Last week, during the Fourth of July, I took a trip to the mountains with my family, hoping to escape the blasted heat. Didn’t work. The near hundred degree weather just followed us from Raleigh. But it was a nice place to stay, and at least, we got to tour the town of Asheville.
Being hot and muggy, we stayed under the shade of the trolley during the Asheville Historical Trolley Tours, but we still got to see some amazing places. One place we drove by was the Indigo Hotel – where, yes, the people filming Hunger Games stayed. But the sites I found more interesting was Highland Mental Hospital and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Okay, you probably get the Thomas Wolfe Memorial being of some interest to me considering I’m a writer and lover of books. And Thomas Wolfe was born in North Carolina, possibly giving me a feeling some connection to the author as well. But why on earth would I be interested in the Highland Mental Hospital. Well, that building also has a literary link to its history. It was where Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, spent her last years before dying in a tragic fire. Sad, really, and probably not the happiest memories in Asheville’s history, but I thought it merely interesting because I mention F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as an English assignment in my unpublished novel, A Daughter of Isis.
There is more fame in Asheville than I just revealed. Movie stars, authors, and all sorts of people are attracted to the city. But as I kept hearing from my local friends, you’re not a true North Carolinian until you visit Biltmore Estates. Biltmore was a small town and estate that was swallowed up by Asheville’s popularity and growth. I’ll admit the grounds are a sight to see. The Biltmore House is more like a castle (one, apparently, you can view exterior in the old movie, Richie Rich). Its large halls are just incredible, and I could absolutely live in the Library. It’s beautiful and it holds 10,000 of the 23,000 books of the Biltmore House. Honestly, I thought I died and gone to Heaven!
Also, the grounds and villages are wonderful to visit as well. Art of all kinds (glass, oils, watercolor, clay…) are sold around the area of the Biltmore Village as well as clothing, garden and culinary supplies. There is even a place called the Corner Kitchen where President Obama ate. Unfortunately, the prices were much too rich for my family to have lunch there (yikes!). But we did have an afternoon tea across the way at Chelseas, which was delightful. As for the Antler Hill Village, I enjoyed the smith and wood shops the most. The Biltmore Winery wasn’t bad, but there was not enough of a tour to justify the walk through the demo hall. I guess they count on everyone being more interested in the wine tasting to even care, but it would have been really nice to learn more about the process like I had done at Mumm in France.
So now I’m officially a North Carolinian, based on what my local friends say. I would definitely recommend going at least once to actually experience the history and fame of this beautiful area. But be forewarned, the prices can dip into your wallet fairly deeply.