I was looking for snow, living in Georgia there aren't too many nearby options for "real" snow. The idea was to plan at least one trip this winter to a place within driving distance of Atlanta that would have snow. That's how I found Asheville, NC. They get a fair amount of snow in late winter, and since they're in the mountains its gorgeous during that time of year. I knew there wouldn't be any snow, but since I needed to do a trip I decided against waiting for the snow to visit. I've been on a mission since I moved to the Atlanta area to see as much of the region as I can between big trips abroad.
I booked an AirBnB room a couple of days before leaving, did a cursory search for things to do and set out. Normally, my trips are fully planned out, researched to the nth degree and I know exactly what I want to see when I get to where I'm going. Lately though, that's changed. I haven't had as much time to do the amount of research for these short trips as I normally would and the element of surprise is a great thing from time to time.
Instead of taking 85 to Asheville, I decided to take the other route that Apple maps chose for me, highway 23 through the Chattahoochee National Forest. This is another way for me to see more of the areas that I'm traveling to and through...taking alternate routes through small towns. I get to see all the interesting, quirky, weird little stores along the highway. The weather was perfect, too. Sunny and foggy at the same time. I love leaving early in the morning and getting on the road, it's so peaceful. There were so many opportunities to stop and take photos because the fog was so thick in some areas. The sun was shining through the trees and the fog, making it eerily beautiful. I'm surprised that I made it to Asheville in relatively good time because I kept stopping to take pictures.
When I finally made it to Asheville, I was initially heading for the Biltmore Estate, but the line to get in the gate was too long. There was no way I was waiting in line for that, so I headed downtown instead. After only about 15 mins of walking around, taking pictures, I found my happy place. Anyone who knows me, knows that I do chocolate. I.Love.Chocolate. Soooo, I found this shop called French Broad Chocolate Lounge. What? A chocolate lounge? Reaaallllyyy? Went in there and nearly lost my mind. Not only is it a restaurant, not only do they make chocolate, but they have sustainably sourced, bean to bar chocolate from all over the east coast. Beans responsibly sourced from all over the world. Handcrafted, small batch, limited edition chocolate. That experience alone has made this entire trip worth it.
Asheville actually really surprised me. I didn't expect it to be so young, hip, and cool. Progressive is a good word. Organic, vegan, artistic, holistic all mixed in with the southern culture. So many artists, retirees, young families, students...It was really a nice discovery. I usually do a ton of research about the places I travel to, but this trip was such short notice I didn't bother. That's what I love about travel, the discovery.
After tearing myself away from the chocolate, heavily laden with sweets mind you, I made my way over to the AirBnB. I try to drive fairly slow when I'm in a new city, not slow enough to cause any accidents but just enough so that I can make last minute stops if I see something of interest. That's what I did when I saw the signs for the Blue Ridge Parkway. Quickly turned when I saw the signs for the visitors center. After speaking with one of the guys that works there about the trails and most scenic parts of the parkway, I now have my plan mapped out for tomorrow morning.
If he's right, tomorrow will be epic.