Kelly and I are fortunate to have enough flexibility in our schedules and employment that we've continued the trend of trying to live in another place (e.g. Portland, OR, Washington, D.C.) for 3-4 weeks per year. It's just long enough to transition away from full-on tourist mode and get to know a place a little bit more from a local point of view. Immersing ourselves in a new landscape is also a great way to get perspective on the world and the rest of our lives - what we value, what we miss, what we want more or less of and how we might make that happen.
This year we spent that time in Asheville, North Carolina.
It's a place that I've spent a fair amount of time already - visiting my dad's parents there when I was younger, attending Camp Rockmont for several summers in a row, going on various whitewater rafting/canoeing trips nearby and visiting college friends there more recently - but it was great to experience the city in this new way as it lives into its emerging culinary/artistic/outdoorsy identity. The mountain air, lush woods and trails, flourishing food scene, accessible size, eclectic neighborhoods and friendly people made for a really memorable time.
We stayed at a beautiful Airbnb house near the downtown area, which meant we could walk into town and experience a restaurant, bar, market, sidewalk performance or drum circle whenever we felt like it:
The house was a few blocks from three different grocery stores, including a Whole Foods brand and a Trader Joe's - crazy! It also had a perfect extra bedroom and workspace where I set up my temporary office:
We were always just a few minutes away from some great hiking and mountain views:
Having our dog Chloe with us meant she got to enjoy them too:
We went an on an excellent class III-V whitewater rafting tour of the Chattooga river, led by the good folks at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Their photographer was having a great day, and captured my adventures both in and out of our raft as we went over Seven Foot Falls:
A tour of the Biltmore Estate was an enjoyable peek into an "American Downton Abbey" experience:
We each got to spend some time with friends living in/near Asheville, and I enjoyed a few opportunities to co-work with a fellow Automattician living there too - it seems like they're everywhere these days!
We also made it to a quirky short story slam at The Odditorium, a foot stomping concert with actor and musician Jeff Daniels with the Ben Daniels Band at the Diana Wortham Theatre, a reading by Sy Safransky (founder and editor of The Sun Magazine, one of my favorite publications) at Malaprops bookstore, a gathering of Quakers at the Asheville Friends Meeting, another moving reading by poets Jessica Jacobs and Nickole Brown (new friends who also happened to be our neighbors and to have some other mutual friends - small world!) and a tubing adventure down the French Broad river.
We got ourselves some culture, yes we did.
Chloe made a new friend too:
One of our favorite things to do in a new place like this is experience new food options, and Asheville didn't disappoint. It felt like even if we'd eaten out at every meal, we still wouldn't have come close to experiencing all of the peculiar and innovative things people in Asheville are doing with food and brewing.
A few of our favorites included:
- Biscuit Head
- Nine Mile
- White Duck Taco Shop
- 12 Bones Smokehouse
- Farm Burger
- Asheville Pizza & Brewing
- French Broad Chocolates
Even with the additional walking/hiking added in, this culinary exploration came at a price:
I weighed in and gained 3.9 lbs. #LoseIt
— JCH Things (@JCHthings) June 1, 2015
Regular exercise routine, here I come again. 🙂
You can see all of my photos from our trip on Flickr.
Thanks for a great time, Asheville!