Dear Fellow Traveler,
We haven’t met yet, but I’m thrilled to be here. I’m Kate, frequent flyer, international explorer, and endless travel daydreamer. As someone who has arranged my own travel my whole life, I’m pretty confident in my ability to scheme up an adventure and a destination. But recently I hitched my ride to TravelStruck, and had the chance to experience first-hand the difference that using a travel advisor provides. Turns out, being taken care of on vacation is a wonderful thing.
First, a little about me: As a Chicagoan, based smack-dab in the middle of the US, I’ve landed on a convenient perch to fly off in any direction. That said, I work, chase a toddler in my “down time,” and am currently very pregnant with baby number two. These days, it’s harder to leave the nest: As my responsibilities have gotten bigger, my roaming radius has gotten smaller. Where leisure travel is concerned, my new search criteria involves terms like “direct flight,” “long-weekend getaway,” “CST timezone,” and “relaxing” (an aspirational adjective found more frequently in daydreams than reality).
My ears perked up when I heard murmings of a magical place not far from Chicago that apparently could check all my travel boxes. Blackberry Farm is a boutique luxury resort nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, just a quick drive from the Knoxville airport. I’d heard that the food was incredible, the scenery idyllic, and that parents, couples, friends, and hard-charging executives (or any combination thereof) could escape, unplug, and reconnect with the things that matter. So, when I got the invitation to join TravelStruck on a site visit, my response was an eager, “YES, PLEASE!”
From a luxury standpoint, Blackberry Farm lives up to the hype. When we first arrived our modest rental car was immediately swapped out with an Audi to drive to our lunch reservation on the sister property, Blackberry Mountain. At first I thought this upgrade must have been the result of mistaken identity. (To be fair, I bear a striking resemblance to John Travolta in his Welcome Back Cotter years, were Vinnie Barbarino also in his third trimester.) Turns out this is simply concierge protocol, as were the fleet of golf carts that shuttled us around the resort upon request. Initially I feared that this level of attentiveness would feel too restrictive; in the end (and much like my maternity Spanx), I found it to be supportive in just the right ways, and equally hard to shed at night.
In fact, being part of the TravelStruck/Virtuoso network resulted in a series of unexpected delights throughout the weekend. When we entered our room we were met with a giftcard to the spa, personalized notes, wine, and cookies. Now, dear Traveler, please note that these weren’t your average cookies -- no, these were delicious little harbingers of the exquisite meals that would follow. (Personally, I didn’t want to eat any, but my baby demanded I eat seven and a half, so I obliged.)
One of the main draws to Blackberry Farm is the food, which delivered perfection at each course, and made for the ultimate babymoon destination. Being in the state I am, I could participate in all the joyous gluttony, and I fully committed myself to doing just that. The staff was friendly and polite at every turn, to the point that our server didn’t blink when I ordered a second entree. And when it became necessary to intervene with a polite “Ma’am, you have food on your face,” it was done in the classiest Southern drawl.
Our cottage was nestled in the trees, which made it feel like we were in the Swiss Family Robinson (if the Robinson Family had an interior decorator who fully understood the aesthetic value of accent drapes and crown molding). It was so comfortable that it was hard to leave, but there is simply too much to do at Blackberry Farm to stay put for long.
We visited in early November, which meant we caught the tail end of the changing leaves, and had mild weather for our day hikes and explorations. No matter when you go, however, Blackberry Farm has adventures, programming and local menus for all seasons.
I’m having no trouble daydreaming about my return. For anyone looking for a restorative and relaxing escape, add Blackberry Farm to your list. Even if it means stretching your budget -- or your travel radius -- I promise, it’s an experience you won’t forget.