Archive for April, 2009

Mount Mitchell beckons you!

 We celebrated a birthday last week by hiking to the top of Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the United States east of the Mississippi River. What a glorious day, beautiful enough to fall in love with.

Mount Mitchell is about 30 miles north of our Lovers’ Loop Retreat, an Asheville bed and breakfast alternative. It’s a lovely drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell State Park. There are no entry fees.  Because of the particular geography and elevation, the flora and fauna at Mount Mitchell are akin to those found in Canada, a sort of alpine environment.

On the trail to the peak, cool, soft moss covers rocks and fallen tree limbs, and hikers follow a trail lined with rocks and tree roots. The scent of the spruce-fir forest is enchanting all along the trail, and much of the path is shaded. When the path opens to views, the vistas of the mountains are wonderful.

At the top of Mount Mitchell is an observation tower that’s worth checking out. On a clear day, the views are magnificent. You can hike or drive to the tower.

This is one of our favorite destinations in Western North Carolina, and we encourage our guests at Lovers’ Loop Retreat, our Asheville vacation rental, to consider the trip.

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Take a stroll along Asheville’s Urban Trail

When you’re walking around downtown Asheville, you may notice some bronze sculptures that seem out of place: a top hat, gloves and cane on a bench on Patton Avenue; a cat on a wall on Wall Street; a bonnet and basket of apples on a bench on Walnut Street; a boy on stilts on Broadway.

Those and other granite markers and artwork are part of Asheville’s Urban Trail, a walking tour of downtown. The trail of 30 sites includes examples of art deco buildings and others in downtown’s great architectural mix, the dome at the Basilica of St. Lawrence, the boardinghouse of author Thomas Wolfe’s mother and his birthplace and the city’s historic African-American business and community hub. The tour includes five eras starting in the 1700s and covers 1.7 miles of the funky and fabulous downtown. 

When you visit our Lovers’ Loop Retreat, an Asheville bed and breakfast alternative, you’ll want to explore downtown, and you can walk the urban trail on your own for free or with a guide. Guided tours are offered on Saturday from April through October.

Urban trail brochures with maps are available at various locations downtown, including the chamber of commerce visitor center on Montford Avenue, the Thomas Wolfe visitor center on Market Street and the Asheville Area Arts Council on Biltmore Avenue.

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Book a visit to Asheville

One of downtown Asheville’s icon’s is Malaprop’s bookstore on Haywood Street. It’s an independent bookseller with many books by local and regional authors and poets, and the store hosts frequent poetry readings, book signings and other events. Our poetry group has read at Malaprop’s, and we’ve attended some of their events, which usually draw a crowd.  

Most people who visit Asheville—and most guests at our Lovers’ Loop Retreat Asheville bed and breakfast alternative—find their way to Malaprop’s. Some people are drawn by the Internet café, which is a cozy place to socialize, check e-mail or just perch and people-watch. It’s in a good location downtown, a few doors away from the civic center and down the street from Pritchard Park. The store has been around for about 25 years, no small feat for an independent bookseller, and the place is a real hub of activity, conversation and creativity. You’ll get a flavor of Asheville if you hang out there for awhile. 

Malaprop’s is so popular that it’s a favorite hangout for Asheville’s many and various street musicians, too. They sing, play guitar, accordion, banjo, cello, saxophone outside the store off and on for much of the day to serenade visitors as they enter and leave.    

Malaprop’s has a sister store, Downtown Books & News on Lexington Avenue, with a big selection of newspapers and used and rare books. And there’s another independent bookstore downtown, The Captain’s Bookshelf, which sells used and rare books, on Page Avenue.

Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar downtown is a new business that sells used books and offers champagne and wine to patrons.  

When you visit Lovers’ Loop Retreat, our Asheville vacation rental, bookmark some of these bookstores.

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Drumming in Asheville

            It’s springtime, and that means the drumming at Asheville’s Pritchard Park downtown has started. Each Friday 6-10 p.m., weather permitting, a crowd gathers at the park to hear the waves of sound that come from scores of drums played by random and diverse participants. It’s a phenomenon of energy and unity that’s mesmerizing for the many onlookers and seemingly rapturous for drummers. And it’s free!

            The drumming represents a real community, even if it’s makeshift, unplanned and temporary. Participants and onlookers show up eagerly each week to revive the magic, and there’s a sense of camaraderie and harmony at the small park in the center of town.

            Many people dance to the driving rhythms, and their movement is as spontaneous as the rest of the action. Pulsations resound from the drums, and the sound resonates through downtown as a magnet to draw the curious.

            Check out the drum circle when you visit Lover’s Loop Retreat, our Asheville vacation rental. Some of our guests make a special point of going to the Friday Asheville drum circle. Maybe we’ll see you there!

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The tale of Asheville’s tailgate markets

            It’s one of Asheville’s most popular crops—tailgate markets. These markets are cropping up like daisies in the area. Of course, you can find much more than daisies at the markets.

            If you want to cook for yourselves when you visit our Asheville bed and breakfast alternative, Lovers’ Loop Retreat, you can bring your fresh goodies here to prepare and eat. 

            Starting in April, you can visit the Asheville City Market downtown, the French Broad Food Coop market downtown, the North Asheville market, which is at UNC-Asheville north of downtown, and the West Asheville market west of downtown.

            In May, more markets open, among them the market at Greenlife grocery just north of downtown.

            The Western North Carolina Farmers’ Market in Asheville is open year-round.

            For people who love fresh food from asparagus to zucchini, visit Asheville’s farmers’ markets, meet the growers and enjoy local goods.

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Asheville’s Herstory Story

Part of Asheville’s story is herstory, and there’s a new business that offers downtown tours which focus on the contributions of women. When you come to stay at our Asheville bed and breakfast alternative, Lovers’ Loop Retreat, you may be interested in getting some local history about the city’s herstory.

By the Elizabeth Blackwell memorial

By the Elizabeth Blackwell memorial

            Herstory Asheville, www.herstoryasheville.com, gives glimmers about the lives of the funky and fabulous women who helped make Asheville what it is—and was. Enjoy the friendly tour guide Brenda Williams as she introduces you to Julia Wolfe, mother of author and Asheville native son Thomas Wolfe and a businesswoman who ran a boarding house downtown that’s now the Thomas Wolfe museum. You’ll learn about Lillian Exum Clement, who was a lawyer in Asheville and the first female legislator in the South. Clement joined North Carolina’s House of Representatives in 1921.

Brenda

Brenda

            And there’s Elizabeth Blackwell, who came to Asheville around 1840 and worked for a doctor in the city before becoming the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree. Thelma Caldwell was director of Asheville’s YWCA for black women in the 1950s and helped integrate the city’s two YWCAs. She was the first African-American executive director of a YWCA in the South. You’ll learn about Lucy Herring, a beloved African-American teacher in Asheville. And Brenda will tell you about Edith Vanderbilt, wife of tycoon George Vanderbilt, who constructed the Biltmore estate for their home. Edith created schools and industries that helped the community.

            The tour is worth checking out when you stay at our vacation rental in Asheville.

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Asheville Spring Events

Lovers’ Loop Retreat April ’09 muse-letter

            In April here at Lovers’ Loop Retreat, our alternative bed and breakfast in Asheville, N.C., the serviceberry tree explodes into white blooms that resemble popcorn before the petals fall to the ground. There’s more to come with dogwoods and rhododendrons.

            And when you leave our Asheville vacation rental, signs of spring abound elsewhere, in nature—redbud, pear and cherry trees, hyacinths and daffodils—and in activities. Visit our Web site at www.loversloopretreat.com to see a list of events we update regularly.

            In April we’ll host some first-time visitors to Lovers’ Loop Retreat and more repeat guests, which always is a treat for us. They—and you— have a lot of entertainment options this month, in addition to the ever-present Blue Ridge Parkway with its hiking and biking opportunities a stone’s throw from our vacation rental and other outdoor recreational fun, including rock climbing and kayaking.

            April 2-25 is Eve-Olution, a play about motherhood, at the Asheville Community Theatre downtown. April 3 is the first art gallery walk of the season in downtown Asheville. The many diverse galleries stay open later and offer refreshments to encourage browsers. You’ll see all types of art peepers at this lively and happening event. Art walks also will occur the first Friday in June, August and October.   

            April 4 starts the season for Asheville’s Blue Ridge Roller Girls, a roller derby team that elbows its way around the fast track at the civic center downtown. These whizzing warriors on skates are great competitors and hardy souls—if not a bit crazy—and they provide some drama and flashy outfits for the audience, too. Their bouts, which run from now until late fall, are way fun. Check our Web site for more information.

            April also means the beginning of Biltmore estate’s annual Festival of Flowers, listed on our Web site, which lasts through May 17. There are tulips and other flowers galore at this beautiful estate, an easy 10-minute drive from Lovers’ Loop Retreat and the most popular historic attraction in North Carolina. Biltmore has just opened several more rooms to the public at the George Vanderbilt mansion that managers call America’s largest house.

            April brings a new festival to Asheville, HATCHfest, April 15-19, an event that features films, performances, workshops, speakers and art exhibits around downtown on themes of architecture, fashion, visual art, music, design and technology and more. There’s a link on our Web site.

            Comedian Kate Clinton will perform at the Diana Wortham Theatre downtown April 23. We’ve seen Kate more than once, and she’s still funny.

            Peeking into early May, Saffire, the Uppity Blues Women perform May 1 in Asheville, apparently part of their final tour. The spring herb festival is May 1-3 at the Western North Carolina Farmers Market in Asheville, and the annual rhododendron show is May 2-3 at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville. A popular event is the twice-a-year Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) of visual and healing arts, dance and music in Black Mountain just east of Asheville May 8-10.  

            All these events and more are listed on our Web site. Join us at Lovers’ Loop Retreat! Please pass along our muse-letter to your friends. See you in Asheville!

          

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