Our cottage is cute but clearly presents tight quarters when the family comes for the holidays. Over Christmas break we were happy to have the two college girls as well as my parents come to North Carolina for a visit. But we immediately realized that the pleasure of late late nights hanging out in the living room only to continue conversations over coffee in the kitchen was going to be a challenge, not the least because we only have 3 beds for the anticipated 8 people involved. So, we turned to our trusty friends at Homewood Suites in Olmstead Village to help out. Their huge 2 suite rooms with large screen TVs, in-room microwaves and hot breakfasts fit our lifestyle needs to a “T”. And, they are literally located over the backyard fence, through sparse woods and a few steps across Murdocksville Road. Mom and Dad reserved a suite for their time here which allowed both of them to come and go from the Rietkerk village at their choosing. The girls bunked with Will and Lilly and everyone managed to find nooks and crannies for various gifts, suitcases and discarded food wrappers during their stay.
A Rietkerk holiday rarely seems complete without a destination vacation stay. Competing with years’ past is hard as we took trips to Austria, Hungary and Germany. Even our former stints in NC saw us exploring Washington DC and Fort Story, Virginia. This year we selected the beautiful mountains of Asheville, NC and rented a large cabin near Lake Lure as a place to unplug and unwind. Well, we didn’t really want to “unplug”; we simply wanted to be someplace other than the Cottage in the Pines. It’s safe to say that 95% of the group was disappointed to find out there was NO wi-fi at the cabin in Lake Lure (yes, G-Pa was the lone one shouting “hip hip hooray!”) The presenting problem just about did William in as he went all over the place pulling on cords, moving TVs and picking up black boxes looking for some kind of connection. After a call to the rental agency confirmed our greatest fear, we were able to begin planning our time accordingly. Games, reading material and lots of sugary holiday baked goods were suitable fillers for the “internet problem”–which lasted all of 15 minutes until Lindsey was able to create a hot spot with her phone. Enough juice to allow others to check email but not enough to power the Playstation 4 that Will brought along for his get-back-to-nature vacation.
While in the area, we spent a day in historic Asheville exploring the hipster culture this mountain town is known for. We listened to some great street artists, ate way too much chocolate and enjoyed good craft beer with our pizza dinner. We drove over to the Grove Park Inn (uber-chic resort) to see the famous gingerbread houses on display in the hotel lobby. We waited 15 minutes in a line of cars only to be told by the hotel valet that the hotel was only open to current guests. If we could wait to see the hotel they would gladly accomodate us on Sunday…3 days later! Must be some fancy houses in there.
Of course, no visit to Asheville is complete without a tour of the famous Biltmore Estate, the gloriously over-the-top mountain home of George and Edith Vanderbilt.Biltmore Estate Built in 1895 for George, who was, at the time, single and trying to impress, it rivals most European castles in opulence and charm. While I miss the stone castles of Germany, I don’t miss the damp cold found in those places. For our visit this year, we chose the evening Candlelight Tour, complete with roaring fires and thousands of lit candles. It was actually warm in the house and I kept commenting that European castles could learn a thing or two about pleasing the customer by using heat and a gentle ambient light. Obviously, the $80 ticket does a lot to offset the heating costs of the place but there is something magical about fire that just makes the cost worth it.
Our 4 days in the mountains passed quickly and soon we were back on the road to the Cottage. The New Year was celebrated with oliebollen and a large pot of Dutch soup after we watched the Rose Bowl parade. In typical young adult fashion, Lindsey and Lauren ditched us for other New Year’s events with their friends but we’re not bitter–just a tad bit jealous that we’re not the “cool group” any more.