Bald Eagles, Crystal Clear Lakes, Downtown Convenience and Luxury - Oh My!

Why choose the country over the city or vice versa when you can have both?? That's what we wanna know. 

Steve and Lynne (owners of Asheville Urban Nests) are teaming up with Michelle and Shannon of Fontana Lake and Park View Cabins in nearby Bryson City to offer a country/city peak experience. In one week in the North Carolina mountains you can soak up the awesome (I use this word literally here) views of their made by hand cabins that overlook beautiful, unspoiled Fontana lake.  You can go for a hike, relax by the fire, watch the wildlife (Michelle said she was staring at a bald eagle when we talked about this idea on the phone today), or cycle the popular mountain biking trails at Tsali.  For the second half of your week you'll stay in the heart of downtown Asheville in one of our "nests" where you can luxuriate in comfortable intown living while walking to Asheville's best restaurants, music venues and shops. Sounds pretty great, doesn't it? But wait there's more - for our guests who book the country/city experience, we will offer a 10% discount off our regular nightly rates (rates vary so you'll need to get a quote). For more information, email Lynne at lynne@ashevilleurbannest.com

 The Asheville Urban Nest in the heart of downtown Asheville - modern luxury

The Asheville Urban Nest in the heart of downtown Asheville - modern luxury

 Eagles Nest at Fontana Lake and Park View Cabins   

Eagles Nest at Fontana Lake and Park View Cabins

 

 View from Inside Eagle's Landing

View from Inside Eagle's Landing

 Lynne and her daughter, Hannah, spent a few nights here in March, and here is what we saw. Great trip - can't wait to go back in the summer!

Lynne and her daughter, Hannah, spent a few nights here in March, and here is what we saw. Great trip - can't wait to go back in the summer!

More Info....

Fontana Lake and Park View Cabins currently offer 2 Vacation Cabin Rentals: Eagle’s Landing 2/2 VRBO.com/749709 and Eagle’s Nest 2/2 ♿ VRBO.com/775023 

Both Cabins Overlook Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We’re Located in Bryson City, NC on 12 acres that are surrounded on 3 sides by 600 Acres of the Nantahala National Forest. 

Our little mountain town has been voted one of the "Top Ten Outdoor Towns in the East" by Outdoor Magazine, one of the Smithsonian's "20 Best Small Towns to Visit", and 1 of 8 “Small Towns Near Stunning Nature” by Orbitz. Trip Advisor ranked Bryson City as the “#1 Beautiful Little Mountain Town in America”, and Southern Living has named Bryson City as the "best budget-friendly" vacation destination! 

Discover what’s great about Bryson City, a peaceful mountain town bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with unique shops, galleries, wineries, breweries, and restaurants. We’re also home to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Surrounding our small town, there’s a rich vacation paradise — rafting and kayaking on the Nantahala River, boating and fishing on Fontana Lake, scenic railroad excursions, world class trout streams, and mountain biking on the famous Tsali trails. We have creeks for tubing, trails for hiking, horseback riding, and beautiful waterfalls. We’re home to the Cherokee Indian Reservation and the North Carolina half of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. ..and we’re close - just an hour west of Asheville NC.

Spring in Asheville - a few ideas to take advantage of the glorious mountain weather

Hallelujah winter is almost in the rear view mirror! We exhale, open the windows and bring a few of those lovely yellow daffodils in our house that say "almost, spring is almost here, and we can start living outside again". Can you tell that we are not big fans of winter?

Here are some suggestions for enjoying the Appalachian spring in the Asheville area:

1 - Spend a day at the Biltmore Estate biking, touring the house, taking a carriage ride, smelling the flowers in their gorgeous gardens, or kayaking on the French Broad.

2 - Take a picnic to our favorite spot only 1/2 hour from Asheville - Craggy Pinnacle just one pull off north of the Craggy Gardens Visitors Center.

 Sunset on Craggy Pinnacle

Sunset on Craggy Pinnacle

3 - Take a Brews Cruise and see the downtown sites while sampling a few of our dozens of micro brewery's beers.

4 - Go to the Arboretum to see the hundreds of tulips and other blooms.

 ©Lynne Harty 

©Lynne Harty 

5 - Spend the day at Sierra Nevada Brewery. Play games outside, tour the garden, have lunch, hear a concert.

6 - Sip on a Cuban mojito at the new Hemingway's Cuba and watch the sun set over the downtown Asheville skyline.

 Hemingway's Cuba ©Lynne Harty Photography

Hemingway's Cuba ©Lynne Harty Photography

All Photos ©Lynne Harty 2017

6 Casual and Less Expensive Lunch Spots in Asheville that We Recommend

Asheville's Foodtopian (is that a word?) scene is by know well known. But what about when you just want a quick lunch and you're not really looking for "all that"? I have a few reliable places where you can do just that. Here goes:

 Taco Temple's  tacos and salad

Taco Temple's  tacos and salad


Taco Temple - it's on Charlotte St. slightly north of downtown. Owned by the same people who run the popular Mamacitas Tacos downtown, this place is slightly more upscale, but still down home enough. They make their own tortillas, have a bar, and really interesting tacos and even a great salad. 

Rosetta's - Vegetarian fare reminiscent of the 80's hippy food restaurants, you can go to the counter and order a Buddha Bowl (rice with their amazing peanut sauce, avocado, marinated tempeh, greens, seaweed) for under $10 and either sit inside or take with you. Quick and yummy.

Roman's - Great sandwiches right near the Pack Library downtown on Haywood St. They will even deliver to your door. Especially good is their grilled chicken salad sandwich.

Taco Billy - man oh man this place is great! It's on Haywood St in West Asheville (the "other" Haywood st). and has a walk up counter as well. Take my advice and get Mama's taco substituting avocado for the sausage on their plantain tortilla, and don't forget a side of their delicious green tomatillo salsa and chips. So, so good - and inexpensive.

OWL Bakery - just around the corner from Taco Billy in W. Asheville, this cute little bakery has some of the best bread and pastries in town as well as quiche and other tartines for a quick light-ish lunch. Or go to Taco Billy and then get your dessert pastry. But, oh my, you have to drive right by the now nationally famous Hole donut shop - might need to stop off there too. What a delectable corner that is in W. ASheville!

Gan Shan - well this isn't quick, but man is it good. Also on Charlotte St. just north of downtown, get their rice bowl with black bean chicken and you'll be a happy one. They are soon to open another place on that same delicious corner in West Asheville.

 Taco Billy

Taco Billy

New Restaurant Find

It's not exactly a new restaurant, but rather, it is new to me - Storm Rhum Bar. I had been there for cocktails a few times with friends, and I'd been there for a photo shoot last year with Chef Owen, but somehow I had missed this gem of a restaurant until last Saturday night. What a find! My table of 6, well accustomed to the abundance of good restaurants in Asheville, all agreed that the food was superior, creative and delicious, and the service was great too. The veggie plate was one of the best I've ever had, and I'm not even a vegetarian. My friends raved about their fish entrees and the brussel sprouts, but it didn't end there. See for yourself. 

Storm is just a short walk from the Asheville Urban Nest too - another perk. Check it out next time you're in Asheville.

 Chef Owen

Chef Owen

Where to Go with a Group in Asheville

Steve and recently went to NYC with our whole family of 13 to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday, and we realized what a challenge it is to be able to plan ahead to find places that you can reserve for a big group! So, I thought I would make a few suggestions for people who find themselves in the same bind. Some are very popular and require reservations way ahead of time, while others are lesser known secrets...all are places I consider to be top notch for good food and to offer a table where you can hear yourselves talk.

We joined a group last night for a Shakespeare reading group (!) at Jerusalem Garden on Patton Avenue. Jerusalem Garden has been open as long as I can remember (I arrived in 2000) but is one of those little places that we had forgotten about, as there are constantly NEW places to check out. I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious our meal was, how professional and friendly the service was, and how perfectly they are suited for large groups. You can likely get a reservation there without too much notice, and choose from regular table setting or a more middle Eastern seats on the floor with cushions kind of experience.

Recently I was at Rhubarb on Pack Square and had the pleasure of previewing their beautiful private dining room: rustic farm tables, old wooden floors, huge windows for lighting and a kitchen right there in the room. Rhubarb is well known for it's delicious and creative farm to table fare, but I didn't know about their private dining room until last week. I highly recommend their room or reserving a big table for one of their communal Sunday Suppers.

For a casual gathering on a warm night, All Souls Pizza in the River Arts District is a great idea. They have picnic tables and sometimes and outside bar in a field where kids can run around while the parents enjoy their beverages and conversation. You will want to grab a loaf of their Farm and Sparrow bread on the way home (if you're lucky and they have extra).

Speaking of warm evenings, I would really steer a large group to Smoky Park Supper Club. The restaurant and bar are situated right on the French Broad River where you can take over a few picnic tables, order local beer from the servers and get one of the best burgers in town (or a cheese platter and "finer" options). Sometimes there is music in the boat house as well to enjoy. They are situated in the largest shipping container restaurant building in the US!

Others worth taking a look at are Curate (reserve WAY ahead), Gan Shan Station, Isa's Bistro, and Chestnut. For BBQ we would try the ever popular 12 Bones at their new location that JUST opened this week at 5 Foundy.

 Jerusalem Garden in downtown Asheville. Sit at a table or on cushions on the floor!

Jerusalem Garden in downtown Asheville. Sit at a table or on cushions on the floor!

Some Sweet Favorites You'll Thank Us For

One of the best new places in ASheville is OWL Bakery in W. Asheville. I used to think I had to go to Paris or New York for truly great, authentic, light yet buttery pastry, but no more! Now we go to OWL (stands for Old World Levain) Bakery. You can settle in their cute booths or catch a table outside on a nice day to enjoy your pour over coffee, latte, pastry or flax seed toast with perfectly poached egg. Grab a loaf of their deliciously moist bread to take home too. And be sure to thank us...

 

The other relative newcomer is from the folks at Rhubarb downtown - the Rhu. Rhubarb's little sister is just around the corner on Lexington Avenue in the former French Braod Chocolate Lounge location. There you will find MORE great pastry, bread, local cheeses, meats and a menu of take out breakfast and lunch items. Asheville, way to go!!

Need Help Deciding Which Asheville Restaurants to Choose?

As it happens, Steve and I are very interested in the food scene here in Asheville, and I am in the middle of shooting a cook book featuring Asheville restaurants called "Cooking with Asheville". The book will have photos of the feature recipe, the chefs and the environment, and they will be accompanied by the inside story of each restaurant. You can imagine that in the process of shooting this book, I've gotten an inside view to many of the restaurants here, so feel free to ask me for guidance when you are either heading out for dinner when you're here, or if you are planning ahead to make reservations (which you'll definitely need way ahead of time if you are interested in the most popular places). This is the new Asheville - we've been discovered!! As one local business owner asked me "Would you rather live somewhere that everyone's coming to or a place where people are leaving?". Good point - the former, I'd say. Below are a few shots to get your mouth watering...

 

 

Music Happenings in Asheville summer 2016

Here is a great site from exploreasheville.com that lists the many music festivals in Asheville. Shindig on the Green is an annual favorite and is most Saturdays in July and August at Pack Square Park. If you go, don't just watch the main act - the fun is in wandering around the edges to see the many multi generational musical gigs happening. Really fun. Downtown After Five is the third Friday of each month May - September and is a stone's throw from our vacation rental, Drover's Way. There you can see a few bands perform and dance if you like - there will be local food and beer vendors as well, and it's a fun summer thing to do in the evening.

Our Favorite Hikes in the Asheville Area

Our guests are often asking us for recommendations for hikes, so I decided to make a collection of photos from some of our trips. Yes, I'm a professional photographer, but even still, I'm often just carrying an iPhone vs. my big heavy camera. Also, my companion is often my husband, Steve, along with our dog, Charley, so you'll see them a lot here. All of these hikes are within an hour of Asheville, except for Roan Mountain, which is a scenic 1.5 hours away.

Enjoy! 

Brunch in Asheville

People often ask for suggestions for where they should find a great brunch while visiting Asheville, so I have a few of our favorite places. Here is a link by a local food writer that lists his favorites too. Let us know where you end up and what your experiences are - we like to hear from our guests!

Limones - downtown, always great, and they happen to have some of the town's best margaritas

Sunny Point - in W. Asheville, always a great southern, yet on the creative side, brunch

Taco Billy - in W. Asheville - super inexpensive, fast and delicious

Hole - in W. Asheville - not exactly brunch but heavenly light donuts and coffee

Ambrozia - in N. Asheville - yummy and creative menu

Curate - maybe not brunch, but you can never go wrong there eating anything they serve.

 

Enjoy!

 

Finding Vibrance in the Winter Landscape (and a Mighty Good Breakfast)

Last weekend, my husband, Steve, and I went for a hike at Black Balsam off the Blue Ridge Parkway - it had been so long since we'd been for a nice walk that wasn't just in the neighborhood! Black Balsam is about one hour away from Asheville, south on the Parkway.

 The Art Loeb Trail

The Art Loeb Trail

Since we'd just gotten back in town the day before from having visited family in Georgia for Thanksgiving, we had a seriously bare kitchen. We decided to try out Taco Billy, a new place in West Asheville I'd heard of for having great breakfast tacos, and it became our new favorite breakfast place! Wow was it delicious, fresh and inexpensive - my entire meal, including a cup of strong coffee and a taco, was around $5. My taco was comprised of a homemade "tortilla" made from plantains, filled with avocado, scrambled eggs, sweet potatoes and spinach, topped with the BEST green salsa ever. 

I was thinking that since all the leaves have fallen, and the weather was overcast, that it wouldn't be necessarily visually satisfying, but at least I'd get exercise and fresh air AND get away from the computer. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. There  were still blue mountain ranges in the distance, creeping cedar on the ground, green rhododendron lined paths and golden grasses. We walked for about 2 1/2 hours (the Art Loeb trail to the Ivestor Trail), and followed it up with a nap and dinner at home. Perfect.

 Steve feeding the goat - he couldn't resist.

Steve feeding the goat - he couldn't resist.


I Love Clasique

Clasique Studio in downtown Asheville is a gem for locals and tourists alike, both for the variety of services they offer and the wonderfully smart and enthusiastic people who work there. Clasique has acupuncturists, massage therapists and Pilates instructors, and many of the instructors teach two of the three!  

Pilates is one of those exercise regimes that you could do all day without breaking a sweat, walking away saying "that's too easy!", but that is why you need excellent instruction! And you know who can offer plenty of that - the folks at Clasique. I highly recommend some private sessions with one of their instructors so that you can really learn the moves and positioning both so you don't hurt yourself and so that you really get the deep core workout you are looking for (I assume you want this - if not, get a massage and acupuncture treatment instead!). 

Rumor has it that Clasique will soon be moving just down the street to a beautiful, larger space, so check out their website before you go. The studio is within walking distance to both of our places - the Asheville Urban Nest and Drover's Way - tell Brooke we sent you.



Photography Exhibit at Asheville Museum - William Wegman

The Asheville Museum, in downtown Asheville, has an exhibit featuring many of William Wegman's photographs of his famous dogs that is definitely worth seeing. The show will be up through late January, so don't miss it! The museum is a short walk from the Urban Nest (one block) and Drover's Way (1/2 mile). The museum offers free admission on the first Wednesday afternoon of each month!