If you ever find yourself in Asheville, North Carolina. Let me start over. Plan a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. And when I say Asheville, I mean 12 Bones. When you combine perfectly smoked meat, incredible specialty BBQ sauces (blueberry chipotle is my favorite), and incredibly rich sides, it’s no wonder 12 Bones has been voted hands down best ribs in the country. They have two tiny locations with rickety picnic bench seating, the food comes out on tin miner pans, each restaurant is open five days per week, and when the run out of ribs they close. You play by their rules. And trust me, you will want to play. These ribs are what dreams are made of, especially when paired with cheesy jalapeno grits and buttered green beans. (Mmm, is 8am too early for ribs?)
My brother and I packed up our bags, headed to the airport, and jumped on a redeye flight to Asheville, North Carolina. We endured crying babies, a middle of the night layover in DC (the coldest airport of all time), more crying babies, and a one hour drive before finally reaching the house of our grandparents. We almost fell asleep in the lunch that was promptly put before us. Watching us fight to keep our eyes open led our grandmother to show us down to our rooms. I didn’t even get under the covers before my eyes closed and what would turn into a five hour nap began. My brother Brooks and I woke up as new people, and our vacation was finally able to begin.
We drove out to Jonesborough, Tennessee for the 43rd annual storytelling festival. Professional storytellers gather from all over the world to tell tales – some true, some made up; some serious, some funny. To be honest, most of the “jokes” didn’t transcend generations. My brother and I spent much of the weekend looking around at the crowd of senior citizens chuckling and wondering what we missed. However, there was one storyteller, Bil Lepp, whose made up tales left the entire crowd with sore cheeks from laughing. We ended up following him around from tent to tent.
We had a great time though. The highlight of the trip: the family time.
My plans to summer happily for three long months in Europe were sharply interrupted after just one week. Luckily, I am an eternal optimist and will attempt to turn lemons into a freaking ice cream sundae if I can. Screw the lemonade.
Insert the perfect opportunity: My grandmother’s birthday was coming up and she offered to buy me at ticket as her birthday present! I feel like I was offered a better deal, but who am I to refuse such a generous gift? And instead of her paying for a round trip ticket to Asheville, I asked if she would be willing to make the second leg of my journey a flight to NYC. She said yes!
So for the past week I have been getting a sneak peak into retirement which is such a tease considering I haven’t even officially entered to work force yet! (Can I please just fast forward past the 40 years of 9-5 clock punching?) We ate out at great restaurants, took scenic drives to lookout points and through parks, attended outdoor concerts, perused art galleries, shopped, went to the movies, went to the theater… the list goes on.
And as wonderful of a time as I had, there are few things that I just could not get over.
1. Every room of the house has photographic evidence of my awkward childhood. I kid you not. Every. Single. Room.
2. It is impossible to drive down a single road and not be presented with at least 4 fast food options. Eating healthy outside the house requires a series of in-depth searches because veggies are often covered in cheese sauce, fried, or simply used as a garnish.
3. Street signs are apparently not required. And if they are present, they are often part way down the block… or turned at an angle that you can’t read it until you’re halfway through the intersection… or in such small print you need binoculars. I recommend turning on your maps app.
Working two jobs all summer has left me sleep deprived and cranky. Thank you Grandma for being my savior – this wonderful woman flew me out to see her for a long weekend.
Asheville, North Carolina is the home to more trees than I’ve ever seen in one place at a time, plenty of southern fried food, and scenic roads that wind through the expansive countryside. It’s also where my grandparents reside during the summer.
Originally a small pioneering town, Asheville has managed to retain its historic charm while now offering everything the modern American could possibly need. The streets of downtown Asheville are filled with endless restaurant options, art galleries, and shops… all tucked into historic architecture that takes your breath away. Local bars look like they are pulled from an old fashioned movie and even the court houses are gorgeous.
I always look forward to the change of scenery Asheville offers, but I think the thing I appreciated most about my trip was the fact that she let me sleep 9-10 hours every night. Then after letting me lounge in the mornings, she took me to see plays, eat delicious food, and showered me with gifts every afternoon. The most memorable conversation was over lunch. After ordering pizza and iced tea, the conversation steered toward aging. My grandmother announces, “You know when I was young, I said I would never get heavy and I’d never have saggy tits, but you know it just happens” and shrugs. My grandfather doesn’t even look up from his copy of The New Yorker and calmly says, “The word is breasts” to which my grandmother refutes, “Nah. I like tits. It’s more graphic!” I love that woman more than words can express. If I’m as cool of a grandmother as she is, I’ll be more than happy.
The rest of the trip was full of many other laughs and with my grandpa in tow we went out for many other meals including a sushi and sake lunch. As a final gift, he bought me some fabulous new Steve Madden heels. The weekend flew by and I was soon packing up my gifts, hopping on a plane, and I have now returned to work and reality.
Asheville, North Carolina may be lacking the beaches and weather, but what they do have is the honor system… and blueberry picking: substitutes for drama which are non-existent on my side of the country. The differences between the coasts sometimes seem like two sides of the world instead of just opposite end of the United States.
Reads: “We will be on the honor system today. I will be here but not able to stay outside all the time. Go ahead and weigh your berries. The scales are on the inside. Bags to carry your berries home in are on the desk. Please record your poundage on the table next to the scale. There is a chart to help you if you need it. If you need change, just come to the door and call me.
Have a blessed day,
The Biltmore Estate is a Chateauesque-styled mansion near Asheville, North Carolina, built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. It is the largest privately owned home in the United States at 175,000 square feet and featuring 250 rooms. Still owned by one of Vanderbilt’s descendants, the house and gardens stand today as a historic landmark for all to enjoy.
Nestled in Biltmore Village near Asheville, North Carolina, is a little place called Chelsea’s. Afternoon tea is their specialty. The small room is filled with petite vintage tables and chairs. A blonde woman with an accent hands you a one page menu. There are about 200 tea choices crammed onto the page and 2 food choices squished up at the top right hand corner: a tower of little cakes, cookies, and other pastries or a fruit and cheese platter. The atmosphere is soothing and is the perfect place to meet up with friends or catch up with family as I did. And if you one day have the chance to stop in for afternoon tea, don’t forget to wander through the store that surrounds the tea room. You will find tons of little trinkets – everything from plates and tea cups (that makes sense) to stuffed animals and pill containers (not sure how those have to do with tea). This tea room is definitely worth a visit!