Wednesday, June 26, 2013

North & South Carolina ~ May 2013

En route to Columbia, SC, Steve and I decided to make a couple of stops in “cities we’ve never been” and added Asheville, NC and Greenville, SC to our list. First up was Asheville, where we were joined by our friends Liberty and Janell for a few days of fun in Beer City USA.

You heard me right, Asheville has long been known as Beer City USA so we took full advantage of the countless breweries within walking distance to our downtown hotel.

Pack's Tavern

French Broad Brewing

Wicked Weed Brewing

Jack of the Wood

Asheville Brewing

Thirsty Monk

Lexington Avenue Brewing

The Lobster Trap featuring Oyster Brewing Company where they actually brew their beer with oysters!

The Bier Garden

Our favorite!! Green Man Brewery...I loved the ESB and Steve loved the Porter.

In addition to the plethora of breweries, we also visted the infamous Bilmore Estate. Albeit pricey, it was phenomenol. Truly a sight to see. Steve's great-uncle worked as the farm manager and lived on the property a long time ago so we thought it would be "neat" to see this part of Steve's family history. Neither of us really had any idea what to expect.
My friend Liberty has a season pass to the estate so she not only knew how to get past security to VIP parking, but also gave us the most efficient house and garden tour ever! There were hundred's of people who paid for private tours or recorded tours, but we had our own tour guide! It was awesome. Completed in 1895, George Vanderbilt's home sits on 8,000 acres, is 180,000 square feet with 250 rooms, 41 bathrooms (including the first working toilet), 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool, indoor bowling alley and a 10,000 volume library.

It was a rainy day so our time in the gardens was minimal, but we were still able to get some nice pictures.

Included with the price of admission was an extensive tasting at their winery. Of course we took full advantage and tried several different variatals.

In between the Biltmore and breweries, we also enjoyed some great food at local establishments, including Bouchon for unlimited mussels...funny story since I'm really not a huge fan of mussels...

Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro for a Manhattan and really really great appetizers at happy hour...also where I met an Asheville resident who once live in Lakewood on Summit Avenue...the same street where I grew up and where my mom still lives!! Talk about a small world.
...and finally French Broad Chocolate Lounge for a late-night snack.

Asheville was a great city where we could walk nearly everywhere we wanted to go. The views were beautiful, the people friendly and the overall vibe was cool and relaxed. It was great to see Liberty and Janell and we look forward to future visits.
Our next stop was about an hour South to Greenville, SC. We stayed at the Westin on Main Street and we couldn't have asked for a better location. The heart of Greenville is exactly where we wanted to be.
 Falls Park on the Reedy is just steps away and a nice location to have a picnic in the peace and quiet in the middle of the city.

Prior to arriving in Greenville, Steve was hopeful the minor league Greenville Drive baseball team would be playing at home so he could see a game at Fluor Field, considered the mini-Fenway of Minor League baseball. To our surprise, the Southern Conference was hosting their baseball championship during our stay. It was a beautiful day so we paid the $10 apiece and enjoyed the day.




Sure. Steve wanted to see mini-Fenway, but the truth is I wanted to try the peanut butter bacon burger I had read all about on Twitter. True story. When we arrived and found no peanut butter bacon burger in the park, a concessionaire assured me there would be no problem filling my request. So here it is :)
 Once again, we enjoyed great food including a pimento cheese & fried green tomato burger, which paired nicely with super amazing Chocolate Bacon Bourbon & PB&J and Banana milkshakes at Grill Marks.

Sushi and sake and Tako Sushi was also on the agenda.

We capped off our night with a Manhattan at Smoke on the Water,
As we headed back to our hotel we came upon a free concert in the park.
 Before we departed on Saturday morning, we stepped outside of the hotel to find the Main Street Farmer's Market.

Greenville was a cool city. Since we were only there for one day, we didn't venture off of Main Street so can't really speak outside of that. Good times together again.
Next stop...Columbia, SC
On Saturday, we headed another 1.5 hours southeast to Columbia where we were generously hosted by our friends Greg & Karen Airasian and on Sunday we celebrated the baptism of their youngest daughter Rachel Marie, where Steve had the honor to serve as her Godfather.

Despite Steve being a little nervous about being quizzed on Catholicism, everything went smoothly and Rachel was a happy little baptized baby.


After the ceremony, we returned to Greg and Karen's and they put on a fabulous party for 75+ of their closest friends and relatives. Food, drinks, cornhole, swimming, conversation and friendship made this a celebration which easily displayed how well-loved Lauren and Rachel are by everyone around them. It was a great time and I'm not sure how Karen (and Greg) came out of it still smiling.

 Sunday night we perused Five Points and visited some of the old places Jon and Steve frequented during their college days.

 The next morning Steve and I couldn't leave South Carolina before visiting California Dreaming for our favorite wings and side salad!
We also visited the South Carolina campus where he took a few snapshots to capture some of the life he lived 20 years ago :)

By the time Monday afternoon arrived it was time to start heading home, but not before a stop at Lake Wateree, SC to visit with Cal, Keleigh, Caleigh and Dru Caldwell. It was another beautiful day which included a boat ride, tubing, cornhole, steaks on the grill and a late night of catching up on each other's lives over the past year.

Wow. What a trip! It's hard to believe we fit so many activities and so many friends into such a short period of time. Thanks to all who made it such a GREAT time...

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