A Single, Tiny Leaf

Outside the Bonsai Garden at the North Carolina Arboretum, there is a sign that reads in part:

When you enter here, become small… Open your mind to the possibility that the greatest mysteries of life can be found in a single, tiny leaf.

Whoever wrote these lines deserves a raise because they spoke to my soul. I hope they speak to yours as well.


If you’re in Asheville, North Carolina and craving some really great Italian, check out Vinnie’s. This locally owned restaurant has an old school vibe with classic dishes in a fun environment.

Red leather booths, dim lighting, a fabulous bar, and great music (think Sinatra and “Mack the Knife”) make for a neighborhood vibe that makes you want to linger. I almost expected to see some gangsters at a booth in the corner.

The owner and chef grew up in New York City, patronizing neighborhood restaurants that were known for their family recipes and warm atmosphere. When he realized that Asheville was lacking old school Italian, he opened Vinnie’s, placing as much emphasis on atmosphere as on the food.

The result is fantastic. The service was great, the portions huge and delicious.

We ate inside but they have outdoor seating too. Want to see the menu or learn more? Click here!

North Carolina Arboretum

Visiting the North Carolina Arboretum was sort of an afterthought. We had spent the day exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway and were looking for something interesting to do before dinner. This was on my list of interesting places and it was open till 9 p.m. so we set out for a much needed walk after a day spent largely in the car.

This 400+ acre arboretum has beautiful flower gardens and trails, offering something for everyone. There are lots of water features as well as nooks and crannies that feel like secret gardens and spaces to get lost.

Plus there are so many amazing sounds of birds, frogs and crickets that create a soundtrack like no other.

It’s paradise.

They do have an education center that was closed for a special event. There’s also a restaurant and bonsai garden that were already closed for the day. That was fine by me because we had a terrific time out exploring the pretty flowers and woodland trails.

Parking is $16 per car. You can get lots more information by visiting their website. I took so many pictures, you’ll likely see more here in the future.

If you are in Asheville, I highly recommend this place. It’s great for all ages and, if you take kids, look for the treasure hunt maps to help them stay engaged and on the lookout for interesting things!

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.