Our anniversary is just a few days before Christmas. With everything else going on that month, we don’t usually exchange anniversary gifts. We exchange cards and go for a nice dinner out, a quiet spot for just the two of us during a busy season.
But since we celebrated 40 years of marriage this past December, we thought we’d do a little something special. Our kids had gone together earlier to give us a gift card to use for our celebration. We did go out for our dinner at a favorite local restaurant the night before our anniversary. Our oldest son flew in the day of our anniversary, and that day was the last opportunity to go to Christmas in the Cavern. We decided to wait until the week after Christmas to celebrate. My husband was off New Year’s week, but everyone else went back to work.
Previously I never would have thought of staying in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area because they’re so close to home. But a friend posted pictures on Facebook about staying in a bed and breakfast there. The area was so pretty, I began to think about the possibility of going there for our anniversary.
We didn’t stay in that bed and breakfast, but Jim found the very nice Bearskin Lodge. The lobby looked like this:
We drove up Thursday afternoon and just chilled out in the room for a bit. We went out to dinner at The Peddler Steakhouse, right next to the hotel. The food was delicious. But the restaurant was very crowded and noisy. We felt really rushed. Jim asked the waitress about getting an appetizer, and she said she’d be back to see what he wanted, but she never did come back til after we got our meal. The lady refilling the salad bar elbowed me and others to get where she needed to go. Our silverware had bits of food stuck on. Altogether it was not the best experience, sad not only because it was for our anniversary, but also because this is a pricey place.
By the time they asked if we wanted dessert, we just wanted to go. Plus they didn’t have any dessert we wanted. There didn’t seem to be any coffee shops or dessert places nearby, so we stopped across the street at Old Dad’s General Store. Jim got a Nutty Buddy ice cream cone and I got a peanut butter cookie. Then we went back to the room and watched the Vols win the Gator Bowl (Yay!).
But before that, when we drove back to the lodge, Jim pulled out a couple of boxes from the car that I hadn’t noticed before. He said he had an activity in mind. I was intrigued!
When we got settled back in our room, he let me open the boxes. He had filled them with notes we had written each other when we were dating. Our college, in the days before cell phones or even phones in the rooms, had a note system whereby guys and girls could send notes to each others’ dorm rooms. Every dorm lobby had a box with slots for the other dorms, and we’d deposit our notes there. Then several of the guys would run the boxes around to each of the dorms and deliver the mail to the lobby. That was the primary way guys asked girls out for dates then. For dating couples, it was a nice way to say good-night and make arrangements for the next day (when to meet for lunch, etc.). We dated for two years, so nine months of nightly notes times two years … would be a lot! Jim said he didn’t gather all the notes. just as many as would fit in the boxes. Some time we need to sort through them. That night we took turns reading several of them out loud to each other. Such memories! It was funny how many of them started out saying we didn’t have time to write much because we had tests or projects due, but then we’d go on for two pages. I have to say, I was very impressed that he thought of doing this!
We got a surprise when we went to take showers the next morning. The water was cold even after running it for a long time. I was up first, and thought perhaps the hot and cold were reversed (that’s happened in some places). So I turned the dial to the right, but that took it from cold to icy cold. I turned it back to the left and tried to decide what to do. I didn’t want to mess with going to another room at that point, and didn’t know if perhaps the whole hotel was having a problem. I decided to step in, away from the shower head, and just try to do a quick sponge bath. By the time I was done, the water was lukewarm enough that I could stand under it and rinse. Jim had the same experience a half-hour or so later. When he went down to the desk to mention it, he was told they have a boiler that starts up on the fifth floor (we were on the third). They said it just takes a while to work its way down, so we just have to run the water in the sink and shower until it warmed up. Well, that would have been nice to know! And I can’t fathom wasting all that water. I imagine later on, when more people are up and showering, the water is circulating better and warmer. At least I hope so. That was our only complaint about the lodge.
We ate breakfast and then rested in the room for a bit. Then we went to see the Titanic Museum.
You might be able to tell in the picture that the lady letting us in was dressed as a crew member would have been back in the day. All the employees were.
When you first enter, they give you a boarding pass that has the name and information of one of the passengers or crew that were actually aboard the Titanic.
Unfortunately, they don’t allow photos inside the museum. They give you an audio device when you come in, and at certain sections you can push a button to listen to more information. But we never did. They had a different button for children to hear something they might be interested in.
They had several rooms, one dedicated to the man who drew up the plans, another to the man who took most of the pre-sail photographs, etc. There were artifacts like life jackets, a piece of railing, letters. One of the most interesting parts to me was a big cross-section. A panel in front told about the different areas, and you could push a button to see that area light up.
I read that the entire museum was built to half-scale. They built the grand staircase exactly to scale as well as a really small (by our standards) room.
I found it interesting that they gave a good amount of space to the “spiritual heroes” of the Titanic. The man on Jim’s boarding pass was one. Another was John Harper, subject of The Titanic’s Last Hero. He was known for asking everyone his bit of flotsam floated to whether they were ready for eternity and quoting Acts 16:31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” I read the book years ago but need to do so again some time. We wondered if we were related to him. I’d like to think so.
At the end they had some photos and information about the effort to explore and recover as much of the Titanic as they could.
They also had a Lego replica of the Titanic built by a a 14 year-old autistic boy over eleven months. It’s 26 by 5 feet and used 56,000 Legos, quite a fete.
There was a very small area for children. We thought it a little weird that the had a child-sized ship’s steering wheel with a screen in front of it so kids could see if they could miss the iceberg.
I never saw the Titanic movie, but I think lots of things in the gift shop might have been inspired by the movie.
I’m glad we went. We had often discussed whether we should do so as a family or just the two of us. I don’t think Timothy would have gotten much out of it—maybe when he’s older and learning about it, he might be interested then.
When we got done there, we looked for a place to eat. One funny instance of my brain not working right: every time I looked up restaurants or attractions on Google maps, it showed them being 4. something miles away. I thought that was so odd. As we searched for a place to eat on our phones, I found the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. That place is a favorite for me. We’ve eaten there several times before, and it has special memories because once when my mom, step-dad, and siblings were visiting, we met my aunt and uncle there. I mentioned it to Jim but noted that it was 4.5 miles away. He said his phone only showed it at only .04 miles away. I looked again—and realized that all this time, I had been looking at the star ratings, thinking that was mileage. Duh!
But we were delighted it was so close. We had a great meal there, and they have some little shops and a bakery as well. It had been too wet and cold to walk around the shops at Gatlinburg, so this finished off our visit just right.
One nice thing about going on a trip like this is that’s one of the few times I feel officially “off.” No cooking, no dishes to wash, someone else picks up the wet towels and makes the bed. So it was a nice little vacation for me, especially after the fun busyness of Christmas.
But mostly it was special just to go out and spend some time alone together doing something different and fun.