Life / Travel

Asheville: Highs & Lows

It’s time for another round of Highs & Lows! Ready for the Asheville edition? Here we go~

Asheville Highs

Mountains – One of my favorite things about Asheville is the natural beauty everywhere you look! And I’m a big fan of mountains – looking at the them, hiking on them, photographing and painting them – you name it. There’s just something captivating and magnificent about them that makes my heart happy. The house we rented for our month in Asheville was at the very top of a mountain overlooking the city, and the view was glorious. The house itself wasn’t much to look at (I’ll get to that later), but one look out the back windows made up for SO much. Asheville is situated in a valley area surrounded by rolling mountains, so even when you’re in the city, one look to the horizon tells you that nature isn’t too far off. It all feels a bit centering to me.

Food – If you’ve been to Asheville before, you already know it’s a foodie’s paradise. There are SO many great restaurants and breweries, especially for a relatively small town. There’s also a wonderful variety of cuisines – something that, as you might recall, we found lacking at our previous Key Largo destination. Admittedly, things looked quite a bit different since we’re in the midst of Covid (more about this later in the Lows), but the food we DID get to enjoy out was incredible. Our all-around favorite spot in Asheville is Posana – the dinner menu, drinks, and desserts are all fantastic. And it’s entirely gluten free, though you’d never know it by the food alone. Coming in close behind are Bouchon, Chai Pani, and H&F Burger. We also loved getting treats from a fancy little chocolate boutique called French Broad Chocolate. (I’m also suddenly realizing that I don’t take many pictures of my food – it just feels so ridiculous in the moment – but now I kind of regret it!)

Art/Culture – As well as being known for its food, Asheville is probably equally known for its artistic side. There’s a whole section of town called River Arts District where you can stroll through gallery after gallery (with trendy coffee in hand of course from Ultra Coffeebar or Summit Coffee). My absolute favorite painter, Jonas Gerard, has two galleries in the River Arts District. Tragically, he actually passed away at age 79 while we were in Asheville. His art is filled with so much passion, joy, and color, that I can only imagine what he must have been like in real life. I always wanted to see him paint in person but never got the chance. It is definitely still a dream of mine to own one of his original paintings though. There’s obviously a huge part of that that’s a Low, BUT his life and art have inspired me over the years so much that I consider his influence and seeing his work in person a High. After going to one of his galleries, a good friend and I painted (read: played with paint) and laughed more while doing it than I ever have while creating. What a legacy to leave to someone who never even met you!

Sunset – If you recall, we got REAL spoiled on sunsets while in Key Largo. Then I realized that our rental in Asheville had a huge back deck that faced West overlooking the city and mountains. Totally didn’t do that on purpose, but DANG I’m glad it worked out that way! We got to enjoy another month of incredible sunsets right from our house. For a while I couldn’t decide who did sunset better – Key Largo or Asheville – but then I realized the comparison meant kind of missing the points, so I decided to just count both as beautiful gifts instead.

Bears – Ok, so I had a hard time deciding whether or not this belonged in Highs or Lows…but since no one got hurt from one, I landed on putting it here. Because our rental house was so high up on a mountain, we saw a TON of black bears. There were two sets we saw repeatedly – a mama with one cub, and a mama with two cubs. It was so crazy to be driving or walking along and know that at any moment you could suddenly be face to face with a bear! Honestly, this kept me from feeling comfortable going out on a run or walk by myself from the house – instead I opted to drive about 10 minutes down the mountain to a nearby neighborhood for my exercise. The more we saw, though, the more I realized these Asheville bears are so used to seeing people – to being watched and photographed by them – that they hardly pay you any attention. They’re not exactly scared of people, but they’re not very aggressive toward them either…as long you keep your distance if there’s a cub involved. All in all, it was actually pretty cool to watch them forage for food and climb trees in their natural habitat!

Dog-Friendliness – Juneau LOVED Asheville. Not only the cooler weather and the outdoor adventures, but the fact that we could take her so many places. At one point we went an entire week without leaving her at home when we went out because she could just be with us on the outdoor patios wherever we were eating. She learned to be so chill in those types of busy restaurant environments, even walking around inside stores with us. And Asheville LOVED Juneau! She got a TON of attention from all the dog-loving people of Asheville. Everyone wants to pet the blue-eyed husky, and she’s never met a stranger, so it was a pretty great situation for her!

Visitors – As with our time in Key Largo, having people come stay with us in Asheville was such a treat! We had two groups come during our four weeks – the first was good friends from Atlanta and the second was a group of girls I’m coaching through 10,000 Fathers. Probably no need to over-explain this one. I’ll let the pictures do the talking!

Asheville Lows

Spiders – Anyone who really knows me knows that I HATE spiders. I don’t care what kind it is, I don’t want it anywhere near my living space. I don’t even want to be able to see it from my living space. I know that spiders eat bugs and are probably an important part of the ecosystem or whatever, but surely there’s enough space in the world for them to do that somewhere I’m not. Thankfully, Nathan is not afraid of spiders. Let’s just say he got lots of practice removing (read: killing) spiders that dared to take up residence inside or on the back deck while we were in Asheville. I’m guessing the number of them had something to do with our house being up on a fairly undisturbed mountain – or that spiders just really love Asheville. I guess I don’t blame them…but I still don’t want to live with them. Neither do I take pictures of them. Moving on!

Remote Location – I’ve already alluded to the location of the house being up on a mountain, which in some ways was pretty cool, but it did have some practical downsides. We had to drive 10-15 minutes down a winding, partially gravel road to get to the nearest…anything. I could totally get used to that when it comes to a grocery store, but because of both the presence of bears and the fact that the road from the house was so hilly, it also meant having to drive that distance just to go running (unless you’re into running literally up and down mountains, which I am not). Ideally, I love to be able to run straight from home instead of having to get in a car first. Asheville itself is also a little more remote when it comes to thinking about traveling to and from there. There isn’t a major international airport super close by, which is something we were spoiled with living in Atlanta. Obviously that may not be a consideration for everyone, but between our extended family being pretty spread out and our fairly frequent airline travel for both work and vacation (pre-covid of course), being close to a big airport feels pretty important to us.

House – Let me start by saying I don’t regret booking this house on AirBnB. The back deck and the view were incredible and made it worth it for our month-long stay. But the house was built in the 1950s, and hadn’t really been updated since. I’m talking original oven and everything. It was a miracle it worked at all – though by the end of our stay that was no longer the case. HA! The air conditioning went out and had to be replaced while we were there, the refrigerator leaked, the hot and cold water were backwards on the kitchen sink, and there was no disposal (I know I sound whiney, but gosh I didn’t realize how much I love disposals!). It was *mostly* functional and we made it work, but it made me very aware of how thankful I am for updated appliances. To be fair, the owner was very responsive when something went wrong. I really think she did her best given what she had to work with. I guess it’s just part of owning an older home that probably hasn’t had the maintenance along the way that it needed. Nathan said it best when he described it as “feeling like you were living at your grandparents’ house.” The house could be INCREDIBLE with some updating, but it would take some serious money. Neither of us had ever lived in a home like that before, so it was just a bit of a learning curve.

Covid – Obviously Covid has been one major Low for all of humanity, but it’s making an appearance on the Asheville Lows list because it pretty significantly impacted our ability to experience all that the city has to offer. I really don’t blame Asheville for this – they responded in the way they thought was best for their people and city – but it was the first time we experienced such sweeping closures and effects to businesses since March/April when the whole thing began. We were there in September and many breweries, galleries, and even restaurants were still closed for in-person business. Places like the Grove Park Inn and the Biltmore, which we’d been to before and really hoped to visit again, had such strict attendance and mask policies (even while outdoors) that it we didn’t feel it was worth trying to go there right now. Many of the restaurants that were open required reservations since they were seating at such limited capacities or only on outdoor patios – and those reservations were VERY hard to come by – some places were booked up the whole time we were there! Thankfully we did find enough great things to do that we certainly still enjoyed our time there, but it left us feeling like we’ll need to go back once things are more normal to really experience it fully.

Our Takeaway

Overall, we really loved our time in Asheville. It has a ton going for it, and we found that we had a lot more in common with the people who lived there than we did in Key Largo (not that we were surprised by this). Asheville is a place that I can imagine us going back to regularly, and if the season of life was right, I could totally see the appeal of living there.

When we do go back, I’d love to experiment with staying in different parts of town. We really loved the vibe of North Asheville (the Grove Park area), but it would be interesting to stay someplace closer to the base of the mountain rather than on top of it.

If you’ve never been to Asheville and you enjoy the outdoors, great food, and/or art – GO! You’ll love it. Maybe just wait until Covid restrictions have lightened up so you can experience all the goodness it has to offer.

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