Asheville Under Glass: Celebrating friends, Downton Abbey style

I saw a card in a shop in Black Mountain recently that said: “Value your girlfriends.” Inside, it read: “Because that’s who’ll be with you, at the end.”

So true. After all, we all know how life — or more specifically, death — works. (Spoiler Alert: men shouldn’t read beyond here.)

It’s a scientific fact: Women outlive men, often by more than a decade. I know the “sans partner” situation well. By 42, I had divorced one husband and buried two more. When I wasn’t sobbing (or recovering), I referred to myself as “the Black Widow without the money.” And because I know singlehood, I value friends and make sure I spend quality time with them.

I had a chance to do that recently for a friend’s birthday. Admittedly, it wasn’t tough duty. Her husband rented a posh, oversized end room with sweeping views at the Biltmore Inn for an occasion that’s become her annual “Night to Howl” with female friends. Now, I’ve personally never been to the Biltmore Inn before, because … why would I? I own a perfectly lovely condo in Weaverville and get my Biltmore fix aplenty. But I have to say, with my recent winter visit, I was wildly impressed.

On this occasion, a friend and I drove along tracks of open land. It was late afternoon, and the sun bathed all in a warm glow as deer cavorted across the hills. The few cars ahead of us on the roadway ground to a stop, mesmerized by the animals’ antics, while I quipped “those deer are probably mechanized.”

Then we sucked in our breath. The inn stood high and majestic atop a prominent hill.

We parked and entered via a door opened by an older, uniformed gentleman. Now, maybe it’s the Downton Abbey Effect, or gracious Bert in his role as official greeter, but I swear:  As we stepped over that threshold, we entered a world of gentility. In our friend’s room, we enjoyed drinks and snacks (trays and wine goblets provided) and oohed and aahed about the view. Then we headed down to the library/lounge for an informal meal.

Picture of gentility — Bert — Biltmore Inn’s gracious (and only) doorman for the past seven years. So Downton Abbey.

Now, here’s the thing about us women: We’re careful spenders — but good tippers. A friend and I shared a burger (they’re huge). It came with fries, and she had coffee and I had water. Our bill? Mine was $9.75; hers was $11 (without tip). Seriously. All this grandeur, the beauty of the wild backdrop, the mountains rising in the distance, the paneled library replete with books no one probably reads, the gorgeous room with sweeping ceiling-to-floor drapes, the food (with tip) for $13!

Her husband’s bill (remember, the room was his birthday treat for her)? $109.00. He paid the vastly reduced rate in late January for pass-holders who meet other qualifications such as room requested, occupancy rate, day of week, pass-holder status. If you can’t get bargain rates this winter, consider reserving ahead for next year.

After dinner and a proper howling at the full moon outdoors, the rest of us got in our cars and wended our way across the moonlit roadways of the estate, while the birthday girl went upstairs to sink into the deep pile of her beautiful bed.

So, my takeaway: Share the love, and not just on Valentine’s Day. If your partner or spouse’s birthday falls in one of these tourist off-months, consider it a boon.

That’s reason enough, right there, to howl.

P.S. We’re still howling, too, over the extra roll of toilet tissue prettily packaged in its own fabric coverlet, lest someone suspect its real function.

Our prettily packaged toilet tissue had its own coverlet.

P.P.S. Know of similar venues for us winter-breakers? If they meet our requirements of gorgeous, economical and gastronomically friendly, do tell in the comment section below.

Colleen Kelly Mellor ( came to Asheville seven years ago for a quieter lifestyle, but that didn’t happen. On a mountain road, three years ago, her husband was hit head-on by a 12-year-old girl in a truck. He “died” following surgery (staff shocked him back to life), and they’ve been crawling back ever since. In this column, Mellor opines on life in Western North Carolina as only the “born again” can do. Published in The Wall Street Journal, among others, Mellor adds her senior view of a region often touted as one of America’s “Best Retirement Towns.”


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2 thoughts on “Asheville Under Glass: Celebrating friends, Downton Abbey style

  1. Eileen

    It appears you’re making great memories and super friendships – an enviable position to be in.

  2. Colleen Kelly Mellor

    Ah…yes…’great memories and super friendships’…the stuff of legends and at least, one future book. The exploits of a merry band of women as they examine options and life choices in their town of Asheville and surrounds.

    ( be continued.) Thx for the comment.

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