A North Carolina Vacation Headquarters-Black Mountain

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

A Welcoming “Front Porch” to Western North Carolina

Black Mountain's "Front Porch" Welcome

Black Mountain’s “Front Porch” Welcome

Where is your favorite vacation destination? As Travel Writers, we frequently hear this question. Our answer, “Each place has its own unique qualities.” Yet, when we seek a vacation get-a-way for a month, we consistently return to the North Carolina Mountains. Our vacation headquarters is Black Mountain, NC. Known as the “Front Porch” of Western North Carolina, it has a welcoming front porch, downhome charm. Serenity, fresh air, and magnificent mountain views are found in this quaint yet bustling small town in the Swannanoa Valley. A town that offers a wide variety of cuisine to please any palette and numerous unique shops from upscale to local crafts. Plus, Black Mountain is just a short drive to Asheville with its attractions from the Biltmore Estate to the newest microbrewery and the magnificent Blue Ridge Parkway. Each day we have a choice! Do we relax on the porch, partake in a walk around Lake Tomahawk, take a jaunt in Asheville, drive the Parkway, hike a mountain trail in Montreat, climb to waterfalls, or take a tour? The list is truly endless! Each visit we always find some new exciting adventures.

THE FLAVORS OF BLACK MOUNTAIN -A small town that boasts forty eateries from upscale cuisine to good ol’ downhome BBQ. Black Mountain has some great restaurants that are favorites of locals and visitors. 

Brownies & Beer!  Dark City Deli

Brownies & Beer! Dark City Deli

Take the “Pub and Grub Crawl” – Food tours are a new trend and Black Mountain jumped on this bandwagon. Creative Mountain Food Tours offers the Ultimate Foodie Tour, the Dessert Tour, and the Pub and Grub Crawl to give one a “taste” of Black Mountain restaurants. Taking the Pub and Grub Crawl, we start at the Swannanoa Valley Museum where Christina Ruiz, Museum Director, educates us on the unique history of the area. Before the tour, we take a self-tour of the museum to learn the well-known and less well-known history of the Black Mountains. Sandi, tour guide and co-owner, begins our “crawl” to sample beer and taste local grub.   A short walk to the Black Mountain Ale House, our group is eagerly welcomed. Learning about the Ale House, we have savory samplings of zesty Ale House Wings along with a Flip Side IPA. Wow! Wings & Beer – a great start! The wings are oven roasted, fried crispy and tossed with a house-made sauce. Wing samples include teriyaki, buffalo, dry rub and honey sriracha. Our favorites are the dry rub and sriracha! Across the street, at Dark City Deli & Pub, tasting starts with dessert! Huge decadent mouth-watering brownies! As the owner shares her dream of owning a restaurant, we are treated to a Pisgah Pale Ale to accompany a savory Brickyard Grilled Chicken sandwich, an Avila Chipotle Black Bean Burger, and a tangy Kale Salad. Lots of flavorful foods delight our taste buds.

Hot Sizzling Pizza at FRESH

Hot Sizzling Pizza at FRESH

Now for authentic German cuisine at Berliner Kindl Restaurant. With October just a couple of weeks away, the Spatz Octoberfest German beer is perfect with the plate of a Bavarian burger (actually a bratwurst burger), German Potato Salad, a house recipe Sauerkraut, and German Red Cabbage. More beer tasting awaits at Lookout Brewing,  Black Mountain’s newest microbrew. Personally, I like the Wet Hopped whiskey IPA, while Richard is excited about the Front Porch Wet Hopped. We visited this microbrew last year after it opened. Fantastic to see it is growing.   Goodness! More grub and beer await us at FRESH Wood Fired Pizza. With pitchers of light and dark IPA’s, we wet our whistle and bite into the “hot” Sicilian Pizza and Chevre Pizza. Each has a wonderful crust and fresh ingredients. Amazing! The pizza is cooked just as it was 180 years ago in a wood fired, hearth oven at over 800 degrees. The Pub and Grub Crawl is FANTASTIC! You will not leave hungry or thirsty. creativemountainfoodtours.com

More Tastes in Black Mountain – A little town with plenty of flavor, there are more restaurants to visit. A favorite lunch restaurant is The Veranda. With its welcoming downhome decor and an attentive wait staff, all decked out in handmade aprons. Their eclectic menu boasts sandwiches, wraps, grilled sandwiches, salads, soups, and homemade desserts. A spicy Mexican fare is found at Ole Guacamole that does a booming business. A hidden gem is Black Mountain Bakery with its fresh home-baked breakfast treats to lunches of homemade sandwiches. For an upscale cuisine we recommend dining at the Palate Restaurant at Monte Vista Hotel.

View of Seven Sisters Mountain from Lake Tomahawk

View of Seven Sisters Mountain from Lake Tomahawk

Stretch the Legs – Walk Lake Tomahawk -Wanting to get some cardio exercise, take a stroll around Lake Tomahawk. A .55 mile walk around the lake basically over flat terrain is perfect for a walk. Making several laps to get a few miles in the lake is an easy path and has some fabulous views. We stop at a storyboard showing the peaks of the Seven Sister Mountains. On this clear morning each of the seven peaks is visible. Kids will love the playground and various events are held at the Lake so check the local calendar for activities. Locals and visitors, often take an evening stroll around the lake and then stop by Kilwin’s for an ice cream treat. 

Evening Activities – Having visited the White Horse Tavern a year ago for a July 4th music celebration, we visit this year for an evening of storytelling. Touted as a “Rose Between Two Thorns”, Debbie Gurriere has us in stitches on her tales of growing up in Mississippi and then living in New York. Then Michael Burch stories include his special humor with noises, sounds, as well as music with his “little guitar”. Intriguing and funny with a spin, Pete Koschnick has us laughing at his antics of growing up. Moonshine and what! It was a fun evening of laughter and tales. The Tavern offers a variety of music and other entertainment so be sure to check their calendar. Note: Wear comfy, casual clothes. There is no AC and even with the fans it can be warm.

Beer and Music! At the Pisgah Brewery on Friday night we enjoy their delicious organic microbrews as we listen to the Cajun rhythm of the Bayou Band. On a star filled night sitting at picnic tables, we watch dancers, drink great beer, and chat with visitors. The DOG’s food truck offers snacks.

Rocker Project - See the HEART in the leaves!

Rocker Project – See the HEART in the leaves!

Rocking Chairs & More! - How appropriate – Black Mountain is known as “The Little Town That Rocks!” And “The Front Porch of Western North Carolina.” We look for the unique rocking chairs around town that are part of this summer’s second “The Little Town that Rocks” campaign. For 2014 the medium is photography from both amateurs and Professional photographers. Our favorites are the “Early Fall on the Blue Ridge Parkway” and the “I found my heart in Black Mountain.”

Outside of town we roam the ruins of the “Rhododendron Estate” the home of Raphael Guastavino, Sr. As a primary architect at the Biltmore Estate and the St. Lawrence Basilica in Asheville, he was renowned a genius as architect, tile-maker and craftsman. On a tour of the Basilica we learn so much about this amazing man and his craft. Walking through the ruins and viewing the storyboards we have visions of life at this magnificent estate. We find The Wine Cellar door intact made of bricks using the Guastavino arched construction. 

Urban Farm Girl Flowers at the Farmers Market

Urban Farm Girl Flowers at the Farmers Market

Stroll the downtown streets to visit the The Old Depot Arts & Craft Center with its hand-made crafts, the old General Store, antique shops, upscale clothing stores, and shops featuring unique mountain crafts. The new park in downtown has two huge rockers to welcome visitors to the “Front Porch” and a fun/cool splash pad for kids, a nice rocky fountain and a brand new town clock. On Saturday morning find fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, fish and more at the Black Mountain Farmers Market. Bright fresh flowers and hand-made crafts from jewelry to pottery are also available.

Montreat Independence Day Parade

Montreat Independence Day Parade

How downhome and welcoming is Black Mountain? Where else can you go that has a FREE PICNIC lunch on July 4th? Yep! It’s all free. Thanks to Harwood Funeral Home that hosts this free Independence Day picnic each year. Lots of food! On our visit everyone is friendly, welcoming and offering seconds. Another fun activity the Montreat Independence Day parade. A true downhome local parade with a simple homemade fun event.

Where to Stay – Having rented for a least a month for over four years in Black Mountain, our suggestions are Greybeard Rentals and the Village of Cheshire.  Greybeard has an extensive listing of rentals from short term to long term.

The Owl's Nest at The Village of Cheshire

The Owl’s Nest at The Village of Cheshire

The Village of Cheshire is a community that has that old hometown feel. Set just outside downtown, The Village of Cheshire, has a few homes and cabins available for rent. We especially liked this location with the friendliness of the neighborhood, newness and style of the homes, and the restaurants on site. Their expansive Fitness Center allows one month memberships, too. On our visit this summer, we use Greybeard Rentals and are most impressed with the various options for rentals and their professionalism.

Whether short or long visit, be sure to consider Black Mountain, NC as a Vacation Headquarters. You can stay busy in town, or hop in the car to explore Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and more.

If you go:  Black Mountain-Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce, 201 E. State Street   Black Mountain, NC 28711 (828)669-2300   Toll Free: (800)669-2301 www.blackmountain.org

 

Golfing the Blue Ridge Mountains

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

North Carolina Mountain Golf Offers Plenty of Excitement!

Scenic view #18 Grove Park Inn Golf Course

Scenic view #18 Grove Park Inn Golf Course

Cool mountain breezes, fantastic views, and challenging golf courses welcome golfers to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Mountain golf creates the excitement of standing at the tee box looking down to a postage stamp green, staring up a hill to a green high above, shots over gently flowing clear rivers, rolling terrain along the mountainsides or valley holes with majestic mountains surrounding you. Golf for all skill levels and southern hospitality abounds in the western North Carolina Mountains. Are you ready for a mountain golf vacation? 

Using Black Mountain, NC (just east of Asheville) as our base, we take on the Blue Ridge Mountains golf courses.   Mountain golf is fantastic! Courses varied from the very challenging to the beautiful more relaxed courses. Each course brings its own uniqueness whether it is the elevation changes, side hill fairways, undulating greens, cooler temperatures or the awesome scenery.

Grove Park Inn CourseGrove Park Inn Golf Course   Fore! With grand views of the glorious stone structure of the Grove Park Inn, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the city-scape of Asheville, we tee it up on the resort’s historic 18-hole Donald Ross golf course.   Considered among the top golf experiences in North Carolina, it celebrates the spirit of mountain golf. Donald Ross stated, “A course that continually offers problems – one with fight in it, if you please –is the one that keeps the player keen for the game.” Among the top ten courses 100 years or older according to Golf Digest, it was masterfully restored in 2001and still reflects the glory and spirit of Donald Ross’ original design. The course has “fight” with its elevation changes, frustration with its bedeviling contour greens and is a great test of golfing skills. Tackling the course does keep us “keen on the game.” The 6,720-yard, par-70 course is contoured out of the rolling landscape with tree-lined fairways, challenging bunkers and receptive bent greens. And, its elevated tee boxes give amazing views. Each hole brings its own challenge between valley holes, uphill and downhill fairways, and nasty rough. Greens are huge, undulating and extremely difficult putt. Playing in early in the morning, we enjoy cooler temperatures and have an exciting game. http://www.groveparkinn.com/legendary-golf 

Mount Mitchel Golf Course and view of Mt. Mitchell

Mount Mitchel Golf Course and view of Mt. Mitchell

Mount Mitchell Golf Course is ranked ****1/2 in Golf Digest’s Places to Play and a Top Ten Public Course in North Carolina. Located just a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway on N.C. Highway 80, the course is along the valley at 3,000 feet elevation with the beautiful views of Black Mountain Range and Mt. Mitchell towering at 6,000 feet. Boasting bentgrass greens, fairways, and tees it always cart path only. The majority of holes are on the flat terrain of the Toe River Valley with no blind shots and few side hill lies. The front nine finishes with a dramatic dogleg right that requires a shot through a small opening in a stand of trees and over the creek in front of the undulating green. On the back nine, we admire #11 a Par-3 with a most dramatic elevation change. From the tee box, perched high above the postage stamp green, proper club selection is a must. The Toe River winds through the course crossing fairways several times. Pay attention to the score card graphics or get a yardage book to see exactly when the Toe River bisects a fairway.   We really love this course with the challenge it offers, the condition of the greens, fairways, and the scenery. Golfers visiting the Asheville area will find Mount Mitchell Golf Course a very good course to play, comparable to a private course. Lodging is also available with golf packages.   Note: Use only directions from their website to locate the course, do not use GPS. Mountmitchellgolf.com

Cummings Cove challenging Par-3

Cummings Cove challenging Par-3

Cummings Cove Golf & Country Club features a partnership between Mountain golf and Mother Nature with 50 mile vistas. Weaving and winding through mountains, Cummings Cove keeps us on our toes as we approach each hole. The Par 71 course sports a 6,415 yard layout with each hole distinct in its own right and testing our golf skills. Playing with another couple we find the course brings forth plenty of mountain golf challenges of elevated tees, fairways winding through trees, streams to cross, even waterfalls, and miles of panoramic mountain views. A course that has us feeling like a Billy Goat on some holes while others bring a welcoming calm. Club selection and careful course management are key in playing Cummings Cove. On the front nine, #5 a par-3 is a tickler of a hole with an elevated green above a craggy slope with water to carry and hillside behind it. Missing the green whether short, long, right or left results in a lost ball or unplayable lie. On the back nine we find three premier par 3 holes that have miles of views and still test our skills. After these scenic par 3s, the course adds some extra demands as it finishes with back-to-back par 5s.   Cummings Cove is a course that is best to play a second time to better understand all its nuances. It is located south of Asheville in the Hendersonville area. www.cummingscove.com/ 

Views at Walnut Cove

Views at Walnut Cove

The Cliffs at Walnut Cove Golf Course It’s time to tackle the award-winning Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove. After warming up on their extensive practice area, we stand at the first tee of this par-71 course. As many golfers know, Jack Nicklaus courses historically can be “extremely demanding” for the average golfer. Today we find a course that is both extremely breathtaking and playable. Nicklaus has created a course offering plenty of challenge for the low handicapper with lots of forced carriers yet still enjoyable for the more casual golfer with other options of shots to play. Featuring gentle rolling slopes, challenging greens, bentgrass fairways and strong, strategic bunkering, the course is nestled in a spectacular natural amphitheater bordered to the north by the Blue Ridge Parkway and to the west by the Pisgah National Forest. Impressive!   Walnut Cove’s golf course is in championship condition! Members can justly “brag” about this fantastic Signature Golf Course. The front nine is routed through the mountain meadows of what was once rolling farmland, while its back nine threads between oaks and evergreens, and around streams and creeks. Be prepared for a few surprises. Thinking I had made a terrific shot, I arrive to find my ball in the sliver of a creek that cuts across the fairway on No. 10. It is a memorable day of golf at a memorable golf course. A private course but is a great course to play if you have a chance. http://cliffsliving.com/community-page/walnut-cove-golf 

Maggie Valley Golf Club

Maggie Valley Golf Club

Maggie Valley Club begins with a gentle front nine of a flat valley style course with nice wide fairways and a few holes where errant shots find water or out of bounds. The course appears to be short when first looking at the yardage especially on the front. Be prepared, the back nine adds the mountain holes with elevation challenges and playing totally different than the front. The back nine has great holes with uphill, downhill holes, undulating large greens, and the “mountain affect” when putting and trying to figure out which way the ball will actually roll.   The #11 hole is a dogleg right with a very elevated green. Poor club selection makes for a challenging second shot to carry it to the green. Landing in the nasty rough on the hillside makes for impossible touch shots to the green. The Par 3 #15 with its elevated tee box is deceptive both from distance (club down) and the green slope. Any ball that lands on the green will probably roll off to the left due to the major leftward slope. Greens are hard to read with the mountain affect, tiers and slopes making for many 3 putt greens.   The Pro Shop is first-rate with a wide selection of clothes for men and women. An excellent course to play as it is always in good condition, offers plenty of challenges, and a good location just 30 minutes west of Asheville www.maggievalleyclub.com

Reems Creek 2

Reems Creek has variety.

Reems Creek Golf Course just outside Asheville is a Scottish Highland style course sporting rolling terrain and deep knolls as it sits atop a mountain with the holes forming a bowl-shape. From the practice putting green and the #16 Hole we see the course spreading out along the mountaintop with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop.   The views are awesome! Reems Creek is a formidable course and not for the “weak” golfer. With limited flat lies due to major elevation changes, numerous blind shots, water hazards, crazy hillside lies and unforgiving rough, Reems Creek definitely test our golf skills and patience. A few times we feel like “Billy goats” as hiking to locate our balls. Paying attention to graphics on each hole is a must.   Play it as target golf and practice smart course management.  Located 30 minutes north of Asheville, Reems Creek is a demanding course that will challenge any golfer.  The course is under new ownership. With better upkeep, Reems Creek can be a top notch choice for a fun day of golf just a few miles north of Asheville. www.Reemscreekgolf.com

Mountain golf is a lot of fun and the courses are exciting.   In addition to have the challenge for the low handicapper, we were impressed that they were also senior friendly and lady friendly.   Be sure to check the yardage and consider your handicap when deciding the tees to play. Plan a trip to the mountains in spring for the beautiful rhododendrons, summer with its wild flowers or the fall foliage. Whatever time you pick the golf is terrific!

Be sure to check out golf courses at www.exploreasheville.com

Eclectic Dining in Asheville’s Vibrant Restaurants!

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

From Southern Cooking to Upscale Cuisine

marketplace[1]

The Market Place -Superb Dining!!

Asheville presents a range of cuisine to satisfy any appetite. The city boasts a phenomenal and extraordinary restaurant scene from its traditional Southern cooking to vegetarian to four-star restaurants. This amazing mountain town, continues to expand and grow with new restaurants, eateries and unique venues. Today many restaurants promote their farm-to-table menus. So many restaurants and so little time!   

Asheville Food Tour –More Than a Taste!  Food tours are becoming a wonderful way to see a city and enjoy a culinary experience. On this visit to Ashville, NC we quickly sign up for Asheville Food Tour. Meeting at the Grove Arcade, Paddy, our tour guide, begins a diverse culinary tour of Asheville. Strolling up and down the streets of Asheville we visit a variety of eateries from esteemed to sandwich shops. Our first eatery is an buffet at Mila Indian Cuisine. Control is important as we are free to sample any items on the extensive buffet. Hurrah! Each buffet dish is accurately described.

Vincenzo's Ristorante & Bistro Luscious Lobster Risotto

Vincenzo’s Ristorante & Bistro

Around the corner and up a hill is the fun and enchanting Vincenzo’s Ristorante & Bistro. Owner, Dwight gives us an entertaining history of the restaurant and Asheville’s Market Street. Tasting the succulent Lobster Risotto with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Dwight continues to share tales. A unique stop is the Olive & Kickin’ where we sample some of the finest extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars in the world. Amazing how each has a unique quality and flavor. Seated outside at picnic tables we savor the zesty Bangkok Shrimp tacos with a hearty bean salsa and chips at White Duck Taco’s. “Fantastico!”

Chestnut presents a Smoked Ham & Tangy Coleslaw

Chestnut presents a Smoked Ham & Tangy Coleslaw

Still more to come! Warmly greeted at Chestnuts and seated at their long bar, we learn their philosophy of sourcing local foods. Chef delights us with beautiful presentation of a fresh smoked ham and a tangy coleslaw. Are we up to the challenge? More food awaits! Farm Burger is bustling as we arrive. Juicy hamburger sliders with crispy French fries is a final “sampling” of the tour. For a sweet chocolate finale, Paddy takes us to The Chocolate Fetish. No one leaves hungry on this tour. Each place gives an “ample sample!” www.ashevillefoodtours.com

A decadent dulce de lech brownie at The Market Place

A decadent dulce de lech brownie at The Market Place

The Market Place Restaurant – Prestigious Dining Conveniently located on historic Wall Street in downtown Asheville, we are delighted as we enter this bustling upscale restaurant on a Saturday evening. Chef and Owner William Dissen presents a menu specializing in American farm-to-table cuisine with a menu that reflects what is fresh from the local farmers. With an inviting modern contemporary décor the Market Place creates a distinctive dining experience. Our mistake today is going to The Market Place after a beer tour. Needless to say, we opted for the Small Plate Menu that is perfect for sharing. The professionalism of the staff from the host to waitress is superb. Selecting three small plates to share, our first course is the scrumptious Smoked Potato Gnocchi with Romesco sauce accompanied with arugula and orange topped with buttermilk dressing, and country ham cracklings. The Mac & Cheese has peas and crunchy prosciutto in a cheddar mornay with an herb crust satisfies our desire for a Southern comfort food. Luscious Seared Sea Scallops has a ginger nage along with fava bean and boiled peanut succotash and a touch of spice are our third small plate. A sweet self-indulgent finale is the decadent dulce de leche brownie featuring toasted homemade marshmallow complimented by gingersnap ice cream. Absolutely tantalizing! It is easy to highly recommend this wonderful restaurant for visitors to the Asheville area. Executive Chef & Owner, William has been named one of America’s “Most Sustainable Chefs.” Chef William strives to create “innovative farm-to-table cuisine” utilizing ingredients and artisan products from within 100 miles of the restaurant. www.marketplace-restaurant.com/ 

Delicous Lobster Pasta

A delicious Lobster Pasta at Vue 1913

Special Dining with Magnificent Views!  Each vacation to Asheville we visit the Grove Park Inn. From golfing, to taking the Inn’s History Tour, to delighting in an afternoon at the unbelievable Spa, to breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of their unique restaurants, this historic and four-diamond resort continues to exceed expectations. Seeking a special evening celebration dinner, we select the Vue 1913 an American Brasserie. Dining on a Monday evening in the comfortable and stylish setting we delight in a leisurely meal. Seated at a table away from the windows but a few steps above the main floor, we have expansive views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the glorious glowing sunset. Quiet and serene Vue 1913 is excellent for a special evening. Each course is beautifully presented. Blending American and French cooking Vue 1913 has a marvelous selection of wine from an abundant French cellar. Our entrees of the Lobster Pasta and Roasted Duck Breast are succulent and luscious. By passing dessert, we visit The Great Hall Bar to sip wine and listen to some relaxing music for the evening.

Scenic views at the Grove Park Inn Sunset Terrace

Scenic views at the Grove Park Inn Sunset Terrace

Of course, for a wonderful outdoor dining experience for lunch or dinner, we highly recommend the Grove Park Inn’s Sunset Terrace. Fantastic views with a varied yet savory menu. Breakfast lovers will be in awe at the Inn’s Blue Ridge Dining Room’s endless Breakfast Buffet. After a big breakfast, we skip lunch. www.groveparkinn.com

More Eateries Await!  On Sunday afternoon, we are anxious to for a special lunch and actually happen on The Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village. A sister restaurant to Chestnut, this small restaurant in a refurbished house has a warm cozy feel. Even at 2:30 PM there is a short wait. Rarely eating beef, I treat myself to their renowned hamburger which was scrumptious and even cooked to order.   Richard’s brisket sandwich was the best he had ever had. HE LOVED IT! He sounds like he is on the Food Channel as he raves and describes the flavors of the sandwich and the cream feta potato salad.

Wicked Weed Tasting Room
Wicked Weed Tasting Room

 

A favorite new dining restaurant in Asheville is the Wicked Weed Brewery. Growing truly by leaps and bounds, the Wicked Weed is latest and greatest new place to eat in Asheville. Beer lovers will thrill at the brews and the food is superb. The lobster roll is awesome, the trout sandwich delicious and fish and chips are great. Our waitress is energetic, upbeat and has a “Happy” smile that is contagious. A unique eatery away from downtown Asheville is the Grovewood Café adjacent to the Grove Park Inn. Nestled within an enclave of shops & museums it offers the finest in regional and continental cuisine. Offering unique Southern cuisine. Give it a try and then tour the unique shops and museum at Grovewood.

A good place for pizza and beer is Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria. It is a great place to stop in for a brew and fresh slice of pizza. For a fantastic offering or both traditional southern breakfasts and terrific lunches be sure to stop in the Early Girl Eatery. Breakfast lovers will delight in their extensive breakfast menu. Lunches are excellent. Our favorite is the catfish sandwich. Step back in time and mosey in for an old fashioned lunch at the Woolworth lunch counter. After lunch stroll through the magnificent art and craft displays by vendors in the former Woolworth Five-and-Dime.

These are the restaurants from our latest visit to Asheville. Last year we took the High Roller Food Tour which was terrific, yet so different from the Asheville Food Tour. Even on our visit to the Biltmore Estate we had a wonderful lunch at Cedric’s Tavern.   Be sure to pick up the “Asheville-Area EATS & DRINKS” at the Asheville Visitor Center. It is an excellent guide of all the restaurants in the area. Between food tours and our own dining selections, Asheville will amaze and delight any foodie! www.exploreasheville.com

Asheville Offers Unique Activities

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Sample a Variety of “off the beaten path” Things to Do!

Salt CaveAsheville charms visitors with magical mountains, scenic views, a welcoming southern charm and a variety of activities. An eclectic town that attracts a diverse group of travelers while young and old alike relocate to this special place. Each visit to Asheville finds us seeking new or out-of-the-norm activities in this bustling town. On this visit we explore Asheville’s latest “off the beaten path” activities.

 Relax, Refresh and Re-energize! Take Asheville’s Wellness Tour!  One of Asheville’s newest tours combines yoga, relaxation, and history. The Wellness Tour begins at the Asheville’s Salt Cave where we feel the cool dry air of this cave entirely of SALT.   Options for relaxing in the Salt Cave are the wonderful zero-gravity recliners or comfy blankets on the cave’s salt covered floor. Breathing in this salt air with its healing qualities, our cares disappear. The 45 minutes quickly passes, then Cameron, the Traveling Yogini, softly speaks encouraging us to touch the salt. Picking up handfuls the salt gently slides through our fingers. From the Salt Cave, Cameron takes us on an easy stroll sharing the history of Asheville. Stopping at a park in Pack Square, she takes us through gentle yoga stretches. Continuing the tour Cameron points out special eateries, unique shops, an dideas for things to do.

Peaceful - a Foot Soak- AH!

Peaceful – a Foot Soak- AH!

The final stop is the Wake Foot Sanctuary & Shop. Huge copper pots of hot water with our special selected herb foot bathe are rolled out. Sinking into the plush comfy chairs and slipping our feet into the foot bathe is heavenly. A warm neck wrap covers our shoulders and all worries float away. My husband, initially apprehensive, loved it. A most unique tour!   www.ashevillesaltcave.com or http://www.yogatours.net/ 

BREW-ed Tour - Green Man Brewery

BREW-ed Tour – Green Man Brewery

Learn the History of Beer Making on the BREW-ed Tour!  When did brewing beer start? Why do breweries make more lagers? At what temperature should you drink beer? On the BREW-ed Tour, Cliff Mori is the ultimate BEER EXPERT! He answers all these questions and MORE! As a Certified Cicerone, Cliff is educated as a beer professional and elevates the beer experience for consumers. Our tour starts at Hi-Wire Brewing with a light-hearted circus theme. Only a year old, yet already expanding. As Cliff shares an extensive history on beer making and the brewery, we sample the “Main Attraction” Hi-Wire beers. On our walk to the next brewery, Cliff fascinates us with tales both Asheville’s history and beer. At Twin Leaf Brewery, Cliff explains this brewery focuses more on Belgian and British style beers. With its comfy welcoming picnic tables and outdoorsy feel we sample their tasty brews as our beer making education continues. Finishing up at Green Man Brewing with its craft seasonal and specialty brews, we sit outside as Cliff explains how India Pale Ale came about, temperatures for drinking beer and answers our many questions. Cliff excels in providing a most informative, educational, and fun beer tour. The BREW-ed Tour definitely lives up in both educating us on beer and sampling beers.  www.BREW-ed.com 

Hickory Nut Gap Farm

Hickory Nut Gap Farm

Go “Down on the Farm!” on an ASAP Farm Tour  Visiting Asheville in late September we have a firsthand experience of being “down on the farm.” Thanks to the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project affectionately known as ASAP, 35 farms in Western North Carolina open their gates and barns to the public. What a remarkable opportunity to visit local farms and learn their growing strategies, their special crops, new ventures in farming from growing berries to vegetables to raising cattle to rabbits to poultry to cheese making, and more! ASAP connects farmers and supporters to build a stronger local food system and healthier communities.   Selecting the Fairview area we still just squeeze in three farms. At Hickory Nut Gap Farm there is something for everyone. Kids swing on tires or ropes, wade the creek, and families share picnic lunches. Joining a tour, we scramble over hills while the owner, Jamie, shares strategies in cutting edge sustainable farming. He educates us on changing to natural feeds for cattle and rotational grazing, rather than corn fed cows, resulting in healthier cows that have healthier beef with more omega 3. Intriguing! A lot of effort and energy goes into both sustainable farming and organic farming. Hickory Nut Gap also raises pigs, grows raspberries and apples. We check out their store which has some great beef, jams and more!

Beautiful flowers at Flying Cloud Farm

Beautiful flowers at Flying Cloud Farm

Just down the road we pop into Flying Cloud Farm, where the specialty is flowers and vegetables including eggplants, peppers, fall greens and sweet potatoes. Their self-service roadside stand is fully stocked with produce. U-pick flowers are also available. Personally, we just enjoy strolling the gardens and admiring the blooming flowers showing their fall colors. With the afternoon quickly passing we head for Imladris Farm specializing in berries, eggs, and rabbits. Starting with the Raspberry Patch Tour, we sample these fresh sweet raspberries and learn the best methods for growing raspberries. Growing raspberries is an art and a science to make the berries healthy for people and good for the soil. There is even an underground feed system for the raspberry bushes. Next we tour areas that breed rabbits, raise chickens and have free range eggs. The Farm Tour really educates us on sustainable agriculture. If you are in the area in late September be sure to check out the Farm Tour – fun and educational. asapconnections.org/events/asaps-farm-tour 

Making Pasta - FUN!

Making Pasta – FUN!

DOUGH: Take a Cooking Class! Make Pasta from Scratch!  Making pasta from scratch! Sounds demanding! Arriving at DOUGH, a chef-owned market and bakery in Asheville, we don our blue Dough Aprons as Emi Chiappa-Starnes, our instructor starts the class. Tonight’s menu is Gnocchi with a Creamy Walnut Sauce, Butternut Squash Amaretto Ravioli, and Linguini. Emi amazes us with her family history of growing up in Wales in a close-knit Italian community. Her Italian Grandmother, Nan taught Emi to cook “Italian!”   Emi and her sisters just published Simply Italian –Cooking At Home with the Chiappa Sisters.   

Making the Gnocchi starts with a dropping an egg into a volcano of a flour mixture and mixing. As the dough becomes a ball, we separate and roll the dough into long cigar-like strands. Cutting at an angle and then carefully rolling each tiny slice on a ribbed board we’ve made Gnocchi. FUN & EASY! Dropping the Gnocchi into boiling water, they float to the top when done. With a Creamy Walnut Sauce and fresh parmesan, the Gnocchi is delicious!   Ravioli making begins again with a flour mixture and egg. Dividing the dough into balls, we then run it through a pasta machine to flatten it. Cutting it to size, we carefully squeeze in the Amaretto filling and seal the edges. While the Ravioli cooks, it’s time to make Linguini. Simple! Taking small balls of dough, we run them through the pasta press. Beware! Each piece goes through multiple times and thinner sections of the press before we can switch to the “linguine” cut section. Emi made it SO EASY. Sipping a red wine and savoring our Amaretto Ravioli we toast an entertaining and most enlightening Pasta Cooking Class. A huge hint from Emi is to use only “Napoli, Antimo Caputo, 00 Flour is the ‘Chef’s Flour’ from Italy.”   www.doughasheville.com/

Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Falls

Waterfalls ‘n Wine – A Hidden Gem!   Wow! A new amazing tour near Brevard, NC is the “Waterfall ‘n Wine Tour” coordinated by the Pisgah Field School. Gathering at the Pisgah Field School we meet Adam, our guide and load into a van. Transylvania County boasts over 250 waterfalls! Arriving at Looking Glass Fall it is an easy walk along the road to see this beautiful and most photographed waterfall. Continuing on to Sliding Rock Fall the path takes us to the top of the fall. At the base of the Sliding Rock Fall we share the excitement as a father takes his four year old and then his three year old on the “slide!” FUN! Both children are thrilled at sliding down the waterfalls slick rock surface. A major surprise is the pool at the bottom is only 60 degrees. BRRR! On to No Name Falls with a fairly steep path down to this long waterfall in the woods. Beautiful, serene and a great place for photos. More waterfalls await. At Slickrock Fall we even walk behind the waterfall. Daniel Ridge Falls is a mile up a wide path to see this magnificent fall. A huge rock face has the water dropping 110 feet. Even with a mild flow the major rock face of the waterfall is impressive.   After a stop to see the trout farm, it is time for some wine tasting. In the charming town of Brevard, NC we visit the Broad Street Wines, a boutique wine store, where Connie, the owner, shares her wine expertise. The wines are fantastic! The samples include Syrah, Italian Wines, California wines and more. Using a tasting card in the special wine dispenser we can select 1 oz. 2 oz. or 4 oz. tasting. Broad Street Wines is definitely a cozy spot where locals and visitors enjoy weekly wine tastings and good conversation. Cheers to Waterfalls ‘n Wine! Beautiful waterfalls and excellent wines – the perfect combination! www.visitwaterfalls.com/calendar/event/waterfalls-n-wine/

If you go:  Asheville continues to amaze us on each visit. New venues, activities, restaurants and breweries open each year. It is definitely a town of growth where businesses of all types are having huge success. Be sure to visit the Exploreasheville.com website to check out the calendar and “things to do”. Their Visitor Center is also an excellent source for friendly guidance on any visit.     www.exploreasheville.com

 

 

Toronto is a Splendid Example of Many Cultures

By Mary Jo Plouf

Toronto is the largest city in Canada with over 2.6 million residents. Approximately 49% of the population was born outside of Canada, and as a result, much of Toronto consists of relatively small ethnic neighborhoods which have retained much of their original culture, language and foods. I find that one of the best and most fun ways to get to know a city is to become acquainted with the people where they live. Visit their shops and botiques, their bakeries, their churches and their restaurants.

Culinary Adventures was started in 2010 to help locals and visitors alike to  discover the best of ethnic Toronto.  I have taken three of their tours and now I know why they have been ranked by Trip Advisor as the number 1 tour in the city. Chef Scot Savoi , chef, founder and culinary ambassador, was our guide for each adventure.   Chef Scot, who is bilingual, has over 25 years of international culinary experience. He has spent the last two years discovering what is best and most typical in Little Italy, Little India, Greektown and Leslieville.  Actually these are only four of his food adventures……there are quite a few more, including custom tours.

 

Would you like to know the best Indiana restaurants in the city.  I do after spending an evening with chef Scot. We delved into the tastes and culture of one of Toronto’s most flavourful neighborhoods.  We discovered the aromas and sampled fabulous Indian delicacies as we strolled through one of the largest and oldest South Asian markets in North America. From dosa’s to desserts, we experienced culinary adventures from street food to the best kitchens to be found anywhere in the city. Corn on the cob never tasted better than the roasted ears we purchased from a street vendor and washed down with a sweet sugar cane drink.   Later, we had the absolute best Butter Chicken in Toronto. We were welcomed into the kitchens where we learned a little of the history and local stories of the area. I even went spice shopping in one of the local markets.

 

Towards the end of our tour, Chef Scot, informed us that we were going to try Paan, which he described as Indian chewing tobacco.  That was an adventure that I, for one, was a little leery to try. As it turned out, Paan has nothing to do with tobacco.  Instead it is a palate cleanser consisting of sugar, salt, rose petals, fennel and assorted other spices. All of these exotic ingredients were wrapped in a small green leaf, which we were instructed to place inside our cheek and “chew”.  Needless to say, it was hilarious. The whole process involved a lot of chewing, a lot of juice and eventually, a lot of covert spitting. I have no doubt that I prefer butter chicken…but it was an adventure and lots of fun.

 

Early on  a Wednesday evening we joined Chef Scot on a Tour of Little Italy. We were off to discover where the chefs ate. Our tour began at a secret pre-prohibition private club for cocktails and appetizers before moving on to selected restaurants for our multiple course progressive dinner.  Throughout the entire evening there were no menu’s or wine lists.  Our tastebuds were in the hands of some of the cities finest chef’s & mixologists. We were allowed to visit behind the scenes where each chef shared a few of his culinary secrets and told us stories of the area and his restaurant.

 

Be sure to come hungry because it soon become apparent that this tour is a culinary food adventure and no one is allowed to go away without trying a little of everything…..or maybe a lot of everything.  At Trattoria Tavererniti I had the best lasagna that I have ever tasted. The chef sat with us and shared the information that Nona, his 83 year old grandmother was still active in the restaurant and came in early each morning to make the special sauces.  When she helped open the restaurant several years ago, she was asked why she wanted to work in a restaurant at her age.  She replied, “we got a 25 year lease at a really great price”.  In the relatively short time the family owned Trattoria has been open it  has become known as the most authentic Italian restaurant in Little Italy.

 

A bit of lore you probably did not know.  Never eat fish in a restaurant before Wednesday because the fresh fish comes in on Wednesday.  The narrowest bar in Little Italy is Souzol….it is 147 feet long and has its own beach in the back.  Years ago a sign in the window of a restaurant advertising fresh oysters and hot coffee meant that prostitutes were available inside. Chef Scot and his fellow culinary friends were full of local lore they were anxious to share.

 

I am not going to describe Chef Scot’s other culinary tours. You can call and ask him yourself.  (1-800-656-0713) or visit their website at www.culinaryadventureco.com. I agree completely with Trip Advisor. Chef Scot’s tours are the best tours in the city. Food is a unique and enjoyable way of getting to know the city.

New Orleans, A City for All Seasons

By Mary Jo Plouf

New Orleans is like no other city in the world. It is a seamless and exquisite mixture of French, Spanish, Irish, Italian, African, Caribbean and even a touch of Native American. It is an old city which has incorporated the best of the European traditions and melded them with the time- honored  Southern hospitality of the plantation and sugar cane eras. But without a doubt, what defines the City of New Orleans best is the food and music that permeate the very foundations of the city.  When you hear words like Jazz, Creole, Gumbo, Pralines, Jambalaya,  Oysters Rockefeller, red beans and rice, beignets, and etouffee, the blues, saxaphones, trumpets and trombones, it is all there on every street and woven into the fabric of New Orleans.  Twenty-four hours a day there is food and music to be found somewhere within the city. It is the City that never sleeps and certainly never goes hungry.

The abundance of food to be discovered and savored is matched by the proliferation of exotic beverages available in the many bars, bistros and cafes.   And thanks to the “only in New Orleans” open container laws it is not unusual to see visitors and locals alike strolling down the streets of the French Quarter munching on a Po-Boy and enjoying a beer or perhaps something stronger.  Surprisingly, all this “living dangerously” and “walking on the edge” mentality seem to be, for the most part, quite orderly and under control.  Late nights in New Orleans are legendary and usually the only damage incurred is the inevitable suffering the following morning.  But never fear, the pain eases and as the sun sets another long, gala night begins. Let the good times roll.

But New Orleans is about families also.  The many family friendly restaurants tempt the youngsters with far more than pizza, hamburgers and French fries.  Beignets are popular with visitors of all ages. These “French doughnuts” were brought to Louisiana by the Acadians and are still a New Orleans favorite in both the sweet and savory versions.  Let them try a new sandwich…the Muffuletta , or a simple mixture of red beans and rice.  And for dessert, they are sure to love the pralines.

And there are more attractions for the younger set and the parents they have in tow than they could possibly visit in a week. Mom and dad are sure to have fun too, and maybe even learn a thing or two.

The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is the perfect family attraction and it is conveniently located near the French Quarter. This is an attraction where you can spend a few hours or all day.  There are fish of every description, penguins, seals and sharks. Children can touch the stingrays and watch the feeding of the sharks. They can stroll through the glass tunnel surrounded on all sides by exotic ocean creatures and colorful coral. There is even an IMAX theater.  If you tire of the fish and still have time, visit the Audubon Butterfly  Garden and Insectorium where you can see over 900,000 species of insects.  That’s a lot of bugs that are guaranteed to hold the interest of most children. New Orleans has one of the coolest Zoos in the world which features a wild and wet splash park in the summer.  The animals are pretty cool too. There are 58 acres of animals in their natural habitats including lots of alligators which you can see close-up from a Cajun houseboat. If you are up for a short road trip or bus ride, take the younger generation on one of the many swamp and bayou tours, where you travel by boat deep into the backwater bayous of Louisiana.  You can even touch an alligator…. but just a small one  Adults and kids alike love to browse through the French Quarter. And no vacation is complete without shopping for a few souvenirs.

IMMEDIATELY upon arrival all visitors should become acquainted with the bright red Hop on-Hop off bus. The bus makes twelve stops at various points of interest and you can stop and visit each and every one if you choose.  This is the quickest and easiest way to get to know the city.  Once you know where everything is….they provide you with a map….you can return day after day on walking tours.  The bus covers the French Quarter, the Waterfront and the Garden District. For me, Mardi Gras World is one of the most interesting attractions.  I have never been to the actual Mardi Gras Parade because I am intimidated by the huge crowds, but you can see it all at Mardi Gras World. There are actually fifteen warehouses filled with floats from the past.  No float is used twice, but many of the parts are re-used. At Mardi Gras World you can actually watch artists designing next year’s entries and constructing intricate figures from Styrofoam and paper mache.  The opportunities for photography and unlimited, so be sure to bring your camera.  Steamboat Natchez allows you to savor the beauty and romance of New Orleans as you sit back and watch centuries of history and legend float by.  This two-hour cruise can even include dinner and a jazz concert.  A Plantation tour really allows you to see the South as it was in the great sugar cane eras.  The Jewel of Louisiana’s River Road and Queen of the Plantations is Houmas House Plantation and Gardens.  Keven Kelly has filled his plantation houses with priceless antiques and his gardens with exquisite tropical plants and trees. Tours are available and it is possible to reach the plantation by car in approximately 45 minutes or on a tour bus from the French Quarter. Another “do not miss” adventure” is the New Orleans Cooking School. This two hour activity is fun, informative and the best thing is that you can take it home with you. My husband and I absolutely loved it and I bought all of the ingredients at the attached General Store so I can now make authentic New Orleans Gumbo, Chicken Creole and Pralines at home.

They say to leave the best until last and it is now time to write about the FOOD in New Orleans. There is so much of it and it is so varied that I cannot cover it all, but I will tell you about a few of our favorite restaurants.  You will certainly get off to a good start with “brunch” at Brennan’s. With the highest rating possible by food critics Brennan’s has been serving an exotic blend of French and Creole specialties for the past 50 years.  Their Bananas Foster is legendary. Their specialty egg dishes include shrimp, crab, veal and oysters. I could not decide between the turtle soup, which I have so rarely, and the oyster cream soup. So I had an absolutely spectacular and different onion soup.  I tried both the chocolate pecan pie and the creole chocolate cake. Dinner at Antoines has also been around for a long time….176 years being operated by the same family to be exact.  It is a tradition and a New Orleans landmark. There are 14 dining rooms, each with its unique history and distinctive décor.  Oysters Rockefeller was invented here and of course served to Rockerfeller.  It is just as good today as is the traditional Escargot with lots of garlic sauce.  August, with Chef John Besh, is a relative newcomer after 12 years, and is definitely the best of the best. We chose the Degustation menu and dined, in the best sense of the word, on tuna, crab, lamb, duckling, foie gras, crawfish, shrimp, oysters, trout and grass-fed beef. All of this was with the proper and excellent wine, followed by dessert….in three flavors. I definitely want to go back.  Another great place for brunch, lunch or dinner is The Irish House.  This authentic Irish Pub has better food than most of the pubs in Ireland, thanks to Matt Murphy, the chef and owner. Matt is an award wining chef from the T.V. food program “Chopped” We had lunch at the Palace Café, another favorite. This classic and contemporary Creole restaurant is located near the French Quarter. Another on the list of Brennan restaurants, it is impossible to get less than great food. On our last evening we ventured into the Garden District on the St. Charles Streetcar and visited an old favorite…the Upperline Restaurant.  Owner, JoAnn Clevenger was there to greet us as usual.  This restaurant has consistently received rave reviews and is a favorite with the locals.  Filled with an assortment of art and flowers this cozy, two level restaurant has always been on my list of “musts” I started with crispy P&J fried oysters and moved on to Duckling with ginger peach sauce. Dessert was definitely the most unusual I have even tried….Garlic and Honey Sundae.  Yes, I actually tried it and it was delicious. I never miss Upperline when I am in New Orleans.

“Let The Good Times Roll” The fun, food entertainment and music never stop in New Orleans. Take home a few recipes, a few extra pounds and irreplaceable memories. And be sure to come back again and again.

 

Gainesville, Florida: A Family Destination

By Mary Jo Plouf

Gainsville is the county seat and largest city in Aluchua County, Florida. Many residents and visitors to Florida, myself included, have never considered Gainsville as a “vacation” destination. We were wrong. Gainsville can best be described as the perfect setting where nature and culture meet.  It is conveniently located in North Central Florida and has great year-round weather. For those searching for culture and history and the arts, they will find them in abundance at the University of Florida’s Cultural Plaza.  All in one location you will find the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History, the 1700 seat Phillips Center for the performing arts, National Ballet, and the Harn Museum of Art. The Butterfly Rainforest is especially fascinating to children of all ages.

 

Sports fans won’t want to miss seeing a game at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field, which is home to the Florida Gators football team.

 

There are plenty of places to get out and enjoy nature.  You can follow an easy path through waterfalls and ferns into the heart of Devil’s Millhopper State Geological Park. You can visit ocelots and eagles at the Santa Fe College Teaching  Zoo or bike the Gainesville-Hawthorn Trail. You can snorkel, paddle, tube or swim in the areas rivers or crystal-clear springs.  Enthusiasts can tackle the trails of San Felasco Hammock Preserve StatePark with 2000 acres of horseback riding trails or off-road cycling. Many of these activities are suitable for children.

 

Downtown Gainsville and the surrounding area is the epi-center for shopping, fantastic restaurants and delightful lodging choices. Farmers markets tempt visitors with handmade soaps, jewelry and food products. Small botiques offer the latest in chic and funky fashion. Restaurants abound but be sure to sample the amazing fare and décor of  Emilianos Café at 7 SE 1st Ave (Phone: 352-375-7381) We ate outside on a lovely Fall evening and everything was done to perfection.

 

We opted for one of the many turn-of-the-century bed and breakfasts which was a short walk from the downtown district. The Camellia Rose Inn at 205 S.E, Seventh Street was everything we were looking for. The Inn-keepers, Tom and Pat McCants were like old friends from the minute we walked in. They got us settled into our lovely room complete with a fireplace and admonished us to return from our explorations of the city in time for the wine and cheese that is served in  the lounge each evening.  This little “added-touch” is the perfect time to relax and perhaps meet other guests to compare notes. (Phone: 352-395-7673)

 

Whether you spend a week or a week-end in Gainsville  you will find plenty of things to do and see and you will want to return for a second and third visit.

 

For those who need more information, contact the Gainsville website,  visitgainesville.com. The tourist bureau in this delightful city is among the most helpful of any in the world.

La Cocotera Resort and Eco Lodge-El Salvadore

La Cocotera Resort and Eco Lodge

 

By Mary Jo Plouf

 

La Cocotera Resort and Edo Lodge in San Salvadore is one of Central America’s premier eco lodges.  They offer luxurious accommodations in a relaxing setting between the Pacific Ocean and a peaceful estatuary bordered by tropical mangrove forests on the other side.

 

The lodge, small and exclusive is located in the beautiful Salvadorian village of Barra de Santiago.  It is located only about two hours from San Salvadore, but it is a world away from the bustling city. Without a little inside information and a short trip on roads you might never discover, it is well worth the trip.  Once there, you are in for a unique vacation experience.

If you are looking for an eco- lodge far from the crowded beaches, but still directly on the ocean, this is the perfect escape.  You can take a swim in the sparkling ocean, rest in a hammock in the shade of countless coconut palms, swim in the pool, or gaze at the spectacular volcanic  peaks in the background.

 

Savvy Savannah

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

An Alluring Southern City

Savannah's Historical River Street

Savannah’s Historical River Street

A vibrant city with a rich southern history and charm sits on the bluffs of the Savannah River. Georgia’s “First City” is dynamic as it entices and lures visitors to return again and again. Blending culture and heritage with the bizarre, Savannah is an exciting place to visit. Whether walking the beautiful squares, listening to music at Market Square, shopping in unique upscale shops in the Historic District, roaming large antique stores, strolling along River Street, taking a tour, or partaking of great southern food, Savannah is fascinating. Continue reading

Indiana’s Amish Country: A Serenely Simple Life

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

A Postcard View of Amish Life

Menno-Hof

Menno-Hof

A horse-drawn black buggy clattering on the roadway with a bright orange traffic triangle on the back is our first greeting to northern Indiana’s Amish Country. Recently receiving accolades of a “Favorite Faith-based Destination” by the National Tour Association tour operator members, we are excited to take a deeper look at Amish life and getting to know the people behind the straw hats, bonnets, and simple clothes. Continue reading