Thursday, December 1, 2011

Asheville, NC and Marietta, GA

On our next journey from Natural Bridge to Asheville, North Carolina we did not gamble on the weather and so opted not to take the Blue Ridge mountain trail, instead we drove down 1-81. Asheville which is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains is definitely a hippy kind-of town, a real gem of a place.

The Blue Ridge Mountains are truly blue; a beautiful blue haze is settled on them all the time. Asheville is famous for its many art deco buildings, with shops like Woolworth’s,  locally owned department stores and cafeterias still with their art deco exteriors but inside they house little shops and boutiques. “The Grove” is a beautiful shopping center whose outside is lined with shops, cafes and restaurants while inside is ascetically tasteful, including five beautiful wood surrounded telephone kiosks lining a wall. Very much a local treasure is the independent, free spirited, old bookstore and coffee shop “Malaprop’s” right in the center of town; it was good to see how busy an independent bookstore can be. A 1.7 mile self-guided walking tour around town features about 30 sculptures portraying the history of Asheville. Thomas Wolfe wrote a semiautobiographical novel “Look Homeward Angel” which was set in his mother’s boarding house and was banned in Asheville for a year. Adele has downloaded it onto her Kindle and started reading it last night to learn why it was banned.

Asheville also boasts the Biltmore Mansion and boy is it expensive to visit - $69 a person, having already visited several mansions in Newport, RI we felt that it was a rip off and instead visited another Asheville landmark “The Grove Park Inn”.  This was renovated recently; the outside is made of large granite boulders in a lovely ginger color, with red clay roof tiles and beautiful views over the town.

Adele was so disappointed that the doors of St. Lawrence’s Basilica were locked on Saturday and could not see the interior that she headed there for Mass on Sunday morning (hope you survive this bit of news Barbara) the Basilica has a very large dome and is beautifully decorated throughout. Sunday afternoon we drove up into the Blue Ridge Mountains and visited the Craft Center which had an array of amazing crafts on display. Once every year a very big Art Fair is held there.

PBS frequently has interesting programs on local history, a local celebrity or a topic of local interest from which we are learning a lot. Our TV is a HDTV and as most RV Parks provide cable we are well catered for. Sadly the Wi-Fi signal is not always reliable, with the park(s) antennae at an elevation of about 15 feet; we are looking into purchasing a signal extender/booster – suggestions most welcome. Another communication problem is that cell phone signal coverage is definitely not national, we have come across many dead spots so sometimes we have cell signal and sometimes we don’t.

From Asheville we transited through South Carolina (no we’re not counting this as a visit and will return in the spring) to Marietta, GA a suburb of Atlanta, where Peg and Norm longtime friends whom we had not seen for about 8 years live. We had a lovely reunion visit with them the Monday before Thanksgiving; we knew that they were flying to Dallas early Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with one of their sons and family. One thing we agreed on was that we, all four, are looking so well! We have kept in touch through Christmas letters every year but it’s so much better to see our friends in person. 

On Tuesday we went to Stone Mountain State Park with the intention of taking the Swiss Gondola Summit Sky ride which whisks visitors to the top. As luck, or lack thereof, would have it Tom took a right turn instead of a left and we ended up at the foot of a mile and a half hike up the back of the mountain and as we needed a good hike off we went. About halfway up we realized that we were indeed hiking up a mountain. The day was hot and there were lots of people of all ages hiking up and down, obviously a very popular hike. And…well worth the effort as the views from the top (360 degrees) are spectacular, we could literally see for miles. On our return to base camp we drove around to the front of the rock where the large Confederate Memorial Carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on horseback are carved into the mountain.  We discovered that one Gutzon Borglum was commissioned to sculpt this monument and having carved Robert E .Lee’s head and shoulders had a disagreement with the Commissioners and was fired. Shortly afterwards he received the commission to create what is now known as the Shrine of Democracy in the Black Hills of South Dakota where he carved the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore. 

The next man to take up the job at Stone Mountain decided to obliterate Borglum’s work and started the now smaller carving. Money was scarce in the South and the two World Wars passed before it was finished. To complete an excellent day with lots of walking we visited the Antebellum Plantation, where numerous buildings portraying different socio-economic backgrounds are on display with period furnishings from that era.

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