Business + pleasure at the Grove Park Inn, including the spa and the Blue Ridge Parkway
by Rob Tiller
On Friday Sally and I took Clara from Raleigh to Asheville for a business + pleasure trip. I’d been invited to speak at the Federal Circuit’s Bench and Bar conference, which was being held at the famous Grove Park Inn, and after that ended we thought we’d do a little hiking near the Blue Ridge Parkway and get a treatment at the spa.
The Grove Park Inn is an odd but appealing place, with lovely views of the Blue Ridge mountains. It has massive stone masonry walls inside and out. It turned 100 last year, and is proud of its history. We found our room perfectly fine, and the service at the hotel, the various restaurants, and the spa to be attentive and exceptionally friendly.
As usual for me with professional speaking engagements, I enjoyed the actual doing of it, though I felt a certain dread in the last few days beforehand. I was one of four panelists, and it was far from clear even shortly beforehand how it was going to go. Fortunately, all were seasoned veterans, and it went fine. I had a chance to point up some of the serious problems with software patents, and give the conference an open source perspective on other issues. I gave my perspective that the patent system is seriously dysfunctional, and was happy that it sparked some debate, and I didn’t get run out of town on a rail.
I’m a late convert to spa-ing. Until recently, I really could not see the point, and considered it a waste of valuable time. Both at work and play, I am normally a busy person, with more to do than there is time to do it. Workwise, the challenges are never ending. A lot of my leisure activities, like playing the piano and playing golf, demand a lot of commitment to improve, and that commitment requires time. And there are so many things I’m curious to know more about, and learning also requires time. Time is so valuable, and I try very hard not to waste it.
But I’ve gradually come to consider massage as valuable to good health, both physical and mental, and wanted to share a couples massage with Sally. Other than massage, I wasn’t quite sure what the Grove Park spa involved.
I’m here to tell you, it’s very nice. It carries forward the stone masonry motif of the Inn. There are numerous pools of different sizes and carefully graded temperatures, some with little waterfalls and some with big waterfalls. There was a eucalyptus infused steam room, pared with a whirlpool and a cold dunking tank. I was persuaded to go from the hot sweatiness of the steam room to a plunge in the cold tank, and it was definitely a shock — almost agonizing, but also refreshing.
After soaking in various pools inside and out, we repaired to a lounge and sat quietly for a few minutes in plush chairs next to a big fireplace. Then our massage therapists arrived, introduced themselves, and debriefed us on our health issues and massage likes and dislikes. My therapist, Sarah, was very good. She described her technique as basically Swedish massage, but she was very responsive to my request for firmer pressure, and attentive to the various knots and tensions of my body.
An aspect of the treatment was scented lotions and oils, as well as scents generally – aromatherapy, as they call it. I experienced something described as detoxifying citrus, with oils of lemon, orange and petitgrain (no idea what that is), and various other exotic substances. Did they do anything significant for my health and well-being? It’s hard to say. But it was very pleasant, and I certainly wouldn’t mind doing it again.
We felt quite wonderful after our massages, and though we had a dinner reservation pending, didn’t want to leave the spa immediately. Sarah helped us get the reservation pushed back, and we did some more soaking in the hot tub and other pools. It was delicious.
We eventually made our way to the Sunset Terrace restaurant, where they gave us a great seat on the edge of the porch looking out toward the mountains. So many restaurants try to seat you in the less desirable spaces unless you push back, but they did not try that on us at the Inn. They had a vegetarian entrée involving tofu, and it was fine. Afterwards, we sipped the last of our wine and listened to a local flamenco quartet. The musicians seemed quite fine, and their singer, a blonde Swedish-looking gringo, sang in Spanish that sounded appropriately tragic and passionate. It was an unexpected pleasure.
On Sunday, we did a little more driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It really is a national treasure – a road that exists for the pure beauty and pleasure of driving. It winds and twists along ridges with views of adjacent mountains and valleys. For a few miles, there was no one in front of us, and Clara could stretch her legs a little.