Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My First Impression Of Asheville, NC.

This is a strange, strange place.

I've never been to Asheville, North Carolina before. A city I've only ever read about or seen on television. Often described as one of the most 'liberal' places in America, Asheville is known for its extremely progressive slant on modern living. It's also a well-regarded art community.

Boy, were they not kidding. Let me set the tone of this article. Asheville is absolutely filled to the brim with hippies and hipsters.

I went downtown first, experiencing the Grove Arcade. No, this was not a place for Space Invaders and Pac-Man. The Grove Arcade is an old shopping center established in 1929, now converted to house boutique shoppes and office space. A quick spin through the building soon revealed the fancy and rather overpriced nature of the wares being sold. Though, I must commend the building for being intricate and well designed. It was a total throwback to the 1920's and '30s.

Making my way down city blocks, past what must have been hundreds of coffee shops, graffiti tags and ethnic cafes, I took note of the countless people pushing down the sidewalks. Some I could tell were homeless bums. And yet, people I assumed must have been citizens of better means seemed to look exactly the same. Dirty clothes, ill-kept hair, nasty dreadlocks, strange beards, peculiar fashion... I honestly couldn't tell the difference between the bums and the ordinary folk. There were people singing, dancing and playing music on the street, begging for a nickel. There were guys with funny beards smoking vaporizers. Folks in fur coats and fishnets. I saw a man curled up with a dog, asleep against a building. Was he homeless, or just a lazy guy whom wanted to take a nap? I'll never know. There were people shouting and walking in outlandish manners. I'm also pretty sure I saw at least two different people getting high.

My next stop was the Colburn Earth Science Museum, which is filled with various gemstones, minerals, geodes and rocks. Soon to become the Asheville Museum of Science, it will be relocating to a new location. It's a good thing, considering the museum was quite small and in dilapidated condition. Visitors had obviously not been kind to the exhibits over the years. Thankfully, the rocks that were there were quite nice to see.

Our next visit was with Double D's Coffee and Desserts. This is a neat little coffee shop inside an authentic English double-decker bus. The setup was unique and the interior was quite cramped, but it was kitschy. I can certainly understand the appeal. I ordered an iced chai tea, which was quite spicy and flavorful.

After roaming the downtown area for a few hours, I quickly came to realize that Asheville is nothing more than a tourist trap run by hippies. There's an endless stream of various shops populated with overpriced stuff. Fair Trade. Non-GMO, Gluten Free, Vegan. It seemed like everything had a label, with the sole purpose to sell you something. I left feeling a bit disappointed. Did these hippies not realize they were really capitalists? Or, the more likely scenario... were these capitalists masked as hippies to sell the bohemian mystique? I left the downtown shopping district having purchased nothing.

A quick pit stop at the UNC-Asheville Botanical Garden was pleasant, but still filled with strange people doing weird dances, picnics in the water and general tomfoolery. The stream rolling through the edge of the garden was plenty beautiful, though.

Left with little else to do for the evening, Crystal and I stopped by a local miniature golf course. We were surprised to learn that admission was eight dollars per person for one round of putt-putt. Really? This was simply more proof that the city was largely a tourist trap. We moved on to our hotel and eventually dinner at the local Cracker Barrel.

Afterwards, we stopped at a fantastic ice cream shoppe called Frostbite. It was a simple establishment, purely a throwback to the dives of the '50s and '60s. The ice cream was AMAZING -- sweet, buttery, genuine. I can't recommend them enough to you. There was something interesting waiting for us outside as we arrived, much to my surprise. A bowling alley sat behind the ice cream shoppe. Along the side of the alley was this gorgeous mural, obviously devoted to 'The Dude' of The Big Lebowski fame. Rad.

So... my first day in Asheville was... interesting. I get the feeling that Asheville is a city with two sides. There's the hippie-filled tourist side, drawing in fools with loose wallets. And then, just perhaps, there's the side filled with normal, everyday folk that just want to live their life in normalcy. I believe I saw a peek of the latter at the ice cream shoppe, but I'm not sure. As I venture into Asheville once again tomorrow, I'll report back with more news of the area surrounding me.

That is, if I don't get attacked by a guy in dreadlocks and moccasins first.

Check out the rest of my trip here: Day 2, Day 3.

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