A Spectacular Start to Fall – Luxury in the Smoky Mountains

I’ve had some people comment recently that it looks like I travel a lot for work, you’ve got that right! But, I also travel A LOT in my personal life. It’s a good thing I love travel, wouldn’t you say?  The month of September was grueling for the hubby and me – between the two of us, we slept in 6 different hotels in 4 different states (South Carolina, Ohio – but not at home!, Nevada and Tennessee) in 5 days. That can get exhausting. Luckily, the end of our month of travel chaos ended in the most perfect way.  Our last stop was a wedding in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  Backtracking a bit, the bride’s brother was married in Telluride, CO 2 years prior. We FELL IN LOVE with Telluride in the fall. My heart aches thinking about it and when I will get the chance to return.  Good news, this wedding was just as beautiful.

Looking for a luxury cabin experience, great for groups and families? Check out Brother's Cove in Pigeon Forge

Weddings @ Brothers Cove – Pigeon Forge, TN

We drove. I’m not always a huge fan, but flying wasn’t going to be much more efficient.  We arrived late in the evening and battled a dark winding rode up the mountain side.  We were far later than we had hoped, missing the community dinner for guests not attending the rehearsal dinner. Luckily, my mom and dad were there and scavenged some food.  See, the original plan was for us to meet for dinner in Sevierville.  That plan was quickly tossed aside when my parents arrived. My mom called exclaiming, “we are not going back down that hill at night!” We laughed, because, it was night and we had to take the road she was referring to! As we entered the Brother’s Cove property, we were amazed at the size of these

Looking for a luxury cabin experience, great for groups and families? Check out Brother's Cove in Pigeon Forge

cliff hanging cabins.  They are MASSIVE and all supported on stilts.  From the outside, I could tell these were not your typical “ruffing it” experience.  We definitely didn’t need to question if there were going to be linens provided at this cabin experience. We popped out of the car and walked into the most immaculate “living room” I’ve ever seen

Looking for a luxury cabin experience, great for groups and families? Check out Brother's Cove in Pigeon Forge

– cabin or not. This cabin sleeps six, but apparently you can squeeze ten.  It is three stories! My mom says they gave us the more secluded room on the third floor, I assume what she meant was, we gave you the third floor room because you two have the best knees in the group.  That’s fair, we were sharing the room with my parents and a mother/daughter duo from my hometown.  The mother is probably 70 or 80, so I didn’t complain.  We climbed that spiral staircase and found the most beautiful “tree house” room.  We didn’t have a whirlpool like the others, but wow, did we had a view! It was hard to see at night, but when you woke up, you could see for miles.  The rooms were built with three walls of floor to ceiling glass. It was so beautiful. Each room also came with its own private porch.  We were there with family, so I wanted to join my parents for a hot tea in the morning, but if I were there with a bunch of friends – it would be a nice way to peacefully start the morning in privacy.

Looking for a luxury cabin experience, great for groups and families? Check out Brother's Cove in Pigeon Forge

Wake up to this view @ Brother’s Cove – Pigeon Forge, TN

We only had a day to spend at Pigeon Forge so we wanted to make the most of it. The cabin had a full kitchen, much nicer than my own, so had we planned accordingly, we could have easily cooked breakfast for an army.  We set out to find a local place that cooked up some good Southern breakfast fair and we found it at Grandmother’s Kitchen. The sign outside advertised “Cathead Biscuits” which piqued my interest.  What the hell is a Cathead Biscuit? I was willing to find out. Turns out, “cathead” refers to the size of the biscuits.  They were colossal and delicious. If I wasn’t always concerned about not looking like I eat as much as I do, I would have eaten more than one of those!

My dad was acting as our guide.  We set off to find the Laurel Falls Trail.  Apparently one I’ve walked before as a kid, but I didn’t remember it.  You probably could have guessed, but cell phone reception is sub par in this area. Had I needed to find this place on my own, we’d probably still be looking. Luckily, I think my dad has a detailed world map inside of his head – he can always find everything. The trail was great – fairly easy for the hiking newbie, but had some elevations for sure.  The falls were lovely, although there were a lot of people there.  Sadly, I think a bus of tourists had been dropped off prior to our arrival, because they were traveling in pac…herds. My mom doesn’t make too many appearances here, so here

Hiking in Pigeon Forge

Laurel Falls Train @ Pigeon Forge, TN

you go! We made it back just in time to make a pitstop for some lunch food and to hit the pool.  If you’ve ever spent time driving down the main drag in Pigeon Forge,you might have thought for just a second! that you were in the over commercialized area of Myrtle Beach, if it weren’t for the mountains. YIKES!  It was too much for me.  Luckily, we came across a great Tennessee BBQ join that had a big smoker out front and someone was actually using it!  Boss Hogg’s BBQ was amazing.  TJ and the ‘rents got ribs and I chose the brisket.  Everything was perfect. We headed over to the pool to catch the last of the Tennessee rays before preparing for the wedding.  Honestly, I have no idea why more people weren’t at the pool. OK, it was a little chilly. I don’t believe it’s heated and by September, the nights are just too cool, but again, that view!  I could have sat there all day, but we had a wedding to get to!

In researching Brother’s Cove, I knew that weddings were the money maker for them and now I can see why. The backdrop for the ceremony was jaw dropping and the

Looking for a luxury cabin experience, great for groups and families? Check out Brother's Cove in Pigeon Forge

Weddings @ Brothers Cove – Pigeon Forge, TN

reception was top notch.  They turned out delicious food, but even if the food was awful, you wouldn’t haven’t noticed if you just stared out the windows.

Kudos to the staff and the property at Brother’s Cove.  Our visit was far more than we expected and I’m pretty sure the bride and groom were quite pleased.

We cannot wait for another opportunity to escape to Pigeon Forge and we know exactly where we will stay.  With a hottub, grill, and full kitchen all wrapped up in a luxury cabin atop a mountain with a spectacular view, how could you not come back?

Thank you for kicking our fall off with a bang.  The Smokies are truly Great!

Hiking in Pigeon Forge

Laurel Falls Train @ Pigeon Forge, TN

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

A Final Splash of Summer – North Carolina

Looking for a Myrtle Beach Alternative? Check out this North Carolina Coastal Beach

Serenity @ Sunset Beach, NC

If you haven’t noticed, I travel a lot. Not just for work, in my personal life too.  I love it, so that’s good, but in 2016 we had 6 weddings to attend, two are out of state.  This year, I got to attend my first ever beach wedding in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Now, you might be able to guess this, but I’m not a huge fan of the big touristy destinations.  I don’t know, something about the flash of Myrtle Beach doesn’t scream relaxing weekend away to me.  But! Never fear, I was determined to find something unique on our trip and I found it.  My family has made the trek to the North Carolina border for 29 years.  We stay in an ocean front house every year, so we are never looking for lodging accommodations – we know where we’re headed. When we heard this wedding was going to be in Myrtle Beach, just 50 minutes from our annual summer vacay spot, we thought we’d take that opportunity to see what was around.  I quick Google search of inns brought me to a love I didn’t know existed… The Sunset Inn. The Sunset Inn is located on Sunset Beach, NC an island nestled between Ocean Isle Beach and the border of North & South Carolina.  It’s an island I’ve gone to a number of times, but I never knew this little gem existed.  How fortunate we were for this opportunity.

The book process alone made my heart flutter.  There were individual rooms, all with a story.  We (I mean, I) sifted through endless photos and descriptions until I settled on the one I wanted – the Live Oak Room.

Looking for a Myrtle Beach Alternative? Check out this North Carolina Coastal Beach

Sand, Sun and Southern Hospitality @ The Sunset Inn

When we crossed the massive new bridge to Sunset Beach (the old swing bridge was in operation until 2010!) we immediately spotted The Sunset Inn, situated right on the Intracoastal Waterway.  We pulled up and I was already excited.  It was exactly what I had pictured from a Southern Inn – a massive wooden

staircase approaching a broad porch and light, airy colored siding.  The porches amassed in flowers.

The reception area was a light, breezy space where Andrea, the innkeeper, greeted us.  She walked us to our room which was located just off of reception.  Our room was (tastefully!) decked out in sailing themed decor.  My favorite part of the room was the peaceful, private porch

Looking for a Myrtle Beach Alternative? Check out this North Carolina Coastal Beach

Beach Chic @ The Sunset Inn

that sat overlooking the waterway. It was screened in, so no fear of mosquitoes! There were two rocking chairs where I was able to enjoy a tea first thing in the morning.

Andrea told us that we could easily walk to the beach from the inn, so we set out soon after arrival to discover the beach. Much different than what I have experienced during peak season. I imagine most of the people there were locals or retirees, enjoying the setting sun on the beach.  We took a long walk admiring the beautiful beachfront home, noting how much cooler the water is than in July!

Another problem we often run into while visiting this area is a good place to eat (bet you saw that one coming!).  After 29 years, I cannot believe we have never found the place TJ and I stumbled upon – the Brentwood Restaurant & Wine Bistro. They are on OpenTable (woo – points!) and we were able to make reservations for two last minute.  I didn’t know what to expect. Sadly, many places in this area seem great on paper, but they’re overpriced and the quality just isn’t that good. So we were shocked to discover something just the opposite.

The building itself was awesome – so there is no other way to describe it. Built in 1910, it was originally a

Great Food Near Myrtle Beach, the Grand Strand and the North Carolina Beaches

“Corky” Decor @ The Brentwood Restaurant & Wine Bistro

B&B for fisherman and located across the street. Travelers could pay $1 per night ($.50 extra for breakfast!)! Now, the Brentwood chef, Eric Masson, is serving up phenomenal low country French food that you must try. The inside is quirky and classic at the same time. The walls are lined with wine corks and odd pieces of history. Our waiter was from the UK and so fun to interact with.  I chose the 4-course Prix Fixe Menu which was a crazy deal ($39)!  It included French Onion Soup (one of my all-time favorite things), a House Salad, 6oz Filet Au Poivre and Creme Brulee. I cannot explain to you how ideal this menu was and for $39! you know I’ll be back.  TJ chose similar items, but started with the Escargot – a new favorite of his. We were able to enjoy a wonderful bottle of wine and the hum of conversation from a packed restaurant.  We cannot wait to bring our entire beach house there next summer!

Great Food Near Myrtle Beach, the Grand Strand and the North Carolina Beaches

A Toast to History @ The Brentwood Restaurant & Wine Bistro

OK, so back to the Inn! Sometimes, you end up calling it an early night – French food will do that to you! The Sunset Inn is perfect for just that.  With access to movies, a microwave and popcorn, it was a perfect end to a busy day of travel.  The following morning, I was up early, ready to get my workout in.  The mornings in September are surprisingly cool (unlike July!) and I was able to sneak in a run.  I set off down the main road, in search of the end of the island.  I came upon a small path tucked away that had a number of piers running to nowhere.  (Top picture!) It was a perfect halfway point to reflect and enjoy nature.

It’s sad that I won’t have very many opportunities to enjoy The Sunset Inn with a pre-set, annual vacation just up the road, but I certainly hope I’ve convinced you! My guess is that most of their visitors are there for multiple nights, if not an entire week. Sunset Beach is a great vacation spot for couples or small families looking for a quiet, family beach.  So with that, my friends… plan a trip to North Carolina’s coast – you won’t be disappointed!

Looking for a Myrtle Beach Alternative? Check out this North Carolina Coastal Beach

Point of Paradise @ Sunset Beach, NC

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

Ascending to New Heights in Wytheville, VA

Virginia is for Lovers

Virginia is for Lovers

We are taking this ride off-road a bit! Every now and then I actually go on vacation. Every July, my family makes a trip to one of my favorite places on Earth, Ocean Isle Beach, NC.  This was our 29th year visiting the same beach on North Carolina’s southern most coastline. When you’ve made this trip 29 times, you know you could drive it blindfolded (not that we would actually attempt that).  The trip is always the same –  who can spot the golden Charleston dome first?, a swing through Tamarack for a little shopping & lunch, and without fail, we can always spot hundreds of Ohio plates with “pods” trekking down the highway.  We jokingly call this the “Great Migration” – Ohioans traveling to the Carolina coast for vacation every summer.  Although it’s always the same journey, we find ourselves asking each year, “but where should we stay?”  We’ve made the trip in one day – 9 hours of driving doesn’t kill anybody, but we like to stay one night out on the road. The logical place to stop is just shy of the Virginia/North Carolina border.  There’s only one problem THERE IS NO WHERE TO STAY. Sure, there are your old standbys dotting the exits, but we always prefer something we can’t get at home while on vacay. But this year…we found it.  We found the holy grail.  It changed our experience.  We talked about it for days.  It made that one extra night of traveling actually part of our vacation.  Nestled in little old Wytheville, VA is the Bolling Wilson Hotel, and this my friends, is perfection.

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

Ascending to new Heights @ the Bolling Wilson Hotel

The Bolling Wilson Hotel is actually…a chain.  It sure doesn’t look like it!  There has been a resurgence of the independent, boutique hotels and brands are finally picking up on it.  For Marriott, you have an Autograph Collection; for Hilton a Curio Collection and for Choice an Ascend Collection.  If you visit one of these properties, the

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

Ascending to new Heights @ the Bolling Wilson Hotel

only way you will know it is part of a brand is you can a) collect your loyalty points and b) the standards of service you’d expect from one of their sister properties.  In Ohio, we don’t have any Ascend properties, so this was new to me and I loved it. The lobby is like a piece of art. Simple and to the point, but with a little pizzazz. If you aren’t a history buff and you haven’t caught on yet to the significance behind the name of the hotel, I’ll fill you in. The hotel pays homage to it’s most famous citizen, First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson (President Woodrow Wilson). If you take a closer look at the lobby, you’ll find some of the First Lady’s

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

Ascending to New Heights @ the Bolling Wilson Hotel

favorites smartly entwined in the beautiful decor. Her love of orchids can be found everywhere in fresh flowers throughout the lobby and her love of canaries is displayed in the tiny birdcage, just behind registration. If you’re up at the right time in the morning, the birds wake up to greet you.

I don’t want to forget to mention the fantastic restaurant the Bolling Wilson Hotel has on site, Graze on Main. We were able to enjoy dinner here when we first arrived and I am so glad we did.  Our family loves to eat, if you haven’t gathered that from other posts.  Just like our preference in hotels, we like to find something unique when we’re dining out.  And, like our search for an ideal resting place on this long trip down I-77, we’re hard pressed to find good restaurants as well.  What a godsend that we found both in one place. I knew the week ahead would be full of carbs as most vacations are so I was wise in my dinner choice. Luckily, I saw a server walk by with a salad piled high with bleu cheese and I knew instantly what I wanted.  I had the Chopped Salad (with chicken!) and as usual, TJ indulged in a Ribeye which was cooked perfectly.  If you have a chance to stop by Wytheville and you can’t stay, I’d at least swing through this fabulous restaurant for lunch or dinner!

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

A Step Back in Time on The Heritage Walk in Wytheville, VA

What stay at an historic hotel would be complete without a little sightseeing?  I set out for my morning run as the sun

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

was coming up and was pleased to find downtown Wytheville alive with others enjoying the Heritage Walk. The trail was a mix between brick sidewalks downtown, weaving between cool, old buildings; paved paths through the park and hidden walkways.  It was a great way to start the morning and you can pick up the trail right in front of the hotel. When I finally returned to the hotel, I was warmly greeted by the front desk employee who shared with me the story of the canaries and the love story behind the Bolling Wilson Hotel.  I slowly made my way back up to my room to find my breakfast waiting for me outside the door.  The Bolling Wilson Hotel does something I’ve never seen before –

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

taking “breakfast in bed” to a whole new level. They provide these great little baskets that they fill up each morning with breakfast for guests.  In all of my time in the hotel industry, I’ve never seen this before. What a great idea for a small place that also wants to accommodate breakfast for its guests!

We are so glad we discovered the Bolling Wilson Hotel and cannot wait to make it part of our yearly migration to the North Carolina coast!

 

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

Canaries @ Bolling Wilson Hotel

 “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck