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Recipes by Zola / Recipes

Open Face Chicken Mole Sandwiches

Vacation Highlights

I promised I’d write about the highlights of my vacation. Some of the things I rate as “highlights” might surprise you. (I guess you are getting to know the real me.)

The first highlight I have to share is the weather. I know I have no control over the weather, and if it had rained the entire time it would not have spoiled my vacation, nevertheless, I have to talk about the weather. Each day the high was somewhere between 65 and 70 degrees. Sunny and mild. Puffy clouds and blue skies. For me, it doesn’t get any better than that. I swear I will spend my retirement years roaming the globe in search of a day with a high of 70 degrees.

Some people think I’m nuts. Those are the people who love 85 degree weather. I’m miserable when it goes above 80 degrees. I think it has something to do with my Irish heritage. I hate heat. So to go on a 10-day vacation and have my kind of perfect weather every day was a real treat.

Having no TV was a real treat too. I’m one of those people who likes to “check out” on vacation. I don’t read a paper on vacation. I don’t do more than listen to the highlights of the news while I am driving. I don’t watch sports on TV unless I step into a sports bar and have a burger at the bar. I try to just immerse myself in where I am and who I am with. My husband is the one who brought it up first on this vacation. We walked into our hotel room and he announced that he was not going to turn on the TV. That’s just one of the reasons I love that man as much as I do.

The Blue Ridge Parkway comes in at highlight #3. There was one time when I was 18 years old that I drove through the Appalachian mountains on my way to visit my sister in Virginia Beach. I was late though, so I just cut through the mountains. Didn’t even take notice. This time we spent time just cruising along the mountain ridges just to stop and take in the views. They really do have that blue ridge haze. I loved that.

Highlight #4 is Monticello. I told you all before I left that I have an architectural “bucket list”. There are a number of famous buildings and sites I want to see before I am too old to travel. Monticello was on that list. I have read over the years about all the important things Thomas Jefferson accomplished while at Monticello, beginning with designing it and supervision the building of it. Thomas Jefferson acted as his own architect. That’s an amazing feat in itself. The list of things he accomplished beyond his presidency is too long to list here. I’ll have to just encourage you to go there and learn for yourself. I learned so much while there I was just fascinated. I was so enchanted that I bought a CD series called “Jefferson’s Secrets”. We listened to the CD’s on a 500-plus mile drive from one bucket list location to the next one. In over 500 miles we only completed three of the CDs. There are 12. I have a lot more learning to do.

Next up is The Biltmore. The largest residence ever built in the US. They say you should set aside eight hours to tour this place. I think they are right. Set in the hills outside Asheville, North Carolina, it is a sight to behold. Just learning about what an average day was like for a guest there is a mouthful. Imagine dinner every night in formal wear. The men were required to wear a white tails tuxedo and the women ball gowns. Many American families come to the dinner table dressed in sweat pants. Just imagine dinner every night like it’s your wedding night. As a food writer, this is a dream.

I was all excited to hear the Biltmore Flower Show was opening while we were in town. We went to the Biltmore the day after the show began. Sad thing is we discovered they had a 20-minute hail storm just a few days before. The tulips were wiped out. In fact, anything with a petal was trashed. We found the gardeners tilling under the mess and starting over with the planting. That was sad but there was still plenty to see. The grounds cover thousands of acres. The bus ride from the parking lot to the main house entrance is about 10 minutes long, and that’s before you even begin your tour.

Asheville and Charlottesville were highlights too. Both towns are quaint without being overly touristy. They both have plenty of creative places to eat. No food chains necessary. The shopping is high quality and there are plenty of little galleries.

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