August 9, 2011

The Other Side of the Mountains

Like Tennessee, North Carolina scenery is nothing short of spectacular and its hospitality is warm and friendly but, more than that it is where my grandmother and uncle lived for many years. I still consider the place off Hwy. 209 as theirs, not the current owners, and someday I mean to buy it back!
My grandma, aunts, uncles, brothers, cousins and I made our mark on that mountain and I can't help but smile remembering. My first winter there I thought I would freeze to death but my grandmother added yet another and another comforter to the bed until I was warm enough. I looked more like the pea than the princess from 'The Princess and The Pea' in that bed stack. I can practically feel the weight of soaking wet jeans and t-shirt from that summer day we decided to descend the mountain via the creek. The whole walk back up we secretly added rocks to my cousin Mark's backpack. And somewhere I have a ridiculous picture of us lined up, I think by age, on Chestnut Gap. I was maybe fifteen? I vividly remember one last night sitting on the top of the mountain up behind the house gazing at a Carolina sky. OK, the "new" owners did have one good idea - that outdoor mountain top hot tub was very close to heaven!
Ask any one of us what we remember most and you'll get a dozen different stories because there were so many good times. As I recall my grandmother helped me make my very first snowman while she made a snow lady on the hood of her car adorned with opal earrings and a brooch. We both laughed at the snow lady who was far more elaborately bejeweled than we would ever be.
In the years since my daughter was born I've worked hard to give her similar experiences because every child should have such memories to hold but, it does often seem like the definition of a bygone era. Still, there are places on this earth where we are forced to slow down, ignore the outside world, let go and, hopefully, accept play. There will always be time to brag, blog or text about it later.
I feel truly blessed to have those times and for the opportunity to reconnect and create new memories with my daughter, family and friends. For me these wonderful Smoky Mountains have been a lifetime gift but even if your path has not yet crossed these mountains I think you'll feel their pull to take a step back the first time you set foot here.

Alas, this trip was partially about work for me. Asheville as I'd remembered it was a great town but, I hadn't been there for many years so when I did decide to return I had no idea where to start. My previous visits had all been day trips from Grandma's except for one glorious trip to the Biltmore Estate with my husband and child. For all 4 days we never left the estate grounds. We just couldn't leave the 200 acres of serenity. We even managed to captured some of that bygone era watching our daughter roll down hills over and over and over again. Age six and a Florida girl she was mesmerized by rolling hills. It's pretty much all she wanted to do but, then there was this maze the Inn created out of hay bales. Naturally the children didn't use it for its intended purpose. They climbed up and jumped from bale to bale.
The Inn on Biltmore Estate is luxurious and the grounds are absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend you go but more than anything I hope your children get to roll down the hills and jump from bale to bale.
The Biltmore Estate
Now age 12 and 3/4's, Morgan, and I, arrived in Asheville in the early afternoon. We stopped at what looked like a good area of town to do a little exploring and, lucky for us, it was! Right away we found the most amazing bookstore. Battery Park Book Exchange, as it is called, is more than a book store, it is book exchange-champagne bar-espresso bar all in one. It boasts a collection of new and rare books but I forgot to look for those rare books. I was too intrigued by the way it lures you in to a sort of book maze (I'm sensing a pattern to this post). Books a plenty for sure stacked on shelves that wound through the store revealing yet another comfortable spot to read and sip at every turn. Very cool and the coffee was excellent! 

Battery Park Book Exchange
Energy replenished we headed to our hotel.
The Grand Bohemian
This is how our room looked minus
the flower petals and champagne
Although the Inn on Biltmore Estate was truly a wonderful place to stay I wanted to offer another view so I picked the "in town" perspective of The Grand Bohemian - another beauty! (FYI: if you're not capitalizing on reward points, frequent stay points or frequent flyer points you're literally throwing away money but, that's a post for another time.) The Grand Bohemian Hotel is exotic and elegant. What it lacks in surrounding grounds it makes up for in proximity to the two most popular shopping, dining and strolling areas of Asheville - the Historic Biltmore Village and downtown. The Village is right outside the hotel and is comprised of tree-lined streets, brick sidewalks, open air dining and original historic houses from the 1900'sDowntown, my favorite of the two areas, is just a few minutes drive from the hotel. This area also has a great selection of shops, galleries and restaurants along with plenty of history but in a less formal setting. If you have the time both are well worth checking out.

Our decorations were much simpler
Our stay here was far too short but, it facilitated turning what would have been the drudgery of a 22 hour drive home from New York into exploration. So if in your travels you're looking for a place to vacation or just a place to hang your hat for the night, Asheville, NC is well worth exploring!

Consider yourself forewarned though, just one night in this town will most likely lead to another.


Anonymous said...

"Wishing is good time wasted,
Still it's a habit they say;
Wishing for sweet's I've tasted,
That's all I do all day.
Maybe there's nothing in wishing,
But, speaking of wishing I'll say:
Nothing could be finer
Than to be in Carolina
in the morning..."

Thanks for the reminder!

Neuse River News said...

Neuse River News
very rarely do i come across a blog that’s both informative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head