Monday, March 31, 2008

Asheville, NC

Last Friday we felt especially fed up with our current situation and in need of some R&R. And since we always wanted to go to the mountains, we saw this as a great opportunity for a little weekend get-away. The plan was to drive to Asheville on Friday and come back on Sunday. Easy enough... Well, as usual, the experience was nothing short of enlightning since amoung the things we learned was:

1) You get what you pay for - ok, so it's an old one. But we always hope to beat the system, to stick it to the man, to get the deal, to pinch pennies, to earn a buck by saving a buck. In the end, we end up checking out of a truly crappy and not especially cheap hotel room and checking into a slightly more expensive, but much nicer hotel room. And in between these events, there's a "your call is very important to us"-fest as we're attempting to get full refund for the cancelled night at a crappy hotel.

2) It ain't gonna rain no more, unless... - well, NC is in extreme draught right now. Local weather man here in Raleigh has been promising rain for a few months now, but the damn mother nature just wouldn't cooperate. The most we got out of these forecasts were some light sprinkles lasting 15 minutes or so. So we didn't bother to check the forecast or to pack rain jackets. And that's when it rained! Apparently, when the man in front of the weather map in Asheville says it'd rain, he means it. Hmm... So, on Day 2 we did buy an umbrella. Of course, it stopped raining right away. But now if you see a couple walking under a huge red umbrella with "Biltmore" logo on it, you'll know it's us.

3) Biltmore Estate is awesome even in bad weather! Sure, we had to take turns walking around the castle itself. One of us would stay with Mark and the other one would madly dash through the rooms while listening to an audio tour. Then we'd switch. And sure, there were lots and lots of stairs and not enough ramps both inside the house and on the grounds of the estate. And sure, it was cold and rainy most of the time. But it was still AWESOME! I just wish we had enough time for the "behind the scene" tours. One of these tours takes you into the rooms closed to the general public and then up onto the roof. And the other tour shows the electro-mechanical contraptions that helped power and run the estate.

4) Cold, rainy mornings in early spring can be absolutely enchanting. The Blue Ridge Parkway is empty. As we stop the car and turn its engine off at one of the many observation points, we realize how totally quiet it is all around us. Thick fog drifts up the mountains and we can't make out where does the fog end and the milky white sky begins. Yet the views of the valley are clear and we can see all the little houses down there. And a faint sweet smell of early blooms is drifting over it all. I'm sure summer and fall are gorgeous up in the mountains. But turns out, the in-between-season is not bad at all!

And to top it all off, we had some really good barbeque, North Carolina-style. I don't ever eat BBQ because it's pork, but at the Barbeque Inn they had the chopped beef option. And boy, was it yummy! Mark loved it too, almost as much as riding on a pig. And the day we got to Asheville we were walking around the downtown and saw quite a lot of interesting food places. Unfortunately most were very busy. So we settled on the Mellow Mushroom pizza place (not to say that it wasn't good). The cool part was that inside the restaurant they had all sorts of fun sculptures, including a huge carved bear. So on his trip to Asheville, Mark got to ride on a pig and on a bear.