Tag Archives: Travel

Destination: Asheville (Part Two)

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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amtrak blog post (4)

splash of red

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philip simmons

amtrak blog post (5)

 

Asheville skyline image from www.reserveatlakekeowee.com .

 

 

 

Destination: Asheville (Part One)

 

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Along with dogs, birds and horses, sparklers, water balloons and pizza, one of Big Man’s favorite things in the world is trains– whether subway, long-distance, trolley or freight.  He can school the uneducated in the difference between a diesel engine and a steam engine and his marathon viewings of Chuggington are to thank for my knowing their theme song’s funky little beat by heart.

Back in spring, he and I spent some time at Duluth’s Southeastern Railway Museum.   We filled our faces with cookies and juice as we went on self-guided tours of old city buses, vintage taxicabs restored to pristine condition and dusty Pullman cars that had seen far better days but that more than hinted at their former opulence.   Big Man even got to ride on a hand car.  All in all, we had a nice afternoon at SRM.  One thing that disappointed me, though, was that their gift shop had hardly any media showing children how people of color in the building and daily-operation of the railroads.  Honestly, would the story of our transcontinental railroad be complete without mention of the legend of John Henry, the Chinese of northern California or story of the famed Pullman porters who ushered many a child safely to their holiday destinations?

th_8d6581395385a914e180ea51a38fc819_johnhenryskirball_keats_johnhenry_2_lgfrom John Henry: An American Legend by Ezra Jack Keats

 

Pullman11from The Pullman Porter: An American Journey by Vanita Oelschlager and Mike Blanc

 

amtrak blog post 2014 (3)amtrak blog post 2014 (2)from My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey by Jeanne Walker Harvey and Elizabeth Zunon

 

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cooliesfrom Coolies by Yin and Chris K. Soentiept

 

But I’m straying a bit from the point of this post, which is our recent train ride to South Carolina.

Earlier in the year, I bought Amtrak tickets since Big Man had been not so subtly asking when we’d be able to pack our bags and catch a train somewhere.  So I picked a date near his birthday and, being that I have no desire to be contained in a slowly-moving vehicle for hours on end, decided that we could make it a day trip to somewhere nearby.  I was hoping for Savannah or Charleston, but  the closest place was Greenville, South Carolina, which as far as I know has little in the way of tourist attractions.  So, I decided that it would be a great opportunity to visit Asheville, North Carolina, a city whose cultural and arts scene people rave about and that is only about an hour’s car ride from Greenville.

Big Man’s dad decided that it would be more economical for him to drive up and meet us at our destination.  That way, we wouldn’t have to rent a car.  But before setting out, he drove us intown to the station and waited a while with us until our train pulled out at dusk.  The passengers were a mix of old and young, groups of families and solo travelers.  One observation that I made after chatting with some of the others waiting to board was that many who make use of long-distance rail seem to be either born abroad or further up the Eastern Seaboard.   Almost all had brought along travel pillows, tablets or mini computers, food and blankets– the latter of which I left at home because I thought it would be too cumbersome (smart…).

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I did bring plenty of snacks, a couple of books and maps but purposely left Big Man’s tablet out of his pack.  Which of course gave him an opportunity to pay attention to the conductors as they walked down the aisles in full regalia, their pockets and hands full of contraptions that Big Man asked them many questions about.  When it got so pitch dark outside that we couldn’t see any scenery and the conductors turned down the lights in our car, stretched out, wrapped ourselves in my big scarf and cheated just a tiny bit on the no electronics rule by sharing a set of ear buds to listen to a DJ Kemit podcast mix on my phone.

Despite being a short trip, I must admit that I had a moment or two when minor catastrophes played out in my mind (What if its just like rural Vermont and my phone doesn’t work out in middle of all those mountains? Why is there only one train headed to Greenville per day and why does it leave at nearly 9 p.m.?  Doesn’t the station close at around 11?   What if it’s closed when we get there and Big Man’s dad doesn’t find the place in time?)

It turned out that the Greenville station was nestled in what seemed to be the back of town (and yes, it was closed when we arrived). My phone service flickered out here and there but was ultimately reliable.  Big Man’s dad not only found the station but beat our train by about ten or fifteen minutes.  And just like in the movies, he was all smiles as he walked right up to our train coach and to greet us as the conductor helped us disembark.    Mission accomplished and on to Asheville!

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Read about another mom blogger and son’s train riding adventure here.