Monday, December 7, 2015

Asheville Recap: What We Did

After weeks of major technical issues over here (the blog was hacked, my laptop all but died then the blog crashed), I’m finally following up with more details on our recent visit to Asheville. As I mentioned in the post about our vacation rental, our visit was the perfect balance of relaxing and doing. Today I thought I’d share what we did when we weren’t happily holed up in the cabin.

We loved downtown Asheville and its various restaurants, shops and buskers. In my (rurally raised) opinion, it’s the perfect size – not too big, not too small. It was easily drivable and walkable even with little ones in tow. Finding parking on the weekends took some effort but it wasn’t impossible. We tried to mostly hit the city during the week when things weren’t as busy.

A few things I noticed about Asheville as a rookie tourist: 1) The vibe is super laid-back. Maybe it was the time of year, but the casual flannel-jeans-boots-beard dress code was right up my alley. (Minus the beard.) The rare “dressed up” person looked totally out of place. People weren’t in a hurry. They walked leisurely and waited patiently at crosswalks. It was a nice change of pace from the everyday rat race in middle America suburbia. 2) Asheville is quirky. In a good way. From the hippies to the clown buskers to the flat iron sculpture on Wall Street to the yarn-bombed fire hydrants, the city celebrates the colorful and the creative. You can’t not smile walking by a fire hydrant knitted in yarn. I tried. 3) Asheville loves dogs. I swear I saw more dogs than kids! It took us twice as along to get anywhere because Mabrey stopped to ask every dog owner “May I please pet your doggie?”

We browsed the Antique Tobacco Barn and the local Habitat ReStore (a weird thing we do in new-to-us towns) but Malaprop’sPaul Taylor and Bee Charmer were our favorite local shops. One smells like books & coffee, one like leather and the third smells like honey. We spent hours at Malaprop’s and walked out with a few books including this one for Everett. I really enjoyed walking through the Urban Outfitters brick and mortar, too. (We have a few here in Ohio but I’ve never been in one.) I loved the organic, rustic aesthetic. Does anyone else completely overlook a store’s inventory and ogle the finishes and fixtures for interior inspiration instead? I do it all the time. It’s easier on the wallet ;) I was also crazy excited to browse the West Elm Outlet (not downtown). It made me wish I had a whole house to furnish.

During our stay, we hit up several restaurants including Early Girl Eatery, Farm Burger, French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Chai Pani, Sunny Point Café, Biscuit Head and Blue Mountain Pizza (in nearby Weaverville). We didn’t eat a bad meal but Chai Pani, Sunny Point and Farm Burger were our favorites. Try the okra fries at Chai Pani and the B.L.A.T. (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato) at Sunny Point. Yum! The kids loved walking through Sunny Point’s gardens behind the restaurant and playing on the spring riders. And if you eat breakfast at Biscuit Head, don’t plan on being hungry again until dinner. It’s so filling!

One day while Steve and Layne were doing their thing at ClimbMax (an indoor climbing center), I took Everett and Mabrey to Double D’s coffee and dessert bus. They absolutely loved it. Apparently, drinking milkshakes on the upper floor of a double decker bus decorated for Halloween is very cool when you’re 7 and 3. (Everett would like to point out the skeleton driving the bus.) We also took the kids to see Pan at a local sofa cinema one rainy day. Have you heard of these sofa cinemas? Basically, instead of individual seats, there are sprawling sofas with ottomans to prop your feet on and they give you real bowls for your popcorn. It’s almost like watching a movie at home except you aren’t responsible for cleaning up stray popcorn afterwards. It’s kind of awesome.

The city, the people and the food were great but what took our breath away was the scenery: the long range mountains, the changing leaves, the foggy skies. It made for one idyllic autumnal setting. We drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway and it was nothing short of dreamy. We drove through mountains and the tunnels opened up to the most amazing views. The switch from darkness to color reminded me of the movie Pleasantville.

We did the touristy thing and took pictures at one of the scenic pull-offs. Just to prove we had been there.

We continued driving up, up, up until we reached Craggy Gardens. We parked the car and hiked to the summit. Due to the high elevation (>6,000 ft.), the natural habitat was much different. The trees, already bare, were twisted and gnarled. The wind whipped and the temperature was ~20º colder than downtown Asheville. In jackets, we weren’t properly dressed for the weather but we toughed it out long enough to make it to the top.

It was totally worth it. We were in the clouds with a 360º view. I can’t even begin to describe how breathtaking it was. It was quite the experience. We’ve talked about it a lot since returning home.

We didn’t get a chance to tour The Biltmore (next time!) but we did visit The North Carolina Arboretum which was beautiful.

Steve surprised the kids with little slingshot-like gliders and a pair of model rockets. He and the boys worked on building the rockets in the basement of the cabin on rainy days. Once built, Steve found a baseball field behind an elementary school and helped the boys launch the rockets using these and these engines. They were a success. They went so high! Even with recovery parachutes, we lost a rocket in someone’s fenced backyard.

On the drives from the cabin to Asheville, we noticed a for sale sign on a plot of land. Curiosity got the best of us and we pulled over to scout it out. It was love at first sight. A driveway cut into the side of a mountain and led to a grassy knoll with long range views in all directions. (Just to give you some perspective, the little black dot near the electric pole on the green grassy area is Layne.) A hawk was circling below us. Steve and I talked about how cool it would be to build a simple, modest cabin and/or tiny house commune on the property and rent them out to vacationers. We were third-joking, third-dreaming and third-serious. We didn’t buy the land. It’s still for sale. But it sparked something that we can’t quite shake. Steve has had recurring dreams about the land which speaks volumes because he normally doesn’t remember dreams.

The last night of our stay was Halloween. A few weeks before our vacation, we bought SecondSkin body suits and each of us chose LED accessories to wear with them. I’m not exactly sure what we were but it was fun. The kids have worn their costumes several times since, pretending to be ninjas around the house. We took the kids trick-or-treating in the historic Montford district of Asheville. It was a blast! The people of Montford take Halloween to a whole ‘nother level. The homeowners would say, “I love your costumes!” And I would say, “I love your house!” I got zip code envy peeking through the windows when night fell.

The best part? Daylight saving time ended and we got an extra hour of vacation. I’m making a mental note to plan all future vacations so that they coincide with the whole falling back thing.

Overall, it was a wonderful getaway. I think we all left pieces of our hearts in the mountains.

P.S. – Thanks to everyone who gave recommendations for restaurants and attractions in Asheville! Your tips were so helpful.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Article Source: Asheville Recap: What We Did

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