Diaries - Travel - Photos

Previous Diary - Next Diary


Visit to Asheville

March 31

Written April 1

Dear Friends and Family,


Another weekend.  This definitely seemed like an "extra" and not one I was completely enthusiastic about.  My international trip had originally been planned with a side excursion to Chattanooga, which would have required more time, so I had added the weekend.  The side trip proved unnecessary, but changing international flights isn't easy anymore, so I hung in with the Monday flight back.

As far as destination, I chose Asheville, mostly by random.  The city is up in the mountains of western North Carolina and I figured that can't be all bad.  And if it rained, it's a town with galleries and museums too.  Indoor entertainment.  So, how did it go?

Not bad, after a rainy start.  I left Charlotte early, 7:15 AM, after a trip to Starbucks, driving through rain toward Asheville, two-hours away.  As I went, I had faith that the rain would end, which it did, and that the sun would come out, which it didn't, really.

My first destination was the Folk Art Center.  It is on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just inside the Asheville city limits.  Outside, I took a few pictures of the ubiquitous dogwood trees.  Their sparkling white decorates the local roads and neighborhoods. Inside, I took no pictures. Not allowed.  Too bad, because the displays were spectacular.

The Center has a collection of art, paintings mostly, and "crafts": pottery, jewelry, wood carving, and furniture.  The crafts were among the most artful I have ever enjoyed.  Some of the wood "turnings" were as delicate as three-dimensional lace, and it was impossible to imagine how they were created.  Jewelry was imaginative as well, local and definitely not shopping-center main stream.

d120331_01_rain.jpg d120331_02_FlkArtCtr.jpg d120331_03_dogwood.jpg

From arts, I moved on to the Estes-Winn Memorial Automobile Museum.  The drive up there went through an Asheville neighborhood that was filled with Art Deco and later homes, most looking like settings for Home and Garden or Southern Living.  I could see why Asheville has a reputation as a gem of the South.

The car museum itself was fun, small but mostly I had the whole place to myself.  I could take out the tripod and try some serious picture-taking.  My favorite, was a British racing green MG-TD, much like my first car almost fifty years ago.  (Yikes, I AM old!)

d120331_11_MG.jpg d120331_12_hall.jpg d120331_13_Hall2.jpg
d120331_14_pumps.jpg d120331_15_flag.jpg d120331_16_interior.jpg

After the museum, I went to to the neighboring shop, the Grovewood Gallery.  Here, in a slightly more commercial setting than the Center, I enjoyed another collection of local crafts.  The furniture was absolutely amazing.  Some pieces were supported by a network of finely carved legs and others were solid pieces able, I'm sure, to last for hundreds of years.  Twenty years ago, North Carolina was the center of fine wood furniture.  Today, the commercial life has been drained by competition from China, but high-end craftsmen still ply their trade.


While at Grovewood, I also enjoyed a pleasant brunch, including a chance to use the restaurant's wifi to connect back home.  I love America.  Wifi in an artsy bistro seemed so normal.

From Grovewood, I drove downtown, back through pleasant neighborhoods.  The town center itself, was a mix of very charming restaurants and shops, and parking lots.  I have to say that the downtown area was as nice as I remember from any American town, on a par of my memories of reconstructed Seattle or Portland.  I parked the car and roamed the sidewalks looking at all the activity.  It's a nice place.  Highly recommended.

d120331_31_shops.jpg d120331_32_inside.jpg d120331_33_paking.jpg

Except for hotels.  There apparently are only two, a Sheraton and a Marriott Renaissance, and each was either full or much too expensive - or both.  I asked for the nearest motel cluster, and the fancy hotel desk clerk sent me over the hill to where a string of hotels and motels survive on visitors.  The two nice, newer ones I tried, were again either full or too expensive.  (I am on business travel, but at "government rates", not very generous.)  Instead, I opted for the Blue Ridge Motor Lodge, a vintage place that advertised "friendly rates" and "wifi".  I needed wifi to connect back home and "friendly" can't be bad.  It was cheap, well below US federal government rates.

And that's where I am now, except I am actually at Outback Steakhouse, catching up on my weekly allotment of red meat and wine.  The place isn't quaint, for sure, but the food and beverage are certainly up to my expectations.

Tomorrow, I'll try to tour the Biltmore Estate.  I wonder what that's like?


(5pm, March 31)



Diaries - Travel - Photos

Previous Diary - Next Diary