The Times UK recently published a great article about Asheville and Western North Carolina.
After a jaunt through the South and being disappointed by the strip malls and chain restaurants, they entered Western North Carolina:
“In addition to a diverse spread of restaurants, Asheville’s narrow streets offer an eco-chic boutique, a sustainable-clothing warehouse and a selection of pubs that would not be out of place in a Gloucestershire village: Jack of the Wood, the Green Man and the Thirsty Monk were all within a block of one another. Arriving here, you feel you’ve discovered something increasingly rare in homogeneous America: a regional city with a personality all its own.”
“Our first stop was Chimney Rock, a stunning formation rising from the surrounding forest. On approach, it looks less like a chimney than a particularly obdurate mushroom.
“After lunching on barbecue ribs beside a turbulent little river that had only a week earlier washed away some picnic tables from our terrace, we tackled the surprisingly gentle 300ft climb up to the summit. The rock’s naked promontory boasts views of surrounding Appalachia that are rumoured to range up to 75 miles, though our vista was considerably less due to encroaching thunderclouds. The hiking trails that vein the park below are well worth the effort, particularly the Hickory Nut Falls route, which leads to one of the East Coast’s more beautiful waterfalls.”
The Biltmore Estate also received impressive mention:
“… the ancestral seat of the Vanderbilt dynasty and the largest private home in America. Situated just south of Asheville, it was built by George Washington Vanderbilt, grandson of the shipping magnate Cornelius “the Commodore” Vanderbilt, America’s first great robber baron. George was a sensitive soul who lacked his forebear’s cutthroat business acumen and decided instead to devote his life (and redoubtable fortune) to the arts. The house he built, which was officially opened on Christmas Eve, 1895, is set on 8,000 acres of rich Southern backwoods, and the 175,000 sq ft structure appears to have been transplanted in its entirety from the Loire Valley.”
Next on their agenda was the Blue Ridge Parkway:
“Finally, we joined the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of America’s most beautiful roads. Running nearly 500 miles from the southwestern tip of North Carolina into central Virginia, the two-lane highway, built by the National Park Service in the 1930s, offers a welcome escape from the strip malls, billboards and building plots that now clutter many Southern roads. Driving along the parkway, which is shrouded by trees and absent of lorries, it’s easy to imagine for long stretches that you have left the modern world altogether.”
Lastly, like many people at the end of their trip, they were going to miss it:
“We finally left the Blue Ridge Parkway at Fancy Gap, just before the Virginia border. We were all too soon among the 16-wheel trucks, factory-outlet shops and fast-food restaurants. Clearly, our detour into a unique slice of the South was over.”
Learn more about real estate, schools, and additional details regarding the areas mentioned:
For more details and anecdotes, check out the full article at TheTimes.co.uk. [UPDATE (2016): This article has unfortunately been removed from The Times website.]