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Archive for urban places

go . Sights and Shops in Downtown Asheville
[part 1]

Beautiful, quirky Asheville. There are places that grab you, that you immediately want to claim as your own. That’s how I felt about this vibrant, Southern mountain town. I had the opportunity to visit Downtown Asheville for a few days last month while attending a public relations conference, and I think it took my heart.

From Tuesday to Friday, I spent as much free time as possible wandering the downtown area, stopping in shops, poking my head down alleyways, and sampling the local cuisine. I found historic and colorful views, a love and commitment to all things Asheville-local, a penchant to spontaneous self expression, and an overwhelming sense of energy — really a “vibe.” Yes, there’s an unmistakable vibe, like something inspiring could happen at any moment. The jacket of a book I bought about the city described Asheville as “everywhere an easy gaiety.” That sums it up perfectly. The joy was so very easy.

The book, 27 Views of Asheville, came from Malaprop’s Bookstore on Haywood, along with the funky Only in Asheville tome. They were both on the recommended shelf of regional work, and kudos from the Malaprop’s staff carries good weight in indy bookstore circles. An iconic Asheville book seller and literary cafe since 1982, the store has a revolving door of events and author readings along with a stellar collection of bestsellers and unusual finds. After the public art, street musicians, and traffic bustle outside the door, the bookstore had its own buzz of book talk, event prep, and literary energy.

In Asheville wanderings, like in so many of the South’s urban centers, I found an inspiring mix of art deco ornament, historic structures, cobbled streets, sacred spaces, public parks, and the region’s overlapping colors of fall. What was even more inspiring was the obvious creative energy – community gardens outfitted with hand-made sculpture, outdoor artisan market areas, colorful facades, doors open with music outpouring, goods and wares pulled out into the sidewalks, and many shops proudly displaying not only a commitment to inclusion, but a list of wares available from fellow shops and artisans around the region. I walked back to my hotel each evening believing that each shop or restaurant or artisan I encountered knew they had something unique and wonderful to add to the world around them. Somehow Asheville seems to have created a place where those gifts are overwhelmingly welcomed and set on display for anyone to partake in the vibe.

On the last morning of my trip, I stopped by another Asheville shopping icon, the L.O.F.T., offering “lost objects and found treasures” since 1996. Squeezed into a vibrant street level and basement walk-down, I found quite a few treasures, indeed. Unusual books, ethnic memorabilia, gypsy-esque fabrics and decor, Asheville products, unique wall hangings, outdoor art and more. The color alone, displayed in every inch of the place, was enough to set my eyes in wonder.

Over the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to sharing some glimpses and thoughts from my morning visit to the beautiful Basilica of St. Lawrence, also on Haywood, the spectacular Grove Arcade on Page and Battery Park, a few favorite local restaurants, and some of the vibrance of the Flatiron area on Wall Street. So many memories that will stick with me! I think I love you, Asheville.

 

go . Sightseeing Beale

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Last weekend, we visited Memphis to see the amazing Broadway musical, Matilda! I would highly recommend this award-winning production if you have a chance to see it. While we were in town, we had a lot of fun in our favorite downtown activities, and this visit, we also did a little sightseeing on Beale Street — soaking up the sights and colors of one of Memphis’ iconic destinations. Baby Girl got her air guitar on, and we took in the cacophony of signs, neon, letters and curiosities. A new favorite Memphis activity was definitely added to the list for future trips! Enjoy a few of the sights…

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go . Cafe Keough

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Today I’m sharing one final post from our Valentine’s weekend trip to Memphis. I mentioned before that we were snowed in for a couple of extra days, which was actually tons of fun (and maybe a little nerve wracking for the Mommy). On Monday morning when we ventured out, our favorite pancake spot for breakfast, the Blue Plate Cafe, was closed for a snow day. That gave us the excuse to wander down Main Street a bit in the snow and ice in search of an alternative. We stopped into Cafe Keough, a corner coffee shop we had seen in our previous walks. It’s a wonderful old space with high ceilings, big windows and a great mix of history, industrial feel and urban vibe.

Part of the appeal was that the manager was shoveling off the iced sidewalk in front of the cafe when we walked up (bonus!). But, the pastry counter kind of sealed the deal. The kids enjoyed waffles with a side of oatmeal cookies, because that’s what you do on a snow day in Memphis, I guess. And, I couldn’t resist the chocolate croissants. We settled into a couple of the small cafe tables by the front windows and enjoyed our munchies with a great view of snow-covered downtown — a view I’m sure we won’t soon forget. Thanks for sharing the trip with us, and I can’t wait to try out some of the sandwiches at Cafe Keough the next time we are in town!

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go . Main Street Trolley

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I’m excited to share the first post of photos and images from our recent Fall Break trip to Memphis. We’ve visited Memphis several times, mainly to enjoy the zoo and Mud Island, but we’ve always stayed on the outskirts. This year, I decided I wanted to give the kids a little more of an urban downtown experience. So, I booked our rooms at the Marriott Spring Hill Suites right on Main Street at Court Square (I definitely recommend it). One of the big draws for me in choosing that hotel was the back door access to the Downtown Trolley. The backyard of the hotel is the Court Square park space — another plus, but I’ll share more evidence of that later.

The Memphis light-rail Downtown trolley system has operated since the 1993. The system runs as the last line of Memphis’ original streetcar system, which closed in 1947. The vintage trolleys are from around the world and are each over 40 years old, but have each been restored with brass seats, transom windows, antique fixtures and hardware. The restoration makes for a sufficiently rickety and ambient-filled ride through the Downtown area. We spent our trolley rides on the Main Street line moving up and down the thoroughfare with the sound of bells, wheel lurches and cranking metal. Dark wood, rotating seats, brass window latches and watching for our stop, it was enough like an old-fashioned train ride to intrigue the kids. When we chose to walk instead of ride, the fun came in watching for the trolley and trying to gain the driver’s attention to elicit a beep of the horn. We all cheered when several drivers obliged.

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