A bed and breakfast inn is intrinsically a place of solace, slowing down, and being in the moment. You don’t go there to rush from one activity to another. You don’t go there to order room service and have it delivered to you in bed before rushing out to a meeting. You don’t go there to find the business center so you can send those last few emails or connect to a conference call.
You choose to lodge at a bed and breakfast to unplug, to smell the roses (as it were), to enjoy the surroundings, and to experience the hospitality of hosts who welcome you into their space, which, in many cases, is also their home. That’s why B&Bs aren’t for everyone. And that’s why they’re perfect for us.
On this trip, we chose a charming B&B in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Just up the road from our abode in metro-Atlanta, Georgia, Spartanburg is a small town with a lot of history. (And you know we love that!) As a birthday surprise to me, Michael booked our stay at the Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens, and left our itinerary completely open so we could explore the area.
We don’t always have a detailed plan and itinerary when we travel. Sometimes, we just hit the road and let it steer us in the direction of discovery. And we’re always surprised at what we happen to find on road trips when we decide to just go and let the road take us wherever.
Day 1: Welcome to Clevedale
The slow trek up the long gravel driveway is like entering a secret hideaway. The 100+-year-old colonial-style home is statuesque with its muted gold tone and white trim, accented by traditional Southern pillars on the front portico. Learn more about this historic home and its gardens.
Surprisingly, a woman approaches as we pull up and park. She must be the innkeeper coming out to greet us. Now that’s a welcome!
In fact, it is Pontheolla Mack Abernathy, one half of the husband-and-wife couple who own and manage Clevedale. She later explains that her appearance was quite impromptu, but we choose to accept it as a special welcome for The Globetrotters.
Our tour of the home, featuring four guest rooms, three with an en suite bath, reveals the exquisite detail and design that she and her husband Paul have invested in the home. Oh, did I mention that there are rocking chairs on the porch? One globe for that!
Our private room for the next few days is the Ohana Suite, named for the Hawaiian cultural concept that family includes immediate and extended relatives, as well as neighbors and visitors. Already we feel like family here. Watch the vlog for more.
With a view from our deck of the property’s 4-acre garden, we can’t resist a walk-through. We explore the arbor, the fountain, and the beautifully maintained English knot garden, featuring the largest variety of magnolia trees on any single property in the Carolinas (and yes, it’s even beautiful in the winter).
Afterward, we head for a quick drive through Spartanburg’s downtown area. With quaint shops lining the Main Street, a tiny temporary ice skating rink in the town park, and several historical markers, it reminds us of other small Southern towns that have invested in revitalizing and modernizing older buildings to keep up with the interests of contemporary residents and travelers. From upscale wine stores, to the ethnic restaurants, and the tea and spice shop, Spartanburg’s downtown offers tastes for every pallet. But we’ve got sushi on our minds. So we stop in at Miyako Sushi for a light dinner.
After dinner, we head back to Clevedale for a relaxing wine nightcap with Pontheolla. That’s globe number two for this B&B.
Day 2: A Historical Gem
Is 9:00 too late for breakfast? Not for The Globetrotters, and apparently not for the Abernathys either. Pontheolla and Paul graciously agreed to our late breakfast service time. Good thing, because our bed was so ridiculously comfortable that rising any earlier for breakfast would have been a no-deal.
The 1,000-count Egyptian cotton sheets, which Pontheolla says she personally irons by hand, are silky smooth. Add to that the plush Egyptian cotton towels that are fluffy enough to lay our heads on at night, and we can see that every detail of this inn has been meticulously considered. Chalk up globe number three on The Globetrotters B&B ranking.
You already know that breakfast is the second most essential element of a great bed and breakfast. And Clevedale definitely delivers. Today’s breakfast . . . well, we’ll let Pontheolla describe it. Let’s just say they earned globe number four for this scrumptious meal. Four globes, and we haven’t even been here 24 hours.
*Fun tip: Sit at the table by the window for some natural sunlight. But don’t be nervous about the “shakley” antique drop leaf table. Ask Paul about it.
So, what are our plans today? Who knows! We’ll start with a 90-minute drive north to Charlotte, North Carolina, and then, who knows. After all, we don’t have to plan out every moment of a trip. The Globetrotters like to go with the flow because we’re “Always on the go, always on the run, always having fun.”
After our quick drive through Charlotte to check out a few sights, we find ourselves on a secluded road passing way too many Confederate flags on the roadside. So I check our GPS to see where we are and what’s nearby. Surprisingly, we’re only about 20 minutes from a historic plantation we’ve heard about for years, but have never visited. There’s no time like the present.
You know The Globetrotters are history geeks. Several years ago, when our friend, Dr. Lisa Bratton told us about Historic Brattonsville — the plantation where her ancestors were enslaved — we vowed to visit some day. Turns out today is the day. A mere $8 each gets us onto the grounds, and with map in hand we explore the well-maintained property and some of the 18th and 19th century buildings that have been maintained to their original state. From slave cabins and the kitchen, to the main house and a tiny schoolhouse.
We even got a personalized tour of the African American burial ground where enslaved, and later, freedmen who served the Bratton family, were buried. Watch the vlog for more of our tour.
The vital role Africans and their descendants played in shaping American history always deserves our attention and some serious thought. Perhaps it is because we, ourselves, have African ancestry, or because we are acutely aware that this nation would never have become known as a global superpower without the blood, sweat, labor, and tears of countless Africans. Either way, whenever we encounter such historical gems as Historic Brattonsville, we honor our ancestors, and those like them, with heartfelt thanks and reflection, because we go forward and backward in time.
Day 3: Getting to Know You
Yes, today’s breakfast is another slam dunk. How did Pontheolla know that Michael loves French toast? Topped with sautéed Granny Smith apple slices, and accompanied by savory strips of Applewood smoked bacon, and OMG, we’re ready for a nap . . . and it’s only 10 a.m.!
We like positive, happy people. We just do. And the Abernathys are the kind of people you want to sit and chat with. Yes, that earns them globe number five. So today, after a scenic drive through some other nearby small towns, we sit for a spell (doesn’t that sound so Southern) with this interesting couple to learn more about their intentions for Clevedale, and what they hope guests take away from their experience here.
Day 4: Farewell Clevedale
Our last night in that yummy bed was as comfortable as the first. But waking up today, knowing this is our departure day, adds a bit of sadness. Any time we enjoy a place, and our hosts, as much as we’ve enjoyed Clevedale and the Abernathys, we feel bittersweet. Bitter (sort of) at the thought of leaving, but doing so with sweet feelings and sweet memories.
Our final morning meal removes all of the bitterness. Who can be bitter when a steaming mini-skillet of Creole shrimp and grits with goat cheese is placed in front of you? The presentation alone is over the top, and the flavors are unbeatable. Add to that our final glass of the Clevedale special morning juice blend, and we are energized to hit the road in search of our next adventure.
One last farewell to this beautiful place and its most hospitable hosts. Paul and Pontheolla escort us to the gardens one last time to explain their plans for additions (what they have planned is a most unique B&B room, so you’ll have to go check it out), upcoming special events, and why we need to return so we can see the lovely garden in bloom come springtime. That’s an invitation we can’t pass up! For now, farewell Clevedale.
With that, we’re happy to give the Historic Clevedale Inn and Gardens a 5-Globe rating.
Side trip on our way home
Off we go for more Carolina exploring. We decide to travel west to Asheville, North Carolina today. We’ve visited before, and since we’re so close, why not swing by for a quick drive-through. On the way, we see signs for the town of Hendersonville. Considering that we are the Hendersons, we can’t resist stopping to find out what our namesake town has to offer.
It’s cute and quaint, like many other Southern towns. Revitalized with some modern shops and restaurants, much like Spartanburg, the little town of Hendersonville is capturing our fancy. The sign for the heritage museum, housed inside the historic courthouse building, beckons us to stop for a visit, so we do.
Turns out Hendersonville’s history is steeped in the railroad, and the town was prominent for its tobacco production. The museum offers a fair overview of the town’s history, although we find three particular things odd: 1) When asked the heritage of the original settlers of Hendersonville, the docent replied “Well, they were North Carolinians.” What? Everyone comes from somewhere. Were they Germans, Irish, British, what? The look on this guy’s face told us he refused to answer that question, so we let it go; 2) The only attachment this town even has to the name Henderson is a Supreme Court Justice — Leonard Henderson — who never even lived there; and 3) None of the volunteers in the center were the least bit intrigued or interested that our surname is Henderson. Weird. Oh well. Moving on.
About a half hour’s drive north, we arrive in Asheville. We love this town. If not for the fact that one of our favorite B&Bs, Albermarle Inn, is undergoing renovations — and most of the other B&Bs are booked solid — we would stay for the night. We go over to one of the great historic hotels to get our fill of Asheville — Omni Grove Park Inn.
Oh, gawd! If you’ve never been here, you must visit. Talk about a slice of historic luxury and old-time classiness! This stone structure is built solid, and interestingly opened in 1913, the same year the Clevedale home was built. There’s so much to say about Grove Park Inn — the ambience, the views, the food. Read about it.
After a walk around the inn, a jaunt through the spa, then a quiet sit-down in front of the massive fireplace in the lobby, we begin our slow departure from this dreamy place. Back through town and onto the highway, the end of our getaway begins. It was great. And we look forward to the next one.