Tofurkey in Asheville

Thanksgiving spent with family is a truly wonderful thing….especially if much of your family lives in different states and can find time to come together. And if you can explore a new city on top of that, well that’s something to be thankful for!

Several months ago, Mike and I thought Asheville sounded like a perfect city to spend time in with family during Thanksgiving. With his sister, niece, brother-in law in South Carolina and his dad in north Carolina, it was the perfect meeting spot! WE flew into Charlotte a few days before the holiday to spend time with his dad and stepmom. That evening we headed to an eclectic, funky restaurant called Soul Gastrolounge. Sashimi tacos, a diverse cheese plate, spicy tuna roll….it was phenomenal! The vibe, the food, the music, the company really hit the spot, kicking off our holiday!

In the morning, we headed towards Asheville, stopping along the Blueridge Parkway to hike and stretch our legs. The thick forests were blanketed with leaves and we decided mountain biking would be a great idea in these conditions, although we had heard great things about the trails in the area. A reason to come back!

The 4 mile hike left us feeling refreshed (after a night of wine, the fresh air was needed!) so we headed into the heart of Asheville to Wicked Weed Brewing for some libation and nourishment. Boy did that spot hit it! A beautiful veggie spread, including a beer burger with pickled okra & pimento cheese, crispy brussel sprouts and a walnut, Gorgonzola & grape salad, all paired with beautiful brew. I had a Napoleon Complex and it definitely lived up to the hype.  What a great intro to Asheville!

Next stop was our Airbnb, a beautiful 3 bedroom house outside of town that had a beautiful kitchen, plenty of space for our party of six (including our red-headed 2-year old niece, Nora!). Luckily, the place was also dog-friendly, so Mike’s sister brought their fur baby, Kali. The ultimate spot that included amenities. We unpacked, napped and awaited the arrival of the Charleston crew, who arrived around 7 with loads of groceries & baby supplies. While the gang settled, plant-based tacos were cooked and we all sat down to catch up. Baby Nora, all smiles and giggles, couldn’t have been more adorable. It was going to be a good week!

The next morning, we awoke early to head to The Biltmore. This was the only officially planned activity, and I was extremely excited! Built by the Vanderbilt’s, it remains the largest privately owned estate in North America. The home took several years to build and was an architectural marvel. Dripping with Christmas trees, lights and decorations the home sparkled. The self-guided tour took us up and down three floors, into the basement (which included an indoor swimming pool and bowling alley!), up into his and her master suites, a two story library and throughout the servants quarters.

Even little Nora loved it, walking up and down the stairs and hallways, pointing at all of the wonders. Spectacular! The grounds were also expansive and even though it was quite windy, we waltzed throughout, heading into the large arboretum, bursting with tropical plants. Mike loved this in particular. The hours spent wandering left us famished, so we headed to Cedric’s Tavern for some wonderful lunch (they even had veggie options!)

The estate had a winery on it’s property, so after lunch, Mike and I mozied over to the winery for a complimentary tasting….the wine was surprisingly delightful and the women who was pouring was extremely knowledgeable. What a wonderful first day!

Happy Thanksgiving! We woke Thursday knowing we would spend the day cooking and relaxing, so Mike and I started it with a 3 mile hike near the French Broad river. Kali (our furry niece) came with us and we all had a grand time before heading back to cook up a frenzy. The gang had brought a turkey, so threw that in, turned the football on and had some holiday beverages while making my fabulous plant-based feast. I made a veggie pot-pie for Mike and I with melting sweet potatoes.

That evening, we all went around to say what we were thankful for, digging in to the meal we had prepared with a grateful heart. A beautiful holiday, spent with family.

Friday came and we all went out to breakfast at The Moose Cafe for a hearty country breakfast. Grits and the best dang homemade biscuits you ever tasted, served with honey. Holy cannoli is was delicious! A breakfast that would propel Mike and I into the Pisgah National Forrest to hike to the John Rock hike. 

The plan was to meet the gang after for lunch and a brewery tour, so we were going for the long route. The views from the John Rock were wonderful and the hike was just strenuous enough to work up our appetite. Next stop: Sierra Nevada

The tap room was packed, so we just grabbed a beer (they had so many to choose from!) played a game of corn hole and headed to the next stop: Blue Ghost Brewery. This local brewery was actually a recommendation from someone at breakfast and it did not disappoint. They had a mango IPA that was phenomenal!

They had a food truck as well, so we grabbed some flatbread and enjoyed.  Green Man Brewery was the next stop – where Mike had a fabulous sour, I took a break and just had a sip. By this time, baby Nora, Sara & Lynn were ready to call it a night.

Allen, Mike and I thought one more stop was needed, so we headed to Burial Brewery for one more – I had a delightful sour to cap out the night.

Saturday morning we had a leisurely breakfast, then headed into the cute town of Asheville to do some shopping. Allen stayed home with baby Nora to watch the Ohio game and was going to meet us later.  The town was bustling, so we visited the cute little galleries and shops. The shopping gave us quite the appetite, so we headed to Curate, a beautiful Spanish tapas restaurant. Wow, what a meal! The best tapas I have had in the states!

We headed back to the house to relax for a bit – then we headed to Sweeten Creek Brewery for a per-dinner drink. Another great brewery! Dinner was at the White Duck Taco shop where delicious tacos were ordered: Banh Mi tofu, Bangkok Shrimp and a Mushroom Potato. Delicious!!! It was the perfect last night all together!

In the morning, we packed up the house, with tearful goodbyes, and Mike and I headed for one last hike. This one was a short one, but was extremely steep with multiple areas that had ropes to help hoist us up.

The hike was a wonderful ending to our Asheville family vacation. Our last night was spent at his dad’s house, where we made homemade cannelloni. How grateful I am that we had this amazing time together in Asheville, North Carolina!




Day 4 of the Vieques Vacation!

No alarm for us this morning! We decadently slept until 8 am…ahhhh vacation! Throwing bathing suites on (island attire) we headed into town to a new breakfast joint, Buen Provecho. Great vibe, awesome menu, coffee, homemade hot sauce, breads & bagels. And craft beer!!!! The owners hailed from Michigan & had lived in Colorado, so had stocked the place with great beer. Mike was happy and before we left, built a custom craft six pack to savor later.

Buen Provecho's bagel & smoked salmon
Buen Provecho’s bagel & smoked salmon

After our delicious breakfast we jetted to the silver beach in the Refugio Nacional de Vidal Silvestre de Vieques. Before we set our sights on the sand, Mike decided to go on an exploration to find an abandoned lighthouse he had read about on a blog. Did I mention this was in the restricted area of the park, where they used to test bombs!? Needless to say, after about 2 miles, we didn’t see any lighthouses, so headed back through the jungle onto the safe, paved road. Mike, always the edge-liver!

Silver beach
Silver beach

Our hot & humid hike warranted a swift dip in the ocean, so we immediately set our things up and grabbed our snorkel gear! There appeared to be reef on the left side of the lagoon, so we moseyed on over. It was spectacular! An underground aquarium, complete with a lion fish (which are so cool looking, just extremely poisonous). In the more shallow parts, closest to the shore, you can really see the most. Spectacular!

While the snorkeling was amazing, my book was getting good (and how often can I lay on a beach and read!?) so I vacated the water while Mike continued to explore, something he loves to tease me about: you should never snorkel alone!

When he had his fill of medellas, he was ready to go find something else. We popped in the jeep and drove to Esperanza to find Duffy’s, a cool bar on the main strip with craft beer! Victory to boot! Mike ordered a headwater and I a mojito and we were happy! The bartered was the cover model for the last edition of The Vieques Insider, a local magazine with all of the islands going ons. Pretty cool to be served by a local celebrity! Our hunger got the best of us, so we ordered a large salad with blackened grouper and Mahi tacos. The food was out of sight, the view along the boardwalk was phenomenal and the ocean breezes were magnificent.

We found Victory Headwaters!
We found Victory Headwaters!

That evening we had a Bioluminescent Bay tour, so decided to head back to our homestead and relax before venturing out. I did some yoga & Mike rested. The luxuries of vacation were at our fingertips!

Fully rested and ready for some bay action, we headed to town to wait for the Blackbeard Sports van. Town was quite busy, as it was Saturday night, and gentlemen say on corners smoking and drinking while the ladies chittted & chatted about. When the van came, we happily popped in and met a couple from Denver, another couple who had just left Denver for Massachusetts and another couple who was staying in Philadelphia to attend U. Penn. Small world!

The tour, although not very long, was extremely neat. As we kayaked out to the middle of the bay to hear the guides schpeal, fish glowed under our vessels, seeming to chase us. The microorganism that lived in the water were barely visible due to the powerful half moon that was out, but when our paddles sliced the water, the organisms glowed brilliantly.  The native settlers used to worship the fiery bay, thinking the bright creatures were the tears of their god. We got lucky with some cloud coverage, so were dipping our hands and feet in the water making their outlines glow.

It really was an amazing experience and there being only 5 true bioluminescent bays in the world, this actually being the brightest while the others are rapidly being destroyed by human pollution, it was a magical evening.

The beaches here are spectacular!
The beaches here are spectacular!