Day 243 – Last Commandment for Seniors (#12)


You sill haven’t learned to act your age – and hope you never will!

Hear-Hear! I never ever ever wanted to act my age. I never acted my age all my life, and now is most certainly not the time to rethink that strategy.

When I was in my early teens – and by this I’m referring to that torture chamber we call High School – I was way to studious and concerned with math and science in particular to take notice of the things ‘girls my age’ considered important – like clothes and boys. To be very honest – I’m still not overly concerned about clothes – See Commandment #2 for Senior – “In Style” are the clothes that still fit.

I did go thru a ‘boys are amazing’ period – but for my time – it was very late, and ended rather abruptly with me marrying my still to this day husband – Victor! I arrived at University as a ‘Southern Belle’ – complete with breathy accent – and was immediately considered a very desirable date. This was beyond amazing to me – no boy had ever considered me interesting outside of class before – and I would have 4 dates a weekend. One on Friday night, One on Saturday afternoon, One on Saturday night, and one on Sunday afternoon. With 4 different boys. And for the record – no kissing until the third date!

Sunday night thru Friday afternoon – I was the model student – taking high level math and science classes, and for the first time discovering that there was history after the end of the civil war (for the record – that ended in 1865). I was raised in Atlanta Georgia – and that’s when our history classes deemed that history stopped. Surprise Surprise – it didn’t stop!

So between fending off boys (I took to hiding in libraries to be sure to get my studing done) and then going to parties all weekend – I was very busy.

I suppose this period is the closest I came to acting my age.

After I met Victor – things got really interesting in the ‘boy’ department. Victor was in the habit of waiting until the last minute before making a date – and I would be ‘taken’ long before. After several ‘I’m sorry, I can’t go out with you, I’m busy” conversations, he learned to book me ahead – and eventually we agreed to go steady. I think the crisis was ‘Homecoming Weekend 1967’ when I was the Princess from one fraternity – not Victor’s – and thus too busy to be with him. I think he asked me to go steady so that he could stop having to ask me out so far in advance.

But I still had to keep up my studies – but now I had to hide out in new places – and just from one boy! Fortunately, Victor pretty much hated libraries – and there were lots of smaller ones on campus that I don’t think he ever found. I was able to keep up my work weeks, play weekends lifestyle.

Then I spent my Junior Year Abroad. I choose to go to London to study Drama – which for a Math/Physics Major was a bit of a stretch. But the folks in the Drama department were ok with it, and while the Math Department got their knickers in a knot (I had to drop my double major), the Physics Department agreed to it. So – London, without my boyfriend, for a full year abroad.

This was, I admit, one of my favourite years (Fall of 68 to the Fall of 69)… and again – I wasn’t acting my age. I was interested in studying, getting good grades, visiting Museums and Art Galleries – and my Drama Department co-students thought me dull, boring, and not really a decent drama student. Push came to shove when I won a lottery to go behind the scenes at the Royal Vic and meet Sir Lawrence Olivier – then starring in Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”. Despite pressure to give up that opportunity to a ‘real’ drama student – I persisted in taking advantage of that win, a meeting I remember to this day.

My year aboard ended the way a year aboard for a square peg in a round hole must always end. I drove with my friends to Istanbul – then waved goodbye as they crossed into Asia on their way to India. I traveled alone by train and hitchhiking (ok – I was 20 – it seemed acceptable) back into ‘Europe’ and met up with a friend who I didn’t really know – but who wanted to do a bicycle trip thru the German speaking section of Romania. We met up in her university town – took our bicycles by train into Romania and spent 2 weeks or so biking from village to village. In those days (Summer 1969) the way you showed off your wealth was by the height of the manure pile in front of your house. I grew to love Lard Sandwiches – and we feasted off the garden crops of peas and green beans. One of the villagers bought my bra for her daughter for the equivalent of a weeks living money – and in a Youth Hostel in Czechoslovakia we swapped a $1 American bill for a day’s worth of food and lodging. Interesting times to visit behind the Iron Curtain.

I eventually made my way back to Paris, met up with my sister who flew in from the US, and we continued to wander thru France and eventually to England. We flew home from London – and while she returned back home to Atlanta and University – I went back to Tufts for my final year. Victor had meanwhile changed schools and was now at Cornell. Our plan was to see if we were still ‘an item’, and if so – I’d graduate and continue my schooling at Cornell – provided I could get accepted of course.

We did, I was – and we got married Sept 11, 1970. It’s 50 years and counting today…

Enough of this – bottom line – I’ve always persisted in being a tad different. I had my kids a bit later than other folks, I got married a lot earlier (I was 21 – Victor was 20), I was studious to the point of embarrassment to most of my peers, and when I got close to retirement – my friend ‘The Intrepid Traveler’ and I started our yearly trips to far off places. Not to be left out Victor and I did a fair amount of traveling too!

I’ve been to China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Japan, South Korea, Bali, France, Fez, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, England, Ireland, Scotland, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malta, Liechtenstein, Vatican City, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Israel, Amsterdam, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Rwanda, Zambia, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Czechoslovakia, Greenland, Northern Quebec, Most of the US, Eastern and Western Canada, Venezuela, US Virgin Islands, Mexico, British Virgin Islands, Grand Cayman, Belize, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. I realize of course that traveling now is not the same – but I was young, I was keen – and I was willing to travel cheap. Mostly – I was lucky to have a friend willing to travel with me! And grateful to have a husband who also found travel interesting.

There are so many places that I loved at the time I was there that I couldn’t imagine going back to – my ‘roughing it’ ability is seriously suffering from concerns about where there’s going to be a clean toilet – but I would recommend doing it NOW – don’t wait till you are your age to travel. It’s never too late – and it’s always rewarding – Masks on for safety of course.

Enough of this trip down memory lane. It’s getting embarrassing. Bottom line – I’m not planning on acting my age any time soon… Get over it.

Signing off to think of something else crazy to do… Mask on of course – The Soup Lady

Posana Restaurant – Ashville, N.C.


Yes – I know – I’m bouncing around in location – I actually ate at the Posana on June 15, 2013 – and only got around to reviewing it today – because missing this one was not an option!

Located right opposite the downtown city park, the Posana is a beautiful restaurant owned and operated by Peter Pollay, a graduate of the CIA (culinary Institute of America). Since this is my daughter’s alma-mater – I’m always intrigued to see what other graduates are up to – and this seemed a great opportunity – prices weren’t crazy, the restaurant looked lovely – and the ‘100% Gluten Free’ advertising slogan said – modern cuisine to me.

Without reservations – on a Saturday night – we were going to have to wait – but just 10 minutes. Hardly a problem. The hostess suggested we sit at the bar – so we decided to see if the bartender could make a Caipirinha – the Brazilian National cocktail that my sister is enamoured of. Yes – he could – and he had no problems giving me a glass of 1/2 white wine, 1/2 soda water. Great. We add lettuce wraps as an appetizer – and sit down to wait. Curiously – our table is ready before our appetizer – and the hostess requests that we settle with the bar before she escorts us to our table.

I’m a bit surprised by this request – I don’t think there are more than a dozen tables – how can they not figure out how to move a bill from the bar to the table. But never mind, we pay up – go to the table – and only once there get our appetizer of lettuce cups with chicken and veggies. Not quite as good as PF Chang’s version and definitely a lot less food – but good just the same.

This slows down the ordering process a bit – with the net effect that getting our dinner gets delayed – and we will end up taking over 2.5 hours to eat. Why is this a problem? We’re an hour away from ‘home’, and that means a long drive in the dark with deer. Oh well – Be Calm and Carry On I suppose.

I order fish, which eventually is served as a tiny, but yummy portion. My sister gets a chicken dish – also consumed with delight. The Posana advertises itself as 100% Gluten free and Organic – I guess that explains the size of the portions.

Two points of critique – I had ordered soda water at the bar, after asking the price and being told it was free since they were ‘making’ it themselves. I repeat the order at the table, and when the bill arrives – am disappointed that they charged $2 for it. Hey – $2 for a 1/2 of a glass of soda water? Sorry – I’m not impressed. To the waiter’s credit – when I question it, it is removed from the bill. Nice response, but just a little late.

My other complaint – and I’ve made this before – the chef comes out of the kitchen and is chatting with the people at the table right next to us. Would it be too much to ask for him to at least turn around and smile in our direction? Guess so. Moral – Chefs – if you walk into the dining room – say hi to every table – regardless of how difficult it feels. Your guests will appreciate it more than you can imagine. And yes – we do notice if you ignore us!

Bottom line on the Posana – beautiful restaurant, delightful if tiny portions, and great location. B+ from this reviewer.

Posana on Urbanspoon

Posana Cafe on Foodio54

Lakeview Restaurant – Lake Lure, N.C. – Brunch is definitely a “Skip It”


Lakeview at Wynham – Great location – lousy Breakfast

We had decided it would be fun to do a Sunday Brunch before heading off homeward. After consulting with Tripadvisor – and finding out that the Larkin – where we’ve already eaten two meals is a top restaurant in this area – we figure out that the nearest brunch place is the Lakeview. Reviews are a bit mixed – dinner gets high ratings, other meals less so – but hope beats eternal…

The location is great – overlooking Lake Lure and a beach, and just minutes from the condo. We opt to sit outside on a lovely porch, clearly designed to make the most of the view. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, the ‘buffet’ is forgettable at best. There’s a omlet station – that would have been great – but with only one server, who clearly has little idea how to handle the station, the line waiting is too long for our schedule. We still need to get me to the airport on time. Ok – so let’s stick to the prepared foods. There’s no eggs – you are supposed to use the omelet station. The bacon and potatoes ‘bins’ are empty, and there’s only one piece of French Toast left. Good news – a young man reassures us that more food is coming in a second.

There’s a nice fruit selection – so I make do with that, and return to our table. My sister has ordered coffee (extra charge – sorry), which I enjoy with my fruit. I return to the buffet – and by now they have replenished the bacon and the French Toast. Oh yum. Best bacon ever – crisp – which is surprising, and delightful. Worth waiting for. The French Toast is ok, but the ‘fake’ syrup is disappointing for someone from Quebec.

The bread options are truly disappointing – come on people – there’s more than just white bread in this world.

Bottom line – get a server who can cook if you can only afford one on the omelet station – or at least put a platter of scrambled eggs out for those of us who just can’t wait 40 minutes in line. And please – include the coffee in the price – it’s annoying to get an additional charge for something that really costs almost nothing. And offer more than the cheapest possible bread and pastry.

Oh well – we were warned. I hope other’s who come to this area heed the subtle warnings in the Tripadvisor reviews.

Lakeview Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Biltmore Day 2 – Better than Day 1 – how cool is that?


Today is Saturday – Father’s Day – and we’ve been warned. The one lane road that goes from the ticket booth to the Biltmore (about 5 miles long) – can take up to 45 minutes – it gets that crowded. So show up early – or else.

So early it will be. We manage to get up, get breakfast, take 2 mile ‘fast walk’, shower, do laundry, and still leave the condo by 9:05. Not bad – our target had been 9:00. So congrats sister team!

Naturally – we are there so early – it’s no problem to do the drive (lovely – a different vista with every snake-like turn of the road – a stream here, a pond there, a bamboo forest here, a hardwood forest there. Ormsted (landscaper of Biltmore, Central Park – and Mount Royal in Montreal) was no fool. This is awesome landscaping. We hazard a guess as to the number of gardeners – naturally – we’re off – it’s actually 55. Which honestly – feels low given the size of the gardens and the year-round nature of their care. Guess they have a tight scheduled. Today the Rose Garden, tomorrow the Azalea, then we mow some lawn.

Our specialized tour today is the Architecture tour – but first we check out the indoor pool, the pictures of the construction (George V knew this was going to be amazing – so he has before and after pictures – hard to believe it was that barren before. Such vision), the kitchen (again), and the laundry rooms. So cool.

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For the architecture tour – our lovely hostess starts with a down and dirty history – this is where we learn that Cornelia actually deserted her family when times got tough, leaving her husband and kids (and grand kids) to maintain the house. Then we walk up 250 stairs to the roof – and visit the attic, pat some of the gargoyles, and take pictures of what our hostess refers to as fantasies (and Wikipedia calls ‘grotesques’). The difference? Gargoyles – gargle. When the water goes thru them, they make a noise – hence the name. Fantasies don’t allow the water thru – they are just for fun. Check out the pictures (bit X rated – sorry)

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On this tour – it’s not so much what we see as what we hear that is cool. Our hostess shares tons of tidbits – and that makes it really fun.

Lunch today is shared sandwiches from the bakery. I have to say that the food options are outstanding – they really do a good job. Later I learn from my daughter – a graduate of Culinary Institute of America – that lots of the interns come here – and the ability shines thru. They have their ‘food’ act together!

Finally – we are hitting the gardens. And they are spectacular. It’s hard to explain why acres and acres of grounds should be so special – but it’s the variety and the twists and turns that makes this place so cool. You literally never know what will be around the next corner. Could be a stone wall, a fountain, the Italian gardens with their highly structured layout, the huge glassed in Conservatories, the Bass Pond for boating, or the Spring Garden – a riotously joyful explosion of flower and plant. We spend way too long, and way too much money in the garden shop. In my defense – it was probably the best garden shop I’ve ever been in, and finally drag ourselves back to the car. We still plan to visit Ashville!

But before Ashville – we must stop at Antler Hill Village and Winery. This is the home of the Inn at Biltmore – a monster of a ‘Hotel’ that towers above the ‘village’ with it’s collection of shops, an exhibit on the Vanderbilt’s, a maze, a kid’s Land Rover Course (you know you want to drive a midget Land Rover over rock bridges and obstacles don’t you), the farm, the barn, the kitchen garden, and the miniature winery. We’re not impressed with the winery – they don’t even grow their own grapes – but the rest is cute if way over priced. Maybe we’d feel differently if we’d had kids – but the off-key singing of the musician on stage was extremely off-putting.

So now it’s on to Ashville. Cute town, cute shops, great little ‘art’ market, and my favorite – the Mast General Store. Dinner, drive home (avoiding all deer), and bed time. Tomorrow is check out and leave. So much fun, so quickly done.

Biltmore Estate in Ashville, N.C. – A house definitely worth a 2 day visit!


Some houses are big, some houses are insanely big – and then there’s the Biltmore. It defies description today – probably the most common reaction when George Vanderbilt – grandson of Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt – decided he needed a pied-a-tere in a remote corner of Ashville, NC.

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Talking about a good idea that got carried away. The Biltmore has 240 rooms (including closets and toilets according to our guide), an indoor pool, an indoor garden, servant quarters by the dozens – and no residents. The Vanderbilt’s only really lived there for 35 years – 2 years longer than I’ve owned my home. It took 5 years to build, many more years to furnish – and was opened to the public by Cornelia Vanderbilt (age 30) in 1930, mostly I’m guessing because the family had simply run out of money to maintain it. In any case, shortly afterwards she divorced her husband, left him to raise their 2 kids and tend to the monster of a house – and went to England. There she changed her name and lived quietly for a long time before she died. Today the home is still owned by her kids and grandkids.

All of which reminds me that money just doesn’t make you happy. Even lots and lots of money.

In the Wikipedia write-up – the authors speculate that George probably spent his entire inheritance on this house – an idea that while appealing, just doesn’t seem right. The family owned at least 4 other homes – so while this one might have been horribly expensive – in those days – it was probably considered just extravagant – but not ruinous. Nope – I think their lack of business smarts did them in, not just the house.

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Anyway – our tour. We opted to not only pay for admittance ($49 each) – and get an audio head-set (another $10) – but to take not one but two of the topic specific tours ($17 each). I’d say we’d Vanderbilt out! The Butler’s tour was up first – and our cheerful and extremely knowledgeable guide lead us upstairs and down – showing us the room where the housekeeper lived, explaining the intercom system, letting us admire the freight elevator that even the staff couldn’t use, and letting us peek into Edith Vanderbilt’s toilet, bath and shower. One oddity – there was no sink. In those days – servants brought you water in a pitcher and you washed in a bowl. Kept people employed I’d imagine.

After the tour – we ate lunch in the Stable Cafe – in a horse stall of course. I shared a huge bowl of Mac n’Cheese with my sister. It was totally yummy. Then it was on to the audio tour of the house itself.

While the butler’s tour was interesting and informative – the house tour left you stunned. How could people imagine such a place – then execute it. Four floors plus a basement, glorious art, stunningly beautiful views (it was a great day – I’m sure that helped), huge pieces of furniture. The main dining room – used for family meals as well as banquets was huge – 3 stories high, hung with tapestries bought from Europe, and for musical entertainment – a huge organ.

We toured the bedrooms, admired the wall coverings, gasped in delight at the books in the library, admired the magnificent tile work in the indoor pool, and wondered at the distance between the master bedroom, the wife’s bedroom, and the childbirth room. I suppose if you have to change clothes 4 and 5 times a day – you need a lot of private space. (Oh I can’t wear that – it’s for eating lunch – and I’m going to stroll in the gardens – how silly of you!)

Our tour us through the kitchen, the pastry kitchen, and most interesting – the laundry room. I particularly loved the drying racks for sheets. Ever wonder how often they changed the sheets in those days? We did – and we asked. Daily was the answer! Imagine a team of laundry people whose only job was to keep the bed linen cleaned. Can you imagine – and no electric washers and dryers either. All done by hand.

We took so long – they closed the house around us – and we got to watch the highly trained and extremely informative staff get searched before heading home.

As the security guard explained – it’s for their benefit. If something goes missing – I can say – I searched them – they are clean.

We finally got up sufficient umpf to leave – but realizing that we hadn’t seen the gardens, or even finished up touring the house – we decided to take the $10 next day option. We shall clearly be Vanderbilting again tomorrow.

Larkin’s on the Lake – Lake Lure, N.C. – completely perfect in every way


Larkins on the Lake is so perfect – it’s scary!

Ok – I hate to say this – but I liked Larkins on the Lake so much – I ate there 2 times in a row. I mean – how embarrassing is that for a high-end foodie? I’m completely guilty of what I complain about other people doing – staying with the safe and certain.

Reviewing note – I officially might have been at the Bayfront (what they call the part of Larkin’s that closer to the dock) – because we sat outside to enjoy the breezes – but I was assured that the menu was the same. But you might ask when you go.

In my defense – Larkin’s on the Lake is awesome. First off – the location. It hangs over Lake Lure – facing almost due West to catch the last rays of sunshine, a glorious sunset – and then you can admire the mountains in the distance. I mean – what’s wrong with that? And it was close (under 10 minutes) from our home base – so getting home after dinner – in the dark – was slow, but at least short. Given the number of deer we spotted either bounding up the sides of the road way – or standing still giving us the beady eye – going fast was not an option!

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And the food – what’s a restaurant with out good food? At Larkins, it was a mixture of traditional popular dishes (great prime rib, a Spinach Artichoke Dip, or Baby Back Ribs) with more modern classics like Sesame crusted Tuna Tataki. And best of all – they had my favorite dessert – in their case it was called Hubba Bubba Brownie – but basically it’s a brownie, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Oh man – I could diet forever to have one of those!

I had the prime rib one night – rare, perfectly cooked, super tender – and the 2nd night I opted for just an appetizer of the Tuna Tataki – nice size portion, Tuna was perfectly rare on the inside and nicely seaseme’d on the outside. Yummy.

And the service was warm, friendly, and personable. The second night, our waitress from the first night totally remembered us – and told our wait person exactly how to get us what we wanted. I haven’t had that kind of service in – well – ever!

And prices were quite reasonable for a tourist locale – from just $17 to $30 dollars per person – in a setting you will never forget.

My kind of perfect place.

Larkin's on the Lake on Urbanspoon

Larkin's on the Lake on Foodio54

Ashville, N.C. – Cute as the proverbial Button


What makes travel fun for me is the element of surprise – will this hotel/guesthouse/resort live up to expectations, will I find a yummy restaurant (or two), will the museum be worth visiting, will there be fun stores to shop at, is the location going to be beautiful, will it rain?

So many variables – so many chances for things to wrong – or to go right.

Good news – Lake Lure and Ashville, N.C. exceeded even my high expectations. After a rough start – check out my ‘why, oh why’ blog on travel – I finally arrived in the rolling hills and startlingly jagged stone cliffs of Western North Carolina. And how about this for a ‘I didn’t know that’ – The Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games were filmed right here!

But I wasn’t here to see movie sets – I was here for a ‘sister’s’ retreat. Our idea – spend time getting to know each other – without the distractions of husbands, kids, jobs. My middle sister picked me up at the Ashville Airport (tiny – truly tiny. You know it’s small when it cost $5 to park for over 2 hours), and headed out to our home for the weekend, and RCI resort called Wyndham Resort at Fairfield Mountains.

On the map – the resort is just 30 miles from Ashville – but the GPS said our ETA was an hour and a half. We soon found out why as we wound our way passed glorious scenery on a 2 lane winding road that changed elevation often enough to have us clearing our ears and allowed for a max speed of 20 mph. We drove past Chimney Rock State Park – with its gloriously huge waterfall cascading down from a rock face hundreds of feet above us. This Park is the setting for the movie – “Last of the Mohicans” – and to honor that – they were showing the film on Saturday night. For free. Got to love the price point.

Eventually we arrived at our destination – good job iphone and Telenav to discover that you needed a code for the lock box. Yikes. Good thing the guest arriving right behind us had that code – or we would have definitely been stranded. RCI – you have to give resorts the email of incoming guests. And resorts – if you don’t have the email for a guest – make an effort to get it! The good news – when we reported the ‘almost’ problem the next morning, the extremely pleasant receptionist apologized profusely – and reported the problem to her team. Nice handling of that – Wyndham people.

But all turned out OK (It wouldn’t be an adventure if nothing went wrong). We got our key, found a map explaining where our unit could be found in this huge resort, and made our way to our palace for the weekend. It was a palace at the mid-of-the road level – but the king sized bed was super comfy, and the view of the mountains from our window was awe-inspiring. My sister who loves to walk found lots of places to get exercise, and for me – hey, the coffee was great.

Dinner that night was at Larkins on the Lake – We loved it – but if you want to know why – you’ll have to check out my detailed review.

We’d decided that despite all the really neat stuff to do around Lake Lure and the Resort – including kayaking, a beach, a swimming pool, bike paths, hiking paths, etc, what we really wanted to do was to check out the Biltmore Estate – the home of George, Edith, and Cornelia Vanderbilt. (Again – want more details – that’s in another blog!)

GPS to the rescue again as we navigate our way back to Ashville by a different, and much less windy route past Bat Cave (didn’t spot Batman though).

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On Saturday – we opt to return to the Biltmore – that place is huge, and we felt we needed to see more stuff! But that afternoon – we finally manage to make it into Ashville. What a completely cute town. The shops were adorable, they had a wonderful arts and crafts market with lots of beautiful things to touch (I love the feel of wood), and my favorite – the Mast General Store.

If you are in Western North Carolina – and I’m not exactly sure why you would go there unless you were visiting the Biltmore Estate – you must go to this store. I loved it! They had everything. It was hard to decide what I just had to buy – and thus I wound up with a cast iron Bacon press in the form of a pig.

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Trust me – going thru security leaving Ashville was a hoot with that in my luggage. After they looked at it – everyone wanted to know if I even knew what to do with it. Hey – it’s my husband’s Father’s Day Present – he loves to press the Bacon!

Bottom line – Ashville has tons of stuff to do and see – lots of neat restaurants, including the Posana, the general store, cute art shops, and a young vibe that totally took us by surprise.

Go and have fun. But don’t forget the reason for your visit – in our case – the Biltmore and getting some much-needed Sister time.

Missions accomplished I’d say

Signing off – The soup lady.