Our visit to Asheville was very brief. After Big Man’s dad picked us up from Greenville, we spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express that I found on Trip Advisor. All I’ll say about our lodging is that it should have been better for what we paid, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
We slept for about 8 hours, showered, ate in the hotel’s dining room, stocked up on fruit and yogurt and hit the road. We ended up taking a back road from South Carolina into North Carolina–US 25, I think. We wound our way through the dense green of the Blue Ridge Parkway and eventually found our way to their visitor’s center. Incidentally, this was not where we needed to be. Once we finally figured that out, it was easy enough to correct our course and find our way to the Asheville Visitor’s Center where we joined one of their hop on/hop off trolley tours. (I’m now completely sold on city tours after the amazing time that we had last year in Chattanooga after taking Tennessee Riverboat and Lookout Mountain tours).
Big Man was excited to ride on the trolley bus and impressed by the amount of trivia and historical info that the guides had committed to memory. “How do they know all of that stuff?,” he whispered in wide-eyed wonder. (It turned out that one of the guides was actually a history teacher.) Some interesting tidbits that we learned:
* Asheville is jokingly referred to as the city built by TB. The wealthy visited the city as a place to partake of pristine quality of air rumored to be found in that part of the Blue Ridge mountains. Many would have their beds placed out on the verandas of their homes so that they could essentially be bathed in its purity.
* The Blue Ridge mountains are a sub-range of the Appalachian trail. The Rockies and the Poconos are part of the same family of mountains.
* Many of the city’s architects were either from places further up the Eastern Seaboard or as far away as England. Two of the architects were Richard Sharp Smith and Frederick Law Olmsted.
* Dogs are like honored citizens in Asheville and are welcomed in many public places, including upscale businesses like Battery Park Book Exchange, much to Big Man’s delight.
We hopped off the tour to visit the exquisitely-preserved vehicles at the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum, cruised through of the River Arts District and Biltmore Village (which appealed to me more than I thought it would) and ended our day trip with a meal at a Cuban restaurant in Battery Park and locally-grown blackberries that we bought from a small market in the elegant Grove Arcade and took along on as dessert on our drive home to Atlanta.
I must say that I saw few families with school-aged children walking about and even fewer people of color in Asheville. Still, I would like to go back to stay for maybe a weekend to visit a spa, sample more of their farm-to-table cuisine and do a walking tour to get a better feel for the place. Surely there’s far more to it than we could see in a day.
All in all, I think our Amtrak adventure was a good one and may also look into this Christmas Special Dinner Train run by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum later this year. We’ll see.
In the meantime, here is a sampling of books that relate to folk arts and crafts and culinary traditions, especially those of the Carolinas.
Asheville skyline image from www.reserveatlakekeowee.com .