I think I’ve found my new favorite place — Asheville, North Carolina. Our family gathered at my sister-in-law’s cabin just outside the city this weekend to celebrate my father-in-law’s 80th birthday (more on that later).
After our drive from South Carolina, we knew Friday afternoon would be our only chance to explore the city because we had family events planned the rest of the weekend. We set out to explore this fabulous city.
Around every corner, there were fun, new surprises — street musicians and art; chocolate shops; coffee and tea shops; art galleries; independent bookstores; toy stores; arts, crafts and jewelry vendors selling their wares from small stalls and restaurant after restaurant showcasing the best of local foods. I could have spent days discovering new treasures.
A couple highlights included:
— the architecturally stunning Grove Arcade (lower left above), a building that was used by the military in World War II and has since been converted to an indoor shopping area. With spiral staircases, intricate iron and stonework on the ceilings and gorgeous skylights, it was a lot of fun to wander through.
— the Woolworth Walk (the musicians above are sitting outside of it). This is an old Woolworth’s department store that’s been converted to a venue that houses arts and crafts from more than 170 local artists. It’s pretty spectacular. We spent some time checking out the goods and I even picked up a beautiful clay bowl for our kitchen and the sole goal of every trip we take — our Christmas ornament. Little-known fact: apparently no stores in Asheville sell Asheville-specific ornaments. I learned this nugget from a woman who runs a Christmas ornament shop, so I’d say I got it on good authority. But in the Woolworth Walk, I found a lovely clay fall leaf shaped ornament, so that’s just going to have to do.
— the Laughing Seed! When I put out the call on Twitter for restaurant suggestions in Ashevile, everyone said this was where we HAD to go (OK, it was only two people — Lee from In My Tummy and Healthy Ashley, but they’re both cool and Healthy Ashley is a local, so her vote counts like 10 times). But they were right, this place was amazing. It’s a vegetarian restaurant that touts its international flair, and it sure was tasty! I got the Harmony Bowl, which featured brown rice, tofu, tons of veggies and a ridiculous sesame-ginger dressing. We also started with an order of jalapeno onion fries and an artichoke dip. Everything was awesome, and my husband and brother- and sister-in-law (none of whom are vegetarians) all raved about it, too. Thanks for the tip, Tweeps!
We can’t wait to go back and spend more time getting to know this city. I don’t know how to say this exactly without it sounding obnoxious, but Asheville really appears to be an authentic city. It’s not trying to be a hippie city — it is. It isn’t trying to make green, creative living a tourist attraction, it’s just the way of life there. And it’s fabulous. I admit I’m forming this opinion after only spending a few hours in the downtown area, but the city just gives off a great, friendly vibe and I know we’ll be back to get better acquainted.
On Saturday morning, I woke up to watch the sunrise from my sister-in-law’s back deck.
DadJovi set off for a 10-mile run before the sun came up. When he got back, it was my turn. And since it was still a crisp 63 degrees at 9 a.m., it didn’t matter that I’d waited so long to go (take that, Florida!).
Here were the views on my run:
For some reason, there are donkeys and mules everywhere! It must be all the hills. Those hills are a killer. Since we had plans that morning, I had to keep my run short. It was only 2 miles, but given all those glute-busting hills, it felt more like 4. It didn’t matter because the views and the weather were stunning. It was like something out of a movie. I kept stopping to check out the view and snap some pictures. What a beautiful area.
Then, it was time for the entire family to pile into a large van (E. kept calling it the school bus) and head for the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bring on the foliage!
We headed for Craggy Gardens for a picnic. It’s a long way up from our home in Florida!
After lunch, we headed into the woods for a little nature walk.
Since it was pretty chilly and the leaves had already fallen at that elevation, we drove down the mountain to check out some of the leaves. It was worth the pit stop.
I can’t even remember the last time I really got to experience fall. I think I’ve blocked from my memory just how much I adore it. With average temperatures still in the mid to high 80s in Central Florida, I think it’s better for me if I forget that just a few hours north, leaves are changing and the air smells and feels crisp.
I think I’m going to need a lot more pumpkin scented candles to help me survive this withdrawal.
Thanks for all the great memories Asheville. We can’t wait to come back!
What’s your favorite part of fall? And where is your favorite spot to leaf peep?