“Don’t be bashful – it’s Asheville!”

A co-worker shared those words with me when I announced I would be visiting her old stomping grounds. I thought it was a cute phrase, but I didn’t realize how true it was until I wandered the city alone. Every single person I met was ridiculously friendly…like, ridiculously. I was greeted with long conversations, constant smiles and waves from strangers, and genuine kindness on the roads.

Lots of art found in Asheville!

I arrived in Asheville on a Friday with some friends who wanted to join for the weekend. We checked into the Sweet Pea Hostel — a hidden door next to a coffee shop — and proceeded to wander aimlessly downtown, exploring art galleries and record shops. We ate dinner at White Duck Taco at the recommendation of several folks. It was tasty but I was personally offended by their jerk chicken taco which, by no stretch of the imagination, was more cinnamon than jerk. In hindsight, I should have picked something different since North Carolina doesn’t have the Caribbean influences I was expecting as a Floridian. In comparison, Taco Billy in west Asheville was fabulous (and locally sourced).

Later, we headed to Wicked Weed brewing company. I highly recommend this place – the beer was quite good! I enjoyed the Riverkeeper, which was a charity beer in support of the local watershed.

Lots of vanlifers out here…this guy parked in front of Bon Paul & Sharkey’s while I was working on the porch. Pretty sure I saw him scouting for campsites later that week, too!

We started Saturday with breakfast at the Jerusalem Garden Café, a tiny place with a Moroccan and Mediterranean menu, and followed up with a fix for my caffeine addiction at High Five Coffee. Their cold brew was so delicious I had it twice!

We visited several breweries throughout the day, from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company to New Belgium to Archetype. I didn’t join in the day drinking, so I won’t be able to make recommendations other than that all these places were beautiful and the beers I did sample were all delicious. By nighttime, we ended up at Jack of the Wood where I had the infamous Green Man IPA and we listened to a local bluegrass band called the Jackson Grimm. This hour felt like the most North Carolina experience ever and I genuinely enjoyed it.

Friends in their floats, me in my kayak

Sunday we floated down the French Broad River. Launching at Carrier Park and jumping out at White Duck Taco, we drove back to have lunch at Homegrown – a cozy, locally-sourced restaurant with really scrumptious food. It was a favorite of mine during my stay!

The guys wanted to camp that night, and since Patrick’s site was only 45 minutes away from Asheville, I agreed to join. We hopped in our cars and drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway, turned onto a gravel road and pitched our tents where service was nowhere to be found. We hung out around the campfire for a few hours before I headed to my pad, knowing I’d have to be up by at least 7 am.

pigsah crest mountains
Blue Ridge Parkway

Waking up with the mountains, I packed up camp and left the guys to their own devices for wifi and coffee in west Asheville. That night I slept at Bon Paul & Sharkey’s Hostel, a more casual hostel than Sweet Pea with a homier vibe and humans all shades of quirky. The best part were all the chance meetings:

Emmy, the rising poet from Seattle visiting her friend on a farm; Lexi, a student at my alma mater who also happened to be a former ‘roovian, and Brody, a nurse in Gainesville that shared a lot of travel experience with me from Europe.

A place to rest my head for the week

Emmy and I were instant buds and headed to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company within an hour of meeting. (This is an example of the exact connections I wanted out of this trip!) We managed to snag two spots on the last tour of the day. I was surprisingly thrilled at Sierra Nevada’s sustainability efforts! Pretty sure I was the only one on the tour nerding out on the brewery’s solar panels and rain barrels. Between their “zero waste” plaque and my sudden adoration for their Hazy Little Thing IPA, Sierra Nevada made a new customer out of me.

One of many sustainability awards at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

The rest of my week was spent working at various locations: the hostel, an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway via hot spot, and Owl’s Bakery after a Discover Asheville magazine convinced me their locally-sourced and -made pastries were to die for (spoiler alert: they were).

Raspberry cream pastry from Owl’s Bakery

All in all, Asheville was a quirky town nestled in the mountains with a flair for beer. I loved how so many restaurants focused on supporting the local economy and growing seasonally! It made my goal to be low-waste that much easier. And I still can’t get over how delicious their tap water was…is that a weird thing to love?

I’ll be back again soon, AVL! Save me a craft brew and a seat with a mountain view.

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