Tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains is fun little Asheville. It may be home to “America’s Largest Home” (Biltmore Estate), but the town feels small and is a great mix of fun and funky.
Curious about the Biltmore Estate, I researched it on-line and experienced sticker shock: $50 per adult if you buy the ticket in advance. Since I was not certain I would be able to spend enough time to see the house and grounds I decided to forgo any advance purchase savings. It probably is not fair to Biltmore that I am seeing it just after revisiting Yosemite. The National Parks are such a deal by comparison. The National Park fee is $20 per carload and only $10 for motorcycle, pedestrians, equestrians or cyclists.
Still I plonked down my $59 to see the gardens and the house.
I really liked the grounds at the Vanderbilt “country home” Shelburne Farms in Vermont. Frederick Law Olmstead designed the gardens and grounds for both. The gardens are lovely and well maintained; however, they pale next to the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I was a little less excited about the house furnishings, or the multiple gift shops and cafes that offered the same ol’ same ol’ for a lot of money. Biltmore also suffers from excess in the same way its West Coast cousin Hearst Castle does. In today’s second gilded age, it is tough for me to celebrate that a family of three had this as their primary residence.
Allow a lot of time to drive out of the Estate and back into town. It only took about 10 minutes to get into downtown and find parking. I wanted to check out the knitting store Purl’s Yarn Emporium and the bookstore Malaprops Bookstore and Cafe. I enjoyed both and all of the shops and street musicians in between.
I wanted to catch up with my friends Chris, Angie and sons. We made arrangements through Facebook to meet up for dinner. We met at Louella’s Bar-B-Que, a local casual dining spot in North Asheville. Yum! I loved my BBQ chicken with hush puppies, squash casserole and cucumber tomato salad. Plus we ordered delicious deviled eggs!
I was staying at Hotel Domestique in Traveller’s Rest, South Carolina and it was an easy 45 minutes down Highway 25/26 to Asheville. The next day my neighbor on Amtrak expressed her enthusiasm for Asheville and suggested I check out The Spa at the Grove Park Inn. I can envision a garden tour with my Auntie J from Charleston to Asheville. With a day at the The Spa!