Monday, August 20, 2018

Visiting Asheville, North Carolina


On a recent road trip with our daughter, Lisa, and son-in-law Pete, we spent a few hours in Asheville, North Carolina.  We had heard so many great things about this city and we finally decided we had to check it out ourselves.  We were actually going to Cherokee, NC but it was easy enough to stop by Asheville on our way there.  Lisa and Pete came along on this trip because Pete has been wanting to visit the Sierra Nevada Brewery for a long time and heard we would be stopping in Asheville.  We actually found out that the brewery is in Mills River which is so close to Asheville that people just say it's in Asheville.  So this is where we headed first.

We have a ton of breweries in our neighborhood in Wilmington, NC so I was expecting pretty much the same thing here, but, wow, Sierra Nevada's brewery is probably at least 10 times bigger (or more) than anything we have in Wilmington!


The first thing we did was sign in to do the free 45 minute tour.  If you wanted to tour the brewery on your own you could.  If you wanted a tour guide to show you around, you needed to have a reservation.  We could have, and should have, reserved our spots online ahead of time, but we didn't know that before this trip.


We were very lucky that there was room for us on a tour that day.  Besides for the free tour, there are other tours available that will cost you a few dollars but if you are a Beer Geek you may want to pay the $45.00 to go on the 3 hour Beer Geek tour.  (You can check out all the different tours here.)
So off we went.  We followed our tour guide down many halls, up stairs and into different rooms.


We peeked into a laboratory window we passed as we headed toward the first room on the tour.


The first room was so cold but it needed to be for the whole corn hops that was stored in it.  We were able to take a piece and rub it in our hands and smell it.  We were happy that we could wash our hands before we left the room.


The brew house was the most impressive room on this tour.  Here we saw the whole beer making process taking place.  The copper vessels were huge and they all had their jobs to do.  I liked how each vessel's job was labeled on the floor in front of them.  The whirling mash tun was pretty cool.


The packaging room was quiet when we passed by so we went to our final stop, the tasting!  The beer was good but I am not a big fan of really hoppy beer and there were a couple of them.  I had to pass them to Soko.  Lisa doesn't drink beer so she passed all of hers to Pete.  After our tasting we gave our tour guide a round of applause and parted ways with the group.


The Sierra Nevada's Taproom was highly recommended as having delicious bar food and it was lunchtime by the time our tour ended, so why not.  We were not disappointed.  Bar food is not what it was when me and Soko frequented them on dates long ago.  The peanuts and pretzels are rarely seen anymore and in their place are gourmet burgers and more.  We shared a farmhouse burger, the house and fungi pizzas and the duck fat fries with pale ale raspberry mustard.  Everything was delicious and the atmosphere was fun and comfortable.  Me and Pete needed to taste test a few more of Sierra Nevada's beer so we ordered a flight to share!

We had a fantastic tour, meal and time here at the brewery.  We had a such a great time that we decided we would head out of Cherokee early and stop in Asheville on our way home which is what we did.  There was another brewery Pete wanted to see so Wicked Weed Brewing was where we started our second visit.  It was lunchtime so why not compare bar food.  


We found a nice spot to eat outside and, once again, enjoyed a fantastic lunch with our beer.  I had a black bean burger with avocado crema and pickled jalapeno.  I didn't notice the jalapeno on the description of my burger.  I found out a couple of bites in and just slid them off my sandwich.  After that, my lunch was really delicious.  One of the best bean burgers I've ever eaten actually.  Pete really liked his falafel on naan.   Soko chose to have a hamburger which he has oftentimes when we are eating out because we don't eat them at home.  And I caught Lisa taking a picture of her Firewalker pimento cheese and pickled green tomato on Texas toast.  She said her sandwich was amazing!


I had one of the most refreshing beers I have ever tasted.  While looking at the menu, I spotted a cucumber beer.  Well, I do like cucumber water, so I had to try it.  It was the perfect beer to have on a beautiful summer day.



After lunch, it was time to walk off the calories and explore downtown Asheville.  



It is a really cute little town with lots of artsy shops, fun places to eat like this dessert bus and other interesting things to see like this row of houses.  They were just propped up against the wall of the building with no signage or clue to what they were all about.  


I will say that if you are into craft beers this is the place for you.  In addition to Wicked Weed Brewing and Sierra Nevada Brewery, we went to one more, One World Brewing and spotted a few more on our walk.  We played the best game at One World.  It's a Dutch table shuffleboard game called Sjoelbak.  You slide your puck down the board and try to get it in an opening that is only slightly larger than the puck itself.  It's challenging, but when you succeed, it's a cause for celebration which means another round of beers!


Pete had a couple more breweries he wanted to visit but me and Lisa were ready to find some ice cream so we decided on a time to meet back at the car.  We poked our heads into a chocolate shop and a couple of ice cream places and then found Sunshine Sammies.  You could have a cup or cone with your favorite scoop or scoops of ice cream or you could create your own Ice Cream Sammie which is exactly what me and Lisa did!  What you do is choose your cookie and your ice cream and you end up with an ice cream sandwich like you never had before!  I chose a chocolate cookie with salted caramel ice cream and Lisa had a sugar cookie with strawberry ice cream.  They were delicious!


So now Asheville, North Carolina is on our list of places that we want to visit again.  It's a good thing that we are retired and have the time to travel.  But if we keep going back to all these great places we have been finding lately, we will never get to the end of our travel bucket list!



Monday, August 13, 2018

Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, North Carolina


We've visited Cherokee, North Carolina a few times and have loved every vacation we have had in the area.  We love exploring the Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg, TN is just on the other side of them.  Recently we took a road trip here with our daughter, Lisa, and son-in-law, Pete because Pete has been wanting to visit Asheville, NC and this is another spot we can get to easily from Cherokee.  
We only had three days and two nights to show Pete around this gorgeous part of North Carolina and surprisingly we managed to do everything we had wanted to do.  One of the things we wanted to do was to learn more about the people this area is named after.  We found one of the best places to do this at  Oconaluftee Indian Village.  It is a replica village of a typical Cherokee 18th century neighborhood.

After we paid our $20.00 admission fee, we entered the outdoor waiting room where we waited for our tour guide.  Following a guide through the village was optional but we knew we could learn a lot more about the Cherokees if we had one with us.  

The first villager we came upon was a woman finger weaving strands of yarn into a beautiful sash.  It was really amazing to watch as was everything we saw in this village.


During the tour you were encouraged to ask questions.  The tour guide would answer most of them but would turn to the worker for more elaboration.  This bead worker, who was working on the most beautiful and colorful belts I have ever seen, was more than happy to talk about her craft. 


The pottery makers told us all about the way they molded clay to create the pots they needed to use in their everyday lives.  The color of the pot was determined by the type of wood they used in the fire pits that the pots were fired in.


Every person in this village made you believe that this was where they actually lived and the work they were doing needed to be done or there would be no pots to cook in or belts to hold up their pants!  I really loved that about this village.  It truly felt nothing but authentic.  This wood worker was making tools needed for cooking and masks that the Cherokees used when performing traditional dances and for decorating their homes.


I have always admired the gorgeous baskets I see in the shops in this town.  It was fun to see them being made.  The basket weavers explained how they are made with river cane, white oak and honeysuckle.  Some of the uses of these baskets include for catching fish, storing grain and for playing games.


The weapon makers were the last workers on our guided tour.  We saw the bows and arrows they made but what really amazed me here was the blow gun made from rivercane tubes.  Well, not so much the blow gun, but the Native American who blew the small dart from about 30 feet away from his target and hit the bulls-eye!   Well, not even that he hit the bulls-eye, but that he had enough wind in his body to get the dart to go that far!!


After we parted from our tour guide and fellow tourists, we were able to explore the rest of the grounds on our own.  We walked down the path into the part of the village where we got a look at the homes and other buildings that would be in a typical village.  Outside of each home was the homeowner who greeted you and answered any questions you might have.  One tourist challenged the first homeowner we saw with some very difficult political questions and she was able to respond to each one very impressively.


Some of the other buildings in this village included a Sweat House.  Every family would have one and use it during the harsh winters.  Every village would have a larger version of this house that would be used as a hospital.  One remedy for curing an illness was herbal tea being poured over stones in the middle of the room.  This would cause the person to sweat out what was making them sick.  Another important building, which would be located in the middle of each village was the Council House.  This is where the business of the village took place.  The building would be large enough for the whole tribe to come and take part in the meetings.  Someone was giving a lecture when we passed by.  


It would not be unusual to see a white trader as you were walking through the village.  These traders would exchange guns, metal tools, cloth, cookware, glass beads and other goods for deer skins, hides, timber and food.  And it would not be unusual for one of these traders to marry into the Cherokees and side with them when disputes arose between the Native Americans and the Whites.


We passed one more building, the skin/storage house, before we got to the Square Grounds to see the presentation of, A Time of War.  The Storage House would be where excess grains, furs, pottery and other items would be kept.  If anyone needed anything they were free to take it with the understanding that they would replace the items when they could.


The last stop in the village was the Square Grounds.  The square grounds was considered a sacred place and was where everyone came together for dances and celebrations.  We were here to see a reenactment of a struggle between the Cherokees and European settlers.  The actors were very believable and we learned so much from this show.


Before we left the village, we took a short walk in the Indian Gardens.  We loved reading the flower markers that showed the Cherokee name and description of the plant.


I highly recommend the Oconaluftee Indian Village to anyone wanting to learn more about this fascinating group of people.  We know we will be back to Cherokee and when we do get back here we will learn even more about them after we watch the drama, Unto These Hills.  This live performance happens in an outdoor theater, in the evening, under the stars.  We are looking forward to getting back to Cherokee to enjoy this show.