Laptops shut and we looked at each other like “Now, what?” I decided to google what events were happening in Asheville that weekend and I am so glad I did. It happened to be the day of the August Downtown After 5 which is an outdoor music concert during the Summer. We were worried about finding a parking spot since the event looked packed, but the parking gods blessed us and we found one without much trouble. Even better, Asheville has free parking after 6pm.
There were food trucks, local beer, and musicians. The event was free, except if you were planning to drink (then it was $2) and the proceeds go towards a different nonprofit each time. We saw Sister Ivy and Joslyn & The Sweet Compression. Both acts were incredibly talented. We started a playlist on Spotify called “We Saw Live” so we can keep track of all of the awesome bands we are discovering.
Sam & I would have stayed for longer if we got the BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair) memo. It was the first day we went downtown since we’d been back and we were not ready to go back to the Airbnb, yet. We walked around the corner and found a drum circle. I am still stunned at how much free live music we are surrounded by. The drummers each had their own beat that somehow sounded wonderful together. I am sure it was not their first time. As our feet grew tired, we picked up some Ben & Jerrys and ventured home.
Finally a day we could hike. It seems that most of the hikes we want to do have trailheads that start up the mountain. While driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway is beautiful, it is windy which can easily induce car sickness. Also, it means it takes some time to get to each hike, so even if the hike is only an hour, the drive may be another hour. When we first picked Asheville, we were hoping to be able to hike in the morning before work which is pretty impossible.
We hiked the Craggy Gardens Trail. The trail was well-marked and had a lot of signs about the flowers, except they were no longer in bloom since it is Summer. There is a spot for picnics, a gazebo with a stunning view, and a lot of great reading areas at the top. We parked at the bottom, which was apparently the less popular place to park. The top let out to a different parking lot which made this hike a unique and odd experience. Overall, I am happy we did it, but would recommend that people hike this trail during the Spring. Also, definitely wear long pants regardless of the weather because there are a lot of tall grasses.
After our hike, Sam’s parents arrived after a long drive. We wasted no time and went straight to a brewery near our Airbnb. It is called Riverside Rhapsody. There are so many breweries in Asheville and they all have their specialties. Riverside Rhapsody seems to be known for their IPAs. Well, I am not an IPA drinker, so this brewery was not really my cup of tea, but I loved their vibe. There is a cute picnic area outside and their BBQ is supposedly amazing. We are interested in going back to try the barbeque.
For those of you who are Northerners like me, language varies slightly in the USA depending on what region you are in. To us, a barbeque is a place where hot dogs & hamburgers are served. Down South that is called a Cookout. Barbeque, down South, is what we, Northerners, call a “Pulled-Pork Sandwich”. I am grateful for Sam’s mom who introduced this amazing cuisine to me. It is an extremely popular type of food that they have not managed to bring to us and I am baffled as to why.
With a brewery under our belt, we freshened up for dinner and ate at Benne on Eagle. If you look up this restaurant, the reviews are phenomenal. The menu was unique and the flavor profiles were new and exciting. The biggest downfall would be their portion sizes and the lack of clarity of their menu. They do not split out what is a small plate versus what is an entrée. I ordered the Fufu Gnudi & Maafe Sauce. It was amazing, except for the fact that half of the plate was chips. I felt slightly taken advantage of that I ventured out to try something new and was not given a proper portion size.
Benne on Eagle is the restaurant associated with the Foundry Hotel. What they do not tell you when you create a dinner reservation is that there is free valet parking. After dinner, we stopped in to check out the décor of the lobby and were pleasantly surprised to find a live jazz band. We ordered a round of drinks and enjoyed, yet another, free live music experience. The live music was nice for the first few minutes, but then became too loud and we were unable to chat. The decoration made me feel like I was at home as it could have easily been found in Brooklyn. The pipes were exposed to create high ceilings, there were brick walls, and the seating was eclectic.
Where I grew up, shopping is closed on Sundays. I often forget that to most people, Sunday is another day to adventure. To me, it has always been a day to do errands and recharge before the week begins. With only 2 days to visit, we packed in our weekend with fun. We visited Flat Rock, which has a very small “town center”. I am not sure that it really qualified, but we did find two stores that were filled with one-of-a-kind items: Wrinkled Egg & Dogwood.
After Flat Rock, we went to Hendersonville which has a huge town center. There are so many different types of shops and cafes along one walkable strip. The town has a really cute art installation where there are bears at each corner painted by a different local artist. We grabbed lunch at Moe’s, not the Mexican chain, but a BBQ chain. It was delicious. It was the first time I had seen turkey on the menu and I am a big fan. As we were finishing lunch, the rain started.
We made a dash to the car before the true storm was underway and headed to our next destination: Souther Williams Vineyard. I did not realize there were so many vineyards across the country. SW is set up like a picture out of a magazine. The tasting room is surrounded by vines and there is a little bridge and gazebo to walk to the big patches of vines. We ordered the flight, so we could taste a few different wines. They had a sign with instructions and I was shocked to see “slurp” as the final step.
While we were here, it started torrential downpouring. The tasting room had electrical windows that came down and sheltered us from the storm. Since we were stuck waiting for the rain to stop, we indulged on a charcuterie board. Overall, I thought it was a quaint winery experience, but there were two minor improvements I think would go a long way.
- Put what comes with the charcuterie board on your menu
- Extend your roof or tarp to the bathrooms, so guests can use them while the weather is bad
To finish off our weekend, we ended at a different brewery – Zillicoah. On Sundays, they have a Bluegrass Jam Session that is family friendly. When we left the Airbnb, the rain had stopped. Five minutes later, it was a crazy storm. Thankfully, the brewery has a covered outdoor section. Unfortunately, the rain was so loud we could not hear the music. After what felt like forever, the rain let up and a stunning double rainbow appeared. I am hoping we can go back on a different Sunday to get the true Jam experience.
Exhausted from the weekend, we ordered takeout from Siam Thai and watched the first House of Dragons episode. Everything we ordered from takeout was something we’d need to order again. Thai is one of our favorite cuisines, so we are picky about giving recommendations. Siam Thai has our seal of approval. House of Dragons also has our seal of approval.
Being in Asheville, while working, requires attention to when we are venturing out and when we are acting like we normally would in our homes. If someone else was financing this trip, we would be eating out every night. We are trying to pick pockets of adventure surrounded by moments of living our normal lives. Some days, we have no motivation to explore and that is okay. I feel like I have already experienced more in one week than I would’ve if I was here on vacation.
Take a look at your work-life balance. What are you happy with? What would you improve? Now, set a timeline for when you’d like to improve. Goals that are tied to time frames are more likely to be successful.