Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Vacation in Asheville

After wrapping up the Christmas lights last week, Ernesto and I took off to Asheville. It is such a lovely city and a short drive from Atlanta and more importantly, my awesome brother Brrrian lives there. I was shocked when we figured out that it had been 3 years since we last visited.

He is in a new apartment, in a new area, and was he excited to have E and me as his guests. His place is on Montford Street, just a 10 minute walk to downtown Asheville and lined with beautiful old houses.
{my favorite house in Asheville with a turquoise tile roof}

When I visited before, I had made a quick assumption that Asheville is just a hippie town. Yes, there seems to be tree huggers everywhere you turn, vegan eateries, smoke shops, a very relaxed dress code, but it is so much more than that. E and I extended our weekend visit to a whole weeks vacation and really got to know Asheville. With so much to see and do here, a week isn't enough time, but we got a good taste.

Since its development of a railroad in 1880, Asheville turned into a mountain getaway and therapeutic health center. Artists, poets, explorers, and visionaries flocked here. George Vanderbilt made it his home in the late 1880's and his mansion is still the largest in the US. Maybe you have hear of it? The Biltmore Estates. Although we didn't get there this trip (I am holding out to see it until spring when the garden comes alive), we did go to the Grove Park Inn, a four star resort with classic arts & crafts style with amazing panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We sipped coffee and got cozy by the huge fireplace, which was nice, but next time I want to check into the amazing spa.
{Grove Park Inn}

{Basilica of St Lawerence}

Pack Square Park in downtown was completed just last year and is a great place for people to linger around.
There are 2 performance stages, a water feature (where kids will be playing in the summer) and this awesome metal pergola. It is going to be amazing once vines are growing on it, but the structure alone is a work of art.
There seems to be an inviting cafe on every corner, and we hung out in several during the week while Brrrian was working.
Posana Cafe was a elegant place with leather couches and chairs, a perfect place to sit for hours with your laptop. (or chat with someone of course) There are also tables to order lunch.
Green Sage is more casual place with a bakery (great biscotti) and a funny, friendly staff!
Izzy's Coffee Den is a dingy coffee house that plays screaming music and is not really built for comfort. Maybe I was unlucky with the music selection that day and the 2 annoying guys high on something (other than pot) that were sitting right beside us, but it's not a repeater for me. I crossed the street to the dreamy garden store Shady Grove, and dreamt about owning a similar store one day.
Probably the coolest coffee shop, for obvious reasons was Double D's.
This bus retired from British public transit in the late 70's, was then a party bus in Atlanta until in landed in Asheville in 1999. The new owners renovated it and the inside is turquoise!

Asheville knows beer. There are 8 breweries. The newest is called The LAB (Lexington Avenue Brewery). We went a couple times. I really liked the beer sampler. 6 different beers starting with a Belgian white each one getting darker till you get to the chocolate stout. My favorites were the middle two IPA's. I'm not a pilsner fan. (sorry Budweiser)

MLK day was sunny and fairly warm Wedge Brewing Company was a great place to sit outside and enjoy it. Its located in the River Arts District which looked to be an industrial part of town.
{river running in front of The Wedge Brewery}

Order your beers inside, grab a bowl of peanuts, a bucket, then grab a table out on the patio which is enclosed by old metal "parts" welded together to create a fence.
I like how the huge stainless steel drums are visible from the bar.
We were told about a "Brews Cruise" that you can take with a tour company, guiding you through each one. I thought that idea was genius, (with a clever name) but we guided ourselves and ended up a in other cool places for enjoying the local brews.
The Vault, once a bank, was reborn into a swanky lounge. The small money vault can be reserved for a party and it is set up as a living room, complete with a flat screen. Very comfy.
Barley's has a great beer selection, a full menu and pool tables and darts upstairs.
You won't find may places in Asheville that don't have a good beer selection, but besides this, I found it to be a city with good coffee and international foods and many cultural activities. One afternoon we went to the Fine Arts Theatre and saw a foreign film starring Penelope Cruz called Los Abrazos Rotos ("Broken Embraces") I really liked it. Watch the trailer here.
Speaking of....

Oh the art is everywhere! Every other store is showcasing art, from painting to ceramics to jewelry, you will find something you like. One place that you must check out is Woolworth Walk, an old storefront on Haywood Street. It is filled with art by more than 150 local artists and each "room" is set up as that artists' gallery. So beautiful and inspiring!

Brrrian is a middle school art teacher and had a long weekend due to the holiday!
Thanks MLK! (not kidding, thank you for everything you did Mr King)
Brrrian showed us his classroom and it looked like a fun place to work.
Outdoor Adventures:
Hard to believe that Asheville was covered with snow the week before we arrived, but it warmed up and we had some decent weather. Saturday Brrrian planned a great hike in the Pisgah National Forrest. The trail was filled with rhododendron trees, which bloom heavily in the spring and summer. It would be amazing to hike it then. Can you imagine this whole trail in bloom?I would prefer hiking this when it's more green, but the benefit of no leaves is a further view into the mountains.
At a fork in the trail, Brrrian and Nester consulted the map.
We walked along the river for part of the trail, and came to this little waterfall. Look how daring E is as he tries to balance over the water. He is so brave!It took us three hours and although it was not difficult, it was tiring. This was probably the steepest part of the hike.
Bottom line:
Asheville is a great place to vacation and even sweeter if you have family to visit. If you would like to flip through all of the pictures from our Asheville trip, click on the pic below.
PS. We took a different route on our drive back to Atlanta. More mountains and curvy roads, it was a beautiful drive. There was still a lot of ice hanging around.
We decided to go through Helen GA. We had both heard what a cute little town it was. Its 90 minutes north of Atlanta in the mountains.
Supposedly a re-creation of a little German alpine town, it was bad. It was a couple blocks of the cheapest souvenir shops (not inexpensive though) and some restaurants. My carmel apple and E's ice cream cone were delicious, but we was scared to eat there for fear of more disappointment. We walked the whole town, took the obligatory picture and left. I see no need to ever go there again.

1 comment:

  1. haha this post is awesome and reminds me exactly what i love best about you guys- your sense of adventure. i love that you stopped in that crappy tourist trap and took the beer maid picture!


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