“Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”
From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” -T. S. Eliot
Taking Time to Smell the Roses
I enjoy finding places where it seems that “time” stands still. Of course, I am keenly aware that we are constantly moving forward to our final destination and our unforeseen fate. I like the idea that I can absorb the wonderful things that surround me. It is like extracting from the air the very breath of life one finds in a sunset, and to be able to do such things at my own pace, without feeling the need to rush to do so. I believe this is why the idea of mountain building appeals to me. Geologic time is slow, methodical in nature, deliberate in function. Anything worth having or seeing, takes time to develop. And that is why there is just something about mountains that speaks to me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am moved by oceans, by the endless sand and the powerful waves that crash on the shore like clockwork. I am moved by thunderstorms, watching the dark clouds roll in and seeing the sky light up in the distance with flashes of lightning, and feeling the strength of the thunder under my feet. I am also moved by sunrises and sunsets, births and deaths, new beginnings and tragic endings, and a myriad of other things both great and small. It is not about finding things that move you, it is about finding the time to allow yourself to be moved. This, among other things, is why I prefer driving to destinations, if possible. My brother, the aforementioned K4 from previous posts, is of a different ilk. He much prefers flying to locations, and to be fair, there is great merit in traveling like that as well. I just prefer to stop at random places for random things and take my time to enjoy the scenery as I look out from my window or windshield. If I could get the Southwest pilot to pull over every time I saw something interesting, then I would be all in for that, albeit, not too popular with the other passengers. So, for my own personal satisfaction and for the sake of my fellow travelers, I take to the road. Luckily, K2 is another wandering soul who enjoys the driving part of travel. And our destination this time was the Blue Ridge Mountains of Highlands, North Carolina.
Highlands, North Carolina
This was our first visit to Highlands. Sitting at 3850 feet in elevation, the downtown area is both quaint and charming. The overall beauty of the surrounding mountains and forests only adds to the charm, and the fusion of both works to welcome you and to make this one of our favorite small towns that we have wandered to in our travels. You get a sense that there was some forethought given from the beginning as to how to manage the growth that all small-town America has undergone since the days of my youth, and keep the small town feel that escapes most places that experience quick or exponential growth from urban sprawl and unhindered development. The shops are clean with a historic feel to them. The brick sidewalks are a throw-back to days gone by, and the clear mountain air is perforated only by the hourly musical hymns from the clock tower of The First Presbyterian Church in town. It is easy to park and walk from shop to shop, and meander through the town on your own schedule. Of course, we located the coffee shop, as we always do in our travels to new locations. Right there on Main Street is Calders Coffee Cafe. If you are like me and are a self-proclaimed hot chocolate aficionado, then you must try the hot chocolate at this place. Honestly, I am not sure what all they put in it, besides happiness and sunshine, but it is one of the better cups I have ever had. It is worth the drive over just for that…but I digress. The shops are varied in what they offer and so too are the restaurants with a little bit of everything for everyone. If you like pizza, then we would recommend the Four65 Woodfire Bistro for woodfired pizza, terrific salads, and a variety of other delicious menu items. All and all, it is a place we would love to visit again and recommend a trip here for anyone who wanders. Oh, and then there is Half-Mile Farm…
Just on the outskirts of downtown Highlands, you will find Half-Mile Farm. K2 said it best as she described it as the quintessential English Country Inn. That is as good of a description as you will find. Part of the Old Edwards Hospitality Group, the “farm” was part of a 120-acre piece of land at one time, and the original home has been renovated and added to over the years. The place is modern, but with a nostalgic feel and you do think as if you stepped back in time or transported to some place other than where you were. There are many options for your accommodations on site. There are several cabins, or you can choose one of the many impeccably decorated rooms in the historic 1882 farmhouse, as well as the newer deluxe rooms from the additional wing that was built in 2015. The grounds are well maintained and there are gardens, flowers(although, during our visit in December we regretfully were not able to see them in full bloom and were told it was spectacular in May), and a beautiful new Garden House next to the courtyard that you can unwind in, read a book, have some coffee or tea, or write your next best-selling novel. There is a swimming pool and hot tub, and hiking trails abound nearby if you want to explore, but honestly, you will not want to leave the farm. As you pull in the drive and past Apple Lake you arrive at the entrance of the courtyard that leads to the lobby. What strikes you is the beauty and peacefulness of the place. Indeed, one of the things K2 and I loved about it was the un-stuffiness of it. It is welcoming and hospitable and not stuffy and pretentious.
The lobby was flanked on one side by the J. Henry Farmhouse Tavern and on the other side was the sitting area and dining room, all of course decorated, when we were at the time, in complete Christmas regalia. The tavern is small but comfortable, and a wonderful place for sitting down and having a drink and conversation. It also sports an impressive menu of chef-made soups and sandwiches in case you decide to stay in to dine during your stay. You can always drive the 3 minutes to downtown Highlands or take one of the many shuttles that will drop you off at any of the nearby restaurants, but you will not be disappointed if you just hang out and relax at the inn. The sitting area and dining room opposite the lobby are just as beautiful as the rest of the place and welcome you with their elegantly decorated décor, and of course—it does not hurt that the sitting area also has fresh baked cookies at all hours of the day as well as coffee and several teas to choose from. Nothing adds to beauty like chocolate chip cookies! You can sit by the stone fireplace and look out at Apple Lake or even walk across the yard to the dock and enjoy a sunrise or sunset by the water. The Woodland Dining Room sits adjacent to the sitting area and comes complete with another huge stone fireplace and sliding glass walls that can be opened to the outside mountain air and gives you a magnificent view of the lake on one side. There is an evening hors d’oeuvres hour, but what you will definitely want to be there for is the chef-prepared breakfast that is included in your stay. Our intention was to try the breakfast there at the Inn since it was included in the price of the room. After that, and for the remaining two mornings, our plan was to have breakfast in town. But you know what they say about intentions and plans…After our first breakfast at the farm, which was so delicious, we just could not make ourselves leave to eat anywhere else. Not only did it taste scrumptious, but we were also so interested and curious to see what the chef prepared the next day, that we just had to stay each morning to find out. And each day, he did not disappoint us! Truthfully, it was one of the highlights of the trip for us and something we still talk about even now. The whole place is so welcoming, and we highly recommend a stay at Half-Mile Farm and the surrounding Highlands town. Our biggest regret is that we did not have more time to stay, but isn’t that always the case with time flying and having fun? Still, it is about memories and moments that you lock away in the mansions of your mind. You store it in little rooms inside the walls and walk in those rooms from time to time to reminisce and remember days gone by. Hopefully, there are places in the recesses of those little rooms that you want to re-visit. Hopefully, every reader of this blog will make the time to do all the wandering they desire, and to be moved by something outside of themselves that you can lock away in your heart and mind to share with family and friends. Hopefully, time will stand still for you, if only for a moment.
| Happy Wandering! |