Hearing about some of the trips others are taking these days (Jeffé's Harajuku Adventure in Tokyo and Jerri+Mark's Babymoon to Puerta Vallerta) motivated me to finally sort through the hundreds of digital photographs that I took in Asheville.
If you'd like to see what I saw (ok, months ago, but still)...then click below on the post continuation!
Asheville, North Carolina
November 9-15, 2007
I visited "The Paris of the South" to celebrate my 30th birthday. In a rather ambitious move, I went by myself and did little research and literally no planning before my arrival. After a rocky start, I found some new accommodations AND ended up finding my inner Southerner.
Asheville is an interesting city. The locals are friendly, warm, and yes, have oddly appealing accents. The photos below are in a somewhat chronological order...
R I V E R A R T S D I S T R I C T
This slightly gritty area is west of downtown and a scene for emerging artists, many of whom have studios in the old industrial buildings along the French Broad River.
L U N C H + A R T / W O O L W O R T H ' S
Officially called Woolworth Walk, located at 25 Haywood Street downtown, this old store has been restored and reinvented as a gallery for 150 artists and crafters. Luckily, the soda fountain still remains and, as I learned during lunch one day during my wanderings, serves a mean grilled cheese and vanilla coke.
C H I M N E Y R O C K = B L U E M O U N T A I N V I S T A S @ 2 , 2 8 0 f e e t
Asheville offers an almost unbelievable amount of outdoor activities, one of the most popular being a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. My favorite adventure in the wilds of North Carolina, however, was my hike at Chimney Rock Park. First, I took an elevator (located inside "the chimney", a 315-foot-tall monolith) up to 2,280 feet so that I could see the park's 75-mile vistas. Admission to the park is $16 but there are a lot of trails, and a visitor could easily take a lunch and spend the day hiking and looking at the beautiful panoramic views.
E X P L O R I N G D O W N T O W N
No wonder 20/20's Eric Weiner just named Asheville "The Happiest Place in America"... the city is full of great arts, eating, live music, shopping, and architecture year-round. Luckily, I visited in the late Fall, so the weather was still warm enough that I got to explore the easily-walkable city by foot. Also, the outdoor dining scene (a big part of downtown Asheville culture) was still in full swing.
S O U T H E R N B B Q -- M M M M M M
Traveling solo, many of my days consisted of a big lunch (for both budget and scheduling reasons) and smaller dinner. One thing that definitely made my list of "must eats" for Asheville...southern BBQ! What I didn't know, according to those educated on North Carolinian BBQ, was that the sauces used in NC are different than those from the deeper South or New Orleans. I liked my sandwich from Barbecue Inn buuut the sauce was thinner and not as savory as others I've tasted. However, the hush puppies, a favorite childhood food of mine, were amazing -- and they came with a little chubby of honey sweetened butter for dipping!
J A P A N E S E H O T T U B T I M E !
What better way to unwind after eating some BBQ than to spend an hour+ in a Japanese-style outdoor hot tub 2,500 feet into the mountains? Besides the fact that my tub only cost $34 and was right next to the cold plunge, Shoji Retreat ranks high in my book because the owners were inspired by another amazing "luxury mountain spa resort" that I've been to and loved -- Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe.
B I L T M O R E
Undoubtedly the most touristy attraction for Asheville visitors, I decided to visit "George and Edith Vanderbilt's 250-room family home", Biltmore, during my last day in town only because I had some extra birthday money and we all know that I cannot resist The Hype. Admission is $54 (!) and, I have to say, not really worthwhile, even with the other activities included (the Farm, Vineyards, and a meager wine tasting). However, the house was already decorated for Christmas and I've never seen quite a spectacle. Luckily, some woman had an extra free coupon for the audio tour, which added a lot of depth to my visit.
W N C = A P P L E C O U N T R Y
If visitors stick to the path most traveled in Asheville, they might never find out that apples are kind of a big thing in the area. I happened upon "WNC Apple Country" accidentally, on my way to Chimney Rock. Even though the season was over, I enjoyed stopping and taking pictures of the different stands and collecting a few free taste tests.