Grand European River Cruise Part 2 – Budapest, Hungary

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French macarons

Authentic French macarons are divine

With our cruise running Oct 7-21, we maximized our first European visit by adding extra days to explore our embarkation city, Budapest. We were glad we did, since our 6AM connection in Amsterdam had been canceled due to bad weather and we lost the rest of the day waiting for another flight.  Fortunately we had booked our air travel through Viking Cruises and they had done the rebooking for us.  We were eventually rerouted through Paris and arrived in Budapest at midnight instead of 10AM.  How awesome that our Viking driver was still at the airport waiting for us!  Although we lost a day of exploring, the episode gave us our first good impression of Viking’s first class service (here is the first installment describing our cruise).  Advice to cruisers – ALWAYS add at least a day to the beginning of your cruise in case this happens, or your stress level will be through the roof as you start your cruise.  And if everything goes well you’ll have a day or two to explore a new city in relaxation!

Budapest

The Danube River runs through Budapest; across the river to the east is Pest and the foreground on the west is Buda

Budapest is Hungary’s capital city, truly a riverside beauty and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It straddles the banks of the Danube River, making it a combination of two cities, Buda and Pest, united into a single city in 1873.  Buda is the historic half, sitting on the hilly west bank, and the livelier and more modern Pest (pronounced “Pesht”) covers the plains on the east bank.  The two halves of the city are connected by 15 bridges, several of them very beautiful and architecturally interesting.

Chain Bridge, Budapest

The iconic Chain Bridge was the first span to connect the two halves of the city when it opened in 1849

Budapest Bridges

Looking south at the slender white Elizabeth Bridge with the green Liberty Bridge in the distance

 Margaret Bridge

Looking north at the yellow Margaret Bridge

Our first day of exploration began right next door to our digs at the very nice Hilton Hotel.  The Hilton stands within the walls of the historic Castle Hill district on the Buda side, which we realized during breakfast when our window seat view was one of the turrets of Fisherman’s Bastion.  Along with Buda Castle and Matthias Church, it comprises the castle complex that resides on a large hilltop that was once home to royalty here.

Budapest

Breakfast with a view of Fisherman’s Bastion

St Mattias Church

Colorful rooftops of Matthias Church, the coronation church of Hungarian kings of the past.  Folks here take their roofs seriously, and there are many beautiful ones on display

Fisherman’s Bastion with Matthias Church in the background

An honor guard ready to strut their stuff on the cobblestone streets

From Castle Hill we ambled down to the banks of the Danube River, walking through several residential streets.  We crossed the Chain Bridge and continued onto the Danube Promenade, feasting our eyes on the multitude of riverfront attractions.

Walking across the Chain Bridge.  A bit chilly on our first full day, as you can see

Shoes of the Danube River

Shoes of the Danube River.  This display commemorates the local victims of the Holocaust, who were lined up and shot into the Danube River after being ordered to take off their shoes, valuable belongings at the time

Castle Hill in Buda

Calvinist Church

A Calvinist church.  Churches here exist at an architectural level far above most in the states

Church of St Anne

Church of St. Anne

Peter Mansfeld

A statue of a falling man commemorates teenage martyr Peter Mansfeld of the Hungarian revolution.

Colorful residential facades

Budapest

So many colorful and unique designs of front doors!

House of Parliament

The House of Parliament on the bank of Pest is the iconic attention-grabber here, day and night

Hilly Buda

Our first included excursion was a guided panoramic tour of Budapest, beginning along elegant Andrassy Avenue.  It is recognized by UNESCO World Heritage, and is the reason why Budapest is often called the Paris of the East.  The entire stretch is filled with luxury shopping and culture such as theaters, the Opera House, villas and mansions, embassies and dozens of cafés and restaurants.

Heroes’ Square

Spacious Hero’s Square is a tribute to Hungary’s national identity

The equestrian statues of the seven Magyar (Hungarian) tribes’ chieftains encircle a column

A sampling of eclectic architecture:

We also booked an optional guided walking tour to get a taste of the city on foot.  We were taken inside the pompous interior of Hungary’s largest building and the third largest parliament in the world, the Budapest Parliament Building.  I took hundreds of pictures of this building, let’s see what’s inside:

House of Parliament as my background

The inside was as impressive as the outside.  It houses one of Hungary’s greatest and most closely guarded treasures, the Holy Crown of St. Stephen (no photography allowed of the crown, orb, sceptre and Renaissance Sword display), which is more than a thousand years old.  The docent shared that this was the coronation crown used by the Kingdom of Hungary for most of its existence, and in Hungarian history over 50 kings were crowned with it.

The imposing grand staircase is encircled with 16 statues of Hungarian leaders

We were led on a short walk from the Parliament building to Liberty Square, where our guide pointed out buildings of architectural value that flank the pleasant green area.

This tired tourist doesn’t look so happy to pose at Liberty Square

President Reagan on his way to the U.S. embassy.  Hungarians like him so much that he has a statue on the square 🙂

Abracadabra, let me out water ! At the interactive fountain on Szabadság Square

We stopped and browsed the produce at Bejaras Market, where we tasted local sausage and “pogacsa”, a salty scone.  We finished our tour with a bowl of goulash soup and a delicious strudel.

Not your usual apple strudel, this is a variety of yummy Hungarian strudels

Outside the city limits we were driven to Szentendre, a colorful village of galleries and artists.  The guide informed us that what we saw today was the foundation that the Hungarian-Serbian community laid down in the 1500’s.  Churches, museums, galleries and cafés in Baroque settings symbolize this lovely town.  We walked along narrow, picturesque streets and browsed galleries that displayed folksy souvenirs and the works of local artists.

A local shows what he made out of a mushroom – a purse and a placemat

Hungarian sweet paprika – yum!

Narrow cobbled and colorful street

Finally, we explored Skanzen, a reconstructed version of an old Hungarian village.  Here we learned to prepare goulash, the most celebrated dish in Hungary.  I discovered that paprika is considered the national spice of Hungary and is the main spice in goulash.
Racka Sheep

Getting friendly with a Hungarian Racke Sheep, check out his horns!

Some facts we learned here – Hungary is part of the European Union but does not use the Euro as its currency (they use the Forint).  Budapest was also our initiation to paying to use restrooms in Europe (called toilets or water closets here), between 50 cents and 2 dollars Euro.  A Euro was $1.18 U.S. during our visit.

On embarkation day, we noticed that our ship, the Viking Bragi, was docked side by side with another Viking riverboat.  The guests of the other ship had to access by walking through ours.  In terms of security it seemed like an odd arrangement, but it was used several times during our journey where 2 or even 3 ships were moored at a single dock.  We looked at it as yet another way to meet new folks!

Bragi is on the left

We thought the two extra days we included would be enough to explore one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, but we could have easily spent a week here!  With so much to see and do it was Steve’s favorite stop on our itinerary.
Budapest

Finding our way along the Danube Promenade

Striking bridges, a majestic Parliament Building, spectacular Art Nouveau palaces and picturesque castles are some of the sights to see by day.  But when nighttime falls Budapest comes alive with lights and color, turning it into a romantic city of lights where all of the monuments and bridges shine:
Fishermans Bastion

Fishermans Bastion at dusk

Chain Bridge, Budapest

Lighted Chain Bridge

Buda Castle

Buda Castle at night.  It houses the Hungarian National Gallery and Budapest History Museum

House of Parliament, Budapest

The House of Parliament turns a glistening gold

Mattias Church

Mattias Church shines bright on Castle Hill

 Elizabeth Bridge

Looking north at Elizabeth Bridge

Budapest

Full moon over Budapest

 

Next up:  Grand European River Cruise – Austria



An imposing church in the Sonoran Desert – Tucson, AZ

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Continuing our investigation of missions in the Sonoran desert, we visited the only remaining intact mission in Arizona.  It’s an imposing white-washed structure in the distance along I-19, approximately nine miles south of downtown Tucson.

Mission San Xavier Del Bac stands as an iconic building of the southwest, and one of the two remaining missions in Arizona established by Jesuit missionary Father Eusebio Francisco Kino.  The other is Mission San José de Tumacácori, which we discovered during our recent visit to Tubac, AZ.

MIssion San Xavier

The mission church dubbed the “White Dove of the Sonoran Desert”

This church dates from the late 1700’s, when southern Arizona was part of New Spain.  In 1783, Franciscan missionary Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain was able to begin construction on the structure using money borrowed from a Sonoran rancher.  He hired an architect, Ignacio Gaona, and a large workforce of O’odham Native Americans to build the original church.

MIssion San Xavier

Facade of the church with the unfinished (and unrestored) east tower on the right

Fast forward to today, the mission is still an active parish serving the needs of the local Wa:k (San Xavier District) village, which resides on the Tohono O’odham reservation.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

The Baroque architecture of the church was influenced by Byzantine and Moorish design

On our visit we joined a one-hour guided tour and learned a lot about the Mission’s history and architectural details.  Our docent talked about features of the Baroque architecture style, including playful dramatic elements such as theatrical curtain displays, faux doors, marbling, and the overall sense of balance.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

We were in awe the moment we stepped into the church – it was like no other we had seen before.  Looking around, we felt like we’d stepped back in time, transported to an authentic 18th Century space.

Interior of Mission San Xavier del Bac

The overall sense of balance is obvious as you enter the church.  For example, a faux door painted on the right wall counters a real door on the left

The church’s interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings.

Altar- Mission San Xavier del Bac

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The interior was covered floor to ceiling with elaborately-painted and sculpted surfaces, and our necks were aching from looking up so much during the tour.  It contained numerous references to the Franciscan cord, both on the facade and throughout the church. 

Choir Loft- Mission San Xavier del Bac

The shell, a symbol of pilgrimage acknowledging the patron saint of Spain, is replicated throughout the structure – in window treatments, the sanctuary, the facade and on other details within the interior.

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Mission San Xavier del Bac

An angel writes down the names of the newly baptized

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The only picture in existence of Mother Mary changing the diaper of Jesus

Thanks to a group of concerned citizens called the Patronato, the ongoing restoration and preservation work was impressive.  In a five-year program, an international team of conservators cleaned, removed, repainted and repaired the interior paintings and art sculptures. The interior rescue effort has significantly helped to preserve its original features.

Mission san Xavier

A conservator uses a syringe to inject adhesive behind peeling paint pigments

Not only was this beautiful place recognized as a U.S. National Landmark in 1963, it continues its original purpose of ministering to the religious needs of residents of the San Xavier Reservation.  I came back and attended a Sunday service and discovered a different feel when the church was filled with parishioners and visitors.

MIssion San Xavier del Bac

A line formed to pay homage to Saint Francis

Saint Francis

Locals pray to Saint Francis for intersessionary prayers to God

After the mass I continued my exploration outside and walked around the mission.  The church is best appreciated in person, for my pictures cannot capture details of the amazing works of art.

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Mission San Xavier del Bac
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Now I understand why this mission church is not only a pilgrimage site and a photographers delight, it’s also a special place to visit, pray, and enjoy a place of peace.

 

Next Up:  Freeway Art in Arizona



 

An historic river town – Quincy, Illinois

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Great River Road, Quincy, IL

wpid30708-2014-09-24-IL-1590644-.jpgFollowing the Great River Road, we made our only stop in Illinois at Quincy.  This town is located alongside the Mississippi River and sits on the bluffs above it.  According to one of the plaques we read, Quincy owes its existence to the river.  It had ideal docking conditions for steamboats, and it became a “doorway to the West” in the late 1800’s.  It remains a prominent and historic river town today.  Being our only stop in Illinois, we scoured brochures and the visitor center for things to do during our 5-day stay.

Bay Bridge, Quincy, Illinois

Checking out one of the riverside plaques

The visitor center offered a self-guided Architecture Driving Tour, but not much else that interested us.  Remembering that small towns can sometimes reveal hidden gems, we decided to do the driving tour and stay on the lookout for other possibilities.  The brochure indicated that Quincy is famous for its tree-lined streets, beautiful parks and attractive historic neighborhoods.  It touts 3,664 buildings on the National Register, and is home to four National Register of Historic Places districts.  All of this covers about 250 blocks and a dozen individually listed National Register properties.  It was voted one of the top ten historic towns in America.  So off we went to find out for ourselves!

We cruised along the East End Historic District, where Quincy’s rich architectural history is on display.  Check out these unusual roofs, and the gorgeous mansions under them:

Most of these mansions are privately-owned and occupied (some even allow tours), while a few had been converted into museums.  The district contains scores of meticulously maintained mansions in a setting of very mature trees.  The intersection of 16th & Maine streets was designated one of the most architecturally significant corners in the U.S. by National Geographic.

If you’ve been following us, you have seen pictures of homes in other historic towns that we’ve visited.  I won’t compare them to the ones in Quincy, but this river town certainly has a history and appeal of its own.   As common tourists, we admired the diversity and vibrancy of the design elements we observed.  And it wasn’t just the mansions – there were also several gorgeous churches, and some interesting homes for more common folks – like these:

ZWICK Row, Quincy Illinois

Zwick Row (Steve thought these were ugly)

Trapp Row

Trapp Row

Green Parks of Quincy

We quickly noticed that the town has many green parks – 26 to be exact.  We get excited when we see markers at parks, because they usually indicate we can count on enjoying one of our favorite pastimes – biking or walking.  So we were gung-ho for a good bike ride, but we soon realized these interconnected parks are interconnected by some very steep hills! Our hearts were pumping fast and our legs screaming in pain as we finally reached the top of the bluff.  Steve and I were literally conked out and had to take a break before pedaling back down to the riverfront.  Although we’ve been doing a lot of hiking and walking lately, our biking legs were out of shape!

On another day we decided to walk some of the same trails, as it was a little less strenuous and we wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenery a bit more.  But then Steve decided to take a different route along the railroad tracks.  Mind you, it wasn’t for a lack of good trails – he just wanted to explore off the beaten path.

As you might imagine, we were crunching our way along on the rocks as we enjoyed the sights.  Crunch-crunch, and fortunately no Choo-choo!  We finally got to a bridge that we were obviously not supposed to cross.  Not wanting you all to read about the bloggers who got flattened by a train, we decided to exit the tracks at that point and head toward home.

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Cross, or head back?  Are you feeling lucky, punk?

On our way home, we came across some nuts laying along the trail.  Steve immediately recognized them as black walnuts, and he told me the story about how he and his sister lived amongst hundreds of black walnut trees and how his father made Steve and his sister pick up a box of them every day after school.  This was when Steve was only about 9-10 years old, so these days it would be a clear violation of child labor laws 😉

Anyway, Steve’s dad would take the walnuts to a buyer after they had accumulated several bags of them, and the kids would get to split the money.  A good lesson learned at a young age, and Steve was off to a roaring early career!  These are his favorite nuts, and even though they were a bit early and needed more time to dry out, he was happy to pick some up for later consumption.  I had no idea I was married to a black walnut expert!

Celebrations

If you are a Mark Twain fan, then Hannibal, Missouri could be your town to visit.  Too bad we learned that only when we drove there to catch a riverboat dinner cruise.  It was near our anniversary date, and Steve thought a cruise on the “Mighty Mississippi” would be a special way to remember our special day.  The Mark Twain River Cruise was not narrated, but just a leisurely trip along the river at sunset.  The food was surprisingly good, and we had a nice relaxing evening contemplating how great our life together has been, and how we’re looking forward to more of the same.

Hannibal, MO

Hannibal, Missouri – boyhood home of Mark Twain

We continued our celebration the following day by attending the Great River Grape Escape, which was held at Clat Adams Bicentennial Park on the scenic Quincy riverfront.  The event was a 2-day gathering of 12 Illinois wineries with live music, and we bought tickets for several tastings.  For each $1.00 ticket we got a one-ounce sample of wine, and we thought several of the dry wines were very good.  Who knew there are wine trails in Illinois?  Of course, we did not leave empty-handed!

Great River Grape Escape

Site of the Great River Grape Escape at Quincy, IL

We enjoyed five beautiful sunny days while staying at Driftwood Campground just up the road from the riverfront (Steve’s review here).  But unless you’re into design elements or architecture, it may be more of a good couple-day stop rather than for a prolonged stay.

 

Next up:  St Louis, Missouri



 

 

 

 

The Biltmore – America’s largest private house

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Biltmore HouseWhile in North Carolina last year we had two opportunities to visit Asheville and the Biltmore Estate, which several friends advised us to do.  But we never made it, due to the distances involved and other things we had planned.  Well, this year we were back in the area waiting to take care of Betsy’s scheduled annual maintenance, and we made sure to stay near Asheville. With the Biltmore Estate only 17 miles away we had no excuse to miss it this time!

Like many of you, we have visited several famous homes and gardens in the good old USA; presidential homes, plantation homes, historical homes and even a castle. So I wondered what could make the Biltmore so different? Size matters!

Biltmore Estates

The back yard of the Biltmore House – the Blue Ridge Mountains

Originally encompassing 125,000 acres, including a large chunk of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the estate owns “only” 40,000 acres today.  George Washington Vanderbilt was one of those very wealthy people (his money came through inheritance) who visited Asheville and never left.  Instead, he made a name for himself and left us all a legacy to marvel and gawk at.  The estate remains privately owned by his descendants, and with the home’s living space of 135,000 sq. ft. I’d hate to have to pay the power bill.  It is considered the largest privately owned home in America.

Loggia, Biltmore House

Taking a break on the loggia, as Steve listened to the audio narration

My outside photos could not capture the grandeur, luxury and charm of the estate’s centerpiece home, but the architectural details are very pronounced.

Biltmore House

Biltmore Estates

Check out these stats – the four-story French Renaissance manor’s interior covers 4 acres, and has a total of 250 rooms – 43 bathrooms (at a time when bathrooms were practically unheard of),  65 fireplaces, 3 kitchens, 34 bedrooms, a grand banquet hall and a library containing 10,000 volumes.  It took six years to build and it was completed in 1895.  Oh, I almost forgot about the indoor swimming pool with changing rooms, 2-lane bowling alley and the gym!  Some sections of the house were closed off, so we didn’t get to see all 250 rooms.  But we did notice that the inside is tastefully decorated – elegant but not really ostentatious.  We were definitely wowed!

Biltmore House

Biltmore EstatesEven if you’re not really into touring museums or massive homes of rich people, this is definitely a worthwhile stop if you’re in the Asheville, NC area.  For one thing, you can get some pretty good exercise by just walking around the estate.  After touring “the big house,” we walked around the main gardens, to the many specialty garden areas, to the pond and waterfalls, and back to the house again.  I wish we had taken our walking GPS to measure how many miles we covered that day!

Everything we experienced was included in one price – the house, gardens, trails and Antler Village – even the tastings of their many good wines.

Walled Garden, Biltmore House

Walled Garden, Biltmore House

I must say I was a little disappointed, because in terms of blooming flowers our timing was not perfect, as usual.  I missed the Tulips!  And we were a bit late for the explosion of spring colors.  Instead, the caretakers were just starting to plant summer blooms. Nevertheless, strolling around the acres of formal and informal gardens and lush landscape should not be missed, as it’s breathtaking on any nice day like the one we had.

Biltmore Gardens

Biltmore Gardens

Getting from the house to the Village Winery area was another story – it was definitely a drive and allowed us to get a feel for how truly massive this estate is.  How someone can own so much land, build and run such a huge home in the late 1890’s and manage the workers and infrastructure to keep it all running is beyond us.  But, we really did enjoy our day – thanks in equal parts to the beautiful weather and the fact that we were there during off-season and on a weekday.  This place can get very crowded, and we were seeing that by the time we left.

Biltmore Estates Forest

Miles of hiking trails in the forested areas

Antler Village, Biltmore

Antler Village

Although we may be considered by some as California wine snobs, we weren’t disappointed in the wines that we tasted at their large tasting bar.  We bought several bottles, but we must say we were surprised when the bartender told us that many of them were produced completely in California and are Biltmore wines in name only.  But of course the estate has a vineyard as well which produces mostly white wines.

I learned that George Washington Vanderbilt created the estate name by combining two words, “Bildt,” for the region in Holland where the Vanderbilt family originated, and “more,” an old English word meaning upland rolling hills.

Biltmore Estates

Upland rolling hills, and lots of them!

After our visit, Steve and I could not help comparing the Biltmore with the Hearst Castle in California.  Both are located in such beautiful settings, I guess those rich guys just have to decide if they want part of a mountain range or a section of a coastline.  Tough decisions! In terms of living space ranking, Hearst Castle ranks number 13 while the Biltmore House is number 1, hence the title, America’s largest private house.

While the Biltmore Estate is privately owned, the Hearst Castle is now managed by the California Department of Parks.  We found the Hearst Castle to be a bit over the top in its decor when we were there.  Coincidentally, Rommel of The Sophomore Slump recently visited the Enchanted Hill of Hearst Castle, and his narrative and photos about the castle convey its grandiosity very well.

 

Next Up:  Back to climbing mountains – the Blue Ridge Mountains!



 

Asheville, NC – Nature’s Health Spa

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Parks Fountain, Asheville

Parks Fountain, Asheville

Yep, that’s how Asheville was promoted in the late 1800’s, as a place of relief for tuberculosis patients.  It’s one of the things we learned about the city during our two-hour narrated trolley tour.

Asheville was a destination for health seekers, and it rose in prominence as a curative place for tuberculosis.  The city’s location – nestled in between the scenic Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains in Western North Carolina – has clean, pristine mountain air.  That fresh mountain air was considered optimal and a good place for those patients to recuperate.  Asheville’s population exploded as it became the place for boarding houses, luxury inns and resorts, and, well, sanitariums.  By 1930 there were no fewer than 25 sanitariums in the city with a total of 900 beds.  I guess even crazy people enjoyed the mountain air!

While tuberculosis has been brought under control, Asheville remains a health care center for people who require specialized medical care, and for others who just want to enjoy the fresh air.  We were not concerned in the least about contracting TB as we wandered around the downtown area.  We also learned that most of the sanitariums have been converted into apartment and condominium complexes.

Pack Square, Asheville

Park Square – Asheville’s prime gathering spot – and not a single TB patient in sight!

Among the many notable people who came to seek cures here were the ailing mother of George W. Vanderbilt, and Edwin Wiley Grove was also a patient.  These folks fell in love with Asheville, so much so that G.W. Vanderbilt had the Biltmore Estate constructed here (more on that fascinating place later), and E.W. Grove built the Grove Park Inn and the Grove Arcade.  Their influence can still be seen in the buildings today, restored and preserved as major tourist attractions.

Grove Arcade, Asheville

The Grove Arcade building was started as a 5-story building with a 14-story tower, but Mr. Grove died during construction and this is as far as it got.  It’s still a large structure covering an entire block.

Inside Grove Arcade, Asheville

Inside the Grove Arcade – very quiet on this weekend morning

One of the landmarks of Asheville is the 100-year-old historic Grove Park Inn.  Built using thousands of local stones reinforced with concrete and capped with a burnt-orange tiled roof, it was constructed in less than one year in 1913.  Since then and until today the inn has welcomed countless famous folks.

Grove Park Inn

Doesn’t it look like a big gingerbread house?

After the tour, we continued on our own and followed the Urban Trail.  This 1.7-mile-trail in the downtown area consists of thirty stations with bronze plaques and several sculptures. Each station illuminates a part of the very interesting history of the city’s development, and the various notable people who once lived here.

Strolling along the streets, we noticed the many styles of interesting architecture throughout the city, it’s incredible! In this walkable city we noted  remarkable collections of beautifully preserved buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s and below are just a few fine samples.

As we rounded one corner, we were struck by the beauty of the Basilica of St. Lawrence Catholic Church.  It was designed and built by architects Raphael Guastavino and Richard Sharp Smith, who also worked on the Biltmore Estate project.

Basilica of St Lawrence, Asheville

Basilica of St. Lawrence

Basilica St Lawrence, NC

Decorative frieze of St. Lawrence

I had a hard time  praying here as the inside is so architecturally beautiful that I ended just sitting and looking around. This Spanish Renaissance-style church supports the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America, with a clear span of 58 by 82 feet.

Basilica St Lawrence, Asheville

Center dome of the Basilica of St. Lawrence

Asheville is also a destination for art lovers.  Art galleries and studios abound, with artists, musicians and writers all inspired by the colorful downtown environment and the nearby mountains.

Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC

Curtain Call, Asheville

Mellow Mushroom

We had a yummy pizza for lunch here

Ashville’s additional bragging rights now include being named Beer City, USA.  If we had arrived a day earlier we could have sampled the latest handcrafted brews from 16 craft breweries during the Beer City Festival.  After being in the sun for several hours we needed to cool off, so we stopped at one of the popular local breweries.  It wasn’t exactly a tough decision, as we had noted several during our tour.  We ended up tasting at the Wicked Weed one day, and then at the Lexington Avenue Brewery the next time we were in town.

At the end of the day, the proof of Asheville being nature’s health spa is the fact that many people continue to be drawn to the magic of these mountains and the surrounding natural beauty.  For us, our Asheville stop showed us once again that each city we visit has its own unique charm and interesting people.

 

Next up:  The fascinating Biltmore Estate