Nan and I continued our pattern of long weekend visits to American cities to celebrate our anniversary, this time choosing Asheville, North Carolina. We ran into several groups of friends in the airport coming and going who were doing New England and its leaves, which is certainly on our list of future destinations.
Flying in we were struck by the amount of visible flooding, a result of the hurricanes to the south. Parts of Asheville itself were still recovering and workers were still dealing with a number of felled trees on the Biltmore estate and along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but none of that really diminished the visit itself.
Arts and Asparagus…
Downtown Asheville has a remarkable number of distinctive older buildings with contemporary uses, such as Kress and Woolworth stores acting as art and craft galleries and gas stations serving pizza. UNC has a branch in Asheville and the central city has a slightly funky college town feel reminiscent of Austin and Portland, with a lot of Eureka Springs thrown in. For example, all of the restaurants we visited (the Mellow Mushroom, the Early Girl Eatery, the Market Place) had vegetarian alternatives, and several (The Laughing Seed, Max and Rosie’s Excellent Vegetarian Café) were exclusively veggie.
Asheville also has museums, bookstores, craft shops and art galleries. In fact, the capacious Blue Spiral 1 gallery may be the most sophisticated and visually pleasing gallery we’ve ever been in, including those in the country’s biggest cities. Not surprisingly, the town has a wide selection of bed and breakfasts, and we were particularly pleased with ours, in a National Historic Register Victorian house with a huge wrap-around porch, a delightful setting and exceptional breakfasts.
The gilded Age Redux…
It also has the Biltmore estate, which was as impressive as ever, even more of the house itself having been restored and furnished. The winery tour was a nice touch and the wines themselves quite respectable. We also managed to route ourselves down a piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway several times, which is a national treasure. An unexpected treat just off the Parkway was the North Carolina Arboretum, a lovely facility with wooded walking trails operated by UNC.
We were delayed two hours getting out of Asheville and our luggage was delayed two days, but all’s well that ends well and everything else about this trip was even better than we bargained for.