Blackberry Farm, photo: beall + thomas photography
Despite the fact that my best girlfriend and I have very similar interests and hobbies in our real lives, we travel quite differently. But unlike family vacations, in which I can generally impose my choices on my children (so far, anyway), I don’t feel right dictating the terms of a getaway to a grown-up woman with her own free will.
When it comes to spas, I like to be pampered. I want to be waited on (well-manicured) hand and foot. I may indulge in a bit of shopping or a little local excursion, but mostly I want to eat and sleep the way I can’t in my tiny Manhattan apartment with my husband, two kids and cat.
The best friend? She leads a very clean life without being sanctimonious about it (one of the many reasons I love her). She’s a vegetarian and an avid exerciser—and has the kind of patience and discipline that allows her to turn in before she’s had too much to drink at dinner, so that she can read her book.
Needless to say, when it came to a picking a destination-spa, we gravitated toward the one with the most options. Click here for some more girlfriend getaway ideas.
Enter Blackberry Farms, a 4200-acre estate nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, in Eastern Tennessee. It has outdoor offerings as varied as bird watching, horseback riding, fly fishing (there’s an Orvis-endorsed lodge on the grounds), and letter boxing. Epicurean events include whiskey samplings, a history of alcohol course, and a farmstead tasting tour (most of the food served at Blackberry Farm is grown on location). And at the spa, you’ll find everything your battered body could desire. There’s literally something for everyone. What’s shocking, though, is just how well-executed all of these activities are.
My two days at Blackberry Farm consisted of a mani-pedi, fly-fishing, and shopping. (The boutique at the spa features all-natural beauty lines like Tata Harper, and flowy but sexy clothing from Skin, among other healthy-lifestyle things.) Free time beyond that was spent eating and drinking. My girlfriend, meanwhile, was up at 8 am on day one taking a fitness class that utilized the farm’s vast acreage as a sort of living gym. She went on to a deep-tissue massage that was “life-changing,” then did the farmstead tasting tour. On the second day, she took a guided hike and later communed with truffle puppies—dogs bred to sniff out truffles. Yes, really.
My fly fishing adventure at Blackberry Farm
Where we did overlap was at dinnertime. Specializing in “Foothills Cuisine,” which is described as a mix of haute cuisine and more rugged local fare, the restaurants (there are three) at Blackberry Farm serve the kind of food that checks the fresh and healthy boxes as well as the indulgent one. (The Barn at Blackberry Farm, one of the trio of restaurants, is a two-time James Beard Awards recipient.) Our favorite dishes were the farm-fresh poached egg over grits and the grilled shrimp served atop a cauliflower purée. We tended to convene at breakfast, too, for the cheese and egg biscuits. Happily, when my fishing got in the way of a meal, a boxed one was prepared for me—I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the rhubarb cobbler.
That’s me on the left and my BFF Genevieve on the right.
On the last evening of our stay, my best friend and I rode our golf-cart (guests are encouraged to take golf carts to traverse the immense grounds) back to our adjoining rooms in our cottage in the woods. I couldn’t stop talking about the rainbow trout I caught; she was determined to get on the three-year waitlist to adopt one of the farm’s truffle puppies. Although our days had been decidedly different, we were in complete agreement about the chocolates waiting for us on our respective pillows: the best we’d ever tasted.
For more information about Blackberry Farm or to make a reservation, go to blackberryfarm.com. Rooms start at $895 a night.
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