By Joanna Grey Talbot
Hard to believe it has already come and gone but my husband and I celebrated our first anniversary last weekend. It has been a year filled with ups and downs, a move to North Carolina, and so many adventures! To celebrate we escaped to our favorite place – the mountains.
Although we consider ourselves city people, when we head to the mountains we love to stay in a small town to get away from it all. In this instance I pulled up Google Maps and wandered around in the mountains of North Carolina on my computer looking for such a town and hopefully one I had never visited before. I knew I wanted to take a daytrip to Asheville during our vacation so I looked within a 30-40 minute radius of it and stumbled across Burnsville.
Burnsville is a beautiful little town nestled in a valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. Founded in 1834 it was named for Captain Otway Burns, a naval hero of the War of 1812. A statue of him stands in the town square today.
Having chosen Burnsville as our destination I was so excited to find the perfect place to stay – the Carolina Country Inn. Originally built in 1952 when motor inns were popping up all over the country, it has since been renovated and with only 15 guest rooms is very peaceful. The innkeepers, Trevor and Maureen, make you feel right at home and each room has everything you could need. An added bonus is that it is located on Main Street so you can easily walk downtown.
Something that sets Burnsville apart from other towns I have visited is that downtown has no empty storefronts. Sadly, that is rare these days so it was very inspiring to see a town that is thriving. The downtown square and Main Street has everything from gift shops to restaurants to antique stores to a one-screen movie theater. We ate at the Blind Squirrel Brewery Outpost and the Garden Deli – both excellent and the milkshakes at the Cool Catz Candy & Cream were delicious. Our very filling and very yummy Saturday morning breakfast was found at the Pig and Grits. The local coffee shop, the Appalachian Java & Café, was very cozy and I give their small mocha a 4 out of 5 coffee beans. Wandering through Hammond’s Antiques was such fun but was made even better by chatting with the owner, Ralph Hammond. I wish we had had time to sit down and hear his stories.
One of my favorite things about Burnsville is that it is a part of the Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina. That means that throughout town you will spot on the sides of buildings large painted quilt squares and each has a story. Each are uniquely beautiful but I especially loved the Burnsville Sundial quilt square located on the Yancey Common Times Journal building.
My one disappointment in this whole trip was that the county history museum was not open during our stay in Burnsville. The Yancey History Association operates and maintains the Rush Wray Museum, which tells the history of the area. Thankfully I was able to walk around the buildings to take pictures but I will have to wait and take a peek of the inside on our next visit. The most stunning building of the museum is the McElroy House built in the 1840s. On the property you can also find an 1860s smokehouse, the 1860s Proffitt-Cousins Cabin, and a blacksmith shop.
After spending Friday and Saturday in Burnsville we decided to take a short roadtrip to Asheville on Sunday. Located about 40 minutes southwest of Burnsville, it was an easy drive. We parked in one of the many parking garages and walked to the historic Grove Arcade building. The vision of Edwin Wiley Grove, creator of the famous Grove Park Inn, it was originally intended to have 14 floors but only the base was built. After its opening in 1929 it was filled with local shops and services, just as it is today.
Arriving late morning we had brunch at Carmel’s Kitchen & Bar, located in the Grove Arcade. My husband had the amazing catfish reuben with waffle fries and house-made chipotle ketchup. I completely stuffed myself with The Sunnyside – scrambled eggs, cheese grits, fresh biscuit, and bacon.
Needing to walk off such a delicious meal we wandered next door to the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar. There you can order a coffee or glass of wine or champagne and wander the two floors of books. My favorite part is how small tables and comfy chairs or tucked all around.
After making our book purchase we walked about five blocks to find not just any cup of coffee. At Double D’s Coffee & Desserts you can order your drink inside a red, double-decker bus! The 1966 bus is originally from Bristol, England, but moved to Atlanta in the 1970s and finally Asheville in 1999. The baristas are on the first floor and there is seating for about 25 on the second floor. Their small mocha is a strong 4 out of 5 coffee beans.
After wandering through a few more stores we headed back to the car for our last stop. Located on the northwest side of downtown is the Historic Riverside Cemetery. Established in 1885 on 87 acres, the cemetery has become the final resting place for many of Asheville’s citizens, including some well-known. We searched for and found the tombstones of famous writer Thomas Wolfe and former North Carolina governor Zebulon B. Vance. Wolfe is most known for his novel Look Homeward Angel. Vance was governor from 1862 to 1865 and 1877-1879.
I have always been amazed by historic funerary art so we drove through the cemetery and stopped at anything that caught our eye. From mausoleums to obelisks to angels, this cemetery had a little bit of everything.
After a long but fun day in Asheville we headed back to the comforts of our hotel room and a take-out dinner from the local Japanese restaurant. This trip was the perfect combination of adventures and reading/napping. We are already looking forward to our next visit to Burnsville!