kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Asheville, N.C. -- Hip Meets Hippy

Of the three cities we visited on our vacation this summer, Asheville was my favorite. We arrived on a drizzly Thursday afternoon, stopping first at the visitors' center, where we discovered there is WAY more to see and do in Asheville than we had time for. But just being there was a dream come true for me -- a place that had been on my to-visit list for a couple decades or more.

Asheville has a laid back, easy-going, retro, casual hippy kinda vibe. In fact, on more than one occasion, we saw folks smoking pot in public, quite openly with no reason to hide it, despite the fact that, from what I read online, that's not exactly legal. The town feels very diverse, open and welcoming. The shops and restaurants express that sense of diversity, so much so that it's really hard to decide where to dine -- there are so many fascinating choices -- especially when we only had two days in the area.

Asheville thrives in a quirky awesome way. A college town full of coffee shops, ethnic eateries, street performers, candy and ice cream shops, vintage clothing stores, bookstores, CBD oil and head shops galore. Bob and I loved the Asheville Pinball Museum, where for a reasonable fee, you can play pinball all day. We didn't have time to play all day, so we briefly walked around basking in vintage arcade nostalgia. And I was thrilled to stumble across a Ten Thousand Villages shop (I'm a Ten Thousand Villages distributor through my church, First Presbyterian Church Lake Charles.) I was told this Asheville store is the largest brick and mortar Ten Thousand Villages in the country.

We stayed in a delightful inn called A Bed of Roses Bed and Breakfast.

Hosts Bill and Emily McIntosh ensure their guests have a wonderful stay, and their breakfasts are amazing. Marmalade-stuffed french toast, anyone?

Once settled in our room, we began exploring, with dinner the ultimate goal. Asheville is known for its many breweries (many is an understatement; there are literally dozens, if not a hundred in the region), and we found Wicked Weed Brewery. We shared a large flight and a soft pretzel. In this photo, you see what's left of the mustard, apple butter, and cheese dips.

Besides the vibe and diversity, another reason I love Asheville is because it is in the mountains. The Blue Ridge Parkway hugs the town's eastern and southern borders. And as much as I wanted to further explore Asheville proper, I couldn't wait to get into the woods -- my happy place. No where else is my soul at such a degree of peace than surrounded by trees in a vast green forest. We hiked and drove several miles along this 469-mile national treasure.

The rhododendron . . .

and mountain laurel were in bloom -- two woodland plants that I love from my home state, Pennsylvania, and do not grow in the south (that I'm aware of) and I miss them.

As we descended back into Asheville, we spotted this black bear foraging roadside. Pretty exciting for me, as it was the first time I'd ever seen a bear in the wild.

We were told by more than one local that Asheville has become gentrified over the past several years. Which is another way of saying it is not as reasonably priced -- be it housing, dining, or shopping -- as it once was. But I'd go back in a heartbeat. And indeed, I plan to. There are so many places I have yet to explore, ie River Arts District and Montreat. And, more breweries.