North Carolina – Days 1-2: Adventures in Asheville

Brittany Swanson   December 8, 2015   Comments Off on North Carolina – Days 1-2: Adventures in Asheville

My first day in North Carolina was spent mostly driving to Asheville. It was another rainy day and I could not stay awake so I took not one, but TWO naps along the way. Eventually, I made it and met up with my host at Wicked Weed Brewing. We had a beer and then went back to her place where we had a couple glasses of wine and some apple cake with her roommate. Then she went out on a Tinder date and, exhausted, I went to bed.

Day two in North Carolina was much more exciting. I started the day by going out to breakfast with my host and her roommate to a place called Sunny Point Café. I had a veggie omelette and a mimosa and both were delicious. After breakfast I ventured out on my own to see what Asheville had to offer. I drove around for a bit before finding a free place to park and then found Grove Arcade, which is not an arcade at all. Grove Arcade is an indoor shopping mall type place downtown, with a few boutiques and restaurants. It was decorated for the holidays with string lights and I love string lights so I really appreciated this.

Grove Arcade, Asheville, NC.

Festive lights at the Grove Arcade, Asheville, NC.

I found Grove Arcade while looking for Battery Park Book Exchange, a place my host had recommended I check out. Battery Park Book Exchange is a used bookstore and champagne bar, much like Book & Bar in Portsmouth, NH. If having a bar in a used bookstore wasn’t enough of a draw, nor was the multiple levels of books, organized by genre, after about ten minutes of wandering around I noticed a sign that read:

Battery Book Exchange's policy on feet and where they belong, Asheville, NC.

Battery Book Exchange’s policy on feet and where they belong, Asheville, NC.

Wait, what?! Why would someone’s feet not remain on the floor in a store? After I walked by a couch I went, “Oh. Yeah. I totally get that rule now…” They were comfy couches. I totally would’ve curled up to get lost in a book and when I curl up my feet definitely leave the ground. *Shakes a fist* Come on Lord Robert Rulewriter, why must you make such strict rules?!

A few minutes after that I noticed another sign in another part of the bookstore that read:

Bookstores are not libraries. Noted. Battery Book Exchange, Asheville, NC.

Alright, Lord Robert Rulewriter, I admit I am guilty of breaking this rule too. I’m sorry. It’s just libraries are too quiet and coffeeshops don’t offer books to peruse and bars can be too loud. Lucky for me I bring my own book pretty much everywhere I go. I wondered what Lord Robert Rulewriter would have to say about bringing my own book to read. Probably nothing good. But what if I really needed to “satiate my lust for reading” and the magazines and newspapers just weren’t cutting it? Just when I thought this place was cool, it got even cooler when I moved to walk around a seating area, looked up and had to stop and laugh. Here’s why:

Do you see what I see? Battery Book Exchange, Asheville, NC.

And the award for Bookstore with the Best Sense of Humor goes to: Battery Park Book Exchange, Asheville, NC.

Do you see what I see? No? Look a little closer. Do you see what’s so funny now? Try looking at the top of the bookshelf.

In case your eyesight isn’t so great, let me zoom in for you:

Wheres Waldo? Why, he’s in the Battery Book Exchange, of course! Asheville, NC.

Wheres Waldo? Why, he’s in the Battery Book Exchange, of course! Asheville, NC.

Yep, I found Waldo! He was in battery park Book Exchange. If ever I needed to find my counter part in a bookstore this is probably it. Good books, good wine, great sense of humor, and hey, Waldo hangs out here, so it’s clearly awesome. Also, how come no one ever seems to look for Waldo in a bookstore? Now that I think about it a bookstore seems like the most obvious place.

Having found Waldo, and perused all the different sections of Battery Park Book Exchange I decided to head on my way. I considered staying and whipping out my Kindle and reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for a while, but in the end I decided I’d rather go exploring first. I figured if I had time I’d come back and read HP later, even if doing so might incur the wrath of Lord Robert Rulewriter.

I wasn’t quite done with bookstores though, so my next stop was just around the block at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe. Malaprop’s is a much more typical bookstore/cafe. They had nice shiny new books and fun/weird little trinkets and tchotchkes. As I wound my way through the second bookstore in a row, I overheard a group having a book club meeting and I realized how much I really want to get lost in a new (to me) good book. I have been rereading Harry Potter over and over again because I already know what happens so I can pick it up, read a chapter, and leave it alone until I have time to pick it up, and read another chapter. With Harry Potter I’m really only at risk of getting sucked in in the last ten or so chapters, and that’s usually fine.

I like to read books like I like to watch a tv series, in a binge, all at once. I don’t want to watch one episode, wait a week, watch another, wait a week etc. so that by a month or so in I’ve completely forgotten what’s happening with certain characters and why, I’d rather just plow through it and see everything relatively close together so I remember what’s going on and can be done with it. I like my books like that too. I like to sit down and read a good book and spend the whole day doing nothing else. It’s the best. But, on the road I haven’t really made time for that. I could, I suppose, but it seems like kind of a waste to spend the whole day reading when I’m in a new place and could be exploring. I feel like I should be off having adventures, rather than hunkering down to read about someone else’s especially since I don’t know if or when I’ll be back in some of these places.

Anyway, being in Malaprop’s made me want to sit and read a good book, which got me thinking about life after the trip and kind of hoping I can wind up working at a small bookstore somewhere. Then I can read and recommend books to customers, like the lady at our favorite bookstore in El Dorado, Arkansas.

Across the street from Malaprop’s was a chocolatier called The Chocolate Fetish. I’ve been to quite a few chocolatiers on the trip, but The Chocolate Fetish had a sign saying something about Best Chocolatiers in America, and their name was Chocolate Fetish, which I appreciated, so I figured I’d give them a couple bucks and try a truffle. I’m glad I did. It was delightful. I almost went back for more. Thankfully, I’m pretty strict on my budget, otherwise I might have tried to eat my weight in chocolate. I had a dark chocolate raspberry truffle and it was divine. The chocolate melted in my mouth and the filling was the perfect smoothness and was rich and flavorful. It was awesome.

Also, they had chocolate shoes. Shoes made out of chocolate. Chocolate Fetish for the win, Asheville, NC.

Also, they had chocolate shoes. Shoes made out of chocolate. Chocolate Fetish for the win, Asheville, NC.

Next I walked down Wall Street which had some cute shops and things, but nothing that really struck my fancy so I headed back to the car and drove to the River Arts District and check out some art galleries. I don’t know why, but I always feel super awkward about going into galleries/open studios. I feel like I’m like walking into a stranger’s bedroom while they’re taking a nap or something. I realize this is silly, since the whole point of a gallery or open studio is to invite people in to see the artist’s artwork, and if it’s an open studio, to see the artist at work, but still, for some reason I feel super awkward about it.

So, when I first got out of the car I just walked down the road passing by all the galleries. Then, when I got to the end I told myself I was being silly and asked myself if I’d really driven all the way over here just to walk by? No, I didn’t. So, I mustered some courage and went into the first gallery. It was really cool. The next gallery was also pretty cool. Apparently I didn’t take any pictures of the first few I went into.

I appreciate that the galleries are colorful. River Arts District, Asheville, NC.

I appreciate that the galleries are colorful. River Arts District, Asheville, NC.

Then I had a super awkward moment where I rang a buzzer to gain entrance to a gallery only to find out, when a nice lady came to the door to let me in, that the gallery had its own door right next to the one I rang the buzzer for. Awkward. She told me not to worry, that it happens all the time. Maybe the gallery should make a better sign “ENTER HERE FOR GALLERY.” The correct gallery door was locked, with a tiny sign saying they’d be back in ten. I chalked that one up to a loss and didn’t go back. A few minutes later I awkwardly overheard a couple discussing commissioning an artwork with an artist while I was the only other person in the gallery. Needless to say, I didn’t stay there long.

On the drive into the River Arts District I’d seen some colorful paintings in a gallery through an open garage door. I wandered until I found it again and spent quite a long time hanging out in there. The artist was Jonas Gerard and his paintings were marvelous. And hella expensive.

Majestic Skies #28, 60" x 72", $12,500, Jonas Gerard, River Arts Gallery, Asheville, NC.

Majestic Skies #28, 60″ x 72″, $12,500, Jonas Gerard, River Arts Gallery, Asheville, NC.

TWELVE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS?! I watched a video of him creating one of his other paintings, I forget what it was called. I think the video was sped up, but the painting, not terribly different in size and style, from the one above, was totally completed in a day, if not only a few hours. TWELVE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS?! Seriously. Who buys these paintings? Will they buy me one? I eventually wandered into Gerard’s open studio space and super awkwardly said hello. His assistants were busy wrapping up paintings to be shipped to their new homes. I seriously wonder how much money this guy has.

I cannot foresee a future in which I would be able to afford one of Gerard’s paintings, or really even have a home to place it in, at this point, but if ever I do have a place, hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to have a wealthy benefactor. I really do love the Majestic Skies painting above, or one of the Nebulae paintings, which are also pretty spectacular.

After popping into a couple more studios I was kind of done with that for the day so I drove to Biltmore Village. I would’ve gone to see the Biltmore Estate, but access to the grounds cost $60. SIXTY DOLLARS to go see a mansion. I am not about that life, so I stuck to the village instead. It was cute and quaint and gearing up for the holidays with festive decorations.

See that tree getting lights strung on it in the background? Biltmore Village, NC.

See that tree getting lights strung on it in the background? Biltmore Village, NC.

I found a local shop (Mtn Merch) and met the biggest dog I’ve ever seen. Imagine three of the largest dog breeds combined, and that was this dog. I don’t remember which ones exactly, but this guy was massive. He was easily over a hundred pounds and when he stood on his hind legs to greet his owner, with his paws on the guy’s shoulders, he was a a forty-five degree angle to the ground, and the man was not short. The dog was the size of a smaller adult brown bear.

After Biltmore Village I was going to go sit and read at a park for a bit but the sunset was setting itself up to be spectacular so I found a good spot to watch it instead. Then the colors shifted to where I couldn’t see them anymore, so I drove around and ended up trespassing on private property to get a good view of the last of the sunset. It was totally worth it.

After the successful night of Blues Dancing in D.C. I wanted to see if I could do it again in Asheville. I found a blues club called Tressa’s Downton Jazz & Blues and decided to check it out. When I went by at nine no one was really there. Since I was trying to live the cheap life, I figured it’d be difficult to walk in and not buy anything without anyone noticing since no one else was there.

On my walk to Tressa’s I’d seen a sign for an Open Mic Night of Comedy for free. I like free things. I like to laugh. I, at the very least, respect people for getting up in front of other people and performing, so I figured I’d check it out for an hour or so and then go see how Tressa’s was looking at around ten.

I should have known...this sign screams amateur hour... Asheville, NC.

I should have known…this sign screams amateur hour… Asheville, NC.

True to most performances, the open mic night did not start at nine, like they said they would. Probably for the best since there were only a couple of other people there besides me at nine. People steadily trickled in and there were probably about twenty or so of us in the audience when the show finally got started at around 9:30.

Keep in mind that the whole time from 9-9:30 I was sitting in a bar, by myself, not drinking. At some point I actually took out my journal to write about how awkward I felt just to give myself something to do. At that point I’d committed to being in the bar for long enough that I didn’t want to just leave before anything actually happened. Eventually, the open mic night started. It started with our host, Tom. He was actually pretty funny, so I was hopeful for the rest of the night.

Hopeful until the first guy came on. Oh man. He was so bad. Like, so bad. He was a thicker set white guy in his late-twenties, early-thirties. He was very clearly nervous and started with a bit about how he was Chris Pratt’s stunt double. This would’ve been fine had he not continually harped on his own weight and then chuckled awkwardly at his own jokes. I would’ve felt bad for him, except as he was floundering he decided to shift gears and went straight to a highly offensive joke about only dating black girls so he wouldn’t have to meet their fathers. Are you freaking kidding me?!

I really hate people sometimes. Thankfully, the rest of the audience groaned or in some other way showed the guy that his racist joke was not funny and would not fly here. That made me feel slightly better. The next guy, a balding, petit ginger man in his early forties, started with a joke about insulting people through babies. He was meeting a co-workers baby for the first time and appropriately oohing and ahhing, when the baby’s mother came over and started talking to the baby while the comedian was still there saying things like, “oh, do you like the man with the big goofy looking nose? It’s a funny looking nose isn’t it?” and the guy was like, “Seriously, did she think I couldn’t hear her? Or just not care? Had I known I could’ve done that when my kids were younger I would’ve been like, that guy’s a lying, jerk.”  “What?” “Oh, nothing, just talking to my kid.” The next guy kept getting flustered when this woman was talking loudly right next to him. To be fair, I could hear everything she said and she was across the room from me.

I finally left the open mic night after I realized I’d been there for an hour and it wasn’t getting any better. I’d had a few chuckles, but nothing to keep me there any later. I swung back by Tressa’s but it still didn’t look like there were many people there, even though it was nearly eleven, so I decided to call it a night.