biltmore

To think that Asheville is just the Biltmore is to think that Knoxville is just the UT Vols, or that San Francisco is just the Golden Gate Bridge, or that Fort Wayne is…well, I don’t know what most people think of when they think of the Fort. Probably not the seminary like we Lutherans do.

The point, of course, is there’s a lot more to Asheville than the world’s biggest house-turned-tourist-farm. How do I love thee, Asheville? Let me count the ways.

1. The scenery.

Look, I love Knoxville and Maryville, but we’ve just got the one side of mountains. Asheville? They’ve got a range in every direction, so no matter where you are, the views are there too.

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2. The houses.

Asheville is just cute. I adore their craftsman/cottage style that seems to be everywhere without looking like tract housing.

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3. The trees.

They’re everywhere. It seems that people aren’t as fond of ripping out the natural landscaping to plant suburban paradise in Ashe as they are in Knox, and they have more evergreens than we do, so even wintertime looks lush.

4. The mountains!

It’s not even a contest when it comes to the number and range of hiking trails (see 360-degree mountain ranges above). We had so much fun at Montreat, this Presbyterian retreat next to the adorable town of Black Mountain (also, incidentally, where Billy Graham lives). We hiked Lookout Mountain up to Bogg’s Bunion, which was a gorgeously-maintained trail surrounded by evergreen mountain laurel and with views of the Seven Sisters mountains at the summit.

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(Also, I want to retire at Montreat or Black Mountain now. It’s the sweetest, most peaceful place you can imagine.)

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5. The beer scene.

Craft beer? Check. We only made it to Highland and Sierra Nevada this trip, but there are dozens of microbreweries around town still on the list. We brought some Pisgah Brewing Company’s Graybeard IPA home. (Also? Beer is like $4 cheaper per six-pack in NC than TN. Thank you, taxes.) (Also #2? I look really tired in this picture because we’d just finished a pretty strenuous 3-mile hike and then a 1-hour standing brewery tour. My ankle was very happy to get a beer as a reward.)

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6. The creative class.

This is one of those nebulous things that people say make a great town, and Asheville has it in spades. A big-time art scene, outdoorsy people, a progressive city…. It’s a fun and vibrant place to hang out.

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7. The food.

I read all 12,000 pages of Yelp and can’t seem to get to the bottom of the amazing restaurants in Asheville. Friday night dinner at The Marketplace, with fresh local fish and beet and goat cheese ravioli; Saturday dinner at Sierra Nevada: wood-fired Brussels sprouts, a coddled egg with toast and cream, and short ribs with butternut squash and serrano crema. A chocolate croissant and fresh Counter Culture coffee before church at High Five Coffee. Then, an amazing crepe brunch at Creperie Bouchon downtown today, after 11 a.m. Matins at the only Lutheran church in Asheville proper.

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That may be the only negative: where are all the Lutheran churches? There are only three in the entire area, none of which were near our Charming Apartment on the east side of the city.

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Seriously, our place was so adorable. There were so many cute listings on Airbnb, and we finally narrowed it down to two: One in West Asheville, aka the hip area of the city, and this one, to the east and nearly in the country. We finally opted for the country place and it was fantastic—very much a getaway, with beautiful mountain views right out the front window and yet just 15 minutes to Asheville or Black Mountain.

8. The company.

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Yep, he’s my favorite person to spend time with, since 1999.

In short: I can’t wait to go back, and Google has read my mind. It’s already offering me ads for retirement communities near the French Broad River. Don’t tell Derek, but I may or may not have clicked on them.