North Carolina Wine Tasting Festival

One of our favorite vineyards in NC is Raffaldini Vineyards.  It is in the Yadkin Valley region, about an hour or less from the cabin.

They have Wine Festivals a few times a year and we have been fortunate enough to be there at those times.  The weather is usually sunny and warm no matter what time of year we have visited.  Being outdoors in the bucolic orchards and vineyard is something Evan and I love.

Raffaldini Vineyards is located in Ronda, an area of the NC Piedmont that resembles Tuscany.  The vineyard has just finished a gorgeous tasting house, Villa Raffaldini, that looks just like what you would find in a fine vineyard in Tuscany.  Villa Raffaldini is constructed out of stone, distressed wood, slate, terracotta and stucco.  The rooms are adorned with authentic, traditional Italian art, statuary,  and wall hangings.  The marble fountain bubbles with authenticity and is a lovely focal point for weddings and special events.

The gardens surrounding the building are peaceful with breathtaking views of the valley.  There is always a wonderful spray of blooming flowers or trees.  The fragrance from the peach trees is scrumptious and  worth a visit to the Vineyard.  I love to watch the frogs in the lilypond.

It was great to be able to share this place with Jordan and Melissa.  We all enjoyed our tasting experience and spent a few hours sitting outside and absorbing the views and the weather.

No thanks to Delta – Delta Stinks

It is so very challenging to coordinate travel plans with adult children.  There is so much to take into consideration: cost, vacation time for 4 people, flight schedules, pet sitting, etc.  So when Jordan and Melissa were unable to make it to the cabin last year at Christmas, we were all sorely disappointed!  Add on top of that, Jordan’s bad luck with flying schedules.  He has experienced more flight delays, cancellations or misadventures than anyone else in our family.  So, when we were able to coordinate a late Fall weekend with them, we were all thrilled.

We arrived in Boone on Wednesday, Jordan and Melissa were arriving on Delta from JFK on Thursday evening.  Weather was fine, this time it would happen!

Well, Jordan’s luck being what it was, we got a call Thursday afternoon that his flight was delayed.  Then another call Thursday night that the flight was cancelled altogether.  They were putting them on an American Airlines flight the next morning, but the flight was from La Guardia, not JFK.  Delta put them up in a flea bag hotel at La Guardia airport and they were booked on a 7AM flight Friday.

6AM Friday morning, the phone rang….it was a MESS!  Delta never notified AA that they passed the ticket to them, so when Jordan and Melissa went to the AA ticket counter, they were told the flight was full and there was no seat nor ticket for them.  I can’t tell you how disappointing this was.  Evan was starting to feel that he would never be able to see Jordan unless he went to NY.  Time after time, flight mess ups cancelled our plans to visit with Jordan.

Jordan was furious, and with good reason.  Delta stinks at customer service!   He spent countless hours on the phone with Delta trying to find a way to get to NC.  After hours,  Melissa finally took over the negotiations, and managed to finally find a Delta rep who gave a hoot.  They booked them on a flight for Friday night, late.  They arrived around 1AM, worn but happy.

We had a wonderful weekend, but Delta totally screwed up their return flight!  It is a good thing Melissa thought to call and confirm everything before they got to the airport.  Delta completely cancelled them!  Rectifying this took the better part of Saturday afternoon.  Thank you Delta for living up to your reputation of being completely inept!

And on top of all if this, all Delta gave them was $150 off their flights to Lisbon.  GEESH!  I just pray Southwest would fly to Charlotte!

Tweetsie Railroad – witness a train robbery

Tweetsie Railroad is one of the most sought after attractions in the High Country.   Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Steam Engine #12 was built in 1917.

You can hop on board and have a real Wild West experience, complete with Cowboys & Indians and a ‘real’ train robbery!

The Theme Park has fabulous amusement park rides at the County Fair.  You can stroll through the western style Main Street and look at the varmints in the town jail, or try out your skills at the shooting gallery and arcade.   Why not try mining for gold on Miner’s Mountain?  Or visit the animals in the Deer Park Zoo.

If you are lucky enough to be in Boone in October, don’t miss the Spooky Ghost Train ride, which runs on weekend nights in October.

Tweetsie Railroad is opened from May 1 (or thereabout) to October 31 (or thereabout)

Watauga Lake

Spending the day on Watauga Lake is one of my favorite summertime activities.  We typically rent a pontoon boat for a little over $100 for the whole day.  The boats are equipped with radio and CD player.  A fully stocked picnic hamper and a stack of CDs makes the day perfect.

The kids settled in for an hour of sun bathing, while Evan and I operated the boat and listened to music.  The scenery is so beautiful on Watauga Lake, I could spend the entire day doing nothing more than gazing at the mountains and lake.  Despite my warnings, the girls took in a bit too much sun.  Alas, it is hard to get 20 somethings to listen.

Watauga Lake is a man made reservoir made by damming Elk and Watauga Rivers.  The old Tennessee town of Butler is at the bottom of  Watauga Lake.  Butler was a town where the Native Americans white settlers in the area interacted.  It was a stop over for Daniel Boone.

We brought our own tubes to pull along behind the boat.  We had a blast!

I am posting a bunch of pictures of our day on Watauga Lake here:

Happy Birthday Goo

It seems that our tradition has been to spend Marisa’s birthday in Boone.   Her favorite restaurant is Twig’s in Blowing Rock.  It is certainly a great choice for a special occasion.  Twig’s charming twig covered arbor beckons you into the cozy restaurant with a charming mountain decor.  The twinkling white lights through the restaurant gives it that festive flair that keeps us coming back.

The fare is always a contemporary touch  and interesting twist on some classic dishes.   One of my favorites is their house speicalty:  Crab Cakes with nantua butter.   Michael is in love with their New Zealand Lamb Chops with mango chutney.  Mady, who has been a vegetarian for 5 years has recently decided to be a carnivore again.  She embraced it with gusto and devoured her NY Strip with cabernet portobello sauce.  Goo and Evan both had the Yellowfin Tuna.

Happy Birthday my sweet Goo

Game Over with the Rental Agent

Our rental agent has hit strike 3 and the game is over!

She rented our cabin out for a party.  The place was trashed and the hot tub was vandalized.  She tried to take no responsibility and claimed it was normal wear and tear.  For the tenants to leave the cabin full of party trash and food everywhere, and the hot tub to be left opened with food and trash in it, is utterly unacceptable.  All the trash in the hot tub got into the motor and caused the motor to seize and the mother board to burn out!  A repair of $2000!

When Jennifer arrived to clean,  there were streamers and balloons still TAPED to the walls.   Removing the tape also removed paint from the walls.  This kind of thing makes you lose faith in people.

We can only wonder how many other times something like this has happened, but the rental agent’s cleaner did not report it, or at least the agent didnt report it to us! 

We will be renting the cabin ourselves.  We have learned from a number of neighbors and folks we have met in Boone that the experience of renting it themselves has been very rewarding.  They all say that they get to know the people who rent the cabin and even form long lasting friendships and relationships with some of them.  I am actually looking forward to it!  It might take awhile with my schedule to get it all together, but it will be for the best.

Our new Property Managers

We are thrilled with our new property managers.  Jennifer and Tim take care of our cabin like it was their own treasured home!

Their first time to clean, they spent 8 hours cleaning from top to bottom.  Jennifer even told me there were some things that had not been cleaned since the cabin was built!  We sure paid the rental agent’s staff alot of money to do nothing.

When we arrived at the cabin last week, I was amazed to find how neat and clean every room, every closet and every corner of the cabin was.  The sheets and towels that the previous crew would throw in bags under the bed were neatly folded and stacked in the closet.  Not a thing was out of place. 

Jennifer takes a complete inventory of the items in the cabin, and when something goes missing, she has notified me immediately.  One tenant took our laundry basket and hot tub towels home because, as they told the rental agent: ‘they didnt have time to pack their suitcase’?!!??  The rental agent used their deposit to replace our laundry basket and towels.  Previously, the cleaners would not have noticed, or not have reported the loss and we would be responsible for replacing all the missing items.

Jennifer is a godsend to us and to the future ethical tenants who will be visiting the cabin.

Brinegar Cabin

Harvest Days October 2A short drive farther up the Blue Ridge from the Church of the Frescoes you will happen upon Brinegar Cabin.  This cabin was hand built by Martin Brinegar in the late 1800s.  Somewhere around 1880.  The family lived in the small cabin on 125 acres of property, and raised their family of  at least 3 children here.  They farmed the land and Caroline Brinegar maintained a family vegetable garden.

In addition to the main cabin, there are a few other structures on the property.

The Brinegars had a Spring House, a 3 walled structure, through which a cool sparkling spring bubbled up.  The Brinegars used this spring for drinking and cooking water, but also to keep food chilled.  They would place their food directly into the cold spring and the cold water would keep the food from spoiling.  A morning trip to the spring was a ritual enjoyed by all members of the Brinegar family, mostly Caroline.  Lugging large pails of water up the steep hill to the cabin was what supposedly kept Caroline in good physical shape.

There was also an outhouse and a food pantry with a root cellar below.   Inside the cabin, stands the large 4 poster loom that Caroline had inherited from her mother.  She made all the family’s clothing and warm blankets on this loom.  Park Rangers still give loom demonstrations on the weekends in the cabin.   The one in the picture to the right is the same type of loom used by Caroline Brinegar.  The spinning wheels below are from inside the Brinegar cabin and are still used today by the Blue Ridge Park Rangers who conduct the loom demonstrations.

Harvest Day Festival – Oct. 2, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Brinegar Cabin, Milepost 238, Blue Ridge Parkway

Visit the original cabin and site of Martin & Caroline Brinegar’s homeplace. Whether by location or choice, the Brinegars probably lived a more self sufficient lifestyle than many well into the 1900s. Fall is the time to finish harvesting the crops and plow the garden before winter sets in. Come see how the Brinegars made apple butter and other food preservation skills, as well as putting the garden to bed for the winter.

Church of the Frescoes


A few miles up the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the town of Glendale Springs, there is the quaint church “Holy Trinity Episcopal Church“.  The church was built in 1901, but has undergone a recent revival due to the artist Ben Long.

Ben Long is a NC native who studied fresco painting in Italy.  He desired bringing his skill and artistry home.  He offered the frescoes in Holy Trinity Episcopal Church as a gift to the pastor Father Hodge.

A fresco is when a painting is done on wet plaster.  The plaster then dries along with the paint and the painting is a permanent part of the wall.

There are a number of frescoes in Holy Trinity.  The church is also in a quaint  town with a lovely park and soup shop across the square.  It is worth the drive from Bearfoot Hideaway.

Wine Tasting in Swan Creek

Raffaldini Vineyards in the Yadkin Valley opened their new tasting house.  It had been under construction for a few years.  It was well worth the wait!

A visit to Raffaldini Vineyard Estates is like being in Tuscany.  The elevation, the weather and the view from the Piedmont is gorgeous.  The vineyard itself is massive and grows more than 30 grape varieties. 

The tasting room is very well designed and is laid out.  For $5 you can have a wine tasting and your own personal Raffaldini Vineyards wine glass to take home.

They are open each day of the week but Tuesday.