Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Every once in a while, serenity finds me. Sipping a frothy cappuccino at Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, North Carolina, I'm relaxing on the emerald lawn, listening to a bird symphony. Bunnies hop across the lawn; a fat robin chases another worm. Golden clouds billow over the Blue Ridge Mountains. White magnolias, pink azaleas and lavender hydrangeas adorn the Inn's splendid gardens under a shimmering robin's-egg-blue sky. Sometimes you don't need to do anything to be happy. Just close your eyes and listen.
A member of Historic Hotels of America, Old Edwards Inn and Spa was lauded in 2013 as Travel and Leisure's No. 2 Best Resort in the United States. Conde Nast Traveler included the resort on their 2013 Gold List, as well as top awards from TripAdvisor and U.S. News and World Report.
“Old Edwards has a world class 25,000-square-foot spa, with sumptuous amenities,” says Marjorie Fielding, marketing director. “Golfers love playing our spectacular 18-hole championship course at Old Edwards Club, which undulates along panoramic mountains. Our Madison's Restaurant is a destination unto itself, with ingredients plucked fresh from our gardens and greenhouses. Our wine garden features al fresco dining alongside a waterfall and live music in summer. Why do guests return again and again? Our staff is devoted to making them feel like they're part of a family.”
The Inn offers a variety of accommodations: 92 individually appointed guestrooms, suites and cottages, resplendent with period antiques, European bedding, and fine Italian linens. Baths feature plush bathrobes and slippers, heated tile bath floors, heated towel rack and invigorating rainfall showers. Owners Art and Angela Williams are passionate about improving and enhancing the Inn, and travel the world acquiring unique furniture and art to create a special ambiance in each room. In 2013, they added 24 new guestrooms, called “Falls Cottages at Old Edwards Inn,” plus a second swimming pool with jacuzzi, and an inviting outdoor fireplace.
We adored our Cottage No. 5318, an airy, light-filled haven, with a drop-leaf desk, fireplace and cozy rattan bed. We relaxed on plush seafoam-green couches, enjoying the lovely Asian prints on the pillows and drapes. We paged through local magazines like “Laurel,” published monthly by Marjorie Fielding, and inspiring home-decorating coffee table books by Barbara Barry. We spent quiet evenings on our balcony, sunlight melting into moonlight over North Carolina's hypnotizing mountains.
We relished breakfast and dinner at Madison's Restaurant, which serves farm-to-table cuisine and boasts a “Wine Spectator” awarded wine list. German Chef Johannes Klapdohr was born into a family of four generations of hoteliers, restaurateurs and chefs, and his innovative menus will please even the most-discerning palates.
Chef Klapdohr's background includes working at the Relais and Chateau “Hotel Bareiss” in Germany's Black Forest, and the “Restaurant Aubergine” in Munich. He served as chef de cuisine at “Nikolai's Roof” in Atlanta, and executive chef at Georgia's “The Lodge at Sea Island.”
In 2009, he took over culinary operations at Old Edwards, helping the Inn and her ace team earn Mobil Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond status, plus accolades from TripAdvisor as No. 4 hotel in America.
“Here in the North Carolina mountains,” Chef Klapdohr says, “I have found the perfect environment for combining my vision of a resort that presents unparalleled guest experiences with sustainable products, many of them grown at our own farm. We offer natural but refined cuisine in a comfortable atmosphere and nature at your doorstep.”
At breakfast, we devoured fabulous omelettes, smoked Carolina trout, cathead biscuits and Belgium waffles with fried chicken tenders and Bourbon maple syrup.
For dinner, we loved chef's poached pear salad with arugula, toasted walnuts and goat cheese; and perfectly cooked duck tenderloin with parsnips, peas and fava beans.
No dieting, just savor incredible fare.
The resort's fully equipped fitness center enables guests to stay in shape with Zumba, yoga, core strength, weight machines and indoor cycling. Instructor Charlie Czarniecki was leading a hike to nearby Sunset Rock, so we joined the group.
Charlie led us up a forest trail to a stunning bird's-eye view of Highlands, Brushy Face Mountain and Horse Cove. Granite boulders, beautiful wildflowers and tangled evergreen forests groves.
This easy hike close to the Inn was pure pleasure.
Highlands dates back to 1875, when the town became a health and summer resort at 4,000 feet on the highest crest of the western North Carolina plateau.
By 1931, Highlands was home to 500 residents who grew their own meat and vegetables, and enjoyed square dancing and mountain clogging.
The diverse population ranged from industrious tradesmen from the North, Scotch-Irish laborers and craftsmen from the South, plus musicians, artists, actors, authors, photographers, scientists and nature lovers.
Today, Highlands is home to around 900 year-round residents and swells to 20,000 in summer when vacationers
Many mountain lovers fall in love with Old Edwards Inn and Spa, returning again and again. We will too.
(Sharon Spence Lieb 2014)