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Posts from the ‘travel travel travel’ Category

Vaya con Dios

Speaking of my brother

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Christopher (and his girlfriend, Ann), will be spending the next 6 months in San José del Cabo, Mexico. They are temporarily transferring down there for work. (Rough, eh?).  Last winter Christopher was sent to La Quinta, CA… and now this year, Mexico. (Ah, to be young and free from responsibilities again…)

As someone who picked up and moved overseas in my early twenties, I love to see my brother broadening his mind with travel.

They’ve only been there for just a couple of days so far, but it looks like the work fun has already begun…

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Maybe he will let his big sis visit in the spring?

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Just don’t bury me in the sand, okay?

 

~

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Head in the Clouds

There is something about being at the beach, that gives me the time and space to think. I think about the future, plans and goals, and am able to give myself time to daydream – and also that much-needed kick in the pants to get moving on again. I spent my few days at the beach in La-La Land daydreaming, drinking, eating, sunning myself, reading a fantastic book, biking and trying to figure out how I could live at the beach.

Up for the sunrise, wine with the sunsets and every moment in between… I had a brilliant time. I’d like to get back before the end of season (my favorite Inn closes in mid-October through end of March/beginning of April); but this fall is shaping up to be quite a busy one.  I don’t think I am going to make it back until 2012.

In the meantime, I will just have to revisit the beach in my mind… and in my photos…

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shell hunting

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I had a G-R-E-A-T time!

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~

WIAW–Beach Vacation Splurge!

Here are my eats, from a day at the beach…

A.M. – up before the sunrise, with a cup of cinnamon hazelnut coffee. The only flavored coffee I ever drink, is at one particular coffee shop, once a week. Elgin, the owner, gave us some of my favorite flavor to take on our beach trip, on the house. Two cups were had bright and early…

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After watching the sunrise, I ate a mini-Larabar for fuel, before taking a bike ride down to the Southern tip of the island. After a sandy stroll, some obligatory photography and just as obligatory shell-hunting, I headed back via bike.

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Back at the temporary casa, it was time for the real-deal breakfast… Iced coffee and a fabulous yogurt parfait.

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This parfait was Blueberry Chobani, layered with strawberries, blueberries and banana; along with chia seeds and some Bear Naked Fruit & Nut granola. We had a lovely little coffee table with rocking chairs on the 2nd floor porch to sit and enjoy our meals outside at.

Lunch was enjoyed on the porch as well, with some Caprese salad, and a tuna, white bean, arugula salad (both homemade). And some Chardonnay! Why not? I’m on vacation!

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Mid-afternoon, I enjoyed another glass of wine and a handful of TJ’s peanut butter filled pretzels. It’s been ages since I’d had those… and man were they delicious!

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Then, a very rare treat….

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I happen to love Diet Coke… BUT, I know it’s chemical-laden crap, so I don’t drink it very often.

I also had a bottle of Perrier out on the beach in the afternoon, unpictured.

Wine (yes, again!) at sunset, before heading out to dinner…

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Dinner – at BlueWater  for their famous crab cakes, and yes, more wine (!). The crab cakes were served atop a humongous pile of red beans and rice, and a frankly rather piddly amount of sautéed fresh snow peas. I wish the amounts had been reversed; but it was delicious, nonetheless. I probably ate about 40% of the rice that was given to me, along with every last bite of crab cake and snow peas, and was stuffed. crabcakes1

Midnight snack – (did I say I was stuffed from dinner?). Late in the evening, we ventured out on our bikes for some frozen custard at Kohl’s. I got a small 1 scoop cup with half a scoop of vanilla and half a scoop of chocolate. So very rich, and it melted into custard soup in a heartbeat!

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This was a very unusual day of eats for me – and definitely quite splurgy. Between the copious amounts of wine, the pretzels, the Diet Coke, the white rice and the frozen custard… I ate a lot of things that I normally try to stay away from, and/or consider treats. But it was worth it…  a totally great day of eats!

~

Gone Beachin’

I’ve taken advantage of a spur-of-the-moment opportunity, and have found myself at the beach. Not just any beach either… Wrightsville Beach, NC. This is my absolute favorite beach (in the U.S.). (shhh, don’t tell anyone. and especially don’t come here. go away, tourists!).

I will be spending the next couple of days doing this…

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and reading this…

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While staring out at this…

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and drinking this…

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and this…

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and watching this…

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and this…

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and getting around via this…

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digging my toes in like this…

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And oh yeah, some more of this…

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(buy me a house here, please? mmmkay?)

 

For now, I’ve escaped reality… happily.

~

Land of Lincoln (and travel woes)

I took a week off from blogging while I was traveling, and even longer from reading blogs! (I’m 10 days behind! Gah!). I’m going to be playing catch-up all week!

Last week I was in Central Illinois… where the wireless Internet is slow (and thieved from a neighbor!), the corn is currently knee-high, and the fireflies come out in droves after an early evening thunderstorm. Life is so much slower in the Midwest. I was born there, and moved away when I was in the 6th grade; though it will always really be “home” to me. My entire extended family still lives there, and I get back whenever I can manage it, to visit.

I went with the purpose of spending as much time as possible with my Gram. It was great to get to relax and hang out with her. Getting out-of-town was a nice bonus, as well! I was hoping for cooler weather in Illinois, but alas, didn’t get much of it. The day that I left (it figures!) the high was 68*, and it felt amazing, if only briefly!

My Gram and I are very close, and we spent our visit chatting, debating the ages of various celebrities (and looking them up on IMDB to settle the debates!), and basically enjoying each other’s company. We didn’t kill ourselves trying to accomplish a ton of activities. I went grocery shopping and cooked a few meals; and we watched a RedBox movie or two. I helped her around the house as much as I could with little things here and there – but for 81 years old, my Gram is pretty darn self-sufficient. She kicks butt, actually. She is an 18 year Breast Cancer survivor, and a nearly 5 year Colon Cancer survivor. My Grandpa has been gone for 14 years, and she has settled in to living alone very well. Luckily my Mom has three brothers that all live less than 45 minutes away – with one of my uncles, living in her same town. They take wonderful care of her, but my Mom and I wish we could do more. My Mom is able to get back to visit about every other month, which is great for my Gram. I am going to try to get back more often than I currently do. In fact, I am going to see if I can’t swing back up there in August for a few days. *Fingers crossed*.

Here are some photos of my trip…  (I only brought my point-and-shoot camera – I didn’t want to lug the DSLR this time around). 

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The cutest Cubs fan, ever?

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My cousin's son, Max, enjoying a 'Dilly Bar'. We both were a bit sticky afterwards!

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Enjoying my bare feet in the grass - without fear of fire ants! Divine!

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The sheep behind my Gram's house... so cute.

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Wind Power!

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My Gram and I

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As for the travel aspect of my trip…

My flight(s) up were fairly uneventful, and I arrived at my Grams around 11pm after having worked a half-day here in Charlotte. It was a looooong day, but I was thrilled to be there.

My flight(s) back to Charlotte, were another thing entirely. I ended up leaving IL 2 hours later than scheduled, due to weather problems in Atlanta (where my connecting flight was). Thankfully, I know how Atlanta can be, and had scheduled a 3-hour layover, to avoid any potential missing flights issues. The flight down to ATL itself was lovely, actually. We were on plane that could seat about 80 passengers, and there were only 14 of us! That never happens anymore, in the days of fewer and fewer flights per route. I was thrilled to sit in the back all by myself, read my BUST magazine and relax. Little did I know what was in store for me…

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I arrived in Atlanta with about an hour to spare before my flight to Charlotte, and made my way from Concourse D  to Concourse A on the tram; only to find out that my flight home had been pushed back as well. And back. And back again.

We FINALLY departed Atlanta around 1 a.m. and headed for Charlotte. It’s quite a short flight, only about 38 mins of flying time. The time flew (ha) by, and before I knew it, we had landed. After sitting on the tarmac for a few minutes, the Pilot came on the loudspeaker and told us that the gate/jetway that we were supposed to deplane at, currently had a plane full of people waiting to deplane – and that the jetway was broken. Apparently that plane had already been sitting there for over an hour, while the CLT airport tried to get their #$%! together and call in some off-duty mechanics to fix the jetway. Our Pilot then informed us that the jetway was the only Delta jetway that was currently “available” for us, as it was very late and all of the others had planes parked at them for the night… Yadda, yadda, yadda. Needless to say, there was a collective groan among the passengers, as we all were already quite tired of traveling, and it was almost 2 a.m.  We continued to sit on the tarmac for 1 HOUR (!!!). I had been growing more and more impatient by the minute – and I was not the only one.  Finally we started to reverse a bit, which was NOT the direction we wanted to go – but at least we were MOVING! We moved out the way, so that a tractor could come and tow an empty plane away from another gate, to allow us to deplane. It was an absolutely ridiculous situation, and frankly inexcusable. By this time, we were all ready to inflate the yellow slides, and jump down from the plane, a la Steven Slater! Woo!

I finally walked in the door of my house at 3:30 a.m… Tired, cranky and scuzzy from traveling all day. Poor Tristan picked me up, and had to go to work later that morning. I, luckily, had the day off.

I love to travel, and have had my share of interesting travel stories, delays, sleeping in airports, etc… but this situation takes the cake! Landing at your destination, and being UNABLE to get off the plane – at 2 in the morning, no less – is frustrating in a way that I can not even explain. Grrr!

The trip was lovely, the journey home… not so much.

~

Asheville–Day 4

On our last day, we had planned to do a hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway, before heading home. However, with all of the walking, hiking and heat the day before at the Biltmore, we were completely wiped out. The motivation just wasn’t there. So, we settled on driving up on the Parkway, stopping at a few overlooks, and then shopping at the Folk Art Center. But first, brunch!

After packing up and leaving the Cottage, we headed downtown to Tupelo Honey. We had called ahead, so the wait wasn’t TOO bad… about 15 or 20 minutes. (Those walking in off the street were told it would be a 75 minute wait! Definitely call-ahead if you can, as they don’t take reservations).  We sat across the street in Pritchard Park to people-watch while we waited.

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The place is always hopping! I have never seen a “slow” day here. The food and service are great, so it’s worth the wait!

I ordered their homemade Peach Iced Tea, and Eggs Betty (with asparagus, instead of ham), and a side of Honey Glazed Fruit Salad.

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It was a fantastic ‘last meal’ in one of our favorite cities.

Next we headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the gorgeous mountains, before heading back down to boring ‘ol Charlotte.

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A quick stop for some shopping at the Folk Art Center, and we were on our way!

Goodbye Asheville. We’ll miss you.

~

Asheville–Day 3

This was supposed to post while I was away in Illinois – but it did not?

 

This was our Biltmore* day!

We had a reservation to tour the house at 1:30pm. We arrived before noon, after a quick bagel breakfast at the local Bruegger’s Bagels. Prior to touring the house, we walked up the grassy hill in front of the house to the statue of Diana the Huntress; as well as touring the gardens and Conservatory.

This was Tristan’s first time inside the house. He had been to the Estate with me for work events, including a special dinner out on the South Terrace. As much as history and architecture are much more MY interests, I think he really enjoyed himself.

It was HOT. Super hot. Kind of a bummer, but it meant getting to enjoy a margarita at some point in the afternoon, while sitting on a bench at the Conservatory. Not a bad thing, indeed.

Photos are not allowed in the house, so here is everything ELSE

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(Boy do I miss using my employee discount at the Winery!)

It was a lovely, albeit muggy day on the Estate. After coming back to the Cottage and showering, we decided to cancel our dinner reservation at Zambras. Relaxing on our private porch, with a glass of wine, and getting take-out from HOMEGROWN sounded much more appealing at that point.

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HOMEGROWN proved delicious, once again. I opted for the Smoked Tempeh Burrito (w/local Smiling Hara Tempeh), and a side salad. T and I split a Candied Bacon Brownie for dessert. Our first choice was their Banana Pudding, but they were sold out for the day. The brownie was yum, and I loved the little candied bacon flecks throughout. The bigger chunks of bacon were a bit unappealing simply because they weren’t as crunchy.

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Even in take-out, HOMEGROWN proved exceptional. The take-out containers were compostable, as was the plastic carrier bag. Incredible. I brought the containers home, and put them in my composter. Hooray for loving the Earth! 🙂

 

~

 

* Background information… If you aren’t aware, I used to live in Asheville. I worked in Human Resources for Biltmore Estate in their corporate offices, on the executive level. It was quite a job! had daily interactions with Bill Cecil Jr. (President and CEO of Biltmore), who is the great-grandson of George Vanderbilt, who built the Estate.

Being the “Jill-of-all-trades” that I am, I also worked a couple of weekends a month out at the Estate Equestrian Center. The BEEC (Biltmore Estate Equestrian Center) is not open to the public, per say. When you visit the Estate, you don’t encounter it, unless you know where it is! Rather, it is for people who live in the area to board/ride their horses at; and also for those people who travel and camp with their horses. It was an interesting, albeit dusty, experience. Now if I overhear someone talking about “Coggins reports”, I know what they are talking about. (Any horse riders here?)

I also briefly assisted Philippe Jourdain, the former Winemaster at Biltmore Estate, as part of a side-project. I was able to learn a lot about wine in a short amount of time. (While deciphering his very thick French accent!)

So, that is my Biltmore background. It was a great company to work for, and I truly enjoyed my time there. I was sad to leave, when I ended up moving to Charlotte to be closer to Tristan. *

Asheville–Day 2

Saturday dawned bright, clear a little cool – which was a nice change from Charlotte weather! We headed out early to the local Farmer’s Market, Asheville’s City Market, downtown. As a die-hard local foodie, the Farmer’s Market was something I didn’t want to miss!

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It was very different from my local market, and had about twice as many vendors. There was so much beautiful produce! But I wasn’t there for that since I was on vacation… I was there for the local goodies… nut butter, jams, pasta… things that would travel well back to Charlotte with me.

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And tempeh! My one perishable purchase!

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I knew I just HAD to get some Smiling Hara Tempeh to take back home with me.

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After running back to the Cottage to put the tempeh in the freezer, we popped over to Early Girl Eatery for breakfast.

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This is one of our favorite breakfast spots, and well worth the inevitable wait. This time we only waited about 20 minutes – no big deal. We window-shopped on Wall Street, snapped a few pics, and just hung out. (How did we ever survive without Smartphones? ha).

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Tristan pointed out that Mimosas were on special, and insisted I have one! No argument here!

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Starting the day with coffee and champagne = happy Angie.  It WAS vacation, after all! We had a lovely window seat overlooking Pritchard Park, and enjoyed people-watching.

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I had the Sweet Potato Scramble with Local Sausage. Mmm, mmm. I am definitely going to re-create this at home!

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We spent the afternoon walking around downtown… shopping… snapping pics… seeing all that had changed since we were last here… and that which has stayed the same.

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We stumbled upon the Three Dog Bakery and even did a bit of shopping for Lilly!

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For lunch we popped into Salsa’s Mexican and Caribbean.

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Tristan wanted to try this place, as we had never been. There wasn’t much that appealed to me on the menu, for a “light lunch”. Everything seemed to be either huge or fried. Not my cup of tea. This was probably the only disappointing meal for me, of the entire trip. I ended up ordered an appetizer called the Spliff Roll (heh, heh – very fitting for Asheville!) and it was super-fried.

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I only ended up eating half of this small appetizer plate, (but ALL of the fresh mango salsa hiding underneath – yum), and it still managed to give me a tummy-ache later. I just don’t do well with fried stuff.

After lunch we walked and talked and walked some more. Everyone seemed to be out enjoying Pack Square Park, either cooling off in the fountain, or hiding out underneath the trees in the shade. This park was fantastic, and had been in the works before I moved away, but was far complete. The finished product is lovely.

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We saw my old office building at 1 N. Pack Square, which looks at first glance to be an unsightly concrete mess, but was actually designed by I.M. Pei.  I really enjoyed working right in the thick of things downtown, and miss working for The Biltmore Company.

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After a visit to Malaprops for some local Asheville LOVE,

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we hit up The Chocolate Fetish for some truffles (to enjoy a few days later, back home in Charlotte).

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Before we knew it, we were heading out for our dinner reservation!

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Dinner was at Stoney Knob Café in Weaverville, NC. (Just up the road about 10 minutes, still basically Asheville). Stoney Knob is our absolute favorite date restaurant in the area. It was where our first real ‘date night’ took place (as our first date had been a lunch date on a Saturday afternoon), and we ALWAYS pay them a visit when we get to the area. We had reservations for 8pm, at this cute little revamped Diner that serves “Cuisine from Near and Far” (mostly Greek with some Italian/Asian/Caribbean thrown in the mix for fun).

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I was dismayed to find that they had taken my favorite dry Rosé wine off the menu (sad face), and opted for a Sauvignon Blanc instead. It was delicious, and I had  a second glass with dinner.

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Our appetizer was a special for the night… flatbread pizza with herbed goat cheese, arugula, caramelized onions and mushrooms.

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For our mains I went with the Carolina Shrimp and Grits (featuring NC shrimp). This had a fried green tomato on top, with some more of that herby goat cheese, and was divine.  Tristan had the Filet Minion.

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For dessert we split the special, a chocolate tart and of course, Greek coffee. (Which we both LOVE).

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It’s so funny, every time we order Greek coffee at Stoney Knob, the servers asks us “Have you had it before?” or “Are you familiar with Greek coffee?”. And we chuckle. Yes, we are VERY familiar with Greek coffee. I’d imagine that they have gotten some rather shocked reactions from patrons in the past, who didn’t know that they were ordering a strong, short, sweet little demitasse cup ‘o joe’. If you haven’t had Greek (or Turkish) coffee yet – what are you waiting for?!?!

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Stoney Knob always gives us a lovely date night experience, and this was no exception. Love.

It was a PERFECT Asheville day.

Love.

~

Asheville–Day 1

Tristan and I took Friday off from work to get an early-ish start on heading up to Asheville for our Anniversary weekend. We took Lilly to my parent’s house bright and early, and said our goodbyes. I’m getting better at leaving her each time that we do it – but it still tugs at my heartstrings. The easier it gets, the better… this woman likes to TRAVEL!

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After heading back home to load up the car, we hit the road around 12pm. We took turns driving… chatting and dozing on the way up the mountain. Well, one of us dozed, as it wasn’t me. (I won’t post the pic I snapped of him sleeping in the passenger’s seat – that would be mean).

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As we were pulling onto I-240 we received a call from Terry at The Hill House Bed & Breakfast , that our Cottage was ready, and we could come check-in at any time. This was a pleasant surprise, as check-in was not supposed to be until 4pm. We had asked to get in earlier, and were pleased that they accommodated us!

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The Cottage looked pretty much as we remembered it, with few changes since we last stayed here in 2007. It’s a lovely little house that sits behind the “main” house of the bed & breakfast. (The structure you can see on the right, behind the Cottage, is Bill & Terry’s home). The Cottage has a kitchen, a jacuzzi tub, and a little flat-screen TV in the living area, for those of us who are CNN junkies and can’t stay away from the news! (me).

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The Hill House Bed & Breakfast is located in a lovely little area, off of Merrimon Ave, just about a mile from downtown Asheville.

After checking in, unpacking the car and freshening up a bit – we headed out for a late lunch. Tristan had checked out Yelp for any new and interesting spots in town, and recommended HOMEGROWN . So off we headed!

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HOMEGROWN was incredible. I wasn’t starving, as I had snacked on a homemade granola bar and a Diet Coke on the journey up. (By the way, it is damn near impossible to find a cold, caffeinated beverage – sans sugar or sugar substitute in a gas station! Had I any other options, I wouldn’t have had the Diet Coke. I used to love them, but almost never drink one anymore. Only when travelling. It was a necessary evil. Ok – rant over).

I wanted to eat light, so I settled on an appetizer of Pimento Cheese w/ Veggies & Flat Bread (which Tristan was able to share) and a side of Sautéed Sesame Kale w/ Carrots. I also ordered my first Buchi, a local Asheville Kombucha.

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Tristan ordered the Grilled Chicken Sandwich w/Mozzarella, Lettuce, Tomato & Watercress Pesto and probably a sweet tea (?). He sampled my kombucha  as well. I enjoyed the Buchi more before I started eating. With food, it tasted a bit more vinegary to me.

As will be the theme of the weekend, HOMEGROWN touts a farm-to-table philosophy with lots of local produce and meats. We had food from here again before our weekend was over, but more on that later!

After our late lunch, we drove around some of my old haunts… cutting through the UNCA campus, and driving by my old apartment in Historic Montford. This is where I lived in an apartment in a 100-year-old house, sans dishwasher, with a CRAZY landlady, who lived downstairs. Ah, memories.

After driving around from Montford to Biltmore Village, we stopped in at Mountain Java for an iced latte, and then we hit Greenlife Grocery (which is now owned by Whole Foods), and did some shopping. I was definitely in my element, and I think Tristan was amused at my excitement. I picked up some things that I am unable to find in Charlotte, and we chose a locally made Salted Carmel Brownie to enjoy for dessert after dinner.

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Back at the Cottage, we unpacked a bit more and just relaxed for a spell, and then opened our Anniversary gifts, before getting dressed for dinner.

Anniversary gifts

pre-dinner

Dinner was at The Laughing Seed Cafe, in honor of our first date that took place there, 5 years ago to the day.

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I ordered the Sweet Basil Martini, which turned out to be delicious! Look how pretty!

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(Sorry for the poor quality pics, it was really quite dark inside!)

To start we ordered the Sweet Potato Dumplings  (Crispy wontons stuffed with sweet potatoes, onions, and herbs and served over fresh greens
with wasabi ponzu sauce), 
which were yummy, if a little too fried for my taste.

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For the main course I ordered the Raw Spinach-Pesto Manicotti (Zucchini noodles stuffed with live sunflower-spinach pesto, cashew ricotta, and fresh basil served over sun-dried tomato marinara with house-marinated olives); and Tristan decided on the Mushroom Enchiladas (Button, shiitake, and cremini mushrooms roasted and tossed with avocado, tomato, and scallion, baked in whole-grain tortillas, and topped with vegan chipotle cream sauce and feta cheese. Served with black beans and a tossed salad). Both were wonderful, and I especially loved mine! I didn’t miss the cheese (or heat) at all!

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We passed on dessert, (knowing we had the brownie at the Cottage waiting for us!), and strolled around downtown a bit, before calling it a night on a lovely 5th Anniversary.

~

Stay tuned for recaps of days 2, 3 and 4 still to come! 

Just A Preview

We had an amazing long weekend in Asheville, for our 5th Anniversary. Tomorrow afternoon I am going to buckle down and go through my 1000+ photos, taken on two cameras. Eeeks. Then I’ll be back with a real post (or four) about our trip…

The amazing restaurants. Biltmore Estate. Local food. The Blue Ridge Parkway. Hippies and hipsters. Relaxation. Memories, old and new.

As always, my heart is in Asheville.

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~