Over the years, I have been fortunate to call many fascinating places home. In all these places, I have encountered knowledgeable and intelligent people, the finest of which I call friends.
Before we became residents of Saluda by taking over The Oaks Bed and Breakfast, my wife and I would stroll Main Street and visit its shops and restaurants. It was here we heard the stories and developed an appreciation for the people who told them. We learned where the train depot was originally situated before it was moved to where it sits today and how the locomotives chugged through town on their way down the Saluda Grade.
Walk past the cafés and the shops and you find yourself at the “heart” of Main Street, the veritable “Center of the Universe” here in Saluda. A large diagonal crack runs through the thick pane of glass, yet does not disturb the hand lettering on the window, which proclaims this particular business as “M. A. Pace General Merchandise”. Push open the door and enter a world of curiosities, history and camaraderie. Ceiling to floor shelves heaving with memorabilia and collectables all belonging to the man behind the counter, Robert Pace – a robust man for his years, bright, alert and talkative.
This place is what a General Store is supposed to be, before others calling themselves “General Stores” began selling hemp fabric garments and Life is Good T-shirts. This is where local folk find all of life’s daily needs; a barrel bolt and hasp; cake mix or tub caulk; Vienna Sausages or a garden rake; fishing tackle to a Moon Pie; locally made jams and jelly or PVC pipe — Robert has it all!
Robert grew up in this unique place, a place where every picture and magazine has a special place and story. He remembers when Main Street was home to a bowling alley, a tearoom and a movie theatre and celebrities like Perry Como shopped his store.
He is a living-breathing history lesson and a treasure, as is his store. No visit to Saluda is complete without a trip to our Main Street. And no trip to Main Street is complete without a visit with Robert at M.A. Pace General Store.
|The snow fell without a break. When it was over, the hills had been covered in a plush blanket of fluff. To this point it had been a mild season with nothing more that a single dusting. Two weeks ago, the temperatures were in the 60’s and next weekend they have predicted the same. Today, a cheerful fire welcomes guests to the Library, Parlor and breakfast while icicles decorate the turret like glistening crystal swords.|
Was a time when restaurants and shops closed for the winter and the only folks on Main Street lived here year-round. Guests that have visited The Oaks Bed and Breakfast these past few months have shared a unique parcel of life in the Blue Ridge. Music is still alive in the night and it seems a little easier to get a beer and a table. Infinite vistas appear out of nowhere with unobstructed clarity. In the resolute darkness of the country night, the lights of the residences sitting high on the mountain seem to twinkle and shine, competing with the stars and making it difficult to discern where house lights leave off and the heavens begin. Some nights, here on the mountain, the stars are so close you feel like you can wear them like a crown. Stars like diamonds and planets like rubies and gems.
The bird feeders need to be filled almost weekly, proving that we are still a popular stopping off place on the migratory trail. Soon the snow will melt and invigorate the rivers, waterfalls and the streams. A hike to Pearson Falls and the Green River is on our list of things to do.
Winter views in Saluda offer a panorama of boundless mountain vistas. On occasion, a flurry of snow swirls weightless around the holiday lights in the antique village, giving the effect that we are living in a snow globe.
As the temperatures dip, town folk plan for the holidays. A traditional kick-off to this most joyous of seasons is Saluda’s Hometown Christmas – a gathering on Main Street that offers a storybook vision of Christmases.
Join locals and visitors on Main Street for a candle light stroll past decorated storefronts and restaurants. Members of the Saluda Business Association provide entertainment, spiced cider and confections at venues along the way. Stay at the closest lodging to Main Street, The Oaks Bed and Breakfast, for this annual event from 6:00 to 8:00 in December. This is so not the mall.
Enjoy our glorious Victorian Inn, decorated to the hilt in holiday style, anytime this holiday season. Give the gift of mountain memories, purchase a gift certificate for friends or family – call The Oaks Bed and Breakfast, 828.749.2000
Winter is a special time to visit the Mountains of Western North Carolina. The autumn leaves have all fallen and their handiwork creates a colorful patchwork quilt that decorates the forest floor.
The gifts that autumn bestows upon us are many. Cooler temperatures allow us to sport about in the fashionable new sweaters and jackets we received last Christmas. On a beautiful 50-degree day, a lengthy bike ride or a vigorous hike can be undertaken without the serious threat of dehydration and with all the trees vacant of their foliage, the view goes on forever! Unobstructed panoramic vistas now appear where previously a lush jade curtain had hung. On a recent drive to Columbus for pizza, the fading light of day ignited thousands of glistening lights, the evidence of distant cities and towns — a view you might have only experienced from an airplane in flight.
During the recent lunar eclipse, we watched from the lawn as the shadow of the earth stretched out across the silver moon. For the brief time the moon and its glow were blotted out from the sky, we stood breathless beneath an explosion of brilliant stars. The absence of leaves above us and the lack of city lights provide us the perfect view of the heavens above.
Saluda, and the mountains that surround us, are in a constant metamorphosis with every seasonal change. This wintry visitor has brought us intense blue skies by day and an abundance of constellations by night
A recent guest pointed out the first signs of an impending spring. Tiny shoots waking from their winter nap, dreaming of the summer days ahead. Fall and winter are a concert of sights, sounds, smells and tastes. A time to rest and renew. A time to rediscover the beauty of our surroundings and beauty of ones own self.
We remember each of the guests and friends that have traveled here to share this time and place. And we look forward to sharing all this with the friends we have yet to meet.
On a recent walk from the inn down to Main Street, past Lullie Lane and Smith Hill, I discovered the raspberry bushes that line the sidewalk along the way. Branches heavy with ripened fruit sagged nearly down to the ground. The morning air is cool and moist and the sunrise golden as pure mountain honey.
Heralding my approach from the top of a tall forgotten locust, the local birds chirp wildly, sounding the warning of an approaching stranger. Ahead I recognize a pyramid shaped rock – a miniature monument – perched deliberately upon another stack of rocks, placed there by another passerby.
Cross the tracks and past the Purple Onion, I drop my quarters into the coin slot – clink, clank – the door cranks open and I extract my copy of the daily news. Securely stuffed under my arm, I make my way back up the hill. Back to the inn, where happy guests munch on crunchy bits of bacon and Baked Apple French Toast.
Bob Dylan had it right when he said, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” It is already a beautiful morning at The Oaks Bed and Breakfast and a splendid day to stroll down to Main Street.
Can you explain the “random act of kindness”? What might be the motivation, the cause, and the consequence of such unexplained behavior? I understand that there are places where such occurrences rarely happen. However, here in my home town of Saluda, North Carolina, these unprovoked events occur daily.
My first experience was only days after my wife, Donna, and I had taken ownership of The Oaks Bed and Breakfast on Greenville Street. We were living among a labyrinth of cardboard boxes. Before the task of unpacking was to commence, I decided to make my way to the front verandah to clear my head with a breath of invigorating Blue Ridge Mountain air.
Slowly my vision cleared and the synapses began to fire. It was better than a double espresso! Fearful that I may get too much of a good thing, I turned to reenter the inn. There on the antique doorknob hung a familiar looking item—it was a plastic grocery bag.
In the bag was a collection of produce from some neighbor’s garden, all fresh and fragrant. No note. No card. No one to thank.
Another time, the lovely gal from across Greenville Street brought over the most delicious Coconut Cream Cake. Now I am not wild about coconut, but I have to say, this was the most amazing cake ever! An old family recipe she told me. (I think I detected the slightest bit of rum!) Was it my birthday? An anniversary? None of that—it was a “welcome to the neighborhood” cake.
Then there was the time my wife and I were visiting a neighbor (we will call her Wiggie). I had admired an antique ceramic bud vase in the shape of a playful kitten. I complemented Wiggie on her exceptional taste. She invited me to take the piece home. I figured it to be a cherished part of her collection. She insisted. The kitten now looks at me from beneath the glass on my living room coffee table.
And we are not the only recipients of such acts of generosity. A husband and his wife staying at the inn had decided to spend their afternoon shopping the galleries, bistros and boutiques down on Main Street. Having lost track of time, the couple noticed that an unexpected cloudburst would make their walk back to The Oaks a soggy one.
It was then that the shop owner closed his place of business and drove the couple back to the inn. Did the shop owner lose revenue? Maybe. Did he make new friends? Definitely!
So what inspires this kind of behavior in the residents of this historic mountain village? (Even I have started dragging my neighbor’s trash cans back to her garage after pick-ups on Mondays.)
Is it something in the air? Or is it some rule of the Blue Ridge, handed down from one generation to the next? Maybe it is rooted in the area’s religious beliefs. Or is it because only the nicest people in the world live in – and visit – Saluda!
Our very first Thanksgiving in Saluda was a complete success. The Oaks Beds and Breakfastwelcomed guests from Savannah to Atlanta; from New Orleans to Cleveland, Ohio and I think it’s safe to say “a good time was had by all.”
Fireplaces throughout the inn were ablaze as our guests enjoyed some genuine fall mountain weather.While some guests came to visit family in the area, the majority stayed to join us in on our Traditional Candlelight Thanksgiving feast.
Friends assembled in the parlor for a pre-dinner reception that included festive holiday Cosmopolitans, roasted tenderloin of beef on toast points, garnished with a touch of horseradish cream and lively conversation.
As our well-dressed guests filed into the dinning room, each was embraced by the warm glow of candle light and fresh flowers. The long table was awash in sparkling crystal, dazzling china and polished silver. As the centerpiece, candles floated in a miniature oak leaf shaped bird bath. The room was impressive and reflected the innkeeper’s decades of professional banquet and catering experience.
In a concert of culinary delights, guest enjoyed Consume Celestine, followed by a Poached Pear Salad with goat cheese and champagne vinaigrette. The main course consisted of Roasted Turkey with Apricot-Grand Marinier Dressing, herbed gravy, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Glazed Carrots and Brussel Sprouts. Donna’s Spicy Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie was the perfect finish to a magnificent meal. Evening festivities continued over board games and books – coffee and conversation.
Plans are underway for another phenomenal feast to celebrate the Christmas Holiday. If you are looking for a holiday full of mountain memories, great food and fellowship – for you and your family or as a special gift – You need to make your reservations TODAY! Space is limited. Call 828-749-2000