It is every chef’s dream come true, a market with all things fresh and wonderful. Welcome to Asheville, North Carolina where all agricultural farms drop off their produce to every market all over the city. Joining me in my tour of Asheville is my only son who is into culinary study and aspires to become a Master Chef like me. Apart from the high quality and reasonably priced produce we found here, we also get to tour the beautiful attractions of this state. What makes it more fun is we don’t need to go so far as it is just an hour drive away from our home in Johnson, Tennessee. The marvelous views and enjoyment of their own style of cooking and cuisine is what I love most when we toured the city of Asheville.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a trunk road which leads along the Appalachians near Asheville to Washington. The road passes through the mountains along with many beautiful views. The advantage of the parkway is that the road is built primarily for the tourist. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers a great opportunity to understand the nature of North Carolina. Anywhere we stand great views hide behind every corner. Very often we find lookout points on which we stop and take photographs. Especially in the early hours of the morning when the mist hangs over the mountain peaks offers an exceptional panorama. There are plenty of restaurants and souvenir shops available. Nevertheless, the Parkway is not crowded and we enjoyed the magnificent scenery without being overwhelmed by the massive crowd of tourists and locals. The wide and spacious park stands just a stone’s throw away from the Smoky Mountains National Park. The road is free from any advertising and anywhere we look we see a tourist information center. Both parks were not as spectacular as other grand attractions but it was so relaxing and peaceful when we get to the peaks. We made the trip in 3 days and it was best to spend some more days to do some more trekking as there are many ways to get lost and enjoy the scenery.
The Biltmore Estate is a triumph of wealth and elegance in an era when it was deemed impossible. We took a visit just to see the exuberance of that era. While inside I had to imagine Ashville in 1890 with less than 11,000 population and a businessman who began to build a castle. It’s a bit like Louis XIV and Versailles delusions of grandeur. But this is a must-see in Asheville. I on the other hand was fascinated looking at every detail of the house of opulence. We took a break in the gardens and took advantage of the panoramic photos. In the afternoon we went back to see the rest of the house. The castle is impeccable and worthy of the great museums. The guides were very friendly; the shops offer excellent products with truly exceptional and wonderful restaurants. It is a very stylish “house” with only 250 rooms. We spend a whole day to explore as the site is huge. It is worth the price of admission. At the end of the day we visited the Antler Village within the property and here we had fun with the various activities, live music and the farm area for children. At night were almost ready to go but we needed only to visit the wine cellar to try and take some as a memento of the visit.
It was a relaxing day we spent enjoying the tranquility and beauty in the middle of a bonsai garden at the North Carolina Arboretum. Aside from seeing a good variety of bonsais at the mini tree exhibition, we get to bask in the allure of the beautiful gardens we found inside it. At the back of the huge property is a greenhouse where we get to see a wide selection of tropical plants and flowers being cultivated and carefully protected. A good two hour hike to know the ins and outs of gardening proved a very informative and productive day for us. The whole experience of walking with the butterflies and seeing so many birds perched on the shades was so relaxing.
For great outdoor fun we dare not miss the adrenaline pumping physical activities of the Asheville Zip line Canopy Adventures. The zip line course gives a good overview of the lush forest and the nearby golf course. The guides were very professional, funny, and very personable and put safety as their top priority as we got harnessed to try on the exhilarating ride over the greens. My son and I enjoyed the entire experience of “flying” with a great view of the mountains as our backdrop. It was so cool it gives me enough reason to go back here and try this experience again. We capped of our day of adventure and fun with a great dinner at their restaurant.
We found time to marvel at great art and craft works inside the Folk Art Center. The craft shop offers a nice selection of products made by local artists such as quilts, pottery, jewelry, tapestry etc. but is quite expensive. It is located just across the parkway and has everything for anyone who has so much interest in crafts and hand made products. I bought broom, woven placemats, crafted ashtrays, Christmas ornaments and an heirloom piece. My son was busy buying shirts, trinkets, bracelets and mugs at their small gift shop. There is a designated area for their artisans where we watch how a craft is manually made. I like the weaving area and the meticulous way of coming up with a piece of blanket that is labored for a week. All in all it was very educational and a good way to look at another side of their culture. The rest of the day was spent admiring splendid work of architecture and quiet meditation at the Basilica of Saint Lawrence. We could figure it out alone even without a guide as each piece of art inside this church was well laid out like a museum complete with informative plate and brochure. The tiled walls, the brick façade construction and the elliptical dome make it an outstanding piece of architecture. The stained glass windows depicting the way of the cross and other important scenes of Christianity was so well presented and so dramatically placed all over the gorgeous church.
On our last day we visited the historical landmark and birthplace of the famous writer/novelist at the Thomas Wolfe Home Memorial. The museum and actual house of the renowned novelist was perfectly preserved and his things are still visibly appealing like the furniture, rooms, tables and heirloom pieces from his hard working mother. It is conveniently located in the downtown area and definitely hard to miss. It gives an interesting time warp adventure sort of like stepping back in the time of the early 1900’s when the writer grew up and eventually gained prominence for his literary works. I got a better understanding of his life and times as well as learning so much about another era and how life was use to be so simple and basic. After here we shopped for fresh produce at the Western North Carolina Farmers Market to bring back home. It has everything we need, fresh from the farm harvested fruits and vegetables all organically grown sold in huge quantities at a much lower price than what we have in Tennessee. It was fun to buy loads of goodies and packed sweets too for us chefs this is a place of heaven indeed.
We will definitely come back because there is still more to discover on its many corners and sights to behold and be amazed of.