I would like to begin this blog with the declaration of this phrase, “All rules were followed; even the rules that my mother didn’t think of.”
A couple months prior, Brian came to me with the idea of going on a road trip to North Carolina. I thought it was a great idea. Over coffee and frozen yogurt, we planned our trip with our friend Jenn List. Our interests were similar: be outside as much as possible and see things that we would not normally see.
Indeed, Brian was the trip master. We gave him that title because of his swag and collection of groupons. Brian found a groupon for the Biltimore Estate, a site he visited when he was a child with his parents but “didn’t appreciate it.” So he wanted to go back.
It is spectacular. Over 3,000 people visit the estate in Asheville, North Carolina every day. It is the largest private home in the USA and is truly breathe taking. It is gothic, ornate, and has massive rooms. The library reminded me of the scene in Beauty and Beast, when the Beast opened it to Belle and she flew around on the ladders. New must-have in my dating life: The eligible bachelor must have an expansive library with ladders.
In addition to the large estate with an indoor swimming pool and bowling alley, there is a garden filled with exceptional flowers, including an acre of tulips, with every color and origin. The upkeep of the grounds was very impressive. Those who have membership to the Biltimore are able to picnic and visit the grounds whenever they like.
And where would any first class estate be without a winery. Jenn had the most swag during this portion of the trip - she knows her wine. The server even complimented her in her selection. Brian and I were grasping for what sounded familiar and had the most oak. I personally think oak is key in the selection of your wine.
As we waved goodbye to the Biltmore, the sky opened and started to rain. According to Brian, that was planned. It was a plausible time to take a nap before dinner with Kelly and Dan McGinis. Both are Philadelphians and were on a little vacation themselves visiting Dan’s parents. Dan attended NC State, and they are thinking about moving to North Carolina.
We were very fortunate to see the free North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh is a beautiful city with lots to offer in terms of museums, but the NC Museum of Art located near NC State’s campus was immaculate. It was sunny and warm; perfect weather for walking around the open grounds. I think we also felt very much at home because there were many elementary and middle school field trips walking the same the trials. Brian told one of the group of sixth grade girls (one was wearing a volleyball t-shirt!) to “be nice to your teachers. They are awaiting spring break like you are.” The message was received loud and clear.
There is something about North Carolina. It is a beautiful state with mountains, valleys, and large estates that reflect on the aesthetic appeal of nature.
Yet, we journeyed on to Virginia Beach and Norfolk. The beach was calling us. This groupon is infamous. We stayed at the Founders Inn on the campus of Regent University. It’s conservative. When Brian was checking in, the greeter asked Brian to write down the name of his girlfriend or wife staying with him. “Well, there are two staying me with me,” said Brian as he wrote down both of our names. Immediately, I called being the girlfriend. There is less pressure being the girlfriend. Jenn would make a better wife because she has a better taste in wine.
After checking in and reaffirming Brian’s new swag of polygamy, we ventured to Norfolk. The sun was setting on the Chesapeake and my list of must-haves expanded to owner and operator of a boat. I think I am a water and beach person. The mountains and valleys were beautiful and soothing, but as soon as I saw the water, I felt much more calm and happy. I have a greater appreciation for water and the sand because for the majority of my childhood and early adult life, my family and I vacationed at Bethany Beach, Maryland. I could still hear my grandfather announce after dinner of Lombardi’s pizza on the Saturday night of arrival, “Tomorrow, to the ocean!” The salty taste of the air, the therapeutic and consistent sounds of the waves combined with the unique smell of sunscreen are smells I wouldn’t know what to do without.
Jenn and Brian shared similar memories with their families in Ocean City, Maryland. Jenn’s grandfather would take her to Dumser's on 125th Street for potato chips and milkshakes. To this day, Jenm dips her ruffled potato chips in her black and white milkshake. Amazing. She told us stories about her senior week in high school and how those summer crushes never make it pass the first weekend. Similarly, Brian’s heart was crushed with the closing of the Bay View, which was “the best buffet restaurant in the world.” I sent my parents a picture of the pink house we would stay in at Bethany Beach and reassured them it was still standing. Similarities and differences within those stories of heart ache.
As we left Bethany Beach and headed north to Philadelphia, we realized it was important for us to share our stories and memories with one another because not only did they become greater within our hearts but were shared with close friends.
A couple hours later we saw the Philadelphia sky line and let out of sigh of relief that it was just as beautiful as we left it. Sometimes you have to go outside yourself and your normal space in order to come back and appreciate where you started.