Tag Archives: nc

There’s Something About Asheville, NC

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Beach or mountains? Mountains every time, baby.

Every time Lyndsi and I visit Asheville, I tell her we should move here. There’s just something magical about this little city nestled between the highest mountains in the Great Smoky Mountains. Asheville feels big enough, but not too big. In other words, it has just enough cosmopolitan vibe to keep you from being bored or feeling limited. There’s a feeling of escape, coziness, and calmness I get when I’m there. It’s a creative energy that has to be due to the surroundings. I’ve always wanted to live in a city in the mountains.

Two things Asheville is known for are its numerous micro-breweries and its hippy/liberal/artsy scene. I guess I could wear my flannel button-up, grab a craft beer, and blend right in! Asheville also has a few nice hotels. If you’re into spas and historic buildings, the Grove Park Inn is your spot. We had dinner there last fall and frankly, weren’t impressed. Perhaps that was in part due to us being seated in the back room of the restaurant, despite having reservations. The inside of the Grove Park Inn feels like a shopping mall, with numerous restaurants and shops. Didn’t like that vibe.

More to our taste is the Grand Bohemian hotel, located in the Biltmore Village area (numerous shops abound, it’s the best part of Asheville outside of downtown). They have an excellent restaurant and bar.

Of course, Asheville’s biggest landmark is the Biltmore Estate. If you love history and/or architecture, it’s a must. Even if you don’t, it’s a must-see. The Vanderbilt’s mountain estate (the fact that Cornelius Vanderbilt chose Asheville for his estate says a lot about the area) is still the largest private residence in the U.S., though now it’s a museum. It’s a thoroughly fascinating tour, but be ready to feel like a full-fledged tourist.

We visit Asheville several times a year (it’s a 1.5-hour drive from Charlotte) and I’m already salivating at visiting during fall.

~ Marc

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Let’s Go to Switzerland

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Little Switzerland, NC, that is. Right off the Blue Ridge Parkway (which deserves its own post) is this quaint, European-feeling town. How many places in the Carolinas can you go and feel like you’re in Europe? There is a cozy lodge and inn, in service since 1910, at this mountain resort nestled on the top of a mountain. All of the architecture is modeled after Switzerland.

And did I mention the entertaining twisty roads leading to it?

There is an open-air restaurant and bar overlooking the very scenic mountains here. We enjoyed lunch and eavesdropping on a family reunion being held there. Would we stay the night? Probably not. The rooms look very dated and tired, but the views, drive, and location for lunch makes it worthwhile. There is a pool, hot tub, tennis courts, and some shopping in the area. It is a nice day escape, or stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

~ Marc

Hot Springs, NC

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What would happen if you take two (sub)urbanites and put them in a town with a population of 645? That’s what Lyndsi and I found out earlier this month. It’s different, but that was part of the intrigue of Hot Springs, NC. Iron Horse Station is a fascinating little inn in the center of town where we stayed. It’s an old, restored historic building situated by the train tracks that run by town. Considering that I’m a bit of a train nerd, I found that cool.

Upon check-in, the hotel proudly displayed a newspaper story detailing Hollywood star James Franco’s recent stay there (his crew took over the entire hotel). After walking up the creaky wooden stairs (elevators? not in Hot Springs) we finally found our room upstairs, the Pullman Deluxe room. Nothing crazy given its $95/night price, but brewing with character. Our charming room had hardwood floors, a queen bed with four posts, and best of all, there was a restaurant and tavern downstairs.

Mind you, there were no TVs, no phones, and only a small window overlooking the railroad tracks. Oh, and no AT&T phone service. The WiFi was our only connection to civilization, it seemed. The room had its quirks — broken lamp shade, shower leaked on to the wooden bathroom floor, etc. — but it was cozy once the thunderstorm moved in that evening.

A couple of interesting things happened as we wondered around town before dinner. First, this is a dry county. In 2011. Really, Hot Springs? I jokingly asked a store attendant if this town has any alcohols, and she pointed across the street to this “biker” store. Hmm, looks interesting. And there’s a high likelihood we’ll be shot. So, onward!

Now listen. I enjoy the occasional cigar, so smoke usually doesn’t bother me. But the stench in this biker store was so horrific that Lyndsi had to breathe through her shirt to survive, before exiting. We picked up a case of Sweetwater and promptly escaped to fresh air.

Then I realized how are we going to open these bottles? Next door was a hardware store (far from Home Depot) and I picked up a bottle opener. The owner took my money and said, “that’s close enough.” I guess they don’t do exact change in Hot Springs. Interesting.

Aside from eating at Iron Horse Station, the other big attraction in the area is the “world-famous” Hot Springs natural mineral water springs. We enjoyed the hour-long relaxation of the hot tubs where they pump natural mineral water from the area. Walking distance from the town center.

Hot Springs was a nice little town, though too small for my liking. I love visiting small towns, but Hot Springs was just too small (case in point, the only place for breakfast in town was jam-packed, so we ended up getting snacks at a convenience store). It’s a great place for lunch and while it was nice to get away from Charlotte, it’s not somewhere we’ll be returning to. At least the twisty roads around it made it all worthwhile.

~ Marc