Birthday Retreat – Part 1

Bella Vista cottage sign

Bella Vista cottage

Boat above the fireplace

Adorable decorative boat above the fireplace


Muffin and coffee

A quick breakfast

View from the porch

View from the cottage porch

It’s been a week and I still can’t stop thinking of this place. I want to go back! I’d actually love to live in place like this, except that I doubt they have broadband out there. (Sadly, a deal breaker since I work online.)

The cottage was both secluded, but not as secluded as I thought it would be, actually. It is located about 10 miles from the small town of Luray, VA, (only an hour or so from here) but the drive out there involved lots of twists and turns on country roads, vast fields and farms, a river, and very few houses. When we got to the (dirt) road where the cottage is located, I was surprised to see it lined with quite a few other houses and cabins (some quite extravagant) but it seems like many were also rentals/summer homes and since it was the off-season they were empty.

I wouldn’t want to come back here in summer since there would probably be a lot more people around and also, the A/C in the cottage wasn’t spectacular. That’s another deal breaker for me but luckily it was only warm the first day we were there, after that we had to turn on the heat, which was much more effective (almost too effective). My plan is to come back next Fall since it won’t be so hot and I imagine the color on the trees and view of the mountains will be stunning. I honestly can’t wait.

We got there around 3pm on Friday. I walked around and took a bunch of pictures. We found a trail behind the house and went on a short hike. The cottage has a full kitchen and I had brought lots of food so we stayed in and ate hot dogs for dinner and watched a little TV. Then we relaxed in the hot tub. I’ve never really been in a hot tub before, but this trip made me hope that one day we’ll be rich enough to buy one. The hot tub was out on a screened in porch, so we were covered, but the moon was full and the wind was was howling all around us. It was amazing! I could have stayed in there for hours. The next day I actually did stay in there for hours, but I’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

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Rooster diptych




I couldn’t tell you why, but I’ve always wanted to take pictures of chickens. I mostly just like taking pictures of animals in general, but chickens have always seemed…more fun, maybe? I don’t know, I’m weird. Anyway, we came upon these on the last day of my birthday trip when we were hiking back from the river. They were just standing there in the middle of the hiking trail. When I got a little closer, I saw they had come from under a not very effective fence. I guess they know that’s where all the good food is. We eventually spooked them back to their yard, but they stood around for a while and let me take some pictures first. How nice of them! It was harder to get photos of the actual chickens since they didn’t seem to want to stay in one place, but the roosters didn’t seem to mind having their pictures taken.

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock

After a long break for Christmas, I’m finally posting the last of my vacation photos. These are all from Chimney Rock near Asheville. Crazy people can actually hike up the series of stairways (about 500 steps) from the parking lot to Chimney Rock, but I am not crazy so we took the elevator. The actual rock is smaller than I thought it would be and not very flat so it’s difficult walk around on. But since it was almost winter, it wasn’t busy so I really got to walk all around and get pictures from all sides which was nice.

Once you get up to the rock there are even more stairways that lead to other views and the highest peak of Chimney Rock park called Exclamation Point (ha). I wasn’t really planning to bother with that because I hate hiking up stairs and inclines, but the hiking trail to the waterfall I wanted to see was closed so it was either go up or go home after only 15 minutes. So we went up and up and up some more, at least 10 different sets of stairs and I almost died. I guess it wasn’t that bad. Once in high school I had to hike 8 miles up a mountain and it was probably the worst thing I’ve ever had to do (and I love to hike and was in waaayyy better shape back then so that’s saying something). This was only a mile or two so it was doable. Still, I was proud of myself!

After hanging out at exclamation point until I wasn’t going to die anymore we headed back down all those stairs. Then I went crazy and decided it would be fun to go down the 500 stairs from Chimney Rock back to the parking lot instead of taking the elevator. Because going down stairs is so much easier, right? Unfortunately, the muscles in the back of my legs did not agree with that after about 100 steps but thankfully there were places to rest along the way. Hopefully, one day we can go back so I can finally see that waterfall. I’d love to see the view in the spring or summer when all the trees are green.

So, despite a rocky (har har) start to our vacation it turned out to be pretty awesome. Asheville was a nice little town that I felt very at home in. Besides Biltmore and Chimney Rock we ate at some really excellent restaurants. I had pork belly for the first time and now I understand why people on Top Chef always go crazy for it! Ideally, I’d love to come back next year and do it all over again!

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