Monday, July 20, 2015

Slice o' Paradise

An attribute that links me, my mother and my sister is our obsession with Montreat. We've been vacationing at this house for my whole life and my mother spent her childhood here, too. It was built by my great-great-great Aunts and has been passed through the family since the early 1900's. This weekend, before a week-ish of work travel, I had three glorious days of family vacation here.

Even though this place is only 20 minutes from where I now live, I feel calmer and more relaxed as I drive East, away from Asheville. The only way to get to Montreat is through the better-known town of Black Mountain, which is surrounded by what's called the Seven Sisters, a short mountain range that can be clearly seen from the center of town. This little town is about as quaint as they come, and most of our "downtown" time consists of eating and shopping, there is no nightlife here. Come 8pm, it's a ghost town.

Turning down Montreat Road, out of Black Mountain, the speed limit goes down to 25 and I don't mind. Forcing myself to slowly approach my destination is good practice for slowing down once I arrive! Mom's rule, once we get close to the Montreat gates, is to turn off the air conditioning and roll down the windows. Then we have to SMELL MONTREAT. This is a very important step that must not be missed, an initiation of sorts. The hundred-year-old homes sitting under the shade of old-growth trees have been soaking up that dank, green, rainy, earthy scent and it just radiates out of them. I'm sure this is an acquired taste, but let me tell ya, it's what relaxation smells like!

A day at Montreat goes like this: Sit on the porch, listen to the creek, drink coffee, read books, take a nap, hike, take a walk around the lake. Around 6pm the coffee turns to wine and we sit around eating something delicious that my Dad oh-so-kindly cooked for us all. Maybe, just maybe, we'll wander into town for dinner or ice cream one night. Repeat. This is the mountain version of sunbathing and strolling at the beach. Take in the scenery, get that summer reading done and just chill. I essentially live in running shorts and sweatpants here and I don't hate it.

This summer is a wee bit different though, since there is a very mobile and LOUD one-year-old to entertain. In between naps, we wrangle, sing and throw toys and it's pretty great. Yesterday we taught Louisa one of the most important, age-old Montreat activities: Rock Hopping. While she basically rock-waddled, I would call it a success.

I can't wait until furture years when we can wade in the creek, searching for crawdaddys and salamanders!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

San Fran, Deux

I just couldn't bring myself to abandon this promised post. I'd make the excuse that life has been crazy lately, but that is almost always the case. So put up or shut up, right? Here we go!

My second day in San Fran was basically a string of detached experiences, which is part of how I'm legitimizing sharing them so late. It's a wandering tale of seeking out specific experiences.

First up was Trouble Coffee Co. which I learned about on This American Life. If you haven't heard this episode, I won't ruin it, but I will tell you it's heartwarming and will change how you think about things. Cinnamon toast is the signature item on Trouble's menu and I hauled my butt over to the very tip of Golden Gate park to wait 20 minutes for one piece of $4 toast. And it was totally worth it. First of all, I met a rabbit while in line.

Secondly, damn that was yummy toast! The place is a literal hole in the wall. The room consists of a bar, behind which they make all the drinks and toast, and in front of the bar are two stools. The end. You order inside and wait outside with the long line of serial radio program loving lumbersexuals and admire the succulent garden while wishing that you too could be as cool and minimalistic. Sadly, I'm a trinket hoarder. It is what is it.

Post carb loading I wandered to the beach, I was just too close not to! It was super foggy and spitting rain, so my photos are terrible. But the feeling in the extremely western edge of the city was totally different. Very quiet and sparse with people, which made the solo wandering kind of lonely and kind of like a walking meditation.

The next stop on my list was the de Young museum. What Asheville has in amazing, local art, it truly lacks in lofty exhibitions. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of the art scene here and have a few local favorites in my home, but it's a totally different thing to go to a big museum with grand-scale traveling and permanent exhibitions. I was craving a big city art experience, and the de Young did not disappoint.

I have an Art History degree but sadly, I've lost most knowledge I had in college. What I still have, though, is that yearning for mental stimulation and understanding that comes from an aesthetic experience. Looking at art in a museum is just such a reflective and nostalgic feeling, nostalgia for times I'll never live in! What was really cool were their ancient art collections. Happily for me, the still repped my old fave's Salvador and Pablo, but I spent quite a long time in the African, Mayan, New Guinea sections. The textures and patterns were especially appealing to me, when typically I focus on the emotional and psychological motivations. 

And of course the jewelry was a favorite. I learned an incredible amount and it really upheld the idea of museums as educators. Makes the admission fees worth it!

Last on my to-do list were to stroll Castro, the Haight and the Mission neighborhoods. Honestly, I regret leaving these for last because I wished I had more time there! Once I made it to the Mission, everything was closing up for the night.

The night ended with dinner and drinks in the Mission with my friend from college, Jess. I had an early flight the next morning so it was tame, but we did start out in a bar that used to be a church called The Chapel, so that gives me a little street cred. I think.

The days were full and I learned a lot from traveling solo. I'll admit there were moments I wished I was sharing with someone but it was freeing and gave me some confidence in my travel skills!