Asheville: Weird is Normal

I was in Asheville for the first part of the week attending a tourism conference at the Grove Park Inn. It wasn't exactly my visit to this Western North Carolina town. I made sales calls on the AAA office many moons ago and remember it was basically getting off the interstate, running into the office, chatting with the counselors and hitting the road for my next destination.

I called a friend prior to trip who used to call Asheville home. He gave me a list of must-do and must-avoid things. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to do all he suggested, the conference got in the way! (The conference was very good, I came home with a lot of new ideas and concepts.)

I know Asheville is a big artist and cultural hub but had no idea until I saw it and saw the people. It reminded me a bit of Portland, Ore. where individuality is celebrated and embraced.

While art in various mediums and culture are important, so is nature and the environment. There are walking trails downtown, like the self-guided Urban Trail. Some restaurants serve locally grown and raised foods, some organic and many offering vegetarian and vegan options (and vegan options extended beyond steamed veggies). You'll have to wait for me to write an article about where I ate. [The article is here! Travel Dining Guide to Asheville] I ate too much excellent food and could have kept going if I had a day or two.

Also had the opportunity to see the new (opened in Dec. 2007) Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center, a green building welcoming and educating visitors to the Blue Ridge Mountains. (Another article is forthcoming.)

Although a bit chilly on my arrival day, I loved inhaling the fresh mountain air (it made for good hair days, too). The vistas from the hotel were incredible, too, and I took my friend's advice to sit in the hotel bar and watch the skies turn to shades of pink and orange for a stunning sunset. Yup, there were some clouds but that added a dimension to the scenery.

Ah, Asheville. When will I visit again?