Friday, March 26, 2021

Vacation | Visiting Asheville, NC

We just returned from our spring break trip to Asheville, NC.  We rented a beautiful home, set on 200 acres, nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was an easy 5 hour drive from Cincinnati, making it feasible even for a long weekend trip.  The ideal location for a pandemic friendly vacation!  The home is full of antiques, extra comfy beds, gorgeous views and thoughtful homey touches. A river runs through the property, there are fishing ponds stocked with trout, mountains trails to hike, an amazing fire pit along the water surrounded with rocking Adirondack chairs and plenty of space to roam and discover.  We woke each morning to a flock of wild turkeys and visits from a friendly beaver that we named Humphrey, who lived under the barn.  The boys went skeet shooting and fishing and I managed to read a couple books swinging in the hammock to the sound of rushing rapids. It felt so good to have a change of scenery, to spend hours outdoors, to completely unplug and make new memories as a family.  
LINK TO LAUEL COTTAGE, LINK TO WILLOW COTTAGE - the two homes available to rent on the property

The downside to being in a remote location is that you need to get into your car to go anywhere.  Waynesville is closest, a charming small town about 20 minutes away full of friendly people, a quaint bookstore, antique shops, and an amazing outdoor gear/general store with a basement full of barrels of old fashioned candy.  They also have a dog bakery where we picked up homemade treats for Quincy (squirrel and moose shaped cookies).  We enjoyed a delicious lunch on the back patio at Boojum (order the fish tacos).  There are quite a few great restaurants in Waynesville, also recommend were: Sweet Onion, Frog Level Brewing Co., Dillsboro Chocolate Factory and Haywood Smokehouse for BBQ.  We choose to only eat at places where we could be outside, thankfully Jimmy and I have now been vaccinated so in a couple weeks we will feel comfortable eating inside again. (Ohio is currently vaccinating all ages 16+).

We typically spent our mornings hiking and our afternoons exploring nearby small towns.  We were about 25 minutes from an abundance of gorgeous hikes off the Blue Ridge Parkway and in the Pisgah National Forrest.   Our favorite hike was Graveyard Fields, even if we did get a little lost and Charlie slipped and got a shoe full of water. (lesson learned - when hiking, bring extra pair of dry socks!). We were also surprised how chilly it was when hiking up in the mountains. We stopped to see Sliding Rock (Where Andrew got a boot full of water. Haha. Just call us city slickers) and Looking Glass Falls.  The winding drive through the mountains is gorgeous, but if you are at all someone that suffers from motion sickness, just be prepared to make stops to appreciate the scenery and give your tummy a little rest.  Another small town that we really enjoyed was Brevard.  Where we stumbled on the best toy store ever - O.P. Taylor's. 

We also left plenty of time each day, late afternoon and evening, to hang out at our house.  I normally don't like cooking when we go on vacation, but the kitchen was incredible so we kept meals really simple with lap dinners in front of the fire.  On our last evening we took our bluetooth speaker out to the large fire pit on the river,  I made a platter of tacos, Charlie gathered all the provisions for s'mores and we stayed up late, listening to music, under a sky of the brightest stars.  We needed flashlights to find our way back to the house for bed.  It was my favorite evening of the trip!

We also visited downtown Asheville, which seems to have suffered quite a few closures due to the pandemic.  It is definitely a small city, with an earthy/artsy/bohmeian vibe, where it is best to park your car and wander around the streets on foot.  It's easy to navigate and full of small shops and cafes with classic old store fronts and architecture.  I personally preferred the smaller towns over Asheville, but I think a lot had to do with the weather (it was really windy and cold the day we went) and the many places were closed.  Jimmy has been before during the summer, in non pandemic times, and he said it was much more vibrant and had a really fun music scene.  So I felt like we saw Ashville, but didn't really experience Ashville, if that makes sense. Highly recommend Old European Pastries though, both the bakery goods and their coffee - we went back the next day too! And right outside of downtown Asheville, in the Biltmore Village is a wonderful little shop called The Gardener's Cottage - definitely stop by if you are in the area. 

Lastly, we visited the Biltmore Estate.  I will be honest, anything distinctly touristy, with roped queues, lockers for your belongings and audio hand sets is generally just not my thing.  I tend to avoid them at all costs.  Even in Europe I'd much rather an abandoned old castle in ruins over one that is perfectly preserved and has tour buses in the parking lot. HOWEVER.... Biltmore is absolutely worth a visit.  The grounds are spectacular! And the tour of the house is really well done.  Crowds were non existent (the perks of a pandemic) and the audio tour is engaging.  I found it all very fascinating and walking the gardens and grounds after the tour is a must - my favorite part.   I'm so thankful we went and the boys truly enjoyed it too!

It felt so good to unplug for a week.  Taking a complete break from social media is something I haven't done before and now I almost don't want to go back. I need to do some self reflection about how I want to use social media going forward.  I still love sharing but I need to revaluate my scrolling habit, maybe be more selective with the accounts I follow and engage with.  Not sure what that will look like, but it's more clear than ever, I need to rein in the time spent on my phone.  Maybe it's a sign that I accidentally left my charger back at the rental house?  Haha.

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