Asheville NC, NC
November 24, 2009
Drive, drive, drive, to Asheville NC today. We checked into a campground by the river, as George was leaving he asked if there was a charge for the showers and was informed that the bathrooms were closed for the season and that the water had been turned off. Good grief two more questions we must ask before registering . . . is the restroom working? Is the water turned on? The man on duty did not know how to run a credit and the owner was out of town so we will have to work this out later bur for now bye, bye, moving on down the road we find ourselves in a hotel again.
November 25, 2009
We awoke to a bright sunny day, perfect for our walking tour of Asheville. We had decided to fore go the Biltmore Mansion at $45 a pop and instead focus on the rich artistic community in Asheville and the simple creations of the Appalachian Mountains.
First stop was the Western North Carolina Farmers Market (WNCFM) not far down the road from our hotel. We were expecting something like the Pike Place Market and were quite surprised when we drove in to find a number of large enclosed and open warehouses. The enclosed buildings held an array of local wood crafters, produce stands, hand crafted cheeses, whole, sliced and pieces of ham, slabs of bacon carved to order, jams, jellies and preserves all from local farmers. The variety of preserves alone was astonishing. As we strolled through the outside buildings we found stands of Christmas trees and wreaths, boxed and bagged fruits, mostly apples and pears; 5 pound bags of shelled or unshelled pecans, cabbages, squash, onions. The only out-of-area products we saw were oranges, grapefruit and tangerines from Florida. We asked a young man how the market worked and were told that it was mostly wholesale for local farm stands and stores but that they are also set up to sell to individuals. It was certainly a feast for the eyes with a steady stream of customers in and out definitely worth a visit. I would have loved to purchase a birdhouse or two and maybe a carved walking stick but alas no room in the van.
It was a short drive into Asheville where we picked up a walking map at the Visitor Center and then walked into the heart of downtown. Fifteen or twenty years since Nancy’s last visit and much change has occurred but the old art deco buildings are still intact, in fact many of them have been restored to their early grandeur. Galleries abound and we are ready for a “day of art”. The old F.W. Woolworth Store had been gutted and converted into an arcade for artists to display their wares. The original soda fountain was preserved and in full swing with a line of customers awaiting their turn to step back into the 1950’s for lunch; a window in time. The quality of the art presented was excellent and much of it unique. Nancy purchased a simple carved wooden figure to hang on the Christmas tree and saw many other items she would have liked to purchase.
Asheville is a delightful town to explore on foot, add a brilliant blue sky and sun warming our backs and it is darned near perfect. The Grove Park Arcade took up an entire square block having been converted into an indoor mall with shops on the first floor and offices on the upper floors; it is a beautiful old building enhanced by the Christmas decoration. One side of the building was devoted to eateries and we chose a spot outdoors. Everyone was out enjoying the warm November day and we had a fabulous lunch, small but flavorful cup of tomato, goat cheese bisque served with a miniature grilled cheese sandwich for George and a spinach, glazed pecan, blueberry goat cheese salad for Nancy.
After lunch we found a few more galleries of note and one in particular that Nancy could have easily bought “one or more of each” of the items on display. An outstanding collection, her favorite were figures by Akira and Larry Blount was http://www.akirastudios.com .
A delightful day of local arts and crafts behind us we found a camping spot on the French Bend River and settled in for the night, a very cold night.
November 26, 2009
Nervous about the predictions of snow in the mountains we decided to spend Thanksgiving getting over the Great Smokey Mountains ahead of the winter weather. Our preferred route I-40, through the Smokey Mountains to Tennessee had been closed at the end of October by a massive rock slide so we had to detour to the north along one of North Carolina’s scenic byways. It was another beautiful clear day and a nice drive until we got out of the car at an observation point in the mountains and were hit by the freezing temperatures making the possibility of snow seem more real. Nonetheless we had a nice day of driving ending in Gatlinburg Tennessee with a surprisingly chaotic traffic jam.