Last week, Kathy & I ventured to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville to take in the spring flowers in the gardens, check out the Renaissance Alive art presentation, and of course to eat and to buy wine. 😉
Biltmore is an easy 2 hour drive from Charlotte, suitable for a day trip but also a nice way for an easy overnight. We had reward points that allowed us to stay for free at a motel in nearby Biltmore Village, so we had the better part of two days. As Annual Passholders we didn’t have to pay extra for the visits, which can otherwise be a little pricey.
Even without visiting Biltmore House itself, the grounds and gardens are such a nice place to spend a day or part of the day. The gardens are extensive, and the Conservatory itself is larger than most homes. We concentrated mostly on the outside gardens, although as we were getting ready to leave, the sounds of a hammered dulcimer drew us inside for a listen.
Monte enjoyed my motion blur photo from a couple of days ago so I thought I would serve up a few more. Sometimes the camera moves, sometimes the subject moves.
Lots of motion blur here today as we await Ian’s arrival. It’s been rainy, breezy and chilly – a good day to work on photos and watch Formula 1 practice! Ian keeps angling further east of us, which is good for us but unfortunately not so good for someone else. Should be by us by morning, hopefully!
One of the items on our agenda for our time in Charlotte was a photography show titled ‘Annemarie Schwarzenbach: Departure without Destination’ at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. (link)
Schwarzenbach was a Swiss writer, journalist and photographer with an interesting history. Her lifestyle would probably fit in pretty well today, but between that and her anti-Fascist campaigning made her an outcast forced her into exile. As a result she spent much of her time traveling the world, writing and photographing. Her work as a journalist, coupled with her upper-class background and her status as the wife of French diplomat Claude Clarac granted her extraordinary freedom of travel for the period.
The Bechtler exhibit represents work from her travels throughout the world, including the southeastern US in 1936-1938 and features archival material, film, and 200 photographs drawn from the approximately 7,000 photographs in the Schwarzenbach’s estate, which is held in the Swiss Literary Archives in Bern, Switzerland.
I had never heard of Schwarzenbach before learning about this show, and found it to a fascinating look at the world of her time. The show runs through 7/31/22.
Earlier this week, Kathy & I celebrated the ’44th anniversary of her 21st birthday” with a couple of nights in The Big City (Charlotte) with some jazz, dinners with friends, an art museum and lots of walking around. We had a great time, I took a few photos and we are now back on our diets for a few more weeks! 😉
Kathy & I fulfilled one of our goals yesterday – we rode the Amtrak “Piedmont” to Durham, North Carolina for lunch. It was our first-ever Amtrak trip, and while not exactly an epic journey, it was something we have wanted to do for a while.
We were impressed. Parking at the Charlotte station was free and convenient, the people were friendly and there is no arduous “security theatre” screening process. The train was on time, boarding was quick and orderly, and even though the seats were not reserved, everyone had a row to themselves (it helped that the Piedmont originates in Charlotte so the train was empty when we boarded). The seats were comfortable, comparable to first class airplane seats with plenty of leg (and butt) room. Bottled water and pretty decent coffee were available for free in the cafe car, and there were vending machines for those needing to buy a snack. The two rest rooms in our car were clean and roomy.
We arrived in Durham at 1:00 and had about 2 1/2 hours until the Piedmont returned from Raleigh to take us back to Charlotte. So we explored the downtown area a bit. Durham is known as the Bull City, and there were bull themes prevalent everywhere. We found a lunch spot that specializes in craft beer and burgers made from pasture-raised beef (the burgers, not the beer 😉 ), called, appropriately enough, Bull City Burger and Brewery. A good find for lunch!
As with most downtowns these days, there are not too many retail businesses, but lots of bars and restaurants. Many of the former tobacco warehouses have been or are being converted to residential buildings with street level commercial, which makes for an interesting vibe. I don’t know where all the people work, but Duke University is nearby, and Durham is the county seat, so those would be sources of employment.
It was kind of a dark and gloomy day in Durham, a little on the cool side. But it didn’t rain so that was a plus! Most of my photos are processed as black & white since there wasn’t much color to get excited about.
The return trip to Charlotte was uneventful. Since the train originated in Raleigh it was already pretty full when it got to us. We scored seats together, although they were facing backward. Not a problem but a little weird. We boarded at 3:30 and arrived back in Charlotte at 6:00, in time to be home for dinner. It was a long way to go and kind of an expensive lunch when including the cost of transportation. But it was a fun day! We’re glad we took the plunge and look forward to planning a longer trip in the near future. Perhaps to DC or NYC.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Blue Ridge Parkway. I love to visit there, but hate dealing with the crowds that flock there, especially in fall when the colors are happening. Such was the case this week, when Kathy & I decided to head to the high country for a few days to check out the fall colors.
Like all the National Parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway, as the most-visited National Park in the country, has been overrun by tourists seeking an outdoor experience. I’ll be glad when many of them head back to the office, although there appears to be a large number of retired folks as well. Drivers on the Parkway range from the Floridian driving white-knucked around the winding corners at 30 MPH to the motorcycle riders trying to make the Parkway their personal Lime Rock Park. Add in those of us just trying to drive comfortably and enjoy the scenery and it can be a frustrating mix.
We left home on Wednesday morning with the goal of driving the Parkway from Blowing Rock to Mount Pisgah before heading to Waynesville for a couple of nights. We have friends who own a motel there, and I have a cousin who lives nearby who we don’t get to see often enough. Seeing both of them was long overdue.
Wednesday was a Chamber of Commerce Blue Sky Day on the Parkway. The leaves in the Grandfather Mountain area were just about at their peak. We stopped at an overlook and had lunch before continuing south toward our destination.
I didn’t take a single photograph all day.
Between having a case of “Get-There-Itis” * and all the people crowding into any overlook with a view, my heart just wasn’t in it. It was nice to see, but I rationalized that the mid-day light wasn’t ideal for good photographs and decided that any photograph I made would be no better than a cell phone photo, just taken with a nice camera.
On Thursday, we headed back to the Parkway with the express intention of making photographs. As we headed higher, it became clear that fog would be our companion for the day. That suited me just fine, because fog means interesting photography and…fewer people! The fog and the fall color varied greatly by elevation, and we drove in and out of the fog for several hours. Some places were pretty clear, while others – like Richland Balsam, the highest point on the Parkway at 6053 feet, were totally in the soup. But for the first time in a long time, I was able to get a photograph of the sign without someone’s car or motorcycle parked in front of it! 😉
On Friday, we headed toward home by a different route than we usually take. I got a few photographs from the drive home that I’ll share in another post. We may try to head back up to the Parkway early next week, weather permitting. If so, hopefully I can contain my “affliction” and make a few nice photos!
*Get-There-Itis (my definition): (a) in photography, a condition where one is so focused on the final destination that it prevents stopping to take pictures; (b) in aviation, often referred to as exercising poor judgement, resulting in a decision to fly despite adverse conditions, often with sub-optimal results.
(Although it was the Fourth of September, not the Fourth of July *)
Kathy & I met our son Scott and grandson Edison at nearby Tuckaseegee Park in Mount Holly, NC. They have a nice playground there plus several walking paths that run through the woods and along the Catawba River. Edison likes to take “nature walks” so we spent an hour or so there before returning to our house to a lunch of “Tube Steaks.”
Edison isn’t fond of my taking pictures of him but his complaints fall on (my selectively) deaf ears. 🙂
* For the kids out there, a reference to a 1972 song by the best music group of all time. Regardless what they say about bands named after bugs or rocks. 🙂