One of the things that my husband and I are being more mindful of this year, is embracing spontaneity. As a natural born planner, it’s easy for me to get into a rut of relying way too heavily on a schedule. It’s not that we don’t do plenty of amazingly fun things, but most of these things are planned out weeks, or even months, in advance.
So, a few weeks ago, after being bogged down by work and life, Alex and I made the split decision that we just needed to get away. We came up with the idea on a Tuesday night and by Friday at 5:00p we were bolting from the office and driving straight to Asheville.
I’ll admit, initially, I was feeling way outside my comfort zone. I mean honestly, how am I supposed to pack on such short notice?? But by the time we were in the car and fleeing the city, I was overcome with a complete sense of relief and freedom. There was nothing in our minds that we had to do, no specific places that we had to go and no predetermined expectations of what the trip would be like – and it felt so liberating.
We spent the entire trip just wandering from place to place, with no care in the world for what time it was or what we were doing next. And my gosh did we stumble upon some amazing places!
HERE ARE SOME OF THE GEMS
Crooked Oak Mountain Inn
This trip was a hiatus for Alex and me, and this adorable bed and breakfast was the perfect place to hide out for the long weekend. Tucked away on top of a mountain, this little inn had all the charm and whimsy that you would hope to find in a mountain house. Our room was cozy and welcoming, complete with a toasty furnace and a wraparound porch. Apart from the room being a wonderful little sanctuary, the house had plenty of communal spaces that made us feel right at home. We spent one of our nights in the open living room space watching a movie, playing scrabble and challenging each other to a game of darts (Alex beat me at both and I was less than thrilled!). It was the perfect home away from home. And as if that wasn’t enough, the owner Bear was the most hospitable host we could have ever dreamt of. He was one of those people that you feel like you’ve known forever, even though you only just met them. Oh, and his cooking! Breakfast lovers get excited because Bear will knock your socks off with his off-the-charts breakfast spread. Heck, if you aren't a breakfast lover, you'll probably become one! Crooked Oak Mountain Inn was such a delight and I truly can’t recommend it enough, to anyone looking for a place to stay in Asheville.
Wicked Weed Brewery
If you are a beer connoisseur or even just a casual brew lover, Asheville is your perfect playground. With more breweries that I can count, you are bound to find one (or two, or three…) that you will fall in love with. For Alex and I, Wicked Weed Brewery was our spot. Not only did they have a beer lineup that hit it out of the park, but their incredible menu selections sang to our foodie loving hearts. My food favorites were the Fried Chicken Sandwich and the Candied Brussels Sprouts, while my beer favorite was, hands down, the Coffee Saison. In terms of ambiance, this place can't be beat. It has a front patio, a back patio, and bars both up and downstairs. The atmosphere is super laid back, with ‘family style’ tables, corn hole, good jams and an open invite to pups. It's the perfect place to spend a sunny Saturday, just hanging out and enjoying some brews with good company.
The Biltmore Estate is something I’ve heard about for years and years, but having never been, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when we decided to make this a stop on our trip. Alex and I naively thought we would just swing by, stay a couple hours, and then mosey along to somewhere else for the rest of our afternoon. I am literally laughing at myself now, for ever thinking this would be feasible. This place is nothing short of an amusement park. Everything from the parking lots, to the hordes of people, to the never-ending list of things to do – it all screams Disney World. And while I won’t lie and tell you that the intense crowds didn’t have me feeling a little anxious, I am also so glad that we took the time to explore this astonishing Estate. Every inch of the expansive Biltmore House was utterly flawless. Between the stunning architecture and the immaculate design, there is no way to describe it, other than lavish. Just ensure that you set aside a couple hours for the House tour, alone, because it really is a lot of ground to cover. And after you have been inspired by all of the grandiose that The Biltmore House has to offer, you can unwind with free wine tasting at the Estate’s winery. Yes, you heard that correctly – free wine tasting! Altogether, we spent about 4.5 hours on these two things and we didn't even make a dent in all that there is to do at the Estate. You could easily spend all day there and still not check off all the boxes.
If you are going to plan for one thing when going to Asheville get yourself a dinner reservation at Cúrate (I know, I know. I said no planning. But this is so worth it!). This restaurant came highly recommended by a friend and I honestly wish we had gone there earlier in the trip because I would have come back for a second meal. With delicious wine, perfectly aged charcuterie and wildly unique tapas, this spot had my name written all over it. In particular, The Pulpo a la Gallega absolutely stole my heart. This Galician style octopus served with warm sea salt, olive oil, Spanish paprika, and Yukon gold potato puree could not have been more perfect. We also had ours topped with some shaved black truffle and it was absolutely decadent. I can’t tell you how often I daydream about eating this meal. And there were so many items on the menu that we didn't even have a chance to try! This is definitely a spot we'll be revisiting when we make it back to Asheville.
Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar
Y’all. I have never found a bar that speaks more to my soul, than this one. It combines two of my dearest loves – books and wine, side by side. When you walk in, you are instantly transported, into a vintage library that one would assume could only be found in fairytales. The shelves are lined with used books, that are all available for purchase. But these shelves aren’t arranged in simple rows like you are likely accustomed to seeing. They wind around the store and up the stairs and through corridors so that they act as walls - forming cozy little reading nooks and gathering areas, for those who wander inside. It’s utterly enchanting. What’s even more enchanting is the fabulous bar that is tucked away in the center of this darling store. I mean truly, what could be more wonderful than grabbing a book, a glass of wine, and cozying up in a little nook? Oh, and dogs are invited to. I easily could have spent our entire trip curled up here. We went two days in a row because I couldn't get enough.
If you haven’t already guessed, I am a total bookworm – hence the reason I have two bookstores on my list. Malaprop’s differs from Battery Park Book Exchange, in the sense that they are in the new book game, rather than the used book business. However, this shop isn’t your run of the mill Barnes & Noble (not to say I don’t love a good B&N!). It is dripping with so much character and charm, that you can’t help but stroll around and flip through the pages of all the novels surrounding you. The store’s owner opened shop with the intention of making it a place where poetry matters, where women’s words are as important as men’s and where good writing has a home. You really feel as though you are part of something special when you walk inside. And while I was mesmerized by the entire experience, what really caught my eye was a little bookshelf titled “Blind Date With A Bookseller”. I literally squealed when my husband pointed it out to me. Each book on the shelf was wrapped entirely in craft paper and had different descriptive words written across the front. The books were favorites of different sellers within the store and you purchased them solely based on the words that were used to describe them. It was like match.com for book buying. Needless to say, I went on my first blind date that day, with two books from Malaprop’s and it couldn't have any better.
Blue Ridge Parkway
As much as I love exploring breweries, restaurants, and bookstores, you can’t go to Asheville and not take advantage of all the natural beauty surrounding you. Unfortunately, it was a little overcast and pretty chilly during our trip, so rather than hiking through the mountains, we opted to take a scenic car ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This 469-mile road spans from Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and was accessible just minutes away from our little B&B. While we certainly didn’t drive its’ entirety, this winding Parkway was full of majestic views that left our jaws hanging on the ground. At one point, we got so high into the mountains that we were entirely engulfed in fog and could barely see a foot in front of us. It was completely mesmerizing, and also slightly terrifying. With a multitude of stopping points along the way, we were able to stop, hop out of the car and just soak up all of the incredible views that the mountains had to offer. I remember standing on the edge of a mountain looking out across the horizon and just thinking to myself ‘how is this even real’. It was so humbling to be consciously reminded of what a wondrous world we live in and the importance of taking the time to enjoy it.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
Sometimes it’s best to throw your plans out the window. Or better yet, don’t make any in the first place!
Let yourself be free from a checklist, free from a calendar and free from the constraints you’d normally put on yourself. Allow yourself to soak in the moment and embrace the opportunity to stumble upon unexpected adventures. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien: