Okay, for those of you who are showing me some mercy, I want to say oh.my.goodness. I Love Blue Ridge. The capital "L" is intentional. First, the drive. Amazing. Within 20 minutes up I-575 from Atlanta, the city was merely a memory in the rear view. I found my achy muscles relaxing, my jaw go slack, and my breath deepening. Looking out the windows I saw a beautiful blue sky with big, white, puffy clouds for miles and miles. Eventually, we started to see the mountains. Now, this was my first time in the city of Blue Ridge, but not to North Georgia and surrounding counties. I have seen the mountains, but I had forgotten how beautiful they are. I forgot how small they make me feel. I forgot the feeling of adventure and possibility they fill me with. From what I understand, the mountains we are blessed with in Blue Ridge are the southern tip of the Appalachians. I was surprised by the feeling of pride I felt that we get to have a part of the Appalachians here, in Georgia. I'm not sure what's happening to this born and raised city girl, but I think I'm becoming a mountain person. Who knew?
Once in town, our first stop was Main Street. My host and tour guide for the day, CJ Stam, GM of Southern Comfort Cabin Rentals wanted me to get a feel for the town and meet some people. I just. Wanted. Fudge! We stopped at Three Sisters fudge shop and split a mouth watering wedge of chocolate peanut butter fudge. We met the owner's husband, who had been thrust into his position behind the fudge case by his wife, who had left to "pick up a few things" hours ago. Translation: She went shopping. I liked this woman already. Needless to say, the shopping in Blue Ridge is out of this world. More to come on many of the boutiques and specialty stores on Main Street. Hey, I still got some city girl in me. Give me time. From the fudge shop we went to Oyster Fly Rods where I met Shannon Oyster. I could literally talk to her for hours. I knew I liked her when she complimented the coat I was wearing, which is a coat I actually borrowed from my mom, dating back to the 70's. It's long, black, wool and cashmere, slit up the sides, with frayed tassles around the edges. She said she had one just like it, and it made her feel like a gunslinger. See what I mean? Love at first sight. CJ and I spent some time asking her questions and learning about her business and ideas while all of our eyes were constantly darting to her precious daughter, roaming around the shop with her shopping cart. So adorable. I will be contacting Shannon to interview her for an article while I'm in town the last weekend in February. But let's be honest, I just want to hang out with her more. Next up was Harvest on Main where I met the owners, Michelle and Danny. Again, two extremely interesting people I did not feel I had enough time with, will be "interviewing" as well.
I think my all-time favorite part of the day was the time we spent at Mercier Orchards. My enjoyment of Mercier's has lasted well into the rest of the month, due to my purchase of some pink lady apples, and a basket of sweet potatoes. And I must mention, the fresh baked apple pies. Mmmmmm... just thinking about them makes my mouth water. (Hold on, I must calculate the time and gas it would take to drive up there and back tonight...could I make it to work in the morning? ) When I was young, I was obsessed with Hostess apple pies. At some point in my life, I heard that they actually use potatoes dipped in an apple-like sauce. This did change my respect for Hostess, but I ate the pies nonetheless. The apple pies at Mercier's put Hostess to shame. They are a gourmet version, and the best darn thing I've ever eaten. We purchased 6, enough for CJ and myself, as well as CJ's wife and kids. And you bet your buttons, once I was done with my pie, I began to scheme ways to convince CJ to give me the rest of them.
We then visited the Blue Ridge Chamber of Commerce, which was exactly what a small-town COC should be. Homey, cozy, and welcoming. I wandered amongst the rows and rows of pamphlets depicting everything from trout fishing (did you know Fannin County is the trout capital of Georgia? ) camping, art museums, and simply delicious looking restaurants and bars around town. We met Jode, the welcome center manager, and talked with her about local goings-ons. Blue Ridge is quite an active town!
On the way back to Atlanta, CJ took some "back roads". I always cringe a little bit when people talk about "back roads" in places like this. I picture a one way, gravel road adventure in which I will be white knuckled, holding on for dear life with my eyes closed. Well, I'm happy to report... this is exactly how it was. I wasn't as frightened as I thought I'd be, though, thanks to the beautiful scenery. Wide open fields with long flowing grasses; the sun setting on picturesque homes and broken down barns. At some point we passed a waterfall, and CJ rolled down the window so we could just listen to it. Nothing compares to the sound of rushing water from a waterfall. Nothing. It makes time stop, and all of the worries you have from your busy city life, and big deal city job seem tiny in comparison. It was as if, on my way out of town, Blue Ridge was saying to me: "It was nice to meet you, Jacqueline!"
And so I say, it was nice to meet you too, Blue Ridge. I'll be back soon.