Marjie Lambert/Miami Herald/TNS
Marjie Lambert/Miami Herald/TNS

Escape to Asheville, N.C. for the weekend

Fall break — the luxurious one day vacation granted to us in the middle of a busy semester.  For some of us, this is the perfect opportunity to touch base at home and relax for a couple of days with family.  I, however, had previously vowed to explore North Carolina while I still had the chance, so I decided to visit Asheville.  Armed with recommendations and tips from friends, I set off ready to see what the city was all about.

The first thing that every tourist visits is the Biltmore Estate.  Having seen around a dozen pictures on Instagram of people in front of the house, I had an idea of what to expect.  Yet, the enormity of the estate was striking.  Clearly the Instas did not do it justice. The estate sort of feels out of place — the French-chateau style, the enormous rooms lined with medieval tapestries and the antique furniture were reminiscent of old European castles. Certain aspects of the house struck a chord with me, reminding me of my travels abroad. Still, there were tokens of Americana throughout the house. Trophies from hunting, such as buffalo and deer, adorned the walls alongside drawings of American wildlife or important figures. Other rooms seemed absurd; for example, the Halloween room felt a little excessive, considering Halloween is one day a year.

Eventually, my fellow travelling companions and I grew tired of examining each nook and cranny, so a cursory glance was all we gave to the last third of the rooms. All in all, the house was impressive but exhausting. Another thing to note is that seeing the grounds and the outside of the house is free, but going inside the house costs $50-$60. This is not a sum I would pay again since I’ve already seen it, but I’m glad that I went.

Asheville itself lived up to its reputation. Driving through the first time, I immediately noticed how artsy everything was. The murals, the signs on the shops and even the people had a certain hippie or hipster air to them. Art was present everywhere. Galleries big and small lined the quaint brick buildings, offering a range of products from stickers to large paintings. As an art enthusiast, I was happy to actually walk away from a gallery with something, even though that something was a postcard. The many restaurants offered a variety of scrumptious foods. I was given so many recommendations that it was dizzying trying to choose what we were in the mood for.

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In the end, we chose Farm Burger, which unsurprisingly served hamburgers. Our burgers were sizzling, juicy and cooked to perfection. The Farm Burger’s special sauce was refreshingly different from my usual ketchup and mayonnaise and the wedge fries were seasoned just the right amount. To follow up our burgers, we munched on delectable treats from a shop called The Chocolate Lounge.

Getting around the city was easy. The main part of it was very walkable and manageable. Granted, I’m sure I only saw a fraction of Asheville, but downtown was not difficult to navigate. In fact, I was able to find restaurants and stores that people recommended with ease. The only drawback was the parking. Perhaps there was a special event happening last weekend, but finding a parking spot was a nightmare. I seriously thought we were going to have to drive out of downtown before we found something. All the street parking was taken, and signs outside the garages glowed red with “Lot full.” However, after spending 12 full hours there, I can say that I was very happy with my visit. Parking aside, Asheville offered both history and a stimulating atmosphere.

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