Ever since moving to Los Angeles, I've found that I'm most homesick when October rolls around, and my hometown in Northwest Ohio would have a chill in the air and color on the trees. I grew up going to fall bonfires and drinking hot apple cider, fully embracing fall and everything that comes with it. In Los Angeles, fall feels pretend - and maybe because it is.
The city that I love every other time of the year feels like it's putting on a front - the pumpkin spice lattes and fall decorations are there, but the essence of fall just...isn't. So when my best friend announced she'd be getting married just 30 minutes away from Asheville, North Carolina in October, I decided I'd need to take a few days to explore the trendy mountain town and soak up as much fall as I could in a few short days.
I didn't have to look far to find fall - I left Hendersonville, North Carolina with all intentions of taking the very long and incredibly scenic route. Asheville sits just 30 minutes north of Hendersonville on the most direct route, but I instead headed about an hour out of my way in order to drive through Pisgah National Forest before merging onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. The mountain switchbacks weaved through vibrant fall forests, over creeks and across mountain peaks. Around each bend I found a new and equally brilliant fall scene, and each time I parked my car to snap a photo I was astounded at the beauty. I could have driven the parkway all the way to it's end in Virginia, but I was upon Asheville before I knew it.
The little town of Asheville has a big - and I mean big - craft brewery and food scene. I dined on some seriously incredible jambalaya at Mayfel's, and tried a beer "from the Funkatorium" at Wicked Weed Brewing. At One World Brewing on a Sunday night, the bartenders and I played a few rounds of Scattegories. My Airbnb host and I had dinner together at Corner Kitchen - she sold it to me by stating with pride, "That's where they took Obama when he was visiting Asheville!" She pointed out his photo on the wall as I dug into my squash-stuffed chicken breast and couscous.
After several word-of-mouth recommendations, I decided to spend a day exploring the Biltmore Estate on a self-guided tour. The Biltmore is America's largest privately-owned home built by George Vanderbilt and completed in 1895. The home has over 250 rooms, those of which include a dining hall that could rival a set on Game of Thrones. But the Châteauesque-style mansion is just the beginning of what the Biltmore has to offer - after touring the massive home, I explored the rose gardens and expansive greenhouses, as well as the working farm and America's most visited winery. Fall was a beautiful time to visit, with the home already decorated for Christmas and multiple Christmas trees in each room.
One evening, I drove to the Grove Park Inn (again, at the recommendation of my Airbnb host). She described the inn as looking like a big "hobbit home," with giant fireplaces on either side of the lobby. She said it would be a great place to sit and have a glass of wine on a dreary, snowy night like it was. She sold it well - and the hotel was beautiful, with a massive sloping red roof and stone facade (giving it the hobbit vibe), and sprawling views of the Asheville mountains. I snacked on Bison meatballs and sipped on Cabernet Sauvignon while the fireplaces crackled in the distance.
A lot of what makes me homesick for fall in the Midwest is family. I think of having fires in the backyard, and making trips to the pumpkin patch together. Or making pumpkin cookies with my grandma and eating half of them immediately afterward. But my time in Asheville sure felt like I was with family. Staying with Paula and her dog Levi at The Dragonfly Cottage felt like staying with an Aunt I hadn't seen in some time. She gave me recommendations for what to see and do, she welcomed me into her living quarters and poured me a glass of wine as we talked about life's ups and downs. When I checked out of The Dragonfly Cottage, she said with her sweet Alabama accent, "Well you come on back now with that boyfriend of yours, girl. It sure was a pleasure havin' ya." It was her warmth that made fall in Asheville so cozy.
I sure found fall in Asheville, and all of the colors, smells, sounds and feelings that come with it. I hope I'll be back someday, perhaps the next time I'm feeling fall withdrawal out here in Los Angeles. Until then, I'll be reminiscing through my photos, which you can see here!