Saturday, March 10, 2012

Asheville Escape

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Usually for my birthday, I demand that we get away somewhere warm. However, this Winter has been so relatively warm, I got it into my head that I wanted NATURE instead. You see, NATURE is in very short supply when you live smack dab in the middle of a big city. NATURE looks a lot like pigeons in that case. So with that vague direction, my fabulous hubby planned a great mountain getaway. First stop: Asheville, NC!

We've been to Asheville before a couple times to see the Biltmore House. While visiting the surrounding town, we discovered there are a lot of artists and craftsmen that live nearby. The galleries in town are a real treat to visit! But this trip, we did not go to the Biltmore. We did step in our favorite gallery, but didn't end up getting anything. (Even though there was a chicken there I would have dearly loved to take home. Yes, a chicken. What can I was the way she was looking at me. =D) Instead, we were planning on visiting the Arboretum.

The first order of business, though, was a hearty breakfast. The only acceptable place to eat was the Tupelo Honey Cafe. I have very fond memories of that place; we had dinner there YEARS ago and I had the best cornbread I have ever put in my mouth. True Southerners might have scorned it, because it was sweet and loaded with crystallized ginger. It was more like cake. Hence my intense love.

Anyway! We were there for breakfast. Check out the humbly named "Breakfast Bowl":
Black-eyed peas, over easy eggs, thick-sliced maple pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, salsa, and goat cheese grits. YUM.

The only thing that kept me from devouring the whole bowl was this...
Cinnamon sweet potato pecan pancake with crunchy granola baked in. Oh. MY. COW. This is very possibly the best pancake I've ever had, even counting this one, which I thought would defeat all challengers.

These pictures turned out great because we were sitting on the porch. I know it looks all sunshiny, but it was only warm because of the giant overhead heater. It was COLD there, and the wind was gusting up to 30mph!!! Michael kept going over various escape plans if the porch started to blow away.

I was really thinking the Arboretum would be miserable, but fortunately once we got into the trees, the wind was almost nonexistent. We eased into NATURE slowly...first, trees in containers and lots of concrete.
BONSAI!!! There were only four lonely bonsai trees out in the cold. But look how much room there is for more!
(We found the rest later in a greenhouse, but we could only peer through the windows at them). There were some exceptional gardens...or at least, they looked like they would be exceptional if practically everything wasn't hibernating. =)

There were only a couple trees that were "fooled" into blooming by the one day of 70F weather they had the week before we got there (when it was 45F).

From the gardens, we headed into the woods, where there were several hiking trails.

In the woods proper, there were lots of beautiful trees (just mostly without leaves), but plenty of green was provided by the rhododendrons. In summer, I bet it's just stunning!

I feel the sudden need to bury some treasure.

We liked the path that ran along the stream the best. Lots of rhododendrons, lots of interesting rocks, and lots of lovely moss. There were even a few ferns peeking through the dead leaves.

I didn't like a lot of pictures I took here, unfortunately. I think it was because it was so bright that I had a hard time seeing the screen on the camera, so I didn't do a lot of adjustments. The camera was ramping up all the "low light" shots, so everything looked a lot brighter. However, one thing that is awesome about my camera is that it always has "context sensitive" hints available. I have actually learned things from them! One hint it gave me for taking pictures of food actually came in useful here. The camera has an "exposure compensation" adjustment that can be dialed up or down. The camera suggested dialing it up a bit for food shots. But here I was able to use it to adjust things to look more like what I was seeing. This is what the camera took:
By dialing down the exposure compensation, I can show you what it looked like to me:
I think the exposure compensation is effectively changing the aperture, but I'd have to do some research to find out for sure. I'm just guessing based on what I've learned so far. Anyway, it's a useful shortcut when I'm in automatic mode.

Have we almost worked off our massive breakfast? Must be time to head back.

We were fortunate to get a spot at Chelsea's tea room. Although the lady at the visitor center said we didn't need to bother with reservations, we got the last table, and only because someone else left early!

After tea we checked out the sunset over the mountains, but I failed to get any decent pictures. We then went to a downtown "vintage" movie theater to see The Secret World of Arrietty. The movie was great, but the projection was atrocious! They didn't have it locked down, so the image was shaking constantly, and then even switched lenses partway through and distorted the image! They switched it back fairly quickly, but it was really annoying. Anyway, the film is beautiful and well worth seeing.

Then came my biggest picture fail of the trip. I hadn't hauled the camera to the movie, so when we made a last-minute trip to The Chocolate Lounge, I had no way to record the Liquid Truffle (hot chocolate) with rose, pistachio and cardamom (soooo good I wanted to drown in it), nor the xocolatl (based on the early Aztec drink and not for the faint of heart...but I thought it was FABULOUS).

The next morning we attended church at All Souls Episcopal Church, which was the church the Vanderbilts built. Fabulous stained glass inside! I really want a needlework pattern of one of the windows that was a deep teal and taupe!

We wandered around town a little bit, since the weather was slightly milder. This is a shot of the Bohemian hotel in Asheville; it makes me really excited for the EGA Sun Region Stitcher's Celebration I'm attending at the Celebration, FL, Bohemian in May!
The inside was decorated like a super-plush hunting lodge (I was singing, "I use antlers in all of my decorating!" as we walked through. You know, quietly. =)

For lunch, we went to Curate, a tapas restaurant that was FANTASTIC. We had a ham sampler in addition to the yummiest spinach ever and these roasted peppers stuffed with goat cheese.
We also had a great potato omelette and the most amazing French-toast-like concoction EVER: torrijas. The menu description was "a sweet spanish delicacy, modesto bakery brioche soaked in a citrus cinnamon custard and seared until golden brown, served with fresh berries and sherry sabayon." The inside of the brioche was like bread pudding, and the outside was carmelized like the top of creme brulee!

After lunch we continued our brief walking tour. This is one of the coolest city halls ever. Group shot courtesy of the camera's timer!

Cool tile work in front of city hall.

We drove to the Grove Park Inn, which was built in 1913 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Many famous people have stayed there.

This wonderful sunlit hallway with many comfy chairs...
...overlooked a stunning view.
The small buildings you see at ground level are the spa, which boasts a grotto pool!

The guy who built it made his money on a malaria treatment. I'll let you enjoy his advertising:
You think this would sell well today?!! LOL!

We made one final stop in Asheville before heading to Highlands at a store I'd seen the day before:
I mean, really: How could I NOT go in there?? The extremely nice lady who greeted us at the door assured me there was no need to rush, despite the fact that they were closing in about two minutes. =) I would have liked to tour the whole shop (there was an upstairs!) but I felt bad keeping them open longer on a Sunday afternoon. She helped me select a pattern by a local designer and some luscious Malabrigo to make it with.
I'm hoping for a March Madness wildcard pick so I can start it!!

I'm really hoping all the hiking at least evened out all the yummy food consumption!


Jennifer M. said...

It looks like you had a great time on your Nature getaway. :)


Joysze said...

Oh man!!!!!! What a feast for the eyes, and I'm not even talking about the food pics! :D I loved every single pixel!!!

I've heard great things about Biltmore. One of these days when we're not too lazy to actually go and do something, a visit to NC will be right after GA....

Yummy yarn... I think the way it's shrieking and hollering should earn it a front place in your MM line up. ;)

BTW, I don't think I've told you, it makes me happy to see Nathan. ;)

woolwoman said...

Belated happy b-day Heather ! Your trip to Asheville and surrounding areas sounds heavenly. We vacationed in that NGA WNC area for many years but we burned it out and now go on over the mountains to ETN for the past 10 yrs or so. Glad you found that great yarn shop - there used to be one I wouldn't miss at Black Mountain and interesting to note I learned to needlepoint as a child of 8 in Highlands NC - my great aunt had a summer home there where we vacationed often when I was a child. there is still a np shop there but of course not the same location or the same owner. I am very envious about your trip to Sun region Celebration. Had I not been going to rug camp next week in Sebring and a guild retreat on St Simons is April - I would have jumped on the Celebration opportunity - I know you and T will have a great time. LOVE that malabrigo project - can't wait to see more. Mel

Melanie said...

WOW! What a great trip!!!!!!!!!
(And holy NOM NOM NOMS.)

Veronica said...

Lovely photos. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole post. Gosh! Seeing your pic of the Breakfast Bowl is making me real hungry.

I LOLed at that advertising. Beautiful yarn you've bought. The colour is gorgeous.


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