Jesus! Despite Expedia's attempt to pre-ruin another trip we make it to Knoxville via Dallas and our super short connection. Hertz has no clue where Blackberry Farm is and gives us instructions to the opposite direction. Thank god for Assana's year long stalking on Facebook we know exactly where to go. Pretty countryside, waaaaay too many churches! First clue that we are in The Deep South.
Tommy'ed After all the anticipation, the first twenty-four hours doesn't talk to us! We don't initially love our room, Magnolia: it is teeny and, minutes after we check in, while relaxing after a long day of traveling and with Dan in a very bare-ass position, some dude opens the door and walks in! WTF! We ask to be moved and are told that we could only if we coughed up another two hundred bucks a night on top of the arm and a leg we are already paying. We stay in Magnolia... The view out of our room is gorgeous, and we eventually realize that it is our favorite view of the Great Smokeis!
The next afternoon we get a odd reception from the concierge name Tommy:
Dan & Assana: We would love to see the truffle puppies.
Tommy: No! Jim, their keeper, is not here, and the dogs are vicious!
[Later another couple told us that a different concierge did take them up to see the puppies! Vatever]
Dan & Assana: Ok, we can do that later. Can you give us a map of the grounds so we could walk to see the rest of the farm animals and the gardens?
Dan & Assana: The chickens, and the sheep?
Tommy: <Stare with confusion>
Dan & Assana: You know the brochure in the room? We are trying to experience that!
Tommy: <Stare with more confusion>
While another concierge finally jumps in and pulls out a map, Assana continues with Tommy...
Assana: Ok, here's something you can hopefully help with: Can you cancel our manicures on Wednesday morning since we won't be able to make our flight home otherwise.
Tommy: Sure, I'll cancel your appointments for tomorrow.
Assana: Tomorrow is Sunday.
The Farm We do meet up with Jim and see the puppies. Super cute. He also takes us up to meet the parents - turns out not to so vicious - and gives us a tour of the truffle-inoculated hazelnut farm; can't wait for Blackberry's own Truffles. We spend an afternoon checking out the rest of the farm: the gardens - where dinner's veggies come from - with its super cute shed and super friendly garden kitty; the sheep with their guard llamas who gallop over to check us out only to be promptly bored with us; the horse barn with its own kitty, Fluffy; the chicken coop where Dan seem to be able to converse with the chickens; and the other flock of sheep with their Anatolian Shepherd keepers. At one point we finally realize why Tommy was giving us the blank look when we said we wanted to walk the farm: we see no one walking!! This beautiful farm, and great trails, and all the guests zip around in golf carts and miss it all. Tant pis pour eux!
The Park Our first visit to the park was thru the river on kayaks. We meet our guide Dusty, and he has one of the property's Lexi loaded with kayaks, food, water, bug repellant and sunblock. It is a great day of casual paddling on a beautiful still river. The water is so clear and calm it it feels like gliding on a mirror. Dusty is nice, but shocks us with his ideologies. It is our first encounter with someone from the deep south and we are fascinated by some of his statements: Democrats are not men of God, so that's why President Obama is a muslim! We stick to neutral subjects such as his impending wedding!
On the day we decide to drive into the park, Blackberry gives us another Lexus to drive: a brand new convertible roadster. Nice! We hike up to Laurel Falls… well, it isn't so much as hiking… or even walking… it is more of a stroll! The trail goes thru a nut forest and there are acorns falling all around us like a light rain. Amazingly enough none hits either one of us! We hike up Clingmans Dome at 6600 feet, touch the Appalachian trail, cross into North Carolina, drive the Cades Cove Loop Road, and eventually realize that the best view of the park is from Blackberry's back patio!
Inappropriate Flatware It isn't a surprise that the restaurant and the food are fabulous. Blackberry is a foodie destination, after all. What shocks us is the level of service we receive. Turns out their motto is "Yes it the answer; what is the question?" Our waitress for every night except for one is Katherine-the-Pixie. Sweetest girl with a sense of humor to match ours.
On the first night, and we don't even remember how we got to the topic, we talk about the inappropriate yogurt spoons in Italy. Pixie spends the entire following day planning an evening of inappropriate flatware for Dan. I don't think we have ever laughed this much at any dinner: Beer served in teapot and teacups, tongs for salad, a ladle and demitasse for soup, butter knife and fish serving fork for steak, and an array of seven different spoons for dessert! A favorite part of the evening is when one of the unsuspecting waitresses comes out with our salad, glances at our table and doesn't see the appropriate silverware she was supposed to see, and keeps on walking! Not a pause, not a blink… just keeps on going. I follow her with my eyes and see that she walks by the kitchen where Pixie gives her the go-ahead and with the same tempo she walks right back to us and serves us the salad.
We ♥ Melinda During our first dinner Sam Beall, the proprietor and the author of the famous The Blackberry Farm Cookbook, drops by to say hi. We mention to him that we would love to follow the cheese maker for a day. Turns out we couldn't because of a few technicalities, but he promises to give us a cheese experience we will enjoy. What he gives us is Melinda, the dining room manager & sommelier extraordinaire. She plans an unforgettable afternoon for us. First is a tour of the cheese making facility. The cheese maker, Adam Spannaus, is busy at work but takes the time to say hi and tell us what he was up to (cheese, it turns out!). Next is a tour of the cheese caves. OMG. Assana is having a mental orgasm walking into the caves. It takes a tremendous amount of restraint for her not to hug a moldy wheel! And finally, there is cheese and wine pairing. But not just any kind of pairing. We follow Melinda down to the ever fabulous wine cellar. There, inside the climate controlled cellar and surrounded by 165,000 bottles of wine, is the most extravagant set up of wine, cheese, and chocolate! OMG! The three of us spend a few hours tasting the different Blackberry cheeses, pairing them with several varieties of wine, comparing notes on how we each enjoyed each pairing. Bestest afternoon ever. We love Melinda and hope to stay friends with her. And thank you, Sam, for making it all happen.
Quintessential Lazyness If you look up "lazyness" in the dictionary you will see a description of our last day at Blackberry! After yet another yummy breakfast we stroll to the spa for manicures and pedicures. That takes the morning. Next we meet up with Melinda for an afternoon of cheese'ing. Back to the Spa for massages - Hot Stone would have been great if the gal had not yapped about her family the entire time - and finally dinner after a quick cleanup. Best last day ever.
This vacation will always be one of the most memorable ones for us. Blackberry Farm was all we expected, and more, and we will definitely be back.