Whoever said you only fall in love once didn’t travel enough. I’ve fallen, truly, in love with a handful of places so far and Asheville is the most recent to join the list. Keep on reading to find out why!
We arrived at our funky little hostel in West Asheville late afternoon and spent our first evening walking around and getting a general feel for the place. Neither of us were head over heels yet, but that was soon to come! We had a relatively early night after driving 15-odd hours and hit the ground running day two.
I always say if you want to really talk to locals, go get your hair or nails or whatever ‘did, as this is really where conversations just naturally flow. So, lucky for me, I desperately needed a manicure and there was a cute & well-accoladed (real word?) salon right by our hostel. We had plans for lunch at Biscuit Head a few blocks down and my lovely manicurist recommended we share the fried green tomato biscuit, so we did. In case you didn’t know, biscuits are the creation of a sick, sick monster, because they are so darn good, but so darn bad for us… especially true southern biscuits. Now, at Biscuit Head, the biscuits are notoriously the size of a cat’s head, so sharing was a goooood call. The biscuit was amazing, although a little too saucy for us (I like to taste the biscuity-ness!), but the real show-stopper was the habanero marmalade we tried from their jam bar. We were so smitten with that jam, we were hoping to buy a jar, or ten, but no such luck.
After our glorious biscuit, we took a much needed walk around the neighborhood and I think this is when we really started falling. West Asheville is a really funky, cute and unique neighborhood with a bit of grit left over. There are no cookie-cutter houses here and we loved strolling until it was time to get ready for New Years Eve festivities! Lucky for us, my dad has good friends who live in Asheville and they very kindly invited us to their apartment for some pre-concert drinks and snacks. But, before that, we stopped for a beer at the popular Wicked Weed Brewery. The BF tried their Double Red, while I tried the Cherry Saison, both of which we thought were excellent and very well worth the brief stop-in. Honestly, two great beers for $8.00 was a revelation in comparison to what we’d have to pay here in NYC for the same. After our tasty beers, we were so warmly welcomed into my dad’s friends’ home, it sort of blew us away. We felt like family right away and everybody there gave us endless recommendations, all of which were spot on. We managed to pull ourselves away from the warm, happy, coziness of feeling instantly welcomed into the city to check out some live irish music at Jack of the Wood. We finished our drinks there & decided to check out one recommendation – Asheville Music Hall – which was probably a highlight of the trip.
The next day, we had hiking plans, but needed a good, southern breakfast beforehand. Our first stop was Sunny Point, which was recommended to us as a must, but the wait was up to an hour. We had also been told to check out Tupelo Honey, so that was breakfast attempt number two. The wait was equally long there, but we were desperate and decided to use the time to explore downtown. Asheville was definitely one of my favorite cities to walk around because it has so much charm and all sorts of style buildings and vibes depending on what block you’re on. Wall Street was a favorite of ours, as it reminded us of many European streets with short, quaint buildings and unique storefronts. We finally were called into the restaurant and we were not disappointed. We lucked out with a chef’s table were we got to watch all the action.
Once we were filled up with good food & a friendly conversation with a local lady who came in as we were leaving, we hit the road towards Bear Wallow Mountain, another recommendation that we really enjoyed. It took us a little while to find the hiking trail, but when we did it was about a mile uphill climb to a great view and some eerie abandoned weather stations. A very cool place and a nice, scenic drive too! I also found some quartz on the way up, which I thought was a pretty cool surprise. There’s really something about that North Carolina blue that stunned us. On our walk back down, the sky and mountains were a shade of blue/lavender that neither of us had ever seen before.
That night we had dinner at Laughing Seed Cafe, which was a delicious vegetarian restaurant with great service, although pretty much everywhere we went had great service. The next morning we were up early for a tour of Biltmore, which was very kindly offered to us by my dad’s friend, who used to work there as a chef! The Christmas decorations really made the tour – we lost track of all the christmas trees! We grabbed a tasty lunch at Cedric’s Tavern after the tour and then stopped by the petting farm, where we got to say hi to some friendly goats.
We made our way back downtown for some much needed shopping before our last dinner of the trip. Let me just say something here… as a self-proclaimed shopaholic, Asheville had some of my favorite shopping of ever. We went into zero chain stores and the vintage selections were incredible. Also, the abundance of fair-trade and artisan-made options that also benefit non-profits was very exciting. On my shopping high, we decided spur of the moment to have dinner at Lex 18, an appalachian supper club & moonshine bar. We saw that they had live music with dinner and we were so glad we decided to eat there – again, the service was outstanding and the food and drinks were equally good. The live music added to the cool, speakeasy atmosphere. Naturally, we had to do the moonshine flight to taste some local moonshines and the wonderful service comped us two different shots.
All in all, we had an amazing time in Asheville. The city was charming and had tons to offer, every meal we ate was delicious and the scenery was breathtaking at every turn. Really what it came down to, though, was the people and how welcomed they made us feel. We were so sad to leave and already can’t wait to go back.
Have you ever been to Asheville? What places have you fallen in love with during travels?