Birthday in AshevilleJune 20, 2017 in the United States
Well, we have been travelling for 2 weeks now and had a restful 'holiday from the holiday' with Malcolm in Alpharetta. A first world problem I know, but to keep momentum going on an extended trip takes effort as the desire to go home slowly increases. Familiar comforts such as home cooked food, your own pillows and seeing friends and family become more important than exploring an art gallery or fine dining. It would be wonderful to be able to teleport home and just touch the walls again before carrying on.
Today is my birthday and when you reach my age you are quite happy to find an excuse not to make a big fuss about it. We were in Asheville whose main attraction is the Biltmore Estate, which is a grand faux chateau on the outskirts of town famous for being the largest single ownership house in the country. Built in 1889, to many Americans this is unimaginably ancient but to us Brits it's pretty run of the mill. Some of us will have lived in houses older than that. At $70 a head it was pretty steep too so we decided to give it a miss.
We arrived early into Asheville and dropped our bags off at the Windor hotel while we waited for the room to be readied. The hotel fitted snugly into the Asheville vibe which was heavily hip and trendy. Bursting with young people embracing a 'nouveau hillbilly' look which while at first was amusing, actually is an impressive nod and embracing of unsophisticated roots. First things first, we headed next door to the 'Mellow Mushroom' where we had 2 great slices of pizza (we had the veggie which we corrupted with added pepperoni) and also locally brewed beer. Asheville has numerous microbreweries around town and there were nearly 100 choices of beer on the menu.
We then wandered around the town which had a real 'west coast' feel to it. Vibrant but possibly as multicultural as N Carolina gets, we immediately wished we had more than one day there. Street performers captivated diners seated out on the pavement, children played barefoot in the fountains to escape the mellow heat. The architecture too was unusual and had a huge European vibe. The Catholic Church was impressive, as well as several government offices downtown which had an Italianate feel. We headed back to the hotel and our room, or should I say apartment, was ready. It was huge! You could certainly happily move into it for a month if you wanted to explore Asheville further. They had kindly provided a bottle of champagne which we drank to celebrate or commiserate my final year in my 40s.
For dinner that night I chose dim sum and man I'm glad I did. Our waiter, if you were in the wrong mood, could rub you up the wrong way as he was aggressive and scowling but also protective and oddly comradely. I quite liked him. When I ordered the local Sauvignon blanc he refused to bring it and said I should have the New Zealand. When I deferred he brought both and encouraged me to spit the local wine back into the glass if I wanted. I bravely swallowed it but it was truly awful. Our meal consisted of multilple dumplings and buns but these were pretty huge by Asian standards. Thankfully he stopped us ordering more and we just about ate the lot feeling full to bursting.
The young lady on the front desk in the hotel told us that it was a great time to be in Asheville as it was the height of the very short 'firefly' season. She said that there were so many this year that you might even see them in public parks. After dinner as the sun was setting we headed down to the public park that we sat in to cool down in earlier that day. After a short while we saw what looked like white sparks rising from the grass, tiny spotlights every now and again from the corner of your eye. Feeling braver we crossed over the main road by bridge into a wooded park with few street lights. The natural feeling of fear was overcome by wonder as we watched the trees twinkle with the millions of fireflies signalling their fleeting maturity. It was truly magical and a wonderful ending to a memorable birthday in a memorable town.Read more