Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Notes on Asheville, North Carolina

Preceding my visit I heard the following about Asheville, all of which turned out to be true or at least probably true:

“I was born and raised in Asheville. Went away for 20 years. When I came back this year it had all changed and I couldn't afford to live there any more.”

“People go there and fall in love with it. They move there and never leave.”

“San Francisco east. And hippies.”

“You could spend a week in Asheville easy. Sampling the beer.”

“They may have more lesbians per capita than anywhere else in the US.”

Here's my brief take on spending just a day wandering around the downtown area.

George Washington Vanderbilt II purchased 125,000 acres there in the late 1800s and played a huge role in its development. He hired Gifford Pinchot to manage the vast mountain forests. This was the first time in US history where forest was managed and not just clear-cut with no thought for the future. Later Pinchot went on to be friends with Teddy Roosevelt who appointed him the first chief of the US Forest Service. Later in life, Pinchot moved and designed and built an interesting home and landscaped grounds, Grey Towers west of Milford PA and later was elected governor of PA--twice in two non-consecutive terms. We visited Grey Towers earlier in July and that's a story unto itself.

But I diverge. For those who haven't been there I would describe Asheville in terms of being a combination of other places, making it unique in its own right.

I would say that it's one part Boulder Colorado due to the mountain splendor and the great beer. However, the mountains are all green in Asheville while in Boulder they're blue/grey rock.

There's a dash of New York city urban sophistication due to the restaurants, art galleries, cool old buildings (which the city elders have had the great sense to not tear down), and happening music scene in clubs and spontaneously in the streets and public spaces.

I'd mix in one part downtown Sedona due to the new-age vibe and incense and peppermint wafting from certain areas. However, in Asheville it's a bit more upscale where in Sedona it seems blatantly touristy.

Finally, I would mix in a bit of San Francisco due to the diverse people you meet there--the art movie theater--the music scene. And the hills.

It's a great town and I would most definitely recommend it to anyone for a visit--not just for the beer but the whole package. The streets are clean and nice and the people are uniformly friendly.

N.B. You will find other information on the Asheville beer scene from a Pennsultuckian's slant, over at Pubcrawlin.

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