Asheville – Gateway to the Smoky Mountains

Asheville, North Carolina.

Continuing our tour of North Carolina, this year we decided to head west toward the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. October is a great time for catching the fall colors in this part of the country. We could tell that by the price of hotels on the weekend. Our original plan was to head there on Saturday and stay Saturday night, then tour the park on Sunday. What we discovered when we checked hotel pricing is that on Friday and Saturday nights in October, we could expect to spend upwards of $400 or more per night. Sunday night, however, was another story, room prices dropped by 50%. We quickly changed to staying Sunday and Monday night.

After arriving later in the day, I was wondering about a place to maybe have dinner and view the sunset. The hotel clerk recommended the Sky Bar and gave us basic directions to the downtown area. It wasn’t very long before we arrived downtown and found a space in a parking ramp. We set about walking toward what appeared to be the downtown core area and we soon saw the restaurant and bar tucked on a balcony high on a building. From the ground we could see they were quite full even for a Sunday evening. By the time we would have gotten seated, sunset would be a missed memory.

We chose instead to explore the downtown area and see what we could while we checked out the nearby places to eat. While we awaited the walk signal, a pedal pub went by. The driver gave me a wave and a “finger point” when he saw my “fancy camera.” Turning a corner or two, we happened upon Wall Street. This narrow one-way drive features many small shops and restaurants. The opening image is a shot of the eastern end of the short street.

Along Wall Street, lamp posts and other utility items were covered with knitted “gnomes” as part of a fundraiser for the BeLoved Tiny House Project for providing housing for homeless residents. With the donation of some land in East Asheville, the idea of a village of tiny affordable housing built by volunteer labor, many of whom would be working on their own tiny house, came to fruition. The knitted gnomes sale is but one fundraising idea that will ultimately provide inexpensive housing for the currently homeless residents of the city.

Even on a Sunday night, there was plenty of ‘walk-about’ traffic. Buskers were playing as we walked by an F. W. Woolworth Co. store. I was surprised there were any of these 5 and dime stores around. It turns out that the building, built in 1938, played a role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s with many sit-ins at the store’s lunch counter. Today, the building houses Woolworth Walk, a gallery featuring the work of over 160 local artists. A soda fountain was built in the store’s original interior location where decades ago customers stopped their shopping to grab lunch or an ice cream snack.

Rounding a corner across from Wall Street, we saw the largest of the knitted coverings that completely surrounded a large, old-fashioned manual iron sculpture. As the sun began to set on our tour of Asheville, our thoughts turned to finding a someplace to eat. We happened by a cajun style restaurant called Mayfel’s. Still looking, we walked on by, but eventually we decided to head back to the restaurant located just off the intersection of Haywood and College Streets. We are glad we stopped there. The service was great and the food was excellent. For travelers, one thing I noticed is that this fine restaurant is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Next week, our journey continues along the Blue Ridge Parkway into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s every bit as beautiful as I have been led to believe. The gallery of images features views of our late afternoon stroll in downtown Asheville. In most browsers, you can click on an image below to enlarge the photo and to scroll through the gallery.

 

John Steiner

 

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