French Friday: Can I Have Another Slice of Western North Carolina? Please?

Once, in Paris, I bumped into a group of American people at a café terrace. They didn’t know each other and had accidently met there, too. None spoke French, so I helped them with the menu and ended up sharing a late evening drink in their company. They told me in detail what they had done since their arrival in Paris, only two days ago. I was totally impressed. They had covered so much while I had done so little in comparison. I congratulated them on their ambitious program, but since they had another day in the city I suggested at least an early morning walk in a neighboring square without any plan in mind. Nobody wakes up early in Paris, I said, you’ll have the city to yourself. A real treat that I appreciated when I lived there, either on Sundays or more likely in the summer when Parisians leave for their vacation.

Although it was none of my business I wanted my fellow Americans to enjoy these few precious moments. I truly think that any new place is best when discovered little bit by little bit. Of course, it is tempting to want to see e-ve-ry-thing, especially for us, Americans since we have much less paid vacations than the French. But still, I would always prefer making a shorter to-do-list with the promise of return than galloping full speed.

Taking the time to enjoy the flowers if not smelling the roses

Friends had told me that Asheville, North Carolina was a town unlike any other American town, a place in its own league, and that knowing me I would love it. I knew of a few yoga instructors who train at this East Coast Mecca of yoga and they also spoke of Asheville with awe.

It feels like Berkeley, some said, but it’s not Berkeley.

It will remind you of towns like Santa Fe or Sedona, but it’s neither one, others said.

There is something really unique there, which is hard to describe, so you have to go and see for yourself, said most.

Expectations run high when people are unanimous about a specific place.

Sometimes, however, expectations not only meet their promise but also exceed our own imagination.

Yes, I fell for the easy-going charm of Asheville.

I can see why it has been compared to other liberal, artsy towns. A few hippy-ish shops, reminiscent of the 60s and 70s, reminded me of the ones along Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. The sporty shops displaying mountain and biking gear can be seen in Sedona and the art in Santa Fe, and yoga studios abound.

But it’s for the stunning natural surroundings that I will go back to Asheville. Wow. Western North Carolina you got me.

Familiar with the rugged Sierra Nevada and the stunning Arizona and Utah canyons I had only glimpsed at the Blue Ridge Mountains a few times, mostly from Virginia when I visit my daughter in Maryland. But I had never set foot so close to them than in Asheville.

I could hardly contain my impatience and wanted to explore the countless parks and trails that can be reached from town and within a twenty-minute drive. There is so much to see in and around Asheville!

Since my husband shares my philosophy “less is always better than too much,” we agreed to enjoy our stay to its fullest but to accept that it is truly impossible to pack an entire region in only three days.

So, here is a thin slice of our trip through a gallery of photos. As great as photos can be they remain a pale rendition of reality. Especially when we shoot nature’s portrait. This is why I really want to go back for more walks and hikes.

Neighbors who became friends had told us about the spectacular Grove Park Inn. The hotel is so large that walking through its common areas is sure to stretch any pair of legs. In addition, the grounds are gorgeous and a trail is accessible directly from the lobby. Perfect for a pre or post breakfast short walk.

The North Carolina Arboretum. Miles of trails and acres of garden areas opened to us that afternoon. Including a bonsai extensive exhibit in a unique landscape and a garden-scale model train representing the coming of trains to western North Carolina at the turn of the 20th century.

Mount Pisgah, accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Anyone who can’t walk can still admire the view from the terrace of the Pisgah Inn.

DuPont State Park and its waterfalls is truly a perfect neighborhood park for Asheville residents.

The small town of Black Mountain, still part of the Asheville metropolitan area and less than fifteen miles away, is adorable. Not overly quaint as some old towns can be. We took an early morning walk through quiet streets while stores were still closed and people still home.

The Old Rail Station

And its little red train

Looks like other French fell for the natural beauty of Western North Carolina

This sign spotted in a small gift shop made me smile, of course. Based on this (too) short trip to Asheville and area, this part of the South has no doubt much more to offer.

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