Asheville and I click. If I held a more mystical perspective, I'd say my being born there left an imprint on me, but that sounds superstitious. I tend to hold to the theory I simply love its atmosphere. It's a blend of everything, a cross-section of culture uncommon in the South--something akin to Little Five Points and Boulder simmered with San Francisco and reduced by half. Naturally, this yields a peculiar taste which isn't for everyone (my granddad says its full of neo-hippies). I happen to adore it.
My perfect weekend here would loosely follow this plan: I'd arrive around lunchtime Friday and drop by Earth Fare for their cafe offerings (paninis, rotissere chicken salad, cookies that somehow maintain firm "skin" and meltingly soft centers) and next-day snacks, beeline to the hotel, get settled, and throw on my Keens for a stroll through town. I'd wander in and out of shops, talking to the proprietors if they're up for a conversation. They often have the best stories regarding their wares. One local owner told me he researched his store's clothing ten years before deciding what to stock. His t-shirts boast intelligent, creative screen print. No cheap squirrel guarding a pile of acorns. Of course I'd run into the Chocolate Fetish for an ancient pleasures truffle (Homer meant this when he spoke of ambrosia--cayenne pepper dark chocolate ganache inside a spiced chocolate shell and dusted with cocoa) and The Spice and Tea exchange. They offer four varieties of mustard, a hearty English Breakfast, and my dad's new favorite, the smoky lapsong suchong. Late afternoon calls for a cafe stop. World Coffee offers an excellent homemade pastries, sandwiches, and loose-leaf tea selection, while Double Decker Coffee Co is situated on the corner of Biltmore and Aston and housed in a refurbished double decker bus. The barista told me, as she made me a cappuccino, the bus once held party-ers in 1970s Atlanta before someone pulled it from retirement to play host to caffeine lovers. Coffee and tea shops dot the street corners. One day I'll try them all and remember more of their names. After a day of strolling, I'd happily end up at Chai Pai Indian Street food, the most flavor packed seven bucks you've ever spent. Try more than one thing, of course. That's the point of street food. Purchase their cream, cooling raita as a dip for the naan. You'll need both to cool the aftermath of samosas or tandoori chicken. Go for the tandoori fish wrap; the tilapia-spice combination they use yields a fish so tender you'll believe the wrap is the only thing maintaining its composure.
Saturday ought to begin with the Early Girl Eatery, one of my favorite breakfast places. They offer everything from scrupulously healthy to bacon and biscuits, and I haven't sampled a thing I didn't enjoy. Their granola and yogurt induces impromptu humming. Off to the Biltmore Estate next! I've toured the house several times, so I'd most likely stick to the grounds. And the winery. Remember that Earth Fare trip from the day before? Time for a picnic amongst America's most beautiful yard. By yard I mean an 8,000 acre estate composed of forest, delicately structured gardens, and terraced mountain views. Sit to the side of the monstrous house and watch the other tourists comment on the size of the place. Remember, after soaking in the Vanderbilt's creativity, Asheville's replete with creative expression--take advantage! The rest of my Saturday would be spent haunting art exhibits, local theaters, and few more cafes to sit and journal my impressions of it all. Wander.
Sunday? I'd start with Brugger's Bagels for their quick pace, rich coffee, and, of course, chewy New York style bagels. They don't find me peculiar when asking to sub peanut butter for cream cheese. They're used to health nuts more hardcore than I'd ever like to be. I'd proceed to whichever church caught my interest (I have yet to try one), then have lunch wherever looked appealing in my travels on Friday, probably one of the cafes or Green Source for a quick bite. The rest of the afternoon? I'd spend it on foot. Asheville's nestled amongst some of the best hiking in the Southeast. Chimney Rock, blazing your own trail, or tours of the parks. Hike, climb trees, hike, and jump from rock to rock in one of the creeks until I couldn't take anymore. Off to the hotel for a warm shower next, then I'd venture to Amici Trattoria for a long, quiet, slightly expensive dinner. Bill paid and tirmasu gone to a happy place, I'd jump in the car with my iPod set to shuffle, crusing home in time to read a chapter before bed.
Doesn't that sound idyllic? I couldn't fit it all in this weekend. Sometime soon, sometime soon.