a southern road trip - gwyneth paltrow at the antiques and garden show of nashville, the reynolds plantation, and dancing bear lodge and appalachian bistro



when i heard that gp was slated to be the keynote speaker at the antiques and garden show of nashville i was elated! it landed on my kiddos winter break so, i took the opportunity to make a road trip out of it. we decided to drive to the reynolds plantation from nashville and then spend valentine’s night at dancing bear in the smoky mountains. we definitely got some new ideas and saw some new places. we even took a peek at blackberry farm on our way home and will be making plans to spend a weekend there for certain.

we drove to nashville after my husband got off work and got there just in time to grab some dinner. we kept things casual and had veggie burgers at merchants down. they were yummy and topped with pimento cheese. my kids finished off their meals with root beer floats! yum!

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we then headed to the hutton hotel. as i have said before, this hotel is a keeper. we get a suite, which is enough space for my tribe. we love the molton brown amenities and the shower heads are really great. the bar is a fun place to get a cocktail and munch of some yummy snacks. the complimentary espressos are just the jolt you need to get going in the morning.

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for breakfast, we were dying to try biscuit love. you need to get there early because the line can be down the sidewalk. my kiddos loved the fresh squeezed orange juice and french toast. i had a breakfast plate with eggs, cheese grits, fruit and a biscuit of course. the biscuits are light and flaky and fantastic with some butter and jelly on them! you also cannot miss the cheese grits...delish!

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next we headed to see gp. she is one of my favorites and it was so interesting to hear her ideas and opinions on interiors, business and life in general. i have been to chicago to see her pop up shop at the waldorf astoria, which was really lovely, so seeing her speak in person was a treat. i was impressed with how relatable she was and she was definitely more beautiful in person. i loved hearing she and windsor smith talk about how to create homes that are functional, beautiful and inspiring. i was also really interested to hear what she has to say about what she is learning about growing her business. her advice in business communication is to “speak really straight and listen generously.” and i like that. i also like her view of pop ups as a really great way to connect with readers and buyers and a hint, the next one is in san fran. she also spoke a little about keeping the social component of business authentic to resonate to readers. i walked away feeling inspired.

after gp, we headed into the antiques and garden show. we were impressed with all of the lovely landscape displays. there were so many lovely antique dealers and people selling phenomenal decor and garden finds. this venue was bustling and people came to shop, so you should plan to get there early and have an empty trunk. i think it would be a ton of fun to head here with a group of girls. everyone was enjoying mimosas and bloody marys too. it was a fun atmosphere! here are the highlights that i want to incorporate into my home....pairs of topiaries, blue china, antique rugs, kilim coasters, gilt mirrors and architectural elements, branches in vases, antique butterfly prints, beautiful china and silver, vintage hermes and louis vuitton. it was a beautiful and inspiring day!

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from there we headed to the ritz carlton at the reynolds plantation. this is on lake oconee, which is a hour south of atlanta. we got there just in time for the kiddos to make s’mores and have hot chocolate, which was great. we then had a glass of wine and listened to the live music in the lobby lounge. my husband upgraded us to a lakeview suite which was really nice. inside the room was a tote full of branded amenities, that we all loved. the room had a balcony where we were able to take in an amazing sunrise. there are three restaurants and a ton of amenities to enjoy when at this property. you should take a bit of time to plan your visit and find out what is available at that time of year.

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we enjoyed some hot spiced cider from the lobby and took a walk around the property. there are swings and hammocks with lake views. we enjoyed a pedal boat on the lake in the sunshine. they have a fantastic fitness facility and a beautiful indoor pool with a fireplace in the spa. if you have wee ones, there is family swim time from 3-8 in the winter. my tweens were feeling brave and went for the outdoor hot tub and the heated infinity pool. my kiddos also really enjoyed the movie viewing room and the game room that had been set up for indoor fun. there are yoga and group fitness classes offered as well.

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We enjoyed brunch at Georgia’s bistro. Our children opted for the buffet and we ordered off the menu. I had an omelet with mushrooms, onions, spinach and peppers and my husband had french toast. My omelet was a pretty presentation with asparagus and tomato coulis, potatoes and fresh fruit. The manager brought us hot sauce that was made from peppers grown in the on-site garden. We enjoyed cocktails in the bar with snacks to munch on. we loved the cheese straws, wasabi peas, and mixed nuts.

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I am planning on going back to the Reynolds Plantation when the weather is warmer. My advice is to plan your whole visit in advance. We prefer active vacations, and a good plan prevents boredom and frustration. I hope to have a spa experience the next time, use the kayaks and the fitness center, have a romantic swim with my husband and utilize the photo concierge.

From there we moved on to Dancing Bear Lodge and Appalachian Bistro in Townsend, TN. This is the sister property to Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN. I have to be honest, I am actually kind of in love with this place. The vibe is laid back, rustic luxury. The cabins are being updated to a kind of a Ralph Lauren / Mountain cabin style. The staff was unfailingly polite, friendly and polished. The service was excellent. When i did have a small issue it was completely resolved in a quick and friendly manner. Our cabin was a two bedroom, two bath cabin with a wood burning fireplace, a hot tub and a complete kitchen. The bathrooms have just been redone and are super clean and charming with rustic “cabin” sinks. The fireplace was stocked with wood and starter logs and the kitchen was stocked with continental breakfast. The breakfast included house roasted coffee, orange juice, apples, oranges, chobani greek yogurt, and house made granola.

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We had a prix fixe Valentine’s Dinner at the Bistro. Now this was a total indulgence, but it was really nice and we really enjoyed the meal. I started with a glass of Gloria Ferrer Brut and my husband had a malbec. We all had the blue cheese wedge for our first course. It was delicious and served on paper thin apple slices and garnished with caramelized onions and golden raisins. Our next course was a grilled endive ceasar with roasted mushrooms and wilted greens. Our main entree was angel hair pasta with truffle cream sauce and assorted roasted mushrooms. We finished our meal with the chocolate icebox cake with chocolate ganache, whipped cream and berries. The next time, I am going to order the spiced cider, that is served in a siphon at your table. We liked this bistro a lot. The interior is really cool. They also have a space for outdoor weddings and indoor receptions. How romantic would renting out the whole resort for your big day be?

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My husband built a fire, we took a soak in the hot tub and then we hit the hay. The bed was plush with a feather bed, plush pillows and a opulent duvet. We woke and it was a sleepy rainy morning, so we ordered brunch from the apple valley cafe. my husband and i had breakfast burritos and our children had apple cinnamon pancakes. we were happy and full and ready to explore a bit. if it were not raining, i would have loved to explore the property on the bikes that are included in your stay. well...now there is a reason to come back really soon.

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on to plan b...we headed to the smoky mountain national park to check out cades cove. the drive to cades cove is breathtaking. you pass the most amazing views of little river. the color of the river is the most amazing shade of green-blue. next time i am bringing wellies so that i can wade in and grab a few river stones and splash around.

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cades cove is an 11 mile one way loop. you can view primitive churches, log cabins, a mill and so much more. there is a ton of wildlife to view too. there are elk, wild turkeys, hawks, white tailed deer, and groundhogs. what i am obsessed with are the black bears. we met a ranger and she said to come back in april or may to see them. the park has roughly 1600 bears on the 800 square mile area, so your chances of seeing one are pretty good. this is especially true in cades cove, which boasts many open areas for wildlife viewing. there are amazing foggy views of the smoky mountains, mossy trees and beautiful rock formations. there are quite a few trailheads to hike from as well. our plan is to pack a picnic and make a day of hiking in the park.

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our last stop on our trip was a peek at blackberry farm. now i know you are not supposed to go there without a reservation. but hey, it doesn’t hurt to play dumb and have a go. i wanted to put my eyeballs on it and believe me...it’s that good. we had hesitated to pull the trigger on this resort, given the basically $3000 per night price tag. i had visions of hillbilly golf seared in my brain from my last visit to the smokies at 14. we came, we saw and we get it ... blackberry farm, we will be back!

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cheers to hitting the road!

Cheers! - lh

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