Exploring Asheville’s Grove Park Inn, my son’s unexpected visit, and more.

 

Looking up at the front of the Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC

I had a pretty exciting (and hectic) weekend.   My son came up from Tampa with a friend of his (Rudy) in tow.   I really wasn’t prepared for the visit, since he announced it just three days before their arrival.    He had to take Rudy to the airport in Atlanta and decided to come up to NC to visit his mom and newly married sister (and new brother in law), since we are not that far away from Atlanta.

Friday night after I got home from work they were already at the house.  We ate at the new Galactic Pizza near my home (their Italian food and especially their pizza is amazing).  The space theme decor is super cool as well.

Inside of Galactic Pizza, Asheville

Closeup of the laminated outer space theme bar counter

The next day was pretty quiet, since my daughter and her husband both had to work, so my son and his friend went out to visit some of my son’s old friends from school, and I had a chance to clean up the house and do a little shopping.   Saturday night was Game Night.  They had brought two friends back with them to the house.  All seven of us crammed into the small living room, ate a huge bucket of Bojangles’ chicken, and played some online games (you have to download an app to play) and they were pretty fun, but after awhile I developed an intense headache and felt tired so I went to bed early while they continued to play more games deep into the night.    I was really feeling my age that night!

Sunday we had the best time.  We got up pretty early, and after a quick breakfast and some coffee, decided to head to the mall.  My son bought his partner some gifts, and I splurged and bought myself this adorable Betsey Johnson pink flamingo suitcase that was on sale (it was the last one left so I *had* to have it!).   I needed some new luggage anyway, and since I’m taking my yearly trip to Florida in two months (I can’t wait), the pink flamingo motif was perfect.  I’ll probably get the smaller matching case later, which would be perfect for smaller items and cosmetics, but I’ll probably order that online and get a cheaper price than I could at a store (and it was out of stock).

 

I also stopped in Hallmark while my daughter and her husband were busy and bought them this as a late wedding present (they got married several weeks back, but I never got around to writing a post about it). I think it looks like them a lot.  Both of them were touched.

 

After the mall run, my daughter left for work and her husband left with her, and so my son, his friend and I decided to go exploring the world famous Grove Park Inn (purchased by Omni Hotels and now officially referred to as he Omni Grove Park Inn) The hotel was built on he side of Sunset Mountain (part of the Blue Ridge) and completed in 1912.  It was built in the popular and beautiful Arts and Crafts architectural style that was fashionable at the time (and has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years).  Its red shingle roof has an organic look to it, and the facade is constructed of stone found right here in the mountains.   It has been added to over the years, with an additional wing added, but it all fits together seamlessly and the hotel has become enormous!  You can easily get lost in it.

Looking down from the hotel (it is built into the side of a mountain)

Looking up from the bottom. Yes, there are actual waterfalls, and these are natural features, not manmade.

 

Many notables of both the past and present have visited the hotel, and adorning the hallways are photos of the various famous visitors.   There are several excellent (but expensive) restaurants, and beautiful architectural detailing everywhere.

One of the most impressive things about the Inn is the huge stone lobby with its vintage rocking chairs and sofas, and especially its two gigantic fireplaces on either end.  There are outside porches extending from the lobby, and the views are breathtaking,  overlooking the nearby mountain ranges.   You feel like you are in the sky.

There is a vintage 1913 (?) Ford Model T (?) in the lobby.  Someone correct me on this if they know the exact model and year.  I forgot to take down that information.

You can get an idea of the view from these pictures.   I wish the day was less cloudy/foggy (and cold!), but it was still lovely.

And here is the three of us:

The hotel also may be haunted!  There is the famous legend of the Pink Lady, who was staying at the Inn in 1920, and died from a fall to the Palm Court from the balcony in the central part of the Inn (the floors above the main lobby). Her room number was 545, and to this day, people are either drawn to that particular room because of its macabre history, or they avoid it!   None of us encountered the Pink Lady or any other ghost that day (yes, we did walk past Room 545!)

Scale model of Grove Park Inn displayed in one of the hallways

Another famous thing about the Grove Park Inn is the annual Gingerbread House Competition, which takes place every Christmas season.  It’s a fairly new event, which started as a tiny competition for local people in the late 1990s, but has now become a huge sensation that people from all over the world travel to see.   Everything in the Gingerbread Houses must be edible, although it doesn’t need to all be of Gingerbread.

Here are two views of last year’s winner.  This construction includes (edible) gears that actually move!

 

The best part came last.  We descended all the stone stairs down the mountainside (seen above in some of the photos) and at the very bottom is the Grove Park Inn’s Spa, which is actually built into the rock itself.  It’s basically contained within an underground cave system, and as you walk along the stone tunnels leading to the Spa, there are  waterfalls here and there, trickling water collected in small pools along the rough stone walls, and even a few actual geodes embedded into the rock.   (It was too dark to get a good photo of those).   As you approach the Spa itself, you can smell the scents from inside.   We didn’t go inside, as we didn’t have a pass and hadn’t paid for a day at the Spa (how I would have loved that!), but what we saw was still impressive.

I do have one good picture of one of the tunnels leading to the Spa. Beneath that is a photo from Omni Hotels’ website, showing the Grove Park Inn Spa’s underground pool (which is manmade but might as well be a natural feature).

The underground pool at the Spa. (credit:  Omnihotels.com)

One day I’m spending a day here.  It’s on my bucket list.

This morning my son left to return to Florida.  I’m off work today so I’m spending the rest of the day working on my blog, something I’ve been sadly neglecting.  This is my first post.

 

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A fun day.

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Side view of the Hundred Year Old Cabin, Arden, NC.

Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday, but this year has gone by so fast (and because of the continued cold weather, I was having trouble believing spring had really arrived), so I almost forgot about her birthday. It just sort of snuck up on me.   So I realized yesterday I hadn’t made any plans or gotten her anything.

I stopped by a cupcake shop on the way home and got six different types of cupcakes, then had her pick her favorite one (red velvet cake).  Then I placed a candle on top of it and brought it out to her while we sang happy birthday (I did not get a picture of that but I should have — the cupcakes were adorable and so colorful).

Then I told her I wanted to go for a drive and wanted company.   What I had in mind was a 3 mile trip to some river cabins I’d always been curious to see.     She and her boyfriend joined me, thinking the trip would be boring, but it wasn’t at all!

There are seven adorable rental cabins tucked away in the woods by the river.   Six of them are new, and all perfectly charming (we could actually go inside two of them), but the one that fascinated me the most was the Hundred Year Old Cabin.   We didn’t get to see the inside of it, but it’s very photogenic, as you can see below.

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Back view of the Hundred Year Old Cabin

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Front view of the Hundred Year Old Cabin

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Two photos of one of the newer river cabins.

We got to try out the hammock on one of the cabins closest to the river.   It was a beautiful day, and so relaxing just swinging in it and hearing all the nature sounds.  It was hard to believe I wasn’t on vacation and only a few miles from my home .

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We walked around the campgrounds for a while and took some pictures of the river, then we headed to Panera Bread for her birthday dinner.

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Asheville Womens March 2018!

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I wasn’t able to attend the Womens March that took place in downtown Asheville today, but the day was beautiful (sunny, high 50’s) and the turnout was unbelievable!  My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw this photo (which I was informed later is actually from 2017, but the turnout was the same or even greater than last year’s).

Asheville is a very progressive (deep, deep indigo blue!) bastion in a mostly red state (though a lot of the “redness” is misleading, since the GOP gerrymandering here is the worst in the nation.  There are actually quite a few blue/Democratic areas in North Carolina, particularly in the urban areas.

But I’m fortunate to live in what is probably the most politically progressive city in the state, outside of the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area, which is full of colleges and universities.   Asheville has a couple of colleges, but higher education isn’t its main draw.  We’re a haven for artists, musicians, people involved in the healing arts, and other creative types, and people from other areas of the country seeking the vibrant culture here as well as the beautiful scenery and the weather — we have all 4 seasons, but the winters are generally milder than what you find farther north and the summers are not that hot because of our location in the mountains.

The turnout in this small city (population about 89,000) was incredible.   It might as well have been in a big city like New York or Chicago!

Beautiful weather, beautiful city, beautiful people.   I’m proud to live in Asheville even though I wasn’t able to attend the march today.    I’m thrilled that the resistance seems to be growing even after a year of Trump, and proud of my fellow Ashevillians.

Why so many “Russians” are moving to North Carolina

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An increasingly common sight in Buncombe County, NC

Actually, most of them aren’t true Russians, they are Slavic people from Eastern Europe, especially The Ukraine, which was once under Soviet rule, so that probably explains some of the confusion.

Eastern Europeans began to flood Buncombe County during the 1990s, with Asheville being at the center of the immigration activity. In the past decade or so, Slavs have become such a large chunk of the demographic here that signs in most of the downtown public buildings, such as the courthouse and the health department, are in English, Spanish, and Russian (or Ukrainian, which I think is similar to Russian and uses the same Cyrillic alphabet–I can’t tell the difference!).

Some long-time residents of this area complain about the huge influx of the “Russians,” as they do about the large Mexican population already established here. Personally I find both groups add a lot to the culture, and don’t cause any problems at all. In the case of the Ukrainians (to my understanding, the largest group of Slavs moving to Asheville and Buncombe County), they are escaping from an intolerable situation in their own country, where Ukrainians, in spite of declaring their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, are facing religious abuse and their country is being torn apart by opposing political forces which are outside the interests of freedom. Here is an article (about a year old) from the Asheville Citizen-Times that goes into more detail about the discord going on in the Ukraine.

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Sadly, this attitude is pretty common. The new immigrants aren’t even technically Russian.

Why have so many Eastern Europeans chosen the Asheville area as their destination? I’m not sure, but I think it could have something to do with the similar climate and terrain in the Southern Appalachians (the entire Appalachian range runs from Georgia through Maine) to parts of Eastern Europe (even though their climate is somewhat more continental and less humid–and has colder winters). The Southern Appalachians have been compared by many people to the Carpathians which run through the Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia, and one of the counties next to Buncombe County is even called Transylvania County due to it’s appearance. The 2003 movie “Cold Mountain,” a civil war epic about people living in western North Carolina during the mid 19th century and later, was actually filmed in Romania (it was cheaper to film it there, and the Carpathians are less untouched by modernity than the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains). I’ve seen photos of the Carpathians, and it’s almost spooky how similar they look to this part of the US!

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Which one is the Blue Ridge Mountains? (Click on the photos and the picture titles will tell you which is which).

The culture of the mountain people in both areas also have similarities. There’s an organization called the Carpathian-Appalachian Conference which holds meetings and sponsors educational and other events that seek to understand the similarities and differences between the two cultures.

Springtime Pond.

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Click photo to enlarge.

Every day I seem to find something new to photograph. I saw this lovely pond today. There were honking geese there too, but I wasn’t able to get a photo of them.

Whenever I see a scene like this, I can’t help thinking about Narcissus meeting his end in a setting very much like this one.

I love this time of year so much, and there’s no better place than western North Carolina to see all the small miracles happening every day in Nature’s march toward summer.

Snow and sky.

I took some photos around Asheville, North Carolina yesterday and today. Yesterday’s photos are the sunny ones. Today’s are the ones with the trippy looking sky. It’s warmed up quite a bit, with temperatures above freezing for the first time in a week.

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If you click this photo to make it larger and look closely at the left hand side where the land meets the sky, you can see the top of Mount Mitchell, part of the Black Mountain range of the Blue Ridge, and the highest peak on the East Coast. It’s covered with snow.

Other snowy photos from yesterday:

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The sky is on hallucinogens! (these photos are from today)
These photos don’t quite capture the almost otherworldly weirdness of the sky today. These are not storm clouds. I don’t know the name of these wavy clouds but they are shaped by wind currents.
Click the photos to enlarge.

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On the drive home today

A mile away, the snow was blowing so hard there was practically no visibility and I thought my car would blow off the road. But here, I caught a couple of photos of the French Broad River on the way home from work just before the snow and wind began to hit. There was still a little patchy sun.

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Winter twilight: Asheville, NC

I snapped these photos in the Ingles parking lot while loading groceries in my car. It was somewhat warm today and sunny, and I just loved the look of the sky just before sunset. The photos don’t really capture the beauty of the colors in the sky at the time but it was magical.

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Click on the photos to make larger.