Shopping, Food, and Thomas Wolfe

Because my husband has an annual fall conference in Asheville, my guaranteed October trip to the North Carolina mountains is this lovely destination. Asheville is a lively blend of old mountain culture—think apple butter and rustic crafts—and a hip, new-age vibe.

Some years we’ve stayed at the Grove Park Inn, known for its fancy spa, ginormous lobby with two huge walk-in fireplaces, and panoramic views.


This year we were at the Renaissance Hotel, not quite as luxurious but with a great downtown location. I was within walking distance of restaurants and all those cute little knick-knack stores that Asheville is full of. In fact, I bought a couple of wind chimes at a place called LOFT (Lost Objects Found Treasures).


Even better, the hotel was right across the street from the Thomas Wolfe house. Hog’s heaven for a former English teacher. Tuesday morning while the husband was in meetings, I had my own personal tour—just me and the docent—for only five dollars.

wolfe house

In case you’re wondering, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial is where this famous author grew up, alongside all the boarders that his thrifty, businesswoman mother could cram in her boarding house. In his novel Look Homeward, Angel, Wolfe wrote none too fondly of his life there, dissing Asheville as well, which caused him to be something of an outcast for quite a few years after the book was published. It’s telling that his last novel is titled You Can’t Go Home Again.

summer flowers

My trip was timed a little early for the brilliant fall foliage. I saw more summer flowers still in bloom than the vibrant reds, oranges, and golds of fall. Evidently summer held on a little longer in the mountains this year as it did at home.

The last day of this fall conference, my husband and I always visit the Western North Carolina (WNC) Farmer’s Market on the outskirts of Asheville to pick up an assortment of apples. We fill a cardboard box with Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Red Delicious—anything marked sweet. No tart Granny Smiths for me.

The best thing about visiting the WNC Farmer’s Market, though, is the Moose Café. Country cooking at its finest—and huge portions. You know you’re in a place that takes eating seriously when the waitress brings a big fluffy biscuit with apple butter for your appetizer, and chicken pastry is listed as a side dish. Just look at these plates.

paula's mealmy meal

We all got a to-go box and had our leftovers for supper.



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