Arrived in Asheville, North Carolina late Sunday afternoon and got settled into our cozy downtown studio.
Don’t be alarmed by the apparent rough surroundings, it’s actually quite comfortable and located in the middle of a fairly vibrant dining area.
Tuesday was devoted to the Biltmore House & Gardens; a perfect example of having more money than you know what to do with. George Vanderbilt’s Gilded Age “summer retreat” was completed in 1895 and has 250 rooms, 180,000 square feet of living space and sits on 8,000 acres of spectacular hilltop scenery. It is the largest privately owned home in the US (although the Vanderbilts no longer occupy the house). Touring the gardens, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted of New York Central Park fame, was an all morning event. Even though we are a bit early in the blossoming season, the walk was just incredible (even in the rain) and the army of gardeners do a great job of keeping the landscape seasonally appropriate (note the tulip display in the walled garden). Deborah Christman…add this tour to your bucket list.
The House itself is just amazing. Besides the beautiful “Chateauesque” architectural design, the home included many futuristic features (for 1895) including indoor plumbing, walk-in refrigerators, synchronized clocks (must keep the help on their toes) and an indoor heated pool (that had to be emptied every 3 days as pool chemicals were not yet invented). The inside tour included 42 stops and took several hours. Unfortunately they do not allow photography in the home so if you ever find yourselves in Western North Carolina, make it a point to visit the Estate. During the entire tour Robin kept mentioning something about being reminded of Downton Abbey……
This part of the Blue Ridge Mountains is known for it’s waterfalls and hiking trails. Yesterday we hiked in the DuPont State Recreational Forest and saw the High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls. The High Falls are at the highest elevation on the trail, the Triple Falls are a series of 3 falls, but sadly at Hooker Falls we saw nothing very interesting (lol).
Hooker falls was, however, used in one of my favorite movies, Last of the Mohicans. It is the chase scene where they go over some falls in their canoes.
Had dinner that night at Wicked Weed. Sat next to Saul Gamoran’s body double!
Of course we have been indulging in much of the local cuisine. Robin’s favorite was the Ceviche Sampler (Limones), mine was the Scallop, Shrimp and Lime Horseradish Mousse (Wicked Weed). Of course the Huevos Rancheros was outstanding as well (Sunny Point Cafe).
Wednesday night we had the extreme pleasure of having dinner with Ali Rittenberg. The Rittenbergs lived in San Ramon for a short time, many years ago, and the twins (Ali and Lexi) played soccer with Emily. We became friends and Robin and Sue managed to stay in touch these past 14 years. Ali is now a third year med student at UNC and currently doing a residency in Asheville, so we reconnected and it was wonderful. Ali graciously put up with our grilling about her life since 6th grade. We got some great stories about the family, and are now really looking forward to visiting with the rest of the Rittenberg clan this weekend at their home in Atlanta!
Today was spent hiking in Chimney Rock State Park. The first trail “Skyline Trail” starts at the top of Chimney Rock itself, a climb of 495 stairs from the parking lot.
Skyline Trail ascends (another 350 stairs) to the highest lookout in the park which includes some interesting viewpoints such as Opera Box
and Devil’s Head (not sure why it’s called Devil’s Head???)
BTW Janie Murow….the hike today was 100 flights of stairs on the Fitbit.
Once back down we hiked the Hickory Nut Falls Trail which ends….oddly enough…at Hickory Nut Falls. The falls also starred in the final scenes of The Last of the Mohicans. Unfortunately the trail to the top of the falls, used in the final chase scene, is now closed to the public…darn.
Tomorrow we leave beautiful and eclectic Asheville (city slogan “Anyway you like it”) to visit the Rittenbergs. Hey Buzz and Sue, what exactly is Mexican Dominos?