Sometimes a weekend away with nothing on your itinerary is just what you need. That is exactly how one MoS girl and her family spent this Memorial Day weekend in the mountains of NC. Montreat is a tiny community with a strong Scottish Presbyterian heritage just east of Asheville, a little stone utopia of sorts. It’s rather hidden and a bit out-of-the-way, but Montreat has certainly seen its share of high profile guests due to its most famous (yet inconspicuous) resident, Billy Graham.
Bagpipers performing before Sunday church services (in the rain!)
Growing up, we would spent weeks and weeks of the summer in Montreat, our days full of activities. In recent years, our time in Montreat is usually limited to a weekend here or there throughout the year, but each time we go we enjoy every minute and return to “the real world” feeling relaxed and refreshed. This weekend was no exception.
This weekend, although it rained off-and-on every day, the mountain laurel was blooming, and everything was so green and lush. It was a perfect 70 degrees the whole time, so we spent a lot of time visiting out on the porch, reading good books, and eating tasty food.
Mountain laurel blooming by the driveway
And with the city of Asheville only 15 minutes away, it is just an easy drive if you need a little more entertainment. Asheville has come a long way in the past few years. It’s no longer the sleepy, hippie town it once was (well, I did consider buying some stock in Teva after a couple of hours there). But downtown Asheville was absolutely packed with people walking around shopping, site seeing, and enjoying some of Asheville’s great restaurants.
While a number of sidewalk cafes line the streets downtown, a few we would recommend are Tupelo Honey Café, Bistro 1896 , Carmel’s, and the Flying Frog Café. All are well-priced, have great food, and good service. And while downtown Asheville certainly has its share of health food co-ops, coffee shops, and stores selling hemp bags and vegan shoes, Asheville also has some clothing, jewelry, and antique shops in line with MoS tastes, particularly in the Biltmore Village area of town.
Biltmore Village, which is located just across the road from the entrance to the Biltmore House, was originally developed by George Vanderbilt to be the planned community for the workers on the massive Biltmore Estate. Today, it is home to many unique restaurants, shops, museums, and art galleries. One of our favorite shops there is Constance Boutique, which keeps Asheville's stylish girls looking cute in Tory Burch, DVF, Missoni, Theory, and many others. There is also a Monkees there, which is our all-time favorite shoe store.
(Thankfully, there is also a Thomas Kincade gallery in Biltmore Village. I picked up one of these fantastic mugs for everyone I know. )
For the deal of the weekend...
We happened upon one fabulous antique shop and spotted this cream colored faux bamboo desk. I was shocked to see that it had been marked down to $70. I was even more shocked to open the drawer and see that it is a Thomasville desk. My mom talked them into selling it to us for $65, and I think it will be perfect in her den! I am toying with the idea of painting it black, or maybe it is just fine as it is. What do you think?
And of course, no trip to Asheville would be complete without some time spent at the magnificent Biltmore House.
Originally built in the late 1800’s by George Vanderbilt as his summer house, the grandiose Biltmore Estate currently remains America’s largest private home, with 250 rooms and 175,000 sq. feet. The home was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, and Frederick Law Olmstead designed the grounds, which includes over 8,000 acres. Biltmore is currently owned by the Cecil family (a Vanderbilt grandchild) and much of the home is available for public tours. Touring this home is absolutely awe-inspiring, particularly for anyone with an interest in design. The Cecils have worked to preserve the furniture, the rugs, and the fabrics of the original home, and it is truly amazing to see the attention to detail in each room of the mansion.
Mr. Vanderbilt's Library (notice the floor-to-very-high-ceiling books, many of which are original first editions)
The Dining Room. Talk about having room for company! (and check out the MASSIVE etched stone fireplace and the gorgeous parquet floors).
Mrs. Vanderbilt's Bedroom. I love the use of color here, and it was typical in that period for husbands and wives to keep separate bedrooms. The French antiques are just perfect in this feminine room.
And the interior of the house is just the beginning!
The Olmstead-designed gardens are absolutely breathtaking.
The Biltmore Winery is something we have never had time to enjoy, but it's on our list for next time!
The Biltmore's Riverbend Farm allows you to "meet" the animals that work on the Biltmore's farm. You can get ice cream made from the Biltmore cows' milk, and it is out of this world! Riverbend Farm also includes a 4-acre garden of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are served in all the Biltmore restaurants.
If you are within driving distance, I would definitely recommend a weekend trip to Asheville. It really is an interesting city, located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are some fabulous places to stay including the Inn on Biltmore Estate and the classic Grove Park Inn. It is worth the trip!