Days 179-185 – Asheville, Week 12

We get in one last sunny day of golf – not our best scores but we’re playing golf the week before Christmas – and realize we need to get ourselves together for Christmas. Our landlord hosts have given us tabletop decorations, a wreath and a tiny, lighted Christmas tree but we have to wrap our presents because Lauren and Bobby are coming for Christmas.

First we head off to a local Asheville tradition: the “34th Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular.” It’s hard to explain exactly what this is. There is a play and there are dances and musical numbers but there are also independent sketches and live “commercials” that are hilarious – the ad for a local pet store that has two reindeers wishing they were pets whose owners shopped at the store instead of “seasonal contract employees” of Santa’s. The whole thing is for-adults-only and laugh-out-loud funny.

Walt keeps asking me what we’ve gotten them for stocking-stuffers. We don’t have our stockings (or any of our own Christmas decorations, save for the Biltmore photo ornament of us with Dave and Lisa from their visit). Walt just replies that “Santa brings the stockings.” If so, then why is Santa also bringing the stocking-stuffers?

So off we go on a little shopping expedition. We add Italian panetonne bread so we can use it for French toast on Christmas morning, flowers for the table and wrapping paper, ribbon and tags round out our purchases.

Presents wrapped and placed near the tree, we spend the day cleaning the house so everything looks good.

We’ve bought tickets to visit the Biltmore Estate with Lauren and Bobby because it’s just the thing to do in Asheville, especially this time of year when the house is so fabulously decorated. The only tickets we could get were for the late afternoon, so although we won’t get the extravagance of all the lights in and around the house, we get to see a lot more detail in the house and, even better, the fabulous views out the windows and on the terraces. Mr. Vanderbilt certainly knew what he was doing when he picked out the original 80,000 acres of his estate (some 8,000 remain today) and placed his house.

The views down the rolling meadows and off to the mountains in the distance are exactly what I would choose for myself. In fact, I fantasize briefly and out loud that Walt and I could build a little house in a corner at the foot of a huge stone terrace. We’d have the views but wouldn’t be seen from the house. Who’s to know?

Walt gently steers me away from the proverbial edge and I am consoled by dinner at our favorite barbecue place.

We plan to spend Christmas Eve day doing a hike but, again, we are thwarted by closures on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Oh well. We stop at an overlook for the views and then, since we’re actually so close to one of our favorite possible homesites, we drive there to show Lauren and Bobby where we might like to build our retirement home. They approve of our potential choice – great views, close to town, nice neighborhood. We also show them a nearby house that is very much in the style we’d like to build. They approve of our modern taste, as well.

We’re still trying to head toward a hike, but we decide to make a stop at the Grove Park Inn and the gingerbread competition. By the time we’ve meandered through the entries scattered about the hotel, admired the huge boulders in the fireplace and the views, we decide we’ve done enough walking to warrant a stop at the gingerbread stand. Lauren and I get hot cocoa and the guys get beer. I had brought cookies we bought at our favorite Biltmore Village bakery, thinking we would have them post-hike, so here we are, outside on the terrace, drinking our beverages and eating our cookies in the sunshine.

We bask for a while before heading off to show them another piece of property that has caught our eye. Showing off the two potential homesites solidifies in my mind which one I prefer, which is an unexpected benefit.

For dinner tonight, we’re back at the wonderful Red Stag Grlll, enjoying a sumptuous four-course meal.

In the morning, we find that Santa has brought stockings – and filled them with the gifts we bought and wrapped – as well as what I call the “dreaded Christmas hat.”

Let me explain. For our first Christmas together, Walt and I were headed to hike Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. While we were in Dulles Airport a few days before Christmas, we kept seeing people wearing red “Santa” hats – you know the ones with the pom-pom on the end. Unbeknownst to me, Walt bought one in the airport, stuffed it in his pack and kept it hidden until Christmas morning. I woke up to find the hat sitting on top of my sleeping bag. I put it on and wore it to breakfast. Luckily, our head guide liked and I gave it to him. I thought I had seen the last of Walt’s little joke… until the next year when another appeared before I got out of bed. He made it a rule that I can’t open any of my presents until I wear the Santa hat.

I was sure I had escaped this year. But it wasn’t meant to be. Don’t worry, I’ll post the picture of me in the dreaded Christmas hat. I like hats but am not a goofy hat type of person, which, I’m sure, is why Walt thinks it’s so funny. I put up with the torment because it’s so rare coming from Walt. Usually I’m the one torturing him with made-up names and funny sayings. The hat is about the only time I can think of that he’s adamant that the joke must be on me.

We had a lovely morning with Lauren and Bobby, opening gifts, eating our panetonne French toast before they headed back to Durham.

After all that food, we wanted to get another hike in but the weather has just been too cold, so we’ve settled for going to the gym and otherwise just staying inside.

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