Charlotte, North Carolina, is about an eight-hour drive from where we live. On the way there, we decided to break up the trip with a night in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which is close to the halfway point.
We got to Gatlinburg mid-afternoon on Saturday. We didn't have any set plans, other than to walk around and get some dinner.
I hadn't been to Gatlinburg since I was 14 (I think), and I didn't remember how beautiful their River Walk is. They have a beautiful stamped concrete and brick sidewalk that borders the river (albeit a tiny one). There are wonderful trees that shade most of the walk, and flower boxes all along the iron fencing.
One of my primary memories from Gatlinburg was of the overhead tram that carries you up the mountain to the ski resort. We decided that would be our afternoon activity. The view was really breathtaking, and the girls (mostly) enjoyed it. We stood at the front of the car, and I felt like I was soaring just above the treetops. Daddy held Baby B so she could get a better view. Baby A preferred the comfort of standing between my legs. She looked around the entire time, but she didn't much care for me letting go of her...hence, no pictures from the tram.
We ate supper on top of the mountain, and headed back down around dusk. We paused to take a picture in front of one of the retired tram cars on our walk back to the hotel.
Sunday morning we had an ahhhh-mazing breakfast at the Pancake Pantry, a Gatlinburg tradition since 1960. Daddy had wildberry crepes, I had pecan pancakes, and the girls shared sweet potato pancakes, bacon, and fresh fruit. Hubby invited himself and the girls into the kitchen for a little tour, and let me tell you, this was the "real deal". No microwaves there! :) And the service was excellent, a true taste of the South. It often seems like -- even in "the South" -- that true Southern hospitality is hard to find in a touristy area...but we felt so welcome during breakfast. We've since decided that the Pancake Pantry was the highlight of our trip to Gatlinburg!
After breakfast, we walked around some of the shops. Unlike our elbow-to-elbow experience on Saturday night, the place was blissfully almost vacant early on Sunday morning. The girls got to throw pennies in one of the fountains, which they just think is awesome.
We said goodbye to the river from the balcony of our hotel room...
...and headed to the aquarium. This is my favorite picture, the girls waving to the fishies.
The aquarium in Gatlinburg boasts an underwater view. They have "tunnels" that you walk though, where you can see fish around and ON TOP OF you. Our favorite fishy friend was this sawfish. He kept swimming overhead, and it was so neat to see the spines on his snout (???), and to watch his mouth open and close. We also got to see a shark swim above us. It was very cool!
The other big attraction in the aquarium is the penguin area. Baby B almost fell over as she was trying to "follow" this little guy swimming in front of her! (And I tried not to laugh!)
And here I am with Baby A, having crawled through a little tunnel to peek inside the penguin habitat. When we got closer, we realized that each penguin was sporting an armband with his name on it. If you look closely, you can see Baby A doing her signature "Awww, how fweet!" face as she talked to one of the penguins by name. :)
We headed out mid-morning, ahead of schedule, which allowed us to stop in Asheville, North Carolina, for lunch. I've visited the Biltmore and winery before, but I'd never been to the downtown area. I've always heard great things about the art galleries and shops and restaurants there, so we were excited to be able to give it a whirl.
We picked the Jerusalem Cafe for lunch. We had a huge mostly-Greek feast. The girls were taken with the plush interior and fabric-lined ceilings, and we sat next to a very nice couple and had a lovely chat. We didn't get to take any pictures downtown, as the skies were threatening rain as we were leaving. This is the only picture I have, of B, cheesing for her mama after lunch.
We had such a fun time on the way to Charlotte...and how liberating it felt to meander (relatively speaking)!