is a community volunteer effort to turn the decommissioned bridge between Chimney Rock and Lake Lure into a garden paradise. This next shot show the "new" vehicle bridge that is currently in use.

In spite of the fact that the full flush of summer blooms was over, there was still much to see and admire. The plants were well identified by both numerical markers and keys in the garden areas and there was also a free "cell phone" tour you could listen to.

Since I was able to get many nice photos, I will just let you enjoy those without a whole lot of chatter. I know I have some followers who enjoy flower photos as much as I do.

I had heard about the Flower Bridge and driven by it several times at inopportune times of the year, but it was much more extensive than I imagined and, especially for "locals" it is well worth a stop.