Thursday, December 31, 2009

World Coffee

World Coffee is a great place to sit back with some coffee and a book and listen to some good music. Their desserts are delicious and varied as well as their clientel...

The coffee shop is connected to an import store and showcases many items from around the world - quite funky.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Asheville Sunset

When I lived in Nebraska I was always struck by the presence of the "big sky" and the awesome sunsets of the plains. Of course sunsets are somewhat universal in their appeal no matter where the particular place is located where one is viewing this moment. Jamaica, Hawaii, Barcelona or Asheville all seem to equally capture that moment when we are truly in awe of nature's colours.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Small House - American Standards

The big buzzword today in housing is sustainability followed by Green building. In the USA the 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2000 square foot house is considered a standard. For some areas of the country it is labeled as a "starter" home for the first time buyer.

This house fits into its site very well and its site footprint is very small. The total floor area is probably about 1500 square feet. Compare this to housing in Japan or New York where homeowners live in much smaller spaces. Living smaller is less expensive, respects the environment by cutting down on urban sprawl and forces you to think before buying more "stuff."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Alley Views

I have always been fascinated by alleys - those narrow, utilitarian, back of the building accessways that take care of garbage, deliveries and electricity lines. Some alleys take on a special character of their own and compete with the "regular" streets in terms of interest and variety with bars, stores and housing that is an exciting facet of the city.

In this alley a car has been parked close enough to the building to allow traffic to pass. The door to the right of the car could be to a shop, a studio or an apartment. In further posts I will be looking at other housing choices that people make - from downtown to McMansions.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wall Street

Wall Street is a short (about 3 blocks) street in Asheville that is pedestrian in character. The sidewalks are wide and the street narrow and textured. It is anchored by the Flat Iron Building (see an earlier post) and is comprised of shops, restaurants and offices. This year it was also the site of the Octoberfest celebration.

The Laughing Seed Cafe, voted Best Vegetarian Restaurant in Western North Carolina eight years in a row.

The courtyard dining area of Mayfel's, which has its "front door" on College
Street, and features good, wholesome food.

An artistic rendition of signage at the gate at the top of the stairs leading down to the courtyard dining area.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

River Arts District Studio Stroll

Every second weekend of June and November the studios in the River Arts District have an open house - Studio Stroll. The recent stroll had all the elements for a great day - sunshine, lots of lookers and some good art for all. Jewelry, ceramics, sculpture and painting are just a few of the genres present in this lively area down by the French Broad River. The Clingman Cafe did a roaring business with people lined up for service. Many of the studios are open year round, see the link for more information
Is it a sculpture, a chopper, or a ......... It's a piece of art.

A close up view of the fuel scource for the "chopper" - rubber chickens.

One section of a fence/sculpture using found objects.

Monday, November 30, 2009

North Carolina Arboretum

A cool Saturday afternoon, crisp wind, bare trees, no crowds..... An enjoyable visit to the North Carolina Arboretum even though the buildings were closed for the holiday weekend.

The entrance gates to the Bonsai Garden - closed for the day but beautiful in its design.

One of several architectural pieces in the garden - roof, seating, shade and orientation to the surrounding gardens.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Asheville Christmas Parade

The Asheville Christmas parade took place last weekend. Marching bands, beauty queens on convertibles, dancing troupes and the usual christmas themes. However, this city had several "different" themes in their christmas parade. After all, this is Asheville, the same city that has the LAAF festival and the "just because it's Asheville" celebration. The crowd enjoyed it all....
One of the many dance groups who performed in the parade.

This group is from the Shakespeare actors who perform in a local park several times a year.

This group of llamas provided an interesting feature for the parade.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Basilica of Saint Lawrence

The Basilica of Saint Lawrence in downtown Asheville celebrates its centennial this year, 2009 AD. There are approximately 54 basilicas in the USA but Saint Lawrence is very original in its design. Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908) came to Asheville from Barcelona to work on the Biltmore House and subsequently designed the basilica. The elliptical roof is self-supporting and utilizes an ancient method of thin layers of tile and mortar that was revived by Guastavino in Catalunya. Guastavino died before construction was completed and his body is interred in the Chapel of Our Lady to the left of the main altar.

The bell tower to the left of the main entry showing the brick masonry, copper dome and statues.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pack Square Park

Pack Square Park is the new, improved public urban gathering place for the citizens of Asheville located in front of City Hall and the County Courthouse. The land for this park was donated in 1901 and construction for this vision was begun in 2005. Construction is still underway but this section is now complete and is a welcome addition to Asheville. For more information on the history of Pack square see
A view looking west showing the fountain, green and the Vance Monument obelisk at the edge of the park on Biltmore Avenue.

A close-up view of the tilework on the wall; notice the tiles in the pavement also.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Urban Art

Interstate highways present two very different views to drivers. The speeding car on the roadway above the city, oblivious to the landscape below, and the street traffic that navigates the "canyon" below. Asheville artists have transformed this underpass to a work of art. During the summer months the street is closed and a stage is erected for musical performances when all may enjoy this exceptional art.
The highway support structure opposite the one above showing the variety of art displayed.

A close-up view of the view above.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hardlox Jewish Food and Heritage Festival

Hardlox, a Jewish Food and Heritage Festival was recently celebrated in Asheville. This city has a festival for every ethnic group and organization. There is even one called "Because it's Asheville"; seriously. Among the sights was this group of women dancing to some Yiddish music. It was a good opportunity to enjoy the diversity of Jewish life in Asheville.
The Jewish/Reggae singer Matisyahu will be performing in Asheville on November 15th. If you have not heard his music check out the link on this blog's main page.

The day was a bit brisk but this festival goer dressed for the weather.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grace Episcopal Church

Grace Episcopal Church, located in North Asheville, occupies a prominent site above Merrimon Avenue. It was designed circa 1905 by Richard Sharp Smith, an English architect who also supervised the construction of the Biltmore House after the death of Richard Morris Hunt.
A view of the interior courtyard of the church with the sanctuary on the right and the link between sanctuary and fellowship hall to its left. A covered walkway is behind the camera.

A close-up of the cross shown in the courtyard shot; probably of Celtic design.

Monday, October 19, 2009

DuPont State Forest

DuPont State Forest is located in Henderson and Transylvania counties in North Carolina. The original tract once belonged to the DuPont company and a portion of the forest was the site of a manufacturing facility that produced photographic film. The forest has almost 100 miles of trails and several spectacular waterfalls. Two times a year the Friends of DuPont Forest conducts the Tour de Falls which includes bus rides to three falls and Lake Julia. For more information see their website at

Triple Falls is the first stop on the tour and is truly spectacular! Standing here looking at the water roaring over the rocks it is hard to believe that such pristine beauty is located so close to the city of Asheville - less than an hour away by car. Scenes from the movie The Last of the Mohicans were filmed at these falls.
High Falls in all its beauty. Just barely visible at the top right of the falls is a covered bridge that was constructed in the late 1990s by a developer. At that time a gated community was planned for this area but a non-profit group was formed to secure the forest for the enjoyment of all.

Yes, these rocks are slippery and several people have fallen to their death climbing on falls.

Bridal Veil Falls was also featured in the movie The Last of the Mohicans.

Lake Julia was originally constructed in the 1960s as a part of Camp Summit and is about 100 acres and 35 feet deep. The Lodge has offices for the DuPont State Forest staff and was aquired by the state in October 2000. In addition to the three falls visited the forest also includes Hooker Falls that is accessible from the Hooker Falls Access Area by a 10 minute walk.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Ah, the favourite of the crows - the lowly scarecrow. Originally made to scare crows away from the fields of corn he has become a faux being, a joke to be cawed at by the crows. One of the earliest mention of this being is found in Japanese literature, known as a Kuebiko. Alternative names are mawpin, moggy, shay, guy and bogeyman.
Scarecrow Gothic, with apologies to Grant Wood.....

Most crows will recognize the Tin Man trying to be a scarecrow.

This one is probably taking it a bit too far...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Marshall, NC

Madison County Courthouse located in downtown Marshall which is located along the French Broad River in extreme North Carolina. Marshall is experiencing a revival with artist studios in the old high school, located on an island in the river, and new businesses on Main Street.
A house with some history along the main street in Marshall.

This building has been remodeled with a grocery store on the first floor and apartments on the second floor.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Heritage Weekend

Bark baskets, spinning, woodcarving, weaving, chair making, clogging, bluegrass music and much more. Heritage Weekend was the activity this weekend at the Folk Art Center located on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville. Folk art is being kept alive by some very dedicated artists and several of these folk artists were on hand to demonstrate their art. The Folk Art Center has a very good display of regional artists; see more at
This artist makes about 8 chairs per year and no two are alike. The wood determines the "look" of each chair and artist Jim McGie incorporates antlers in some of his creations. I sat in this rocker and it was very comfortable. See for more of his chairs.

Tom Gow, Pine Hill Studio, will take a piece of wood and transform it into a cabin, tree or lighthouse. He does not change the essential shape of the wood but transforms it into something that shows its original configuration, always leaving part of the bark to show where it came from.

Brooms of every shape and size. Here some young-uns are learning the art of how to make a broom.

Do you have an apple tree but haven't a clue as to the variety of apple? Tom Brown can help you identify that apple; check him out at