Why walk at graduation when you can walk around Asheville instead?
I've been wanting to go to Asheville, North Carolina for years. It's consistently ranked highly on well-reputed travel destination lists, and it's been billed as a "Little Denver" by more than one. It's situated in the mountains, has a fantastic food and drink scene, and is pretty liberal, especially by North Carolina's garbage standards.
Calling North Carolina some sort of home for the last six years now (I can't believe it's been that long), I felt I was owed seeing the coolest thing it had to offer. I had a stroke of genius when I decided I didn't want to walk at my college graduation, and asked if Mum would like to take a small weekend trip there instead of coming to Boston. She kindly accepted, and we had far more fun than if we'd listened to a white author say the N-word to a class full of budding graduates at Boston University's ice hockey rink. That's just the Emerson graduation experience. Can you blame me for wanting to skip it?
Lia and I's flight was at 5 a.m., so we had a very early start at three in the morning, followed by a three hour drive with Mum to Asheville as soon as we landed. We did it in a Jeep Compass too, which is a very boring car that doesn't help anybody stay awake — a fact that was pounded home by Mum's constant reminders of how much she loves her sporty new car. That only has two seats though, so rental car it was.
We stopped along the route in Greensboro, which I'd heard was supposed to be cute. It was very small, but once you'd gotten past the miles-long perimeter of auto body shops, there was a nice little downtown stretch. And thankfully, I found the hippest coffee shop for us to grab some grub and get caffeinated in the city. It wasn't hard. There weren't many options.
A lack of options notwithstanding, The Table On Elm was sweetly tucked away down an old alleyway, and had a fantastic vegetarian quiche, good smoothies and drinks, and some great pastries. And it even had a sweet waterfall out the back.
Once we'd refuelled a bit and we'd each used the bathroom at least twice, we left with our grumbling stomachs satisfied and the bathroom toilet paper-less, and charged toward the mountains. Klan Country. That it's Klan country is irrelevant to this story, but I'll never miss an opportunity to point out how racist North Carolina is, because, well, it really deserves it.
We'd had a grand plan to stop along the way to get a hike in while we waited for our Airbnb checkin time, but I was knackered and on directions duty, so we headed straight to the city. We couldn't check in for a few hours, so once Mum had safely guided us to a street parking spot outside the place we'd rented in the Historic Montford neighbourhood, we got out to stretch our legs, go for a walk, and immediately begin worrying about sunburn.
Montford was very pretty, and full of fun houses to look at as we made our way downtown (walking fast, etc). There was also an old Triumph that Mum made a habit of pointing out every time we passed it. It was very pretty though.
The three of us were hungry again by this time, so made our way to one of the places on the obscenely long list of restaurants and eateries Lia and I had made before we came. You'd think we travel just to eat, and to some extent, that's a hundred percent accurate.
We passed by and popped in the Basilica of St Lawrence — where another, more obnoxiously dressed family of tourists were snapping away with their iPhone volumes on full blast — as we walked toward Rosetta's, a vegetarian restaurant confusing located next door to a bar called Loretta's. I was very brave and had a smoked tofu sandwich which I even sort of enjoyed. Must've been delirium from sleep depravation.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the downtown area, finding various shops we'd identified as places to hit. Some standouts were Malaprop's, a great independent bookstore; Old North, a hip clothing boutique with eyewateringly expensive denim and tees; and East Fork, a hip ceramics and home goods store with eyewateringly expensive ceramics and home goods. Still, Lia and I have a new home in Seattle to decorate, and we're full of dusty-colored ceramic dreams.
We capped the day off with drinks at Sovereign Remedies, which was a former old school drug store turned into a bar with a wicked cocktail program. Not being a big drinker, Mum got pretty sloshed off of half a frozen Negroni — which was delicious. I was tired and had stopped taking photos at this point, but the bar was beautifully decorated with a fantastic aesthetic, except for the small orange stickers visible on every bottle of liquor on the wall, which we learned was state law. Way to be shit again, North Carolina. Virulent racism is one thing, but ruining a great aesthetic is just cruel.
Thankfully they hadn't ruined the Biltmore Estate, which is where we were headed the next day.