I really enjoyed my month in Asheville living along the French Broad River, minutes from the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The highest temp during my entire visit never exceeded 82, with lows in the mid 60’s at night. Asheville is definitely a place I could live if I were looking for a place to settle down. But not just yet.
Here are a few of my favorite memories:
FARM TO FORK FOCUS ON FOOD
Asheville goes to great lengths to support their local businesses, to the point where they have fought against even the holiest of food suppliers, Whole Foods. They have a local knock-off called Earth Fare that is even better. There is a multi-building Farmer’s Market offering only locally grown products from Amish cheese to country ham.
Restaurants are heavily into the movement as well, where chain restaurants are the minority, especially in the downtown area. You can’t find anything more mainstream than a Sierra Nevada on tap, with most serving local brews only. One of their most popular restaurants, Sunny Point Cafe, features fresh produce straight out of the earth from their adjacent garden. I didn’t have a bad meal in Asheville, and I had plenty. Fresh, innovative with a mixture of tastes to delight the palate. It was next to impossible to force myself to cook with so many interesting, affordable alternatives available.
If you like a more remote camping experience than the urban Wilson’s Riverfront, just 10 minutes away is beautiful Lake Powhattan. The campsites are shady, some even with a respectable amount of privacy. The park is full of hiking and biking trails, one which leads to a “back door” into Asheville’s beautiful arboretum.
Trails lead through abundance in nature such as the fascinating Bonsai Exhibition Garden, and serene spots filled with crazy quilt color. Admission to the 434 acre arboretum with 10 miles of trails is “free,” but you must pay $8.00 to park. But if you take the back door on bike, well, there is no parking fee. 😉
Asheville has been considered a retreat destination for health seekers as far back as the late 1700’s. The excellent climate and clean mountain air attracted many “sanitariums” for curing tuberculosis, with this healing culture evolving into the “New Age Mecca of the East,” offering an abundance of massage therapists and alternative healers.
As an alternative to my beloved Shoji Spa, I decided to treat myself to a ridiculously overpriced massage at the posh, hundred year old Grove Park Inn and Spa. I booked the shortest, cheapest service offered, because it afforded the entire day to be spent in their $44 million, 40,000 square ft, subterranean day spa.
The absolute best part was floating in the shallow “music pools” where classical music can be heard by submersing your ears below the surface. No photos allowed, but I did sneak this one from an overlooking window.
As much as I enjoyed the twenty-something energy that “keeps Austin weird,” by the end of the month, I was growing weary of the awesomeness of the word “awesome.” Asheville has the same “Keep weird” marketing campaign, only the difference is a more evenly spread demographic. When I first heard of the Friday Night Drumming Circle, I expected a group of young, dreadlocked drop-outs, but I could not have been more wrong. In fact, even the white-haired tour guide on the White Trolley Tour heads there every Friday night! What fun this was to feel surrounded by fifty-something freaks like me!