Tag Archives: Asheville

Ruby Falls and Rock City

 

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Ruby Falls

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Rock City

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 20 November

It was cold last night, below 40F, even colder than it would be at home! Traffic noise on the road outside wakes us early; best to get even numbered rooms, not odd numbers in this hotel (Holiday Inn Express, Chattanooga).

Another sunny morning and after breakfast we manage to get onto Lookout Mountain early for some photos but sadly, much of the foliage had now dropped after a couple of days of wind but smatterings of red were still visible.

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Colours on Lookout Mountain

 

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Gate to nowhere

Pass the site of a now demolished dwelling although for some reason, someone forgot to undo the gate!

Our first visit today is Ruby Falls, the third of the Combo ticket and we are so glad we got there shortly after it opened as there were numerous school type parties later in the morning despite it being Thanksgiving week when, we understand, schools are out so a bit perplexed as to why there should be school parties.

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Inside Ruby Falls caves

To access the falls we are taken in small groups down in a lift about 600ft, met by our guide, and join up with others already down there.

We are now lead about 2/5ths of a mile along tunnels which are well lit and scattered with stalactites and stalagmites some of which had interesting names such as Donkey, Steak & Potatoes and Elephant’s foot and you can see why.

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Inside Ruby Falls caves

We eventually reach the falls which are well worth the walk.

Lighting on the rocks is timed so we have to get photos in quick before we have to make our way back along the same route to the lift back up to ground level and the observation platforms.

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The Ruby Falls

There is some building work to extend the “reception” area but this did not detract from the experience.

Whilst the guide was good at keeping us all together on the way to the falls, he failed miserably to see if we had all followed him back – we could have stayed with another group had we so wished and he wouldn’t have noticed.

Most of the other groups were of school children though so not sure we would have fitted in.

Drive now to Rock City, park up and join a very long and slow queue at the adjacent Starbucks for a piece of cake and a drink.

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Civil War relic on Incline Mountain

 

Get chatting to a family from Clermont, Florida whose children have some allergies (I overheard what they had ordered), like Harry. They have found it difficult to source dairy free food but the situation has got better in the last few years.

They very kindly provide us with a couple of restaurant names and outlets that are good for allergies including Walmart in Clermont which is good for dairy free items.

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Water wheel in Rock City

Rock City itself is set high up on Look out mountain with lots of boulders that create passageways that all lead to an outcrop with a waterfall and some magnificent views over, it is claimed, 7 States.

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The plaque says it all!

The Rock City complex, it seemed to us, was easy to get into without a ticket but perhaps it was just a bit lapse at the time we were there, as when we left, the entrance was manned.

Once in, we followed one of the three routes available to us which are well signposted, towards the rock outcrop and overhang which I suppose is the main attraction.

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Narrow passages and lots of stairs

Before you get there however there is a maze of passage ways, tunnels and walkways to navigate which would take a long time to walk.

One or two very narrow squeezes between rocks but a lot of stairs which Sal wasn’t too keen on so we missed some of the passageways out.

We go over the stone bridge first for a magnificent view of the 7 states and some great foliage on the slopes below us.

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Rock City Swinging Bridge

Coming back however we do venture on the swinging bridge.

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View of the Viewing platform

We get to the entrance of the crystal cavern but decline to go all the way down – what goes down has to come up again which is not good in Sally’s world.

Christmas is coming and they have a night time light spectacular already in place which takes a bit of an edge off what we are seeing as they are not lit up.

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Ubiquitous Rock City sign

The Rock City very distinctive sign dates back to 1936 when a certain Garnet Carter commissioned a painter to paint an advertising message on the roofs of barns along major roads in the area to entice people to the area as Rock City was “off the beaten track”.

The advertising worked and adorned over 800 locations from Michigan to Texas to Florida and is now a much loved pieces of Americana.

Back to the hotel for a rest and gather together all our belongings – we leave tomorrow – before heading out at rush hour in even worse traffic than yesterday to Hamilton Square for a browse in a couple of shops and a meal in Bonefish. Had we joined their “frequent users” club we could have got tonight’s meal for 50% having been to Bonefish twice already on this trip.

Mental note to join before we come to the US again!

Tuesday 21 November

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39F this morning!

Another cold night but not as windy as it has been.

After breakfast we set off back south to Atlanta airport, arriving somewhat early but thankful for access to the Business class lounge as we have been upgraded to Business on the way back.

Our holiday is nearly over.

Wednesday 22 November

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View from the Delta Lounge at Atlanta

Despite the flat seat, limited sleep is had on the overnight flight and to cap it all, I am awoken by a bang on my knee by the breakfast trolley and Sal’s breakfast order has to be relayed to the stewardess more than once, she was useless. Also, not really impressed with the choice of films; nothing to get excited about.

Wiz through immigration at Heathrow, luggage (3 bags) off quickly and we are landslide at within 30 minutes of landing so head for the arrivals lounge for a freshen up and then bus to meet Flic & Cody at Reading.

Tip: Don’t buy your RailAir bus ticket to Reading at the National Express counter, buy it from the driver it is £3 cheaper, AND, they accept Railcards.

Offload extras at Flic’s, mainly presents and summer clothing and head for Gatwick where we have only a 20kg allowance per bag and have only booked two bags in. One of our bags ends up exactly 20kg, quite an achievement I thought.

Arrival back home in torrential rain, Mel picks us up: it has been like this all day apparently- some roads are flooded.

We missed lots of things that we could have gone to and really didn’t do justice to some of those we did go to during our two days in Chattanooga but it was very enjoyable and to think that in 2 and a half days we:

  1. Had a meal on a train
  2. Visited Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel and station
  3. Went up Incline Railway
  4. Learnt about the Civil War battle for Chattanooga and took in some of the places
  5. Went down into caves to see Ruby Falls
  6. Clambered along narrow passageways to reach a viewing platform at Rock City
  7. Saw many wonderful houses on Lookout Mountain

Well, another holiday is over and we have packed so much into this one, Artists studio in Asheville, Waterfront in Savannah, Lovely houses in Florida, Animals at Animal Kingdom, Segway at Mt Dora, a Helicopter ride over part of Disney, all the things in Chattanooga and of course meeting up with our friends, Laura & Jim, so, here’s to the next holiday.

Our next booked holiday, apart from Christmas in Maidenhead is a cruise in 2019 but I am sure we will manage something next year, we just haven’t booked anything yet.

 

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Asheville, NC

IMG_519029 October

Early wake up at the hotel at Heathrow although clocks have gone back. Virgin people confirm we are on their flight, they were puzzled by our email that said we were travelling with Delta, and it takes off on time and is very full.

I seem to get the impression that even the Premium Economy seats we are sitting in are smaller in pitch than before – it just seems to be more crowded and cramped. Sal manages the flight well bearing in mind the virus and watches 3 films whilst I get stuck into some broadsheet newspaper reading and a good dose of music listening.

Not bad food on the flight although they weren’t able to supply additional coffee due to considerable turbulence once we hit the Canadian and US coasts.

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Atlanta Airport at dusk

Arrival into Atlanta was early but the queues for immigration lengthy.

The American system seems still to be archaic, having to queue to get a slip of paper from a machine and then join another queue to get the slip of paper processed.

I understand they want to control immigration but there must be an easier way to process people? [Compare this with our arrival back in the UK at the end of the journey]

Anyway, It would have probably taken another hour to be processed, there was another flight’s passengers before us, so I asked an official if there was anywhere for Sal to sit down whilst we waited and we were pointed to what I can only describe as the disabled queue and were processed in under 5 minutes! Thank you Atlanta immigration staff; she really wasn’t feeling well.

Shuttle bus for hotel doesn’t visit the International terminal so we would have to first go to the Domestic terminal and then wait for the half hourly bus so we get a taxi instead. Probably in hotel (Holiday Inn Express, Atlanta Airport) when some fellow passengers were still trying to pass through immigration.

30 October

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It’s cold in Atlanta

Frost on the cars in the car park, it is 1C outside! Not too early finally waking up, 4 hour time difference helps rather than 5 hours.

Sal still not well so go on my own to get car from car rental – so I will be doing the driving – pack up and go on up NE towards Asheville.

We are going to drive through the Nantahala National forest for the scenery rather than the drudgery of the Interstates.

First stop is a Walmart just off the route at East Ellijay for some essential supplies followed by lunch at Ingles, a local supermarket in the area, in Murphy, a smartly kept shop, unlike Walmart.

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Nantahala River

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Autumn colours at Patton’s Run

Driving along the very scenic US64 we stop a couple of times en-route to Asheville, one a lay by at Patton’s Run on the Nantahala River where an early naturalist met a Cherokee chief in 1776.

Onwards to the Nantahala Outdoor Centre, where there is an activity centre for rafting, walking, canoeing, zip lining and a kids rope walk area although not a lot of activity this late in the day and season.

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Nantahala Outdoor Centre

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Autumn colours at Nantahala

The approach to the Crowne Plaza Resort at Asheville is difficult to find to say the least especially with the out of date Sat Nav that we have but once on Resort Road, you dramatically leave the hustle & bustle of the Interstate roads and arrive in an oasis of quietness.

Our room is in the glasshouse wing, a bit old fashioned but nevertheless comfortable.

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Crowne Plaza public area

We don’t however take advantage of the large open fire situated in the public area – silly us.

Meal tonight was meant to be using room service but there is great confusion as no menu was left in the room and the bar steward gave us the wrong one.

Eventually manage to get a correct room service menu and settle down for another early night – we are still a bit jet-lagged.

31 October

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Hotel Halloween display

Halloween display at the hotel is attracting children’s attention and after breakfast using what we bought at Walmart we venture out into Asheville for a drive around the city’s centre to familiarise ourselves with the layout.

Eventually park in the multi storey car park having wasted about $1 on a failed attempt to use a parking meter.

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F W Woolworth walk cafe

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Crocheted lamposts

Walk down the very delightful Wall Street from the car park, past some elegant buildings, crocheted lampposts and the flat iron building with, appropriately, a flat iron street furniture statue outside and find the F W Woolworth walk.

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Flat Iron building, Asheville style

The F W Woolworth building is now used by local artists and the café is to be recommended as well.

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F W Woolworth walk

The flooring and many of the fittings are original and all seem to be so reminiscent of a 1970s Woolworths store.

Lots of different stalls, pottery, artwork and photographs being prominent. We couldn’t leave without buying a picture – now framed back at home and being put in our bedroom.

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Street furniture

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Flat Iron street furniture

Back to the car via an outdoors climbing wall (no, we looked, didn’t try – it was closed) and lots of street furniture but sadly not enough time to get into Grove Arcade which houses considerably more craft stalls but head out of town to a Panera Bread for lunch, they must have missed us as we haven’t been to one for at least 13 months!

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Asheville climbing frame

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Bright sky, red leaves and scattered clouds at Hendersonville

A drive into the hills around Hendersonville for views of some rural housing and a graveyard with views of distant hills.

Some of the houses are grand, others, mediocre and others you just have to wonder how people manage to live in them.

Back to hotel and I go for a walk around the grounds; there are zip wires galore here, a golf course, cycle tracks, tree climbing and adventure playground for youngsters.

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Hidden housing

Dinner tonight at PF Chang’s at nearby Biltmore village where we had been to with Phillip & Sylvia 2 years ago.

Lovely Mongolian Beef dish and a chicken with Ginger but not a lot of Halloween revellers in evidence either here or back in downtown Asheville.

1 November

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Art work does not have to be just painting and drawing

Cloudier today so not so photogenic. Head for the Riverside studios and by random choose to visit one of the studios (Jonas Gerard) that are housed in redundant warehouses, appropriately next to a coffee shop.

We are welcomed into the studio by the artist himself, the first item is a map of the USA made up of left over acrylic paint in every single colour imaginable. We are encouraged to touch as well which is interesting.

It is tempting to buy one as they are good but realistically, at a minimum of $350, we would struggle to get a decent one back home especially as it would have to travel on our US journey for about 3 weeks.

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Inside the Jonas Gerard art studio

Gary would love this especially as we also are able to go into the studio: lots of colourful pots of paint.

We are told that Jonas Gerard has recently been in London with a client on a commission but his assistant that we talk to doubts if he will ever see the commission.

Coffee next door at the Ultra Coffee Bar and then off to Wearville, north of Asheville, a drive through a quaint town and follow road to The Vance birthplace museum on Reems Creek Road for a stroll around avoiding a junior school trip!

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Part of the Vance birthplace museum

This outdoor museum is tucked in the beautiful Reems Creek Valley and features a two-story log cabin “mansion,” an original 1790s slave cabin, and five outbuildings in some quite extensive grounds so you do not feel claustrophobic at all.

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Workshop contents

Furnished as it would have been in the 1830s, the site explores life in early Buncombe County as seen through the lives of the Vance family and enslaved people.

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Loom at one of the out-houses

The Visitor Centre contains a kid-friendly exhibit detailing the life of Gov. Zebulon Vance from his birth on the farm to his political service as Civil War Governor and post-Reconstruction Senator and includes many old photographs and other memorabilia.

Driving on, going up into the hills to look at some secluded properties and Autumn colours, we reach the hamlet of Beech and turn left.

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Restoration projects

Sign says untarmacked road so we retrace our steps to Ingles in Wearville for lunch via at least one property that is in dire need of restoration as are the items outside.

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Autumn colours

Some lovely colours in the valley which appears to be a bit sheltered from the wind and perhaps is a day or so behind other areas in leaf fall.

Had we continued, we would have reached Barnardsville but we didn’t know that from our old SatNav and without a map.

Back at hotel, our key doesn’t work and on eventually managing to get it reactivated, find our room not serviced. Ring to ask for it to be serviced and two virtually non English speaking women turn up one of whom promptly puts lipstick on the bed cover whilst they are making it so they both have to go off to change it.

We comment that the glass by the door had been there for two days but maids mistook the message and took away a bag with some medication for a cold we had only bought at Ingles earlier in the day but didn’t take the glass!20171101_182829

When we realise, we ring reception and whilst one item was salvaged, the new shopping bag we had bought an hour earlier had vanished.

Even a trip with the manager to the refuse bin failed to locate it. Not good, Crowne Plaza.

We did, at least get two free vouchers for breakfast the following day. Dinner tonight at Olive Garden, you know what you are getting with them.

Tomorrow it is on to Savannah in Georgia so we say goodbye for the moment to the autumn colours.

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Autumn colours at the Vance birthplace museum