Saturday, September 27, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains Getaway 2014: The Sequel-Part 1

As I've been promising all this week, today I am starting my series of posts reporting some of what Paula and I did on our trip to the Smoky Mountains September 17-21. This is not going to be a chronological "we did this and then we did that and then we went there" kind of thing like I did for last trip. I will be hitting the highlights and detailing specific events.  

It is common knowledge in the film industry that a sequel is never as good as the original. But not true for our late September "sequel" to our June vacation in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. 

We left home on the afternoon of the 17. Our destination was the Whispering Pines Condo complex on the parkway in Pigeon Forge; the same place we stayed in June. 

Originally, we planned on staying just 3 nights; leaving on Saturday morning. But Paula spotted a "deal" on the condo's management company's app. If a guest stayed 3 nights they could get the 4th night free. She asked about it when we checked in. The desk clerk was nice enough to make ut possible to set us up for our free 4th night. 

This is a picture I took from outside the front door of the condo we stayed in last June. The resort office is the building in the foreground. The building we stayed in on this trip is on the left. Our one bedroom condo was the one on the second floor behind the tree all the way to the left: Condo 321. 

This time around we didn't have a great view from the balcony and our bedroom was a lot more crowded because it had a king bed not a queen. Also much to our disappointment the bathroom did not have a Jacuzzi tub. As it turned out that really wasn't that much of a problem. 

Because of where our condo was we had convenient access to the indoor pool and whirlpool spa. That was a big plus. It was just down one flight of stairs and then less than 10 yards to the door of the building. We relaxed in the spa and swam in the pool several times while we were there.  Most of those times we were alone. It was nice. 

My favorite "private swim" happened on our first night at the resort. It was about 10 o'clock and still rather warm outside. First, we spent some time in the indoor whirlpool and then walked across the parking lot to the outdoor pool area.

We spent about 45 minutes just floating around and treading water in the 5 foot deep pool. We also had the chance to have the longest conversation we've had in a long time. I must say it was very nice and set the tone for a rather romantic 4 days together. 

Here's a shot of the pool at night time from the Whisperin Pine's website. It gives you an idea of the setting I'm talking about. 

We spent a lot more time at our condo on this trip than the last. That's what helped make it more relaxing. 

The other thing that helped us enjoy ourselves is that, although we made plans, we didn't put too much into any given day. 

Sure there was a lot of things we wanted to do. But since both of us like going there, we have decided that the Smoky Mountains area is going to be our "go to" getaway spot. We now don't have to try and do everything all in one visit. What we don't get to on any given trip; we can always do it the next time. 

We did a couple of "first time" things on this trip. One of them I'll be devoting an entire post to later. 

With a plethora of places to eat in the Smokies, this time we had some of our meals in restaurants we'd never been to before. 

We went to Big Daddy's pizza. It's owned by the same company that owns Bennet's Barbecue; a place we went to and loved the last time we were in Pigeon Forge. 

The pizza was good but a bit expensive. We paid $14 for a 10 inch pizza with 3 toppings. That's the size of a small but the price for a large at Papa Johns. I know that this was a table service restaurant and that's part of what we paid for. 

But the pizza was not that much better than Papa Johns to warrant the higher price. We probably won't go back. 

I did have fun playing the video version of "Deal or No Deal", Skee ball, and a free throw basketball in the arcade after we ate though. 

We also ate at a small little place called "The Cabin Cafe." It was a family owned restaurant in one of the small shopping centers along the Gatlinburg arts & crafts loop. (more on that in another part of this series) The atmosphere in the relatively small cafe was very casual and "homey." It was decorated like a Cracker Barrel complete with a shelf full of games, book, and magazines to occupy customers while they waited for their orders. The menu had a good selection of burgers and sandwiches. We split a grilled cheesesteak sandwich. It was very good. We liked this place and will probably go back again. 

The other restaurants we went to worth mentioning were successful returns to Applewood and the Old Mill Restaurant; both old favorites. We went to them for Thursday and Friday breakfast, respectively.The Old Mill redeemed itself after a not-so-good morning meal back in June. 

We went to a pair of buffets on the trip. One of them, Golden Corral, was on our way out of town. Not much to say about this national chain restaurant; except I think the price is a bit high. Lunch cost us $33. There's no way we got our value for that price. But we stopped because were hungry, able to get in and out fast, and back on the road heading home. 

The other buffet was another favorite, the Wood Grill Buffet. Including this visit, we have been to this restaurant three times while visiting the Smokies. 

On this visit we were a bit tired and worn out after a long afternoon of hiking in the GSM national park. I'll be sharing that story later as well. We were on our way to a show that was just across the street from the restaurant and we were pressed for time; so it was convenient. The price for dinner at this buffet was about $15 each but the variety and taste of the food makes it worth it. 

So there you have the start of my Smoky Mountains trip report. I've got a lot more to write about including: a hike that took 3 years to complete; a night at " #1 show in the Smokies"; a return to "The Island"; a trip around "the loop" in Gatlinburg; and an attraction that really got our goat. 

Be sure to come back next time for the details.   


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