Sunday, August 11, 2013

Barnsley Gardens Resort - A Fairy-Tale Tenth Anniversary Celebration


“There are some places where happily ever after just happens.  Built on an incredible love story, Barnsley Gardens resort is a vacation getaway unlike any other. Originally home to Godfrey Barnsley and his family in the 19th century, the estate has withstood the tragic death of Godfrey's beloved wife, Julia, the destruction of the Civil War, and the devastating 1906 tornado. It wasn't until Prince Fugger purchased the property in 1988 that the transformation took place." So goes the story tale of this wonderful resort.

According to history, Godfrey Barnsley arrived in Georgia in 1824 and quickly became one of the wealthiest men in the South, selling cotton abroad and bringing European commodities back to the United States.  In 1841 he moved his children and ailing (consumption) wife Julia to the Bartow County plot where he would build an estate called Woodlands. But when Julia Barnsley died in 1845, the grieving widower, left with eight children, abandoned the construction of Woodlands and traveled for several years.

He eventually finished his estate, touring Europe for furnishings and art while his eldest son found precious plants in the Orient to be used for landscaping the grounds.  But much of Barnsley's work was destroyed during a Civil War cavalry skirmish that broke out on the property in 1864.

At the end of the war his unreconstructed Confederate sons immigrated to South America rather than sign the Oath of Allegiance. Barnsley moved to New Orleans to try to revitalize his failed cotton business and left Woodlands in the hands of his daughter Julia - thought to be a model for Scarlett O'Hara in Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" - and her husband.

Barnsley died in New Orleans in 1873 without regaining the family fortune. His descendants lived at the estate until it was auctioned in 1942. According to a history published by the resort, at that point, the gardens and house fell into disrepair.

Prince Fugger bought a total of 1,300 acres of land in 1988 and began restoring the landmark. Cottages were built to resemble a 19th-century-style English village, and the gardens were revamped and expanded to complete the transformation.  In 1999, one of three investors bought Barnsley, and Julian Saul (President of Shaw Industries) paid 10 million for the property appraised at 25 million. His goal was to improve, but not change the resort, keeping its rich history and luxurious world-class appeal.  And in doing so, the love story of Godfrey and Julia live on.

"Years ago when Prince Fugger owned the property, he sat Fairy down on a very special rock in the woodland gardens at Barnsley Gardens Resort.  In this perfect setting, he then told her that he was making her a Fairy Godmother and gave her a very special wand that is on display in their reception area.  From this day forward, she has been the special light of the resort.”

The Fairy godmother made our stay an exceptional one! My new favorite saying became, "Uh oh, the door is shut!"  While enjoying the day's activity, the Fairy Godmother worked her magic Love Spells in our bedroom and left the door closed behind her.  Each night of our stay was a different theme (big thanks to my wonderful husband for his romantic plans made over several months and collaboration with our FG).

The drive from Atlanta is quite rural, so you might begin to wonder where Barnsley Gardens is hidden. Luckily, the strategically placed signs really help. As you enter the main road to the resort, you quickly realize what a treat this place will be. We knew the weather may not hold up as this was the wettest year on record for Georgia. We could only hope… and wish that the weather would break for at least some of our planned activities. Checking in at the reservation desk was easy; we were given a map and a general explanation of the resort amenities. Our Arbor Cottages is one of the largest one-bedroom accommodations. Boasting a generous 1,056 square feet, the Arbor Cottages are free-standing structures for maximum privacy. They feature:
·         A large bedroom with king size bed and 32-inch High Definition TV
·         A living room with seating for five, pine floors, 12-foot ceilings and wood-burning fireplace
·         42-inch High Definition TV in the living room    
·         Wet bar with mini fridge, coffee service and complimentary non-alcoholic beverages
·         Private front and back porches (with a double swing) overlooking a unique garden
·         Period-inspired bathroom with a claw foot soaking tub and tiled shower
·         Private entrance and suite-side parking
·         Complimentary gourmet snacks, non-alcoholic beverages and wine service in-room

We fell in love with our cottage and the gardens and woods surrounding it.

Our first activity was a two hour romantic wilderness ride for two with our own guide, Scott Thompson; he has an incredible voice. I love his song Something ‘Bout the Rain- check it out!

He and Ed quickly found something in common; they both play music. (Scott’s CD's are in the store in the SpringBank Sporting Club.) Unfortunately, after an hour into our ride, we had to hightail it back to the club because of storms looming ominously over the mountains. Our horses, Lovey and Sarah, were just a bit skittish as thunder intruded on our day. Scott frequently checked his phone’s weather app, and made his decision to return just in time.

Our ride for the first hour -

A picnic on the porch during a downpour...awesome!
We were supposed to have and elegant picnic lunch at the top of the mountain complete with linens, china, and silverware. Instead, we enjoyed our picnic on the big back porch watching torrential rains, chatting it up with Scott, and listening to country-western music. It was most relaxing.

With all the rain, we now had to make a decision about dining “out” whether to enjoy a private four-course dinner for two served by our own private butler under the stars at the Manor House Ruins… or have our dinner under the cover of the porch at the Museum next door. After consulting with the registration desk about the weather and talking to the Fairy Godmother, we decided to go for it. We would have our private dinner at the Ruins. There was a small window of better weather after 5 o’clock. After all, we had been looking forward to this our most special night of all.

And oh was it special!!! I kept my 3 o’clock appointment with Melissa Sutton at her hair salon called Hair Clips in downtown Adairsville.  

Hair by Melissa at Hair Clips
I have to admit I was a bit nervous, but Melissa was recommended by the resort and definitely knew what she was doing. In less than an hour, Melissa had my extensions and hair curled and sprayed to handle any weather, and waterproof makeup because she knew I’d probably cry with happiness at some point in the night. Ed was in touch with the photographers he hired, Ryan and Tricia of 3 Rivers Photography-    - so we were all set for our special 10th Anniversary celebration.

We were picked up at our cottage à la “golf cart”, and driven to our Grand Dinner at the Manor House Ruins. Ryan and Tricia took several garden photos before we ate. We exchanged our gifts and wined and dined until the sun was fully set. The open ceiling and stunning views created a surreal ambiance… the sounds of nature and the pristine beauty of Barnsley gardens made this night one to remember. We could smell the fragrance of the heirloom roses, feel warm breezes, and just delighted in what turned out to be a spectacular rain-free evening.

Front porch of the Ruins
Back yard of the Ruins

Sites from our golf cart

The meal was delicious and with impeccable service from our butler, Logan. He was even more amazing when you consider he had to drive to pick up each portion of our meal from the Rice House (their premier restaurant). Even the choice of wine from the Wine Snob (frequently available to make recommendations regarding wine selections during your stay at the resort) was delectable. The wine choice went well with our choices: Crispy fried Maine lobster tail over wakame salad with Chinese honey mustard sauce and drawn butter, Chilled gulf shrimp cocktail with jicama slaw, Stilton and pear salad with artisan greens, red grapes, spicy pecans, pears, Stilton crumbles and apple walnut vinaigrette, Woodlands Caesar, fresh Pan seared rainbow trout over sweet corn risotto, spring vegetables, toasted almonds and lemon buerre blanc, Pan seared chicken breast supreme topped with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes over angel hair with asparagus and herb-ed sunburst squash. We finished with Bourbon pecan pie and Florida key lime pie – can you spell, Divine!!!

A rose...before dinner
Chatting before we were seated for dinner
Logan, our butler

Stellar service from Logan

Did not want the night to end!

After Logan took a parting picture of us, he drove us back to our cottage where the Fairy Godmother had worked her first love spell.

“Uh oh, the door is closed!” (That became my new fav saying)

Peeking in, our bedroom had been transformed into a fairytale scene with dozens of shimmering candles, champagne and glasses, and a bed full of rose petals! “Wow,” was all we could say! Then…what else is a girl to do with all those petals!!!

Day two: We woke in time for breakfast at the Woodlands Grill house before our tee time at 8 o’clock. Because of our early start, we were able to fit in all 18 holes before the rains came. The lush emerald fairways and bent-grass greens of this Jim Fazio designed championship golf course was quite a challenge. The hilly cart paths and views from the tees were stunning. The grounds, even on the back nine (high in the hills), were meticulously kept. One thing we really looked forward to was the cart service on the 10th hole where we ordered Bloody Mary’s and freshly made chicken salad sandwiches.

After a quick dip in the pool, we enjoyed tooling around in our golf cart exploring the gardens and trails on the premises. Next up was a date to shoot sporting clays.

Sporting Clays

In Sporting Clay shoots, 5 to 10 targets are shot at each station by a squad of up to six shooters for a total outing of 50 to 100 targets per person. Numerous hunting conditions can be simulated by combining various speeds and angles with different types of clay targets. Each station is unique. Throughout a course, the shooters might see targets crossing from either side, coming inward, going outward, flying straight up, rolling on the ground, arcing high in the air, or thrown from towers. One of my favorite stations had “rabbits” where the clay targets never follow the same bouncy path; another is where we shoot a clay target that is launched vertically and drops straight down into a reclaimed bauxite mine pond. Barnsley’s course was challenging so our scores weren’t the best, but it was sooo much fun!

Pretty grounds on the golf course.
An unbelievable view from the top!

By evening, it was raining once again, but never-the-less, we enjoyed the ride in our golf cart to the Woodlands Grill

- this time for a fancy steak and salad. Dining was enhanced by the ambiance of this English hunting lodge with sweeping views of the golf course and surrounding hills. It was a perfect end to a stellar day. We ordered drinks to go for the cottage where we enjoyed sitting on the swing on the back porch with a good cigar. That tell-tale sign from the Fairy Godmother caught our eye; there was a bouquet of balloons attached to a fancy bucket of fragrant bath items, a fruit basket, and a bottle of wine. Now that’s mighty.

Woodland Grill House
Ed on the 18th hole

Day three: Nine holes of golf, then breakfast while we waited out another storm. Since this storm lasted, we begged off golf and carted to the Museum where we delved into Barnsley family history. We learned so much about their trials and tribulations: the devastating loss of Julia Barnsley, the destruction from the tornado in 1906, and the Civil War that set Godfrey Barnsley into financial ruin. The book, Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands – The Illustrious Dream by Clent Coker, captures the romance, history, and mystical legends of this most wonderful place in the woods.

Clent Coker signing our book
Ed made appointments for us to have Hot Stone Messages at 1:30 at their renowned Spa. I was ready for some pampering after those hills on the golf course!
Spa Overview
·         10 Treatment Rooms
·         Massage & Body Treatments
·         Skin Treatments
·         Aromatherapy
·         Pure, Organic Products
·         Co-ed Whirlpool
·         Ladies & Gentlemen's Lounges, Saunas, Steam Rooms
·         Relaxation Room with Water & Teas
·         Gift Certificates
·         Adjoining Fitness Center & Grecian Style Swimming Pool

It was worth every penny…and we made another appointment for Friday! We hurried back to our cottage in anticipation of the Fairy Godmother’s third love spell: the No Siesta, Fiesta! It was a fun late-afternoon treat of chips and salsa, homemade guacamole, a pitcher of margaritas, and assorted party favors. Of course, we indulged in a little Mexican playfulness.

A beautiful mid-afternoon delight from the Fairy Godmother!

We ended this day with dinner and a game of billiards at Dugan’s Tavern inside Woodlands Grill.

By Thursday, and only nine holes (yup, rain!), I decided to do a little shopping at Addie’s Boutique. I perused the unique one-of-a-kind gifts, jewelry, clothes and accessories, and their assorted gourmet snacks and wines. I bought a summary top, a bejeweled bottle of PooPouri – bathroom citrus spray (I know but had to have it. Lol), and a Barnsley garden magnet. The SpringBanks Sporting Club and the Golf Shop also offer a full line of golf apparel and gear or outdoor sporting needs for shooting, hunting, fishing, and other fine gifts.

This is where you can clean your guns after Sporting Clays

After a quick trip back to the cottage, we grabbed our Tilley hats and took off to explore the Conifers Garden to see the very unique imports from China and around the world. The whole resort was decked out for Fourth of July! We were asked if we’d like to honor any family members who might’ve served our country.

In honor of those who served

They took the names of Ed’s mom and dad, my brother, and Uncle Sam; their names were laminated and attached to the flags which were displayed in front of the Woodland Grill’s garden. Our family’s flags will be displayed every year from now on. Barnsley Gardens’ goal is to fill a meadow with all the flags they collect over the years. We thought the display was rather stunning and poignant.

Libations were delightful and in Fourth of July style. The blue martinis were edged with red pop rocks and made for an “explosive” sipping experience!

Firefly Light-bulb necklace 

We ordered the Vidalia Onion Soup (to die for!), King Crab toastettes, Beef Tenderloin, and Straus Veal Chop, but begged off dessert to get S’mores made over a fire pit just outside our cottage. I caught a few fireflies to enjoy in my Firefly Light Bulb Necklace from the Fairy Godmother! She must have heard how tickled I was to have Logan catch one for me at the Ruins. It’s that kind of detail that she’s known for at the resort. She is also known for her brand of Woodford Reserve Bourbon… and we hope to purchase a hand blown bottle of her brew for Christmas this year!

On the 5th and final night of our stay, we enjoyed a full round of golf…more Bloody Marys and chicken salad sandwiches then on to another Spa treatment.

We dined at the Rice House again because we so enjoyed the night before and even asked for the same table and waitress since Logan was not serving this night. We did see Logan at Woodlands Grill for breakfast most mornings, and it was always awesome seeing him again. The staff here was exceptional, so cordial, and remembered our names. We felt like family.

Our bedroom door was closed again … our final Love Spell was dark Chocolate covered strawberries, a gift of “travel items” (let your minds wonder), balloons, and Champagne chilled in a beautiful brandy glass the size of a bucket.

 We were sad to have our stay come to an end, but we were also ready to go home again. The Fairy Godmother left a parting gift – a beautiful basket of garden bounty! The vegetables and fragrant herbs smelled so good…I couldn’t wait to cook up a meal of naturally ripened veggies!

We arrived home late Saturday, unpacked, and fell into our dreamy bed to visions of fairy spells and magic nights. This was definitely a fairy-tale tenth anniversary celebration.
We hope you will book a stay for your special occasion, and tell them Ed and Cher sent you! You could have the time of your life there… golfing, swimming, dining, shooting, horse riding, hiking, canoeing, etc.

Garden fresh for the restaurants

Barnsley's Family Grave site

One last visit to see Sally and Lovey

A parting gift from our Fairy Godmother!
We love tooling around even in the rain!

We'll be back Barnsley Garden Resort!