Mount Mitchell

There are plenty of opportunities to stray off the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of them is at Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi.

The 6,684 foot mountain is protected by Mount Mitchell State Park. Here, you’ll find hiking trails, a visitors center and a short paved trail to an observation tower at the very top. That paved trail is just 989 feet and steep but manageable and well worth the view.

The Cherokee people who once called this land home called this mountain Attakulla.

European settlers eventually renamed it for Elisha Mitchell, the University of North Carolina professor who proved in 1835 that the mountain is several hundred feet taller than Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

He died in 1857 when he fell to his death at nearby Mitchell Falls. He is buried at the summit of this mountain.

The lady in this picture is my hero. She is elderly and appeared to be traveling alone. She took her time walking to the observation deck where she sat happily and enjoyed her surroundings.

I want to be her when I grow up.

Mount Mitchell is a nice diversion if you have time. Want to learn more? Click here!

A Day On the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is said to be one of the most scenic drives in the country. It connects the Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. It’s two lane, following the Blue Ridge Mountains, so it’s curvy and lots of fun to drive if you like mountain driving.

Work began in 1935 on the astounding 469 miles long road.

I have not driven the entire thing but have been on sections at various times and it is always a treat. There are side trips to enjoy from the parkway, scenic overlooks, and hiking opportunities. Plus, the looks of the mountains change with the weather and time of day.

We started out early to avoid Saturday morning sightseers. As we drove up the mountain road that morning, we experienced rain and gloom, saw sunshine burning off fog, felt the wind whip through our hair and even drive through a cloud high atop one mountain section.

It was early spring at the highest points where things were just starting to come alive. Down the mountain a ways, spring wildflowers bloomed and trees were in full leaf. The contrast was great fun to experience

The birds were especially vocal everywhere we went and this made my heart happy.

There are some things to see and do along the way including visitors centers, a folk art center and Mount Mitchell which is the highest point east of the Mississippi.

We took a couple of side trips that are worth stories of their own so I’ll tell you about those spots another day.

If you want to do some sightseeing but struggle with walking, this is great way to safely enjoy your natural surroundings. Pack a snack, roll down the windows, and enjoy the ride.

Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar

Bookstores are magical places.

Stepping inside a bookstore is like walking through the wardrobe into the land of Narnia. Every book represents an opportunity to travel, to learn or to simply escape reality. They are collections of big ideas and familiar stories. They hold new ideas and stories so foreign you marvel at their originality.

I get excited at the sight of a bookstore but it’s rare to find one with atmosphere as exciting as the contents of all those books they sell.

Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar in Asheville, North Carolina is incredible.

With thousands of books packed into two levels of space, it’s a book nerd’s paradise. The space itself is eclectic and fun with interesting art to enjoy if you aren’t completely preoccupied by the eclectic variety of titles.

There are comfy couches and chairs available for settling in with a drink and a book. There are also nooks and crannies with chairs to settle in and get to know a book before you buy.

The title I selected is a gorgeous photography book called “The Face of Appalachia.” This is a superb book of photography by local resident Tim Barnwell. It’s signed and the images, along with their accompanying stories, are exceptional. The photographer made the pictures of people in their own environments and he wrote snippets about the people’s lives. These black and white images are rich with detail and nearly every image is worth a slow study.

I am good at getting people to talk but I am in awe of how this man convinced Appalachian people to open their doors and invite in a stranger to take photos and listen to their stories.

When I went to pay, the store’s proprietor waited on me, flipping through the book and providing some insight into the photographer. He seemed as excited about my choice as I was!

He was delightful.

Don’t be fooled by the name of this place, they sell other libations besides champagne along with some food and deserts that looked amazing. They also have some outdoor seating where, on that night, live music kept people engaged with toe tapping tunes.

If I lived closer, I would be there all the time. Want to know more? Click here to visit their website. You can also follow them on Facebook. Battery Park is located in The Grove Arcade in a historic neighborhood of Asheville. Click here to read about that place.

The Grove Arcade

America’s first indoor shopping mall still exists in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It was conceived by selfmade millionaire E.M. Grove who envisioned this attraction as a means to invigorate the city’s downtown district.

Grove actually died in 1927, two years before his 267,000 square foot dream was completed. When it opened in 1929, original tenants included a beauty shop, cigar stand, a haberdashery, candy stalls, booksellers and office space.

It continues to serve as a gathering place with restaurants, shops, an art gallery and residences. In fact, it was a happening place when we were there!

The light is lovely, the architecture amazing, and we found some nice shops. My friend was most interested in one store that sold locally made arts and crafts but I was most taken with this shop that sells handmade hats and yarn.

The old phone booths are free of phones but serve as a hub for an ATM and facility information.

Here’s one more look at that gorgeous ceiling.

Want more information? Find a directory and full history here. Tomorrow I will tell you about the amazing bookstore we found!

A Look Inside Biltmore

George Vanderbilt’s “little country home” is a sprawling French Renaissance chateau with 250 rooms. Spanning 175,000 square feet, America’s largest home has 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces.

You get to see only a fraction of the home on your Biltmore tour but it’s still impressive.

The dining room is magnificent.

This Louis the XV bedroom is where George and Edith Biltmore’s only child was born.

There’s a swimming pool, bowling alley and full gym.

The kitchen is huge.

There are multiple rooms devoted to the laundry.

There are many nooks and crannies with gorgeous light that seem to call my name.

Of course, the library is my favorite room with this wood paneling, floor to ceiling bookcases and ambiance lighting. There’s even a secret passage that leads to the bedrooms for the convenience of anyone wishing to find some bedtime reading.

I would spend all my time in this room if I lived here.

Touring the Biltmore is hard work if you have difficulty walking or climbing stairs. They do have an elevator to make it handicap accessible and shuttles from the parking lot if you wish to ride.

Want to read more? Check out this post about the estate gardens! We packed a lot into our North Carolina adventure so keep checking back for more stories!

Biltmore Estate

In 1889, George Vanderbilt began construction on his summer house at Asheville, North Carolina. He called the 175,000 square foot home his “little mountain escape.”

By the time it was completed in 1895, over 1,000 workers plus about 60 stonemasons had labored on the Gilded Age mansion.

Look at that detail.

It remains today the largest private residence in America. Most private residences don’t have a front door flanked by life sized stone lions. I’m obsessed with these lions.

Tomorrow I will show you some inside photos. Did you catch yesterday’s story about the grounds? Click here to read it.