Our massive family decided to escape to the mountains for some well-deserved R&R over the weekend, but failed to decide on which area they were going to. Virginia or North Carolina? Boone? Highlands? Camping or luxury living? The possibilities, and opinions, are endless with 10 people. After several hours of deliberation over which place to go to, a little bit of yelling, and lots of sighing in exasperation, I booked some non-refundable rooms and suddenly we were going to Asheville whether we liked it or not.
Asheville is not really my family’s style. It’s a bastion of liberalism and hippie/naturalism in an area more or less untouched by that. My dad works in Belmont, we live in Charlotte, and spend a lot of time in Gastonia. Belmont is largely old timers that were born and raised there and have no intention of moving, Gastonia is as southern as you can get in NC proper, and Charlotte is primarily middle-class white people who work in finance or something. Charlotte has their fair share of left-of-right-wing 20-somethings that’d rather vote for the 10-foot border wall itself than vote Trump into office, but Asheville is nearly stand-alone throughout North Carolina in its level of weird.
Example A: There are multiple places throughout the city that smell strongly of both patchouli and weed. Example B: There were political protesters downtown handing out “Stop the TPP” flyers along with pamphlets about Green Party candidate Jill Stein (currently polling behind, well, just about everyone).
That being said, Asheville appreciates craft beer to a level that Charlotte is just now aspiring to, and the food scene is pretty well known throughout North Carolina. It’s got a lovely location, nestled in the mountains, and has cooler weather than Charlotte in general (though not when we were there, much to my chagrin). Asheville is to Charlotte as… well, no, I won’t compare it to Europe. It’s not even close to the same. Moving on.
So little tidbit that we didn’t tell my (very loving, patient, giving, awesome, amazing, more positive attributes here) father until we reached Asheville (and subsequently nearly gave him a coronary) – I booked the Omni Grove Park Inn – a nice, and yes, relatively expensive, resort. For 10 people. My bank account would’ve been on it’s last leg had I used my plastic. Thanks, Pops.
Perks of staying at one of the nicest places in Asheville: 1) Ten US Presidents have also stayed there, dating back to William Taft, so you might be feeling a little more presidential (than I already do on a daily basis). 2) An ungodly amount of celebrities have visited, so technically your chances of being famous are like incrementally larger. 3) They have a great breakfast – with a bar – yes, please. 4) They leave cookies in your room every night, which was really just a bonus for rooming with a “child”, but I’ll take it.
Much of our time in Asheville was spent, as in every other place, eating and drinking ourselves into a blissful coma. We went to the Twisted Laurel, an upscale Greek-food-meets-pizza-joint with excellent taste in industrial decor, in the downtown area on the first night. Afterwards all of the kids ditched the adults to wander the streets, check out the food truck festival that was going on in the park, and get fudge and ice cream from Kilwins. The second day was packed with activity, but we made time in the evening to go to the President’s Lounge in the Grove Park for drinks and a cheese board before heading to Edison’s Craft Ales + Kitchen for a beer flight or two and some great burgers. We found a few beers we definitively liked (the consensus being between Food, I, and our father), but the Highlands Gaelic Ale was a winner at Edison’s.
Asheville is surrounded by mountains, so there’s lots to do. The Nantahala and French Broad Rivers are close by for rafting, there are a multitude of hiking trails and mountain escapes, and also the Biltmore Mansion, which is the closest America gets to an actual castle. It’s the largest privately owned house in the United States, still owned by the Vanderbilt family, and looks like a ridiculously ornate and beautiful French chateau. Everyone in our family has been to the Biltmore multiple times, and I’ve been four times, so the only way I’m returning at this point is either to tour the wineries or if I get to stay in George Vanderbilt’s bedroom suite, swing from one of the 70-foot ceilings, and use the in-house bowling alley. I don’t ask for much.
Since returning to the Biltmore was out of the question, we opted for outdoor entertainment and Fiasco and Faerie were the deciding factor in what that would be. Our little sisters are accomplished horsewomen, and regularly control a few different 2,000 pound animals using four fingers and their legs. I’m significantly less so, and if you made me jump a horse over a 3’9”, I’d go over screaming – straight into an early grave.
We went horseback riding, though, and thankfully Sandy Bottom Trail Rides didn’t mandate me flinging myself over anything. It wasn’t hard or strenuous or any of the things that would actually make it a workout, but instead more of a fun family-bonding activity. I was on Spring, which ended up being a super sassy horse, and I was reminded multiple times that it might be my attitude seeping through. “They gave the bossiest horse to the bossiest person.” Alright, Dad, I’m calling bulls—.
Halfway through our horseback ride we paused to mine for garnets, which, in my humble opinion, is a lot more fun than that awful Reed’s Gold Mine field trip every North Carolina child takes in third grade (might be because I walked away from Reed’s empty-handed, but left with a fistful of garnets this time).
Other activities in Asheville? Walking around the cute East side, which is packed with cool stores, art galleries with local artists, and other fun places like my personal favorite, French Broach Chocolate Lounge, where everything is chocolate and nothing is boring. Having a party of 10 is a major bonus when it comes to mid-day desert, in that if everyone gets something different you can try 10 different things at once. Highlights were the chocolate creme brulee – a heaven which I had not yet realized existed – and the dark chocolate bonbons.
Asheville’s an easy weekend getaway. You can do it simple with a bit of hiking and camping, or you can go all out. Clearly we went with the latter.
We’ve got more coming up, even if Fernweh is writing like a turtle right now. Thanks for reading, and become our friends here. We don’t bite – much. XoXx Fernweh & Food