North Carolina

Lovely Lake Lure

TEDDY’s RATING: 

Nestled in the heart of Hickory Nut Gorge, just east of Asheville, is Lake Lure. Yes, it is a lake, but it’s also the name of the town. And as every tour guide will tell you, it’s the location where they filmed the 1987 version of the movie “Dirty Dancing,” starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

          

The centerpiece of the lake is the 1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa, renovated in 2005 with original antiques and artwork. The inn has hosted a wide range of guests including celebrities, like Swayze and Grey, but also Presidents Roosevelt and Coolidge. It’s a beautiful location for weddings or a quiet romantic getaway.

In addition to the historic inn, there are some absolutely amazing homes around the 720 acre lake.

          

To explore Lake Lure, you can take one of the boat tours from the Marina. From April through October, hourly tours are conducted. During summer months, they offer box lunch cruises and dinner cruises.

          

If you’d rather just soak up the scenery on dry land, relax on the Beach at Lake Lure. Here you can picnic, build sandcastles or play in the water park.

          

And if you’re into something more strenuous, take one of the challenging hikes around nearby Chimney Rock State Park. At the top of Hickory Nut Falls there are fabulous views of the lake.

Whatever you’re interested in, swimming, golfing, hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, fishing, boating, water skiing, or just relaxing, you can find it at Lake Lure.

Dates of Visit:  May 2009

http://www.lakelure.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Who the heck is Zebulon B. Vance?

TEDDY’s RATING: 

I asked that question every time I visited Asheville, North Carolina. On the way to Well Bred Bakery in Weaverville, I always saw the signs to “Vance Birthplace.” But I never took the time to actually go there until my last trip. And I have to say, Zebulon B. Vance’s birthplace is an interesting historic site.

If you’re a native to North Carolina, you probably know who Zeb is. The third of eight children, Zebulon Vance practiced law in Asheville and at age 24 was elected to his first public office. His mountain upbringing helped him achieve success. He was a man of the people, promoting basic human rights, and was “a champion of local self-government and individual liberty.”

He was a well-known political leader during the Civil War and after. He was elected governor of North Carolina three times and was also a three-term senator for the state. He was known as the “War Governor of the South,” helping out soldiers and their families during the difficult years of the Civil War.

The birthplace site, in the Reems Creek Valley near Weaverville and off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a collection of buildings furnished with household items representative of the period of 1795 through 1840 when the Vance family lived there.

        

The Vance family home has five rooms, an unusually large size for the time period. Also on site are a corn crib, springhouse, smokehouse, loom house, slave house and tool shed. The visitor’s center has exhibits about the famous Vance family and a short film about the life of Zebulon. Throughout the year, there are special events at the site where costumed interpreters demonstrate life of the early settlers in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the Zebulon Vance’s time.

        

        

What I found most interesting about the site was how you really felt transported back in time to the late 1700s when the Vances lived in the log home.  We had a guide take us through the house and explain what life was like at that time. The guide was very, very knowledgeable about the time period and the site itself. You could almost picture the family by the hearth, women sewing, men chatting, children playing.

The Vance Birthplace historic pioneer farmstead is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9am-5pm. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

Dates of Visit:  May 2012

http://www.nchistoricsites.org/vance/vance.htm

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North Carolina’s Fabulous Falls

TEDDY’s RATING: 

The word “Transylvania” usually conjures up images of vampires and Count Dracula. In North Carolina, Transylvania is a county in the western tip of the state. It’s home to over 250 waterfalls. Most of these waterfalls are accessible to the public because they are found in three of the state’s forests and parks: Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Forest and Gorges State Park.

I have only had a chance to visit a very small number of waterfalls in North Carolina: Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock in Transylvania County and Hickory Nut Falls near Chimney Rock.

             

          

Looking Glass falls is “the most photographed waterfall in the US.” Yeah, I took a lot of pictures of it myself.

        

          

Sliding Rock is a popular attraction in the summertime. You actually can slide down this slick rock to the pool at the bottom. In early May, it was too cold to go in.

          

Hickory Nut Falls is one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. It’s not part of the Transylvania County group of waterfalls, but rather part of Chimney Rock State Park.

I look forward to exploring more of these fabulous falls in the future: Moore Cove, Cove Creek, Courthouse, Toxaway, Connestee, Whitewater, Bridal Veil, Hooker and Triple Falls just to name a few.

So, when you think about Transylvania, think about North Carolina’s waterfalls rather than Dracula!

Dates of Visit:  May 2012

www.visitwaterfalls.com

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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“Taste the Love” at Luella’s Bar-B-Que

TEDDY’s RATING: 

There used to be a really great barbecue restaurant in Asheville called The Fiddlin’ Pig. At least, I thought it was great. Good food, good service and live music every night. Well, unfortunately, The Fiddlin’ Pig went out of business. So, on my last trip to Asheville, I was looking for a new place for barbecue. I found it at Luella’s.

The place is named after founder Jeff Miller’s grandmother as well as his daughter, nicknamed Elly. “Grandma Lue” cooked for all the family gatherings and handed down her love for good cooking to Jeff. His interest in food, along with his family background and the desire to create an authentic barbecue taste, prompted Jeff to open a restaurant.

To compliment the smoked pork, beef, chicken and turkey — and that’s how Jeff looks at sauces, as complimentary, not overpowering – are five distinct sauces: Hot Flash, Smoked Jalapeno, Lusty Mustard, Scooter’s Vinegar and the most popular, Sweet Pisgah. (The last two are homemade and gluten-free.)

Their top seller is the chopped pork sandwich with macaroni & cheese. I had the chopped pork sandwich and topped it with the Sweet Pisgah sauce. Instead of the mac & cheese, I had a side salad with homemade blue cheese dressing. The meal included hush puppies, which were great. That’s what I loved the most about The Fiddlin’ Pig, their hush puppies, sweet and crunchy, and soft in the middle. I’m glad Luella’s has great ones, too.

This made-from-scratch barbecue brings in customers of all types from retirees to students to business professionals. The building used to house a pizza joint which was a popular hangout for students from the University of North Carolina. So when Jeff remodeled the place, he kept that in mind, creating an atmosphere that pleases everyone.

Asheville is known as a beer town and six local microbrews are featured at Luella’s. I’m not a beer drinker, so I tried the Ultimate Luella’s Strawberry Lemonade with fresh strawberries, Absolut Citron, lemon and ginger ale. Quite refreshing and delicious.

Portions are a good size, service is very good and prices are competitive. And sometimes they have live bluegrass music. If the parking lot is full, which it always is at Luella’s, then you know it’s got to be good.

Dates of Visit:  May 2012

http://luellasbbq.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Rockin’ the Cradle of Forestry

TEDDY’s RATING: 

I live in a beach state — Florida. And even though I love living in Florida, I really do like the mountains more than the beach. That’s why I like to go to the mountains at least once a year. And my favorite mountains are in the Asheville, North Carolina area.

High in the Mount Pisgah National Forest, about 40 miles from Asheville, is the Cradle of Forestry, the birthplace of forest conservation. It was established over 100 years ago during the construction of the nearby Biltmore Estate. This is where the first school of forestry, the Biltmore Forest School, was established by Dr. Carl Schenck, chief forester for George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate.

It is here that students learned how trees can be harvested while still preserving the forest as a whole. Carl Schenck was so passionate about the forest he said, “Woods are sanctuaries. Send the kids to the woods. They are better for them than any classroom built of brick.”

There are two paved trails that wind through the property, transporting you back in time to the early years of the forestry school. Take the Biltmore Campus Trail to see the seven restored historic buildings on the site: a schoolhouse, a blacksmith’s shop, commissary and several student quarters and lodges. The Forest Festival Trail includes a seedling nursery, saw mill and a 1915 logging locomotive. Weavers, toy makers, quilters, basket makers and wood carvers often appear on site Thursdays through Sundays.

       

       

In the Forest Discovery Center you can explore hands-on exhibits or ride the fire fighter helicopter simulator. The only disappointment on my visit to the Cradle of Forestry, and what unfortunately lowers Teddy’s rating, was the movie in the main theater of the Discovery Center. Don’t waste your time seeing There’s Magic in the Cradle. It’ll be 30 minutes of your life you’ll never get back.

My advice – immediately ask to see the OLD movie. They’ll play the old movie by request. I sure wish I had known about that option earlier in my day. I was expecting to see a film about the history of the area, no such luck.

I work in the video production business, so I have at least some knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. This doesn’t work. The concept for the story was just bizarre and wasn’t at all what I expected. I can’t even begin to describe it because it just didn’t make much sense. And honestly, it doesn’t deserve as much space as I’m giving it here in this post!

I really wanted to know why this film was produced and playing at the Cradle of Forestry, so when I got a chance I did some research. Come to find out, the film was produced for another purpose and renamed There’s Magic in the Cradle. Don’t be fooled by the good review on Internet Movie Database. I’m sure it was written by those involved in the making of this piece of…um, garbage. I just hope that they’ve stopped running it and have gone back to only showing the original 18-minute movie about the history of forestry in America.

Dates of Visit: May 2012

http://www.cradleofforestry.com/site/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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The Tupelo Honey Café and Their Awesome Sweet Potato Pancake

TEDDY’s RATING: 

On one of my many trips to Asheville, North Carolina I was looking through a magazine and came upon a marvelous photo of the Tupelo Honey Café’s Sweet Potato Pancake. I could have licked the page, it looked that delicious. So, I vowed that I would get to the café to sample this delight.

Well, on that particular visit, the Tupelo Honey Café had had a flood in the basement and was closed! Noooooooo! I would have to wait until my next trip. It may have been a year later, but I have to say, it was well worth the wait.

Tupelo Honey Café is known for its Southern style cuisine, but with a different twist. Using farm-fresh ingredients from local suppliers, Chef Brian Sonoskus has designed dishes like Root Beer Molasses Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Green Apple Salsa and Southern Fried Chicken Saltimbocca with Country Ham and Mushroom Marsala, neither your traditional Southern fair, but original creations that make this restaurant a must try. They also offer soups, salads and a variety of sandwiches. They have a yummy dessert menu and have gluten-free options as well.

But back to the Sweet Potato Pancake. This is what Tupelo Honey Café is famous for, what was pictured in that magazine article. This buttermilk pancake is flavored with cinnamon and sweet potatoes and is topped with their fabulous peach butter and spiced pecans. It actually fills the entire plate. I’ve never been able to eat the whole thing in one sitting. I can’t imagine getting the double stack.

I almost hate the fact that this pancake is so good because it has kept me from trying all the other wonderful food that they have. Next time I’ll have to go there for two different meals so I can try something besides the sweet potato pancake.

Tupelo Honey Café has been part of the Asheville food scene since 2000. They now have two Asheville locations, downtown and southside.

Dates of Visit:  May 2009, May 2012

http://www.tupelohoneycafe.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Explore Asheville on the Red Trolley Tour

TEDDY’s RATING: 

If you’ve never been to Asheville, North Carolina before, or even if you have, taking the Red Trolley Tour is a great way to spend your first couple of days in town.

The fully narrated tour takes you to some of the best of Asheville, a city that’s more full of history than you might expect. The Red Trolley Tour is run by Grey Line, a worldwide leader in city tours. The drivers are very knowledgeable about the area and some of them are very entertaining.

       

What’s great about this trolley tour is that it’s a hop on/hop off style tour. You can get off at any of the 9 stops and spend as much time there as you’d like. Grab a bite to eat, go shopping, stroll around. Then, just hop back on when the next trolley comes around. With trolleys stopping every 30-60 minutes, you have a chance to explore the stops at your leisure or just stay on the trolley for a one and a half to two hour tour of the city.

The ticket price includes two full days of unlimited riding privileges. You can catch the trolley and buy your ticket at any of the stops, but the best place to catch the trolley is at the Asheville Visitor’s Center where they have free parking and restrooms.

       

Here are the 9 stops on the Red Trolley Tour:

Stop 1: The Asheville Visitor’s Center. Here you can get all kinds of information about the area-hotels, restaurants, activities. And there’s a gift shop!

Stop 2: The Grove Park Inn. This legendary hotel is a must see, even if you don’t stay there. The views of Asheville and the surrounding areas are beautiful from the Grove Park Inn. You can also visit the Grovewood Gallery and the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum on the property.

       

Stop 3: Thomas Wolfe District. Your Red Trolley Tour ticket includes free admission to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Historic Site. (Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to visit the Thomas Wolfe House, though I had wanted to. We ran out of time!)

Stop 4: Pack Place, Pack Square. This is right in the heart of downtown Asheville. From this stop you’re within walking distance of some great shops and restaurants.

Stop 5: Haywood Park Hotel. This is another stop in downtown Asheville, close to the St. Lawrence Basilica.

Stop 6: Grove Arcade. The Grove Arcade is a lovely shopping area with some great restaurants and shops.

Stop 7: River Arts District. Asheville has a rich art community and the River Arts District is at the heart of it. Painters, potters, jewelers, sculptors, furniture makers, glass-blowers, photographers, all have studios in this area.

Stop 8: Biltmore Village. This historic area outside of the Biltmore Estate is a collection of cottages, galleries, shops and eateries.

Stop 9: Grand Bohemian Hotel. This stop is also inside the Biltmore Village.

And if you’re more daring, why not try the Haunted History & Murder Mystery Ghost Tour? This 75 minute tour takes you through “the dark side” of Asheville where you’ll hear ghostly stories about the Pink Lady of the Grove Park Inn, the mystery of the WhiteGate Inn and the child spirits at the haunted hospital. This tour departs from Pack’s Tavern on the weekends. Check the website for dates, times and prices for all tours.

Dates of Visit: May 2012

http://graylineasheville.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Stoney Knob Cafe-Weaverville’s Best

TEDDY’s RATING:

Weaverville is a little town, just north of Asheville, about a 10 minute drive from downtown. Population: just over 3,000 people.

If you’ve driven through Weaverville you might think of it as just a sleepy little hamlet, but they’ve got some great eating spots. I’ve already written about the Well-Bred Bakery. Definitely check that out if you’re there. But if you’re looking for a great meal at a fun, funky bistro, try the Stoney Knob Café.

When you walk in, you’d think you were in a restaurant in downtown Asheville or even a much more metropolitan city. The décor is a “whimsical blend of artifacts and artful spaces,” as their website says and the menu is made up of American, European, and Mediterranean cuisine.

The Stoney Knob Café started out as a small diner back in the 1960s. When original owner Gus Dermas emigrated from Greece to the US, he discovered Weaverville and fell in love with it because it reminded him of his homeland. The restaurant is currently run by Gus’s sons, John and Yotty.

In 2000, the Stoney Knob Cafe was expanded. The original diner remains, but is now flanked by two other dining areas. On one side is the Red Room where you can enjoy an intimate dinner by the fire. On the other side is the Mediterranean Room, also called the “saints and sinners” room. This larger dining room is decorated with a mish mash of everything from velvet Elvis paintings to a life-sized statue of the Virgin Mary. So, one restaurant with three distinctive looks, but all of them inviting and fun, and like nothing you’ve probably ever seen before.

The menu is as eclectic as the atmosphere. They prepare dishes “from near and far” combining local tastes with world-wide flair. You can get Spanish paella, Greek moussaka, Asian spring rolls, falafel, Kobe beef burgers, and filet mignon. There are also seafood, vegetarian and gluten-free choices.

We started off our meal with an excellent cocktail, the Love Potion #69, a blend of strawberry kiwi Vodka, peach schnapps, lemon juice and sour mix. Delightful. They have other original cocktails, a full bar and an extensive wine list.

For entrees, the tortellini with chicken was light, creamy and totally delicious with a parmesan carbonara sauce, prosciutto and peas. And as the menu says, the tender braised boneless short ribs with asiago stone ground grits were “to die for.” We rounded off the meal with their luscious Italian lemon cake.

Service was excellent, as was the food and the entire experience. There’s really nothing negative I can say about the Stoney Knob Café. I can’t wait to go back there on my next trip to the Asheville area. 

Dates of Visit:  May 2012

http://www.stoneyknobcafe.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Get Back to Nature at the North Carolina Arboretum

TEDDY’s RATING: 

Describing the North Carolina Arboretum in words is not an easy task. So, I’ll just let my pictures tell you all about it. I will include a few words, though.

The North Carolina Arboretum, just south of downtown Asheville, is a 434-acre public garden near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

      

      

There are 65 acres of lush cultivated gardens, 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, ever changing indoor and outdoor exhibits, a fabulous Bonsai collection, and the incredible quilt garden (which was being replanted on our last visit, but was beautiful in 2009).

      

The Arboretum is open daily, weather permitting, except for December 25th. There is no per person admission fee, but they have a parking fee of $8.00 per vehicle. Visit the first Tuesday of the month and parking is free.

      

      

You can grab a light bite at The Savory Thyme Café Tuesdays through Sundays. And if you’re looking for a location for your “green” wedding, the North Carolina Arboretum is the perfect place.

      

It’s a beautiful way to spend a quiet day getting back to nature. I recommend it.

Dates of Visit:  May 2009, May 2012

http://www.ncarboretum.org/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Cougars and Otters and Bears, Oh My!

TEDDY’s RATING: 

Take a walk on the wild side of Asheville at The Western North Carolina Nature Center, a 42 acre nature sanctuary not far from downtown.

The Nature Center is home to more than 220 animals and the largest collection of Southern Appalachian animal species in the world. It is also where injured or orphaned animals are taken who cannot survive in the wild on their own.

The Nature Center is very nicely landscaped with tree lined walkways. All the enclosures are designed to represent the native habitats of each animal. So, it’s not your traditional zoo.

      

One of the most popular attractions is the River Otter Exhibit. You can sit for hours watching these playful creatures jump in and out of the water, playing with toys and swimming around.

I was most fascinated with the black bear habitat. Instead of being caged, these black bears roam free with a raised walkway for visitors to get a close up view of these lovely animals.

      

There were also white-tailed deer, red wolves, grey wolves, and two beautiful cougars. There is a reptile house featuring rattlesnakes, frogs and the largest salamander in North America, the Hellbender. There’s also a petting zoo for the kids with sheep, goats and donkeys.

      

The Nature Center is open year-round, seven days a week, from 10am to 5pm. It’s a nice way to spend a few hours of your day, roaming along the quiet trails, seeing all the animals, and of course taking lots of pictures.

Dates of Visit:  May 2012

http://www.wncnaturecenter.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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