Sunday, April 3, 2011

Asheville, North Carolina

We were a little late up today and out to the visitor center in Asheville in time for the Noon trolley tour.
This was certainly worthwhile. We would have known little about Asheville and why George Hincapie lives here without this tour.
Asheville had a reputation for healing air and had become a summer vacation site for the well to do and a site for numerous sanatoriums. The air purported to cure TB. But 80% of the patients died anyway. Mental patients came here to be cured also.
We were reminded of Zelda Fitzgerald. She had been a patient for her depression for years and was having electroshock. One day the hospital caught fire and she and a number of other patients died. She and the others had been tied to their beds as they did to patients after they had a treatment. Zelda died in Asheville.
Much of the development of the town came from the wealth of a patent medicine salesman. Quinine was at that time thought to cure many diseases, but it was too bitter to easily take. His tonic was effective against malaria, but of course it was sold as a cure all.
The two main industries are tourism and medical. Just the same as they were when the town began to develop when George Vanderbilt brought the RR here.
After 1929 the town apparently just limped along. Many of the old Victorians were boarding houses or multifamily dwellings and just deteriorated. In the 80's there was a tax advantage for owning a historical dwelling and most were fixed up at that time and many are bed and breakfast inns.

Thomas Wolfe wrote Look Homeward Angel in 1929 about his hometown of Asheville. He changed the name of the town and state, but nothing else. The townspeople were horrified and banned him from the town. When he became famous, they began to publicize themselves as his home town.
We had a little tour of the Biltmore village. We will tour the mansion tomorrow.
As we were nearing the end of the tour the trolley began to rattle and bang. The tailpipe and muffler had come loose. We pulled over near the RR tracks and the driver and a couple of passengers temporarily fixed it with one of the men's leg brace. While we were waiting I took some pictures of nasty kudzu.

We drove a few blocks from the Visitor Center to park in town. Since the garages were out of the question, we found an open air lot with plenty of room for only $3.
I wanted to lunch at one of the most popular eateries in town, The Tupelo Honey Cafe. I figured since it was after 2, we wouldn't have to wait. At first the hostess was not sure, but the pager she gave us started to go off as soon as we sat down.
Asheville is known as a beer city with many microbreweries, so we ordered two microbrews, a light German lager for me and something dark for William.

The treat to eat while you wait is a huge southern butter biscuit and blackberry jam. I had the Veggie Bowl; beans, cheese grits, greens, fried okra and a fresh salsa. William had meat loaf and gravy. It came with mac and cheese, but William substituted a salad. We shared a piece of pecan pie for dessert.

Southerners make great pecan pie.

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