. The Owner's husband was there to serve and as a father of 8, recognized my need to feed, and produced quiche and salad. Daniel announced it was the Best quiche he had ever eaten (after asking what it was he was actually eating), Aviva who Hates eggs devoured hers and says quiche is her favourite food (nobody has told her how quiches get their consistency), and Tom ate 3 pieces of ham from his slice and announced he was Hungry for real food.
We woke up at another lovely campsite gazing at a river with a number of duck families (who have done well to dodge the boys rocks). We returned to our cafe and loaded up with coffees & pastries before making a hasty retreat as the kids had become just a little too comfortable in the house-like setting, making our way to Biltmore Estate, the largest private residence in the USA; built in 1895 for George Vanderbilt as a weekender. The kids were on their best tour-guide behaviour (there was a Lot of bribery involved) and we made it through what seemed like most of the 250 rooms, the family highlight being the basement bowling-alley. Lunch, ice-creams and a quick guzzle at the estate winery and we were back to the campsite to cook pasta in the dark.
Day 2 we opted for the slow route to the Great Smoky Mountains - via the Blue Ridge Parkway, which though scenic is windy and not as interesting as Disney World for the Under 8 age group. Lunched at a truly dismal roadside diner, and then discovered just over the hill we would have had our pick of any number of interesting looking places
. Cherokee, our gateway city into the Smoky Mountains NP was remarkable for the number of painted bears lining the roadside, but otherwise provided little of interest. Smoky Mountains were, as you would expect, shrouded in a blue-ish haze and we enjoyed our drive through. We held true to the NPS statistic of only '30% of the people visiting this park actually get out of their car, and of those only 5% venture onto 20 miles of the 850 miles of hiking trails', a feat we are not proud of and will remedy next NP we visit. Exiting the park into Gatlinburg, Tennessee, we entered into a Carnival atmosphere, the streets lined with people and attractions such as Ripley's Believe it or Not, an Aquarium, Guiness Book of Records, Mini Golf courses, and every gaudy, kitschy money-making attraction that could contrast with the natural beauty of the NP we'd just been through. We had expected summer crowds through the NP, it being the number one most visited in the US, but we didn't find them inside, we found them all outside in Gatlinburg!
The kids remained focused on one important thing all day - a ride on the paddle boats at the campground upon our return, which we did before rounding them up again and heading out for Sushi.
Tomorrow we will continue north along the Blue Ridge Parkway but may again deviate from our original plan and head toward the coast before arriving in Washington DC. One reason for the change, we recognize our love of the water, and secondly it's Daniel's birthday on Saturday and we need to find a toy store!
Leaving South Carolina and the Lowcountry marked the end of a long flat journey through the southern states. Coming into Asheville, NC, we viewed our first hills since descending out of Taos (32 days ago) and the sight of something high and green brought relief and hope for some cooler temperatures. Arriving late to the KOA campground, we raced to get the tent set-up before dark. Matt says he can get the tent up on his own with only a beer as his helper in an hour, so with my help we set the bar at 1/2 hr. Clocking in at 45 mins, he says he's comfortable sticking with his well developed routine in future. Thinking we'd have to hunt down an open diner in Asheville at 8.30pm, we set off, but stopped a couple of miles down the road when we saw flashing lights advertising a Patisserie/Cafe that looked inviting. I went in to enquire - thinking I'd probably find myself in some sort of rowdy Bar, which is what we had come to recognize as 'cafe' in the south - but there it was, a cozy house with beautifully decorated rooms in which to dine on coffee and pastries