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For the most part, my job is pretty normal. I work in marketing, which means I write and send LOTS of emails, make flyers, do research, and plan meetings. But by far, my favorite part of my job is planning and running our client appreciation trip. Because running this trip means that I get to go. Each year we select a nice resort to visit with our top clients who have qualified for the trip as a way of saying, “Thank you for your business.”

The Awards Banquet from our last trip

The Awards Banquet from our last trip

Now before you go getting ALL jealous, you should know this: These trips are W.O.R.K. for me. I’m not saying it’s not fun work, but it is work nonetheless. I spend months planning and preparing, and once I’m there, I have to be available around the clock to anyone who doesn’t know where to go, needs the names of their dinner group, wants to move some people around, or to change the setup or even the entire venue of a particular activity at the last minute (yep, that happens). I LOVE doing all of this. But it is definitely hard, sometimes stressful WORK. It just happens to be hard, sometimes stressful WORK at a beautiful resort.

Even better is when I get to visit the site ahead of time to meet with the sales people and get the tour of the property. This is a lot more relaxing, since I typically don’t have anyone calling to ask me how to board their dinner shuttle, and I can just enjoy the resort and try to decide if we want to take our group back there.

Sun setting over Lake Oconee

Sun setting over Lake Oconee

Recently, my husband and I got to go on one of these site visits to The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation. You guys. This place is breathtaking. Settled along the picturesque Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia, the Lodge is set up kind of like a resort-style camp for grown ups. Yes, you still have the Ritz-Carlton hotel with rooms and bathrooms and king-sized beds with down comforters, but you are also surrounded by the natural beauty of the lake and the trees. This is an ideal place to go kayaking, canoeing, fishing, bicycling, or even just laying out by the infinity pool (preferably with a fruity drink in hand…). The Lodge also has a nightly tradition of roasting s’mores by the fire, which is super fun.

IMG_2438We had actually brought groups here a few years back, but the resort had undergone some pretty significant renovations since our last visit, so they invited me to come check those out so I could report back to our staff. I was really excited to get to bring Brian along with me this time (the last time we were there I didn’t even know that he existed…), because he loves the great outdoors and the lake. I knew that this would be a place he would really enjoy.

Bri enjoying his coffee and taking in the peace of the morning

He had never been to a Ritz-Carlton before, so he really enjoyed the fluffy robes and the Ritzy treatment. Despite the outdoorsy feel, the phrase “puttin’ on the Ritz” is not lost here.

Bri and I got to use the bikes and the non-motorized water crafts (stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, etc.) while we were there. The bike path was no joke. I’m gonna be honest: it pretty much defeated me. There may or may not have been a few meltdowns as I: 1) got lost, and 2) just about died on some of those hills. So it was back to laying out by the pool as quickly as I could find my way back to resort – which was a while…

Bri killing it on the Stand-Up Paddleboard

We also tried our hands (feet?) at stand-up paddleboarding (A.K.A. SUPing). I’ve done this before at the family lake house, but the waves from all of the weekend lake traffic that day added a whole new challenge to not falling into the lake succeeding at this sport. Bri seemed to do a lot better than I did (as he usually does…) and even went out a second day, when apparently there were a LOT fewer waves. My greatest accomplishment was not how far I made it (which was probably only about 100 feet from the dock…), but the fact that I did not end up swimming. Success!

Pan-Roasted Chicken and Smashed Potatoes

Pan-Roasted Chicken and Smashed Potatoes

Dinner was delicious at Gaby’s by the Lake, which is casual enough with its patio-style outdoor tables, but certainly doesn’t skimp on the quality (or the price – ouch!!) of the food. We started with an appetizer of Calamari, which had not one, but THREE to-die-for dipping sauces to go with it. For his main course, Bri had what he says was one of the best (bourbon-marinated!!!!!) burgers he’d ever tasted, and my roast chicken on a pile of smashed potatoes was absolutely fantastic.

But I have to say: the REAL food star here was the breakfast buffet. Usually, I try to steer clear of anything buffet. But when you’re staying one night at the Ritz, well…all caution sort of goes to the wind. I pretty much ate my weight in delectable breakfast foods. They have everything from the healthy (yogurt and berries, lox and smear, various fruits, etc.) to the decadent (pastries, made-to-order omelette bar, pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, biscuits and gravy…). My favorite was the pile of mini Belgian waffles with fresh homemade whipped cream. We are not talking Cool Whip here, people. I’m talking about thick, creamy, nothing-good-for-you-about-it, full-fat, homemade whipped cream. I’m pretty sure I gained about 10 pounds just at breakfast.

We ate some fabulous lunches and had fruity drinks by the pool. I did try to be healthy a couple of times – I ordered a grilled chicken salad for one of my meals… I gotta say: even their salads are absolutely fabulous. I’m fairly convinced that you pretty much can’t go wrong with anything you order here. It’s all fantastic. (Duh. It’s the Ritz…)

Sunday evening, Bri and I stumbled upon another Lodge treasure: the Chiminea dining spots. Apparently you can order a (ridiculously expensive) private dining experience next to the lake at one of these chimineas that they will light for you. After dinner, Bri and I were walking the property and we noticed that a couple had left their chiminea unattended when they were done with their dinner. Not wanting a good fire to go to waste, we meandered over and Brian stoked the coals a little bit. We vegged out just staring into the dancing flames for probably an hour.

Our commandeered Chiminea

Our commandeered chiminea

As we contemplated possibly leaving our delightfully cozy fire to go make s’mores up the hill, Bri got the brilliant idea to bring the s’mores to us! So he stoked “our” little fire again and headed to the main firepit, pilfering the free s’mores supplies and bringing them back to his wife so we could toast marshmallows and enjoy our romantic dessert together. What a man!