From the serene stillness of the woods to the bustling energy of Asheville, our recent #megbertretreat trip to North Carolina was a delightful blend of peaceful retreat and vibrant exploration. A rich tapestry of experiences unfolded as we immersed ourselves in the local culture, savored delectable foods, and embraced the breathtaking natural beauty that surrounded us. It was important for us for this to be a trip of reflection, but also a little bit of fun. I did find myself working quite a bit, but the change of scenery was spectacular, I wasn’t even slightly bothered.
Our temporary abode was a cozy cabin nestled in the heart of the woods, offering an enchanting retreat from the world, bookended by two hotel stays: The Foundry Hotel and the Omni Grove Park Inn. Our morning alarm every other day was a black bear on a two day foraging pattern trying to go through our trash between the hour of 5-6am. The bear was a humbling reminder of the power and beauty of nature, and we watched in silent admiration as the bear disappeared back into the woods. Our backyard was miles of forest. The serenity of our surroundings, only enhanced by the occasional rustle of wildlife, was a constant reminder of the beauty of simplicity.
We also made friends with a local co-op, introduced to use by a woman who owns dairy cows in the area. Naturally, when spending more than 2-3 nights at a place, I try to find sources of raw dairy and local cheese and honey in addition to good quality meat. She introduced me to the French Broad co-op where we were able to source low temp pasteurized dairy products since her jersey cows were all dry.
Asheville City Market was also spectacular, with colors, smells, and tastes. Each booth was a testament to the region’s rich agricultural heritage, brimming with fresh produce, artisanal goods, and homemade treats. We picked up some raw local sourwood honey, pastured farm fresh eggs, regenerative meat from Crow Fly Farms, handmade organic pasta, freshly baked sourdough and more.
Additionally, we made a visit to Hickory Nut Gap, another regenerative ranch in the area where we were able to source all kinds of special cuts of meat and bones for cooking in our really cute cabin. The rolling pastures, babbling brooks, and the rugged beauty of the Appalachian mountains provided a picturesque backdrop for our adventure.
One of my goals of the trip was to have a few hours to play with baby goats. It just so happened to be kidding season (baby goats = kids), so we made a stop at the Round Mountain Creamery in Black Mountain! We got a chance to play with baby goats who were just a few days old, and saw some teens and pregnant mamas as well. Goat kids are the absolute best – they are like a cross between a toddler and dog and love to play with people and climb on their backs. After some time playing with the goats, we indulged in fresh, creamy low temp pasteurized goat cheese from the dairy that practically melted in our mouths.
One of our trip’s highlights was our visit to the Biltmore Estate, a dazzling testament to the Gilded Age’s opulence. With its French Renaissance architecture and meticulously maintained gardens, the grandeur of the mansion was awe-inspiring. Each room held tales of yesteryears, captivating us with its rich history and artistry. The grounds are HUGE, so if you intend to visit, make sure you set aside the entire day. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
As book lovers, the Champagne Book Exchange was a real treat. Sipping on bubbly champagne while poring over shelves of books was a unique experience. The comforting smell of aged paper, the gentle rustle of turning pages, and the delightful pop of a champagne cork created a symphony of sensory delights. It was a true highlight of the trip, all of my favorite things in one place: books, champagne, local cheese, tea and great company.
I am also proud to say that we spent a day on the French Broad River on a white water rafting excursion. I didn’t think I’d be up to the challenge, but we had a great time and did some adventurous moves in the raft. When it was peaceful, I kept my head up to look at the true beauty of nature around us. It is so breathtaking, and the air is so fresh. To me, it’s a reminder that God exists to look at such beauty, He is the best artist.
We took a stop near Camp Ridgecrest, where Albert spent his summers as a kid into his teens – it was a place where he felt he could re-center himself, which was an intention of this entire trip for us, which is why faith and nature were large components in choosing where to have the #megbertretreat.
One of the days, we stepped into the stunning Basilica of Saint Lawrence, an architectural masterpiece with its intricate designs and inspiring spiritual ambiance. The magnificent dome is the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America, was an awe-inspiring sight. The architect of the basilica is actually buried in the crypt onsite as well, and has a remaining altar rail from pre-Vatican 2.
Speaking of Vatican 2, it was actually very fascinating to go to mass in this area. Besides visiting the Basilica, we found a local parish less than a mile from our cabin in Swannanoa, where we attended a few fully traditional Latin Novus Ordo masses. The entire mass was in Latin, including the music with the exception of the readings and homily, but it was a Novus Ordo. The Novus Ordo is the mass that was changed after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. It was previously in Latin and vastly different than the Catholic Mass today. If this is a topic that interests you, I recommend visiting latinmass.com and watch the Mass of the Ages series on YouTube to learn more on the topic.
We found this great coffee shop called Moments less than a mile from our Airbnb cabin that served organic coffee, with local low temp pasteurized milk and the best freshly baked scones (family recipe of the owner).
Our serendipitous extension of our trip found us staying at the Omni Grove Park Inn, which was an absolute memorable experience. Even before entering the historic hotel, it was evident that we were about to immerse ourselves in a place where antiquity meets modern elegance. The main building, constructed of local granite, boasts a charm that only a century-old hotel could possess. We were fortunate enough to have the hotel practically to ourselves (20% capacity), since the following night it booked entirely.
The panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from our outdoor table at dinner was absolutely breathtaking. As the evening chill began to settle, we took advantage of the resort’s outdoor fireplaces and oversized rocking chairs while listening to live music.
Our trip to Asheville, North Carolina, was an unforgettable journey filled with moments of peace, joy, discovery, and connection. It was a testament to the beauty that lies in diversity – from serene forests to lively markets, from grand mansions to cozy cabins, and from decadent cheese to rhythm-infused nights. We returned home with our hearts full of wonderful memories and a renewed appreciation for the beauty of the world around us.
Omni Grove Park Inn
Pine Hill Airbnb (@ visitpinehill on IG)
Wicked Weed Brewing
Foothills Grange (Black Mountain – has tallow fries)
Round Mountain Creamery
Crow Fly Farms
Hickory Nut Gap
Nantahala Outdoor Center