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2019-PLEASE NOTE: Since Google has stopped Open ID comments, I've been receiving Anonymous comments that don't SEEM like spam. If you DO comment on a post, please don't be disappointed if I don't post it. When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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March 10, 2017

Mini-trip to Asheville, NC

I decided that for my birthday, I would take advantage of a special "deal" that TripAdvisor was offering and spend two nights in Asheville, having been there once before with Chris where we mostly visited Biltmore Estates.  I wanted to see more of the downtown area this time.

The night before I had looked at the weather forecast for Asheville and was disappointed to see that it was supposed to be possible rain Monday, rain basically all day Tuesday and sunny Wednesday.  But off I went and though it rained almost the whole time I was driving it was pretty much done once I got there so I was able to start my exploring right away. And, it didn't rain at all Tuesday until Tuesday night which was very thoughtful of the powers that be I thought.  And Wednesday was gorgeous sun although very windy.

I, of course, took many pictures.  Since the weather was so cooperative I was able to complete the self-guided "Urban Trail" over Tuesday and Wednesday.  There's a little map that routes you throughout the downtown to find bronze sculptures, plaques, etc., that mark some notable building, event, or what have you.  There are 30 of them and with the meandering streets of Asheville, it became a real challenge to find them all.  I kept losing myself and spent a lot of time backtracking, etc.  But it was fun and I certainly had a good look at what Asheville has to offer which is a lot of wonderful local shopping and eating.

The first set of pictures are of the Basilica of St. Lawrence which is not on the trail but is interesting.  It is made entirely of "tiles and other masonry elements without the use of wood or steel" which I found pretty amazing.  The dome is considered the largest free-standing elliptical dome in North America, measuring 82 x 58 feet!  The architect and builder was Rafael Guastavino and after presenting his design in 1905, work commenced and it was completed in 1909.  My little guide says his work can be found in over 1,000 buildings in the US including Grant's Tomb, Grand Central Station, Carnegie Hall, and the list goes on.

Sorry about the cars - I take what I can get...

A side chapel.  The stained glass windows were beautiful but I have yet to discover a way to get good pictures of them.

The incredible dome - part of it anyway...

Another side chapel and lastly, below - the altar.

So that was a good start.   Now for the Urban Trail.  The Basilica is right at the edge of the downtown area, so I found one of the downtown parking lots and got started.

There are 3 bronze cats in this picture.  This is #9 on the trail and since it was right near my garage, I started with it.  This is called the "Cat Walk" because a long time ago, one of the developers of the area decided he needed to remove a 70 foot high hill in order to develop downtown.  I'm not real sure why that necessitated a cat walk but I guess it did.

This is Asheville's flat iron building - I think flat iron buildings are really neat.  And below is #8 on the trail - a flat iron!  #10 is one of the ones that is no more...

I took a break from searching the trail to visit the Grove Arcade (Edwin Grove was responsible for a LOT of  building done in Asheville back in the first quarter of the 20th century).  On my previous visit I took a quick look inside this gorgeous building and it's what inspired me to look up living in downtown Asheville.  It doesn't look like too much from outside - just a big building but the first floor has these skylights and is full of shops and eateries and the second floor is full of businesses.  There are apartments on the third and fourth floor but way beyond my means. :)  I poked around in a few of the shops and saw some really beautiful handcrafted things made by local artisans - wood, glass, jewelry, gourd art, textiles, you name it - it's there.

And the little picture below of the five "cubbyholes" I'm thinking maybe used to be a bank of telephone booths.  If so, I think it's neat that they didn't just rip them out when they decided to do away with the phones.

Next is #11 on the trail - "Historic Hilltop".  (By the way, I forgot to mention - there's a fair amount of up and down hill in the downtown area!)  This bronze book with many signatures of "very important people" is based on the guestbook of the "new" Battery Park Hotel (constructed by Grove) as pictured below.  (On the left, I see Theo. Roosevelt, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Vanderbilt...) I think this is the building that when I asked someone if it was still a hotel, said no, it was apartments for seniors and hastened to add when I said "wow! I'm a senior!" that there is like a two-year waiting list.

Next is #13 on the trail, one of my favorites.  I couldn't find #12 and searched diligently because it was titled "Guastavino's Monument" and was commemorating his design and building of the Basilica.  But #13 is delightful and is titled "Appalachian Stage" with the musicians and dancers and a violin resting on a bit of quilt.  The first Mountain Dance and Folk Festival was held in 1927 and it has continued annually ever since then.

Another neat one - #14 is "Shopping Daze" with three women and a dog enjoying a visit in the shops of Asheville.  Kind of a shame the "Malaprops" store sign perfectly circles the head of the middle woman.  Do you suppose they wanted it to?

That ended my trail blazing for the day and I just wandered about for a while longer.  I'm sorry to report that I had a disappointing lunch which actually left me feeling kind of half sick so late in the afternoon or early evening I headed back to the motel and just sort of collapsed.  I hadn't slept well the night before I left and I did all this trailblazing after a 5 hour drive to Asheville so I was happy with my progress.   I came across this building on my way back to the garage and liked the Art Deco-ishness of it.  Didn't notice even when taking the picture that it was an old S&W Cafeteria at one time.  I recognize that name but don't know why...

And now I'm going to go ahead and post this before it gets any longer and tackle Wednesday tomorrow.

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