NEW KDHamptons Travel Diary: Blair Voltz Clarke In The Blue Ridge Mountains
“In the summer, “heading south” means we are mountain -bound,” shares Sag Harbor Southern belle, Blair Voltz Clarke. “My great grandparents bought a home on Greenhill Road overlooking Grandfather Mountain in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, long before I was born. The house was passed down to my parents by way of my grandparents so the walls are thick with family stories and love. Mom still tells us that every morning, her grandmother would point ahead toward the mountain face and inform her for the umptienth time ‘that is Grandfather in front of you, see his nose?’ On a clear day you can see the swinging bridge which connects his chin to his nose. On a windy day, you don’t want to be anywhere near the swinging bridge!” Blair takes a break from her art consultancy company, VoltzClarke, to share the Southern charm of a North Carolina family holiday in this NEW KDHamptons Travel Diary, below:
Blair shares: A summer trip south always starts with a stroll through Main Street. The village is darling and far more a looker’s haven than a buying excursion. There are ice creams shops galore, but the most popular (with a twisting line out the door) is named Kilwins. You can smell the fudge way across the street when crossing from the darling wooden playground. A visit to the church where my husband Alistair and I got married 13 years ago is always a nostalgic treat as well. Each time it looks smaller, yet more charming.
The new contemporary art museum is an international perk for the locals and day trippers. Only built a few years ago, BRAHM, a nice modern building at the top of Main street, celebrates every art form and medium. I am inspired by the dress installation by Nava Lubelski reminding me of a ceramist in our NY gallery named Bradley Sabin. Other artistic highlights in the wandering village are gorgeous bronze figurative sculptures; perfectly hidden behind manicured flower beds.
Bless Your Heart opened a few summers ago, and this tiny shop is packed with treasures from cotton nightgowns to delicate silver jewelry trays. I’m not much for writing on pillows, but the phrases found in her store are worth breaking any rules. Mellow Mushroom pizza is our staple. A band plays and the crowds gather for their whole wheat concoctions. We opt for take out….. eating on my parents deck watching the sunset is the best table in town.
Another HUGE attraction for children is Tweetsie Railroad. Not only do you hear the train blowing from miles away, but you can also taste the best cotton candy from near and far. The precious mouse cave and train ride bring back so many memories when I was little. This year, a brand new High Gravity course is shaking things up, especially my nerves. Poppy and Georgina (ages 10,7) had themselves in the nose bleed section balancing the thinnest tight rope. At times I can’t watch but the instructors assure me their harnesses are secure.
“The Rocks” is another place we like for a family hike, but you have to know where you are going. You hike down a narrow dirt trail which magically opens up to the most gorgeous stream flowing through massive rocks and wildflowers. Being on all fours is the only way to command balance and confidence. Once at the top, a dip in the stream and impressive glance below confirms how many rocks you just climbed.
Mom and I usually make a day trip Asheville, which is an eclectic city filled with artists, potters and college kids. We decided to take a quick stroll through The Biltmore Estate which felt like we had flown to England for a Downton Abbey screening. The massive ceiling height, enormous rooms, period furniture and gardens did not disappoint.
As time does, it flew and our last night was spent eating a delicious southern dinner at the Blowing Rock Club in one of the rooms where our wedding reception was held. Friends table hop to say hellow, always commenting on how much the girls have grown, exchanging well wishes …..and another meaningful summer with my family in their paradise has passed.