Movies: Unleashed - surprisingly good story and acting, wicked fight scenes - a must see for guys!
Music: Chevelle: This Kind of Thinking... - Lots of angst. The guy has a goobery voice, though...
Books: I think I'm going to take another stab at War of the Worlds.
Oh, yeah, baby: it's on. The Force will be with me this afternoon, at long last.
Amanda and I tried to see Star Wars on Friday, but all evening showings were sold out. This is why I try to avoid the early rush of opening weekends. We were disappointed, but wound up buying things that we needed for the house. So we really didn't lose.
But today I will not be denied.
I realized that I never wrote about our vacation. Sheesh, I suck.
Amanda and I celebrated 5 years of wedded bliss on May 19, the same day that Episode III came out. We celebrated in style, too, re-creating our honeymoon in Asheville, NC.
We spent a day at Chimney Rock Park, a privately owned natural treasure outside Asheville, where "The Last of the Mohicans" was filmed. We walked our little butts off, and treated ourselves to a nice meal in Asheville that night. Tupelo Honey was the restaurant, and the food and drink were quite good.
On our anniversary, we went to the Biltmore. 5 years ago, we took a tour of the house, wandered the grounds, and had a ball. This year, we were concerned about my ability to walk for hours (due to my spinal stenosis), so we took a different approach. We signed up for a tour, but rather than walk the grounds for hours, we also signed up for a carriage ride.
The tour was a "Behind the Scenes" tour, wherein we learned wild details about life at the Biltmore. For instance, areas that were open to guests were painted in a deep burgundy. Areas that were for servants were painted a sickly green. All bathrooms had marble thresholds, so that guests would not have to wonder if they were at a bathroom or another guest's room. All of the bathrooms (at least: the ones near the guest rooms) had pneumatic closers, so that sleeping guests would not be disturbed by the usage of the bathroom doors. Keyholes were covered to prevent drafts. Neat stuff.
The tour culminated in a tour of the utility area of the house. We got to see the refrigeration room, where ammonia was piped in to chill a below-ground tank. We saw the furnace room, where 3 enormous (and I really mean enormous) furnaces ran all the time in the colder months. We saw the electrical panels that Thomas Edison himself came to help install. We learned about the electrical wiring, which was DC, and required 1/2" thick cables with 6" of insulation at the most remote areas of the house, and the water systems, which were fed from local streams and could provide 40 psi to the top floors of the house.
All in all, it was a ridiculous achievement in engineering that the house was ever completed.
Then there was the carriage ride. I had thought that Amanda had reserved a private carriage ride. I was under this impression until we got to the stables. It had started raining shortly after we were done with our BtS tour, and we decided to drive to the stables a little early. The folks who worked in that area told us that if it didn't stop raining, they would cancel our ride. I asked why, since the carriage was covered. They looked at me like I was a space-alien and explained that the carriage was not covered. At that point I realized the 2-person carriage was not for us. Anyway, apparently the rain scared off everybody else who had signed up for the ride (Carriage rides cost $70 / couple, and are non-refundable -- yikes!), so we got our private ride after all.
It was really neat. We rode around to the back-side of the house, far away on a distant hill. On the way, we passed 2 families of deer, wild turkeys, and beautiful vistas. Then, upon the hill, we had a completely unimpeded view of the mountain-side of the house. What a sight! I think I enjoyed this trip to the Biltmore at least as much as the first one.
Then we recreated our very special dinner on the Sunset Terrace at the Grove Park Inn. The view overlooks the valley, and Asheville itself. Amanda timed our dinner so that we would get to watch the Sun set. Mother Nature, however, decided to up the ante on us: since we had wild torrential rain on our wedding day, she sent us a thunderstorm that took a couple of hours to come and go. We watched the lightning roll in across the mountains and "oohed" and "aahed" with everyone else on the Terrace. We love a good thunderstorm, and it really brought back some wonderful memories of our wedding.
On Friday, we went to the spa and had the "Couple's Retreat", which consists of a 50 minute massage for both, then they draw an aromatic bath and leave the room for another 50 minutes. It's worth mentioning that they also leave you a good bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.
We then spent the rest of the day enjoying the environs of the spa: they have (in both the men's and women's sections) a dry sauna, a steam-room (with eucalyptus-infused steam), a contrast pool that consists of a 104-degree pool and a 65-degree dipping pool (this felt FANTASTIC after coming out of the sauna and the steam room). They also have (in the general men/women area) a regular lap-pool, a mineral pool (no chlorine, but lots of good minerals), a therapeutic waterfall (still mystified by exactly made it therapeutic, other than the fact that it felt really good), and an outdoor deck area with a hot-tub, cafe service, and another view of the valley below.
Talk about spoiled. I really would have been happy to have stayed there into the evening.
We brought back some art that we picked up in Asheville, and generally had an absolute blast.
I can't wait to go back, only this time I want to take a day-trip 100 miles West and drive The Dragon.