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5th April 2012

Why Asheville?

posted in Travel |

When I told people I was taking a trip to Asheville, NC, I was surprised by the blank stares. It seems that the little mountain city is not on everyone’s go-to list. Not everyone has heard about the “Paris of the South.” Given that their climate is not that different than our own, I was starting to question my choice of destinations for a long weekend in late March. Well, I’m glad I went. Here’s a top ten list for a visit to Asheville:

10) The shopping – I’m not much of a shopper, but there did seem to be some interesting, eclectic shops. You didn’t feel that you were surrounded by mall stores. They also have at least one great independent bookstore, Malaprop’s, which also served great coffee.
9) The people – the town didn’t feel too Southern, or too hip for some aging tourists. There was such a mixture of people, from blue-haired college kids (UNC is close by), to hippies, to hikers and bikers, drifters, and professionals, that it seemed to me that anyone could fit in. There is a friendly, enterprising, counter-cultural spirit about the place that I enjoyed. Lots of tattoos, lots of dogs…in fact, it felt a bit like Lowell!
8 ) Beer – if you like beer, this is your town. There are so many breweries that according to one waiter, they have now surpassed Portland, Oregon as the craft-brewing capital of the country (not substantiated, but you really couldn’t walk a block without hitting a brew pub).
7) Architecture – I’m not knowledgeable about buildings, Asheville has an eclectic mix of charming brick and wood-frame buildings, one or two office towers, plus some historic neighborhoods with beautiful Queen Anne and Neo-Colonial style homes. In addition, there is the Grove Park Arcade which is “neo-Tudor with Gothic style details.” And, of course, the Biltmore, the largest home in North America, which is worth a trip for the mouth-dropping opulence and staggering views, furnishings, artwork, and overall scale. (It looks like a French chateau). There is also the Art-Deco City Hall and the beautiful Spanish-Renaissance Revival Church of St. Lawrence which apparently has the largest free-standing elliptical dome in North America.
6) Literature – Thomas Wolfe. Visiting the Boarding House that his Mother ran is an interesting counterpoint to the visit to the Biltmore. And our local guide gave us a little of the independent-minded local view of the Vanderbilts which broadened our view of Asheville society at the turn of the 20th century. Wolfe and Cornelia Vanderbilt were both born in 1900, but it doesn’t seem as though their paths ever crossed. I am now reading the intensely autobiographical “Look Homeward, Angel” which is a wonderful slice of life in the Asheville of a century ago.
5) The climate is a bit better, a bit more generous, than ours – everything blooming, but also there was the feeling of a long, luxurious Spring unfolding, rather than the cruel fits-and-starts that we have to put up with.
4) The scenery – a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway brings breathtaking vistas and opportunities for great photos, picnicking, or hiking around every bend. We had a short hike on a foggy day at Craggy Pinnacle, but it was a good side trip from Asheville. If the day had been clear, we might have continued on to Mount Mitchell, the highest summit East of the Mississippi. I know! I was sure Mt. Washington claimed that honor, but Mitchell rises to 6,684 feet while Washington comes in second at 6,288 feet. Even walking the streets of Asheville, there are glimpses of the mountain ranges encircling the city like the rim of a bowl.
3) The outdoors – given the above, opportunities for hiking, rafting, mountain-biking, bird-watching, kayaking, golf, zip-lining and much more abound. The better-than-New England climate contributes to increasing opportunities to enjoy the scenery outdoors. The only thing they lack is consistent snowfall to make winter sports viable, but then, so do we some years!
2) The music- literally someone is playing music on every corner. Every bar or restaurant had live music every night we were there. It was a great mix of music, too – some blues, some jazz, some New Orleans style, some fun dancing music.
1) Some in our party thought the food was pretentious. It seemed that everything is farm-to-table, locally sourced, sustainable, etc., and chefs were outdoing themselves with odd combinations – a brie, apple, bacon flatbread or a sauteed daylily bulb – the flatbread was actually pretty good, didn’t try the other thing. Some of the food was really great and it was all inventive. At the LAB (Lexington Avenue Brewery) where the afore-mentioned flatbread was had, we also ordered a plate of nachos with homemade tortillas, chorizo and some interesting sauce – it was a memorable twist on a ho-hum dish. So, I would call Asheville a foodie destination and even add that the variety of restaurants and different dining options, from brew pub to vegetarian gourmet, make the food the NUMBER ONE reason to visit Asheville. Or, maybe it is the scenery, or the architecture, or…..

There are currently 2 responses to “Why Asheville?”

Why not let us know what you think by adding your own comment! Your opinion is as valid as anyone elses, so come on... let us know what you think.

  1. 1 On April 5th, 2012, Cliff Krieger said:

    We have been there and it is a nice place.  Good pick.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  2. 2 On April 6th, 2012, Margaret said:

    So, Cliff, would you go back again, or was once enough? Just curious as it is a question I am asking myself.

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