Monday, August 10, 2015

On to Asheville and friends April 11-15 2015

Early on the morning of April 11 we headed northwest to Asheville, NC.  I had lived in North Carolina for 3 years in the late 80s but never got over to Asheville which is in the mountains in the western part of the state.  Through Facebook I had learned that a former student at the first boarding school I worked as a nurse lived and worked (as a vet) in Asheville and a mutual friend of a friend on St Croix also lived there.  Then, through communicating with my best friend from Ireland (where I lived in 1969-70,) who was traveling with her husband I found that they would also be in town at the same time.  Casey recommended an excellent campground, Campfire Lodgings, way up on a mountain overlooking the French Broad River so, after crossing South Carolina diagonally on I-26, we arrived.  The road to the campground is unpaved and not very wide and we wondered if we'd make it.  Knowledge that MANY had gone before us propelled us up the hill and what a great spot it was.  The weather while we were there was not fantastic so the sunsets, although beautiful, were not spectacular but we didn't care.  We saw one the first night from a friend's house...

Entering South Carolina

Along the roadside there were dogwoods in full and glorious bloom.  We would be able to follow the bloom season all the way to the Hudson Valley in NY where the lilacs had started to bloom

After we arrived at our campground and got settled, we went for dinner with Anne and her family.  High up on another mountain we had a resplendent feast, reminisced and compared memories of St Croix and then watched a spectacular sunset from her deck.  Although Anne and I had never met I immediately felt at home and as if I'd known her for years. We left full of belly and heart with new memories created.

The next morning  Casey came up to greet us and then took us to her house.  From there, leaving Phoenix with her two friendly dogs and after meeting her hens and touring her garden and house, we went to town.  Asheville is both funky and modern. There are any number of excellent eateries and all were crowded by the time we got around to eating. We found the Jerusalem Garden Cafe and I was able to guide Casey and Don through the menu and guarantee that I would have all my old favorite dishes- humus, fattoush, fatayer, tabbouleh and moujaddara.  They were all delicious and I recommend the cafe both for the food and the ambiance. Jerusalem Garden Cafe-for really good Middle Eastern food

We continued to stroll through town and then stopped in "heaven" AKA a chocolate store, specifically French Broad Chocolates.  While Don is not a lover of sweets, I am, though my favorite is dark chocolate and the darker and more bitter the better.  I love fillings like caramel and toffee and the combination of caramel, chocolate and sea salt leads me to nirvana.  I was determined to leave town with some chocolate but the line for the main counter was ridiculously long. So... I headed for the restroom and serendipitously found the little chocolate bar in back.  With less of a selection, but PLENTY enough to get me in trouble, I was still able to find all my favorites and left a happy camper.

That night we joined Casey's family for another wonderful meal.  Casey was a student at the first school where I worked after becoming a nurse.  She was spunky and irreverent and one of my favorites.  She was also on the volleyball team I coached.  It was so much fun to get together on "equal footing" and meet her kids were are the age she was when we met.  She is just as spunky and irreverent and when we left she had another fan, Don.  Her house is one of those places that is filled with love and where you immediately feel at ease and for the second night in a row I was struck by how wonderful family and communion are.

Lisa AKA "Nursie" and Casey

Walking down a path below the campground

The view from our campsite of the French Broad River

Shopping Arcade
Art Deco Building

Wall Mural

Window Display

A street in Asheville

Playing the Hang 

Street Music...

...of all sorts


Crafting a dulcimer

The next day we decided to go for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, something Don had been wanting to do.  Casey had recommended Craggy Gardens and we set off up the road....into the fog.  Well, it wasn't foggy at first.  We were able to stop at two scenic view points and look at the fog settling over the mountains.  Then as we headed higher we were in the fog.  

It started out looking nice...

We stopped at a scenic view and spied this wild turkey and then took a look at the view

it wasn't too clear but the fog was off in the distance so we started to drive farther
We stopped to read the sign about Bull Creek Valley and then set off again

The fog began to get heavier...

and heavier

we came through a tunnel that gave new meaning to light at the end of the tunnel
We passed a picnic area and continued to the site for Craggy Gardens but at that point the fog was so thick we gave up.  We still had no idea (until looking it up later on Google) whether it was craggy rocks, trees or, in fact, a garden of rhododendrons.  On the way back down we stopped at that picnic area and took a brief hike with the pets

And then, as we headed down it began to clear...and we got home disappointed but laughing about our adventure.

That night we'd arranged to meet Kate, my friend from Ireland, who was also an American girl in her senior year of high school whose family decided to move to Ireland and who I'd met at the school we both attended, and her husband Stan.  The restaurant was Spanish and charming but soon after arriving Stan began to feel unwell and, having had a heart attack earlier this year, we all decided it was best that they go to the hospital.  As it turned out he was OK but we felt better that they had not had to worry.  In the end, we had a really nice meal and spent the entire time talking to the couple at the next table.  They were from Michigan (on Lake Superior) and the past winter had made them decide to find a warmer place to spend the ensuing winters.

The last day in Asheville we had to do the requisite visit to the Biltmore Estate.  I am not a fan of opulence so I was of two minds about visiting the mansion.  In the end I loved the gardens and found the mansion pretty typical of the uber rich of 19th century US who tried to replicate European royalty.  I don't mean to offend anyone but regardless of how well the staff may have been treated the difference in the living quarters alone shows the differences that I do not find glorious.  However, the workmanship, the gardens and the vast expanses of land are beautiful.  And, although we knew we both had tickets the same day we really didn't think we'd see Kate and Stan.  And then, while dropping off our jackets at the car whom did we see, doing the same, but Kate and Stan.  We all ate lunch together and then they finished their tour of the house and we of the gardens.  It ended up being a great day and end to our sojourn in Asheville.
Biltmore as you enter from the gates

roof detail

incredible craftsmanship at every turn
fountain in the courtyard

Leaving the main house there is a large terrace graced with this gigantic wisteria vine

Green House
Filled with any number of floral varieties it was a riot of colors and scents.  As we moved from room to room I found it hard to process all the beauty.

Gerbera Daisy
Music in the Greenhouse

Staghorn fern

succulent with drop of water

Outside, the gardens were filled with early spring blooms

Wide swaths of tulips

also visible from the lattice covered walkways

and as we were leaving we saw the rhododendrons coming to bud

Casey came up to visit us after work our last night and this little guy came out to join our party

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