For years I had heard great things about visiting Asheville, NC. The mountain views, small town shopping and of course, the historic Biltmore estate. As you might imagine, I didn’t think twice when I had the opportunity to add Asheville to my list of stops.
I experienced several firsts while visiting Asheville. One was a stay at a Bed & Breakfast. Being a single guy, I’ve never really found a reason to spend the night, or a weekend at what most would consider a “romantic” accommodation.
The nice folks at Chestnut Street Inn were kind enough to host me during my visit to town. Certainly different from a hotel – obviously much more charm. The only bad part of the stay was that I wasn’t able to stick around for the second “B” – breakfast. The meal was served at 9am and I had to be on the road before that. So heartbreaking as I walked out of the front door as the smell of fresh bacon just started to ooze out of the kitchen.
My first stop was downtown Asheville shortly after I checked in. The locals all kept insisting that I make it downtown, since it was Friday, for the weekly ritual – a gathering of drummers that welcome in the weekend around 6pm. Simply saying “TGIF” is apparently just too boring – the locals feel the need to beat on drums to ease into their two days off. And beat, they do. By 7pm, the circle was overflowing with both drummers and dancers – surrounded by mostly tourist types. Many curious, most entertained and almost everyone avoiding eye contact with random dancers looking to drag you into the mix.
The town reminds me of 1960’s San Francisco. Seems odd saying that considering I wasn’t around San Francisco in the 1960’s. For some reason, as I strolled through the downtown streets – I could hear that song “Are You Going To San Francisco?” by Scott McKenzie. The people described in those classic lyrics sound much like the people I saw in Asheville. Some might say “hippy”. Others may say “carefree”. The teenagers were all over town on skateboards. (I didn’t even know they still made skateboards.)
There appeared to be two Ashevilles. The one downtown and then, the rest of the city. Many of the neighborhoods had older homes with character. Outside of downtown, you didn’t see all of the colorful personalities and shall we say, interesting outfits. It was a bizarre juxtaposition – staying in a quaint, charming Bed and Breakfast while knowing a mile away, Bob Dylan might show up for an impromptu concert.
While I have no figures to back it up – one has to assume The Biltmore Estate is the most popular attraction in Asheville. The best way I can describe it – imagine every billionaire you’ve ever heard of all pulling their money together and building a home they could live in together. That’s The Biltmore. Even for me, a guy that typically believes it’s none of my business what people do with their money… it seemed incredibly over the top and I left asking “Why?”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s something to see. The grounds and gardens to me were even more interesting than the house. I loved walking along the paths and taking in the absolute beauty of nature. You can read my experience at the Biltmore HERE.
Asheville also reminds me of California in another way – the views. Almost everywhere you go, you have a great view of the mountains and it’s absolutely beautiful. Perfect for a short getaway or perhaps a place to work on your drumming skills.
Here’s a short video of the Friday night drumming ritual I mentioned earlier:
It’s such a great town with lots of charm and diversity. And, depending on where you are – great people watching.