Escaping to Chateau Elan

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Grainger, Kitchen Table Talk, West Knox

I don’t write much about the third love-of-my-life.


First, of course, is family, and Kitchen Table Talk centers around family quite often.

Second is friends, and they get a pretty good representation, too.

My third love is traveling. Car, plane, ship, train, bus … any kind of “Go” is usually a step toward happiness for me. Cruising is No. 1 for me, and I have fretted over the loss of cruise travel. Like so many thing with this pandemic, I understand the whys and agree with them, but it still makes me sad.

I am usually either traveling in August or getting ready for a big fall cruise. This year, as hot, sticky August loomed on the horizon, all I saw was a vast amount of time at home.

I decided to “get-away,” and I decided to go alone. My husband was ready for some quiet time at home, so his eagerness for me to stop grumbling and just go somewhere was strong. Friends were busy, and I needed some time to just recharge, read the books I didn’t read at the beach and catch up on some webinars that weren’t getting done at home. A trip alone sounded like just the ticket.

After several days of research and cost-analysis, I picked a place I haven’t been in probably 15 years: Chateau Elan Inn, Spa and Winery in Braselton, Ga.

The Chateau Elan winery in Braselton, Ga.

I first found Chateau Elan in a travel email back when I was working at the News Sentinel. It looked lovely, was close enough to Atlanta (back when you could drive in Atlanta) to do some shopping yet secluded enough for a nice retreat. My best friend, Michelle, and I just took off one weekend and checked it out. We loved it and went back a couple more times.

It turned out not to be the best place to stay if you are actually wanting to shop or see Atlanta because of the horrendous traffic on I-75 and I-285, but there are other ways to get there from Knoxville that are a little longer – in miles – but less stressful. This trip, I came down to the Chateau the shorter way but will not go home that way.

Once here, however, it has been everything I needed. The get-away began with High Tea in the Inn and will end with another tea, this one with my sister-in-law, Nancy, who lives about 45 minutes from the Inn and is coming over to join me.

I have done a lot of nothing and a little of some things. I had a spa day, toured the winery, had some pool time, ate at three of the seven restaurants here and drove around the grounds and Braselton. I did a few webinars for a course I’m taking on being a travel agent, but, mostly, I just sat and read my books and people watched.

It has been rejuvenating, and I will be able to go home and be pleasant while I look for my next adventure.

One sad note, however, has been the lack of contact and conversation I have seen on this trip. Everyone is masked-up, which I fully support. Everyone is socially distancing, even at the somewhat crowded pool, which is good.

With these necessary precautions, however, comes an isolation that I don’t like. While there are plenty of head bobs “hello,” there is very little conversation with anyone outside your group. I miss getting to know strangers, and I hope social distancing will disappear on the other side of COVID-19.

Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.

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