Recently read: ‘Serena’

Serena, by Ron Rash, is a book I didn’t want to put down, and now that it’s finished, I keep thinking about it. There’s plenty of murder, violence and greed, but the story is much more than that. There are so many parallels and intricacies in the plot that aren’t immediately apparent, and that’s what I truly enjoyed most about this novel. There’s a lot in the book for you to stew over long after it’s finished. When it comes to historical fiction based in the North Carolina mountains, this is right up there with Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.

Serena by Ron Rash

George and Serena Pemberton are the timber industry’s ruthless power couple. Driven by Serena’s cold-hearted determination to clear cut every tract of land in the mountains before moving on to Brazil, they cut down anyone standing in their way. When she suspects her husband of protecting the mother of his illegitimate child, things inevitably go bad. While Serena is a horrible person and, how do I put this delicately, a bitch, I couldn’t help admiring her for completely going against any gender norms of the early 1930s in rural western North Carolina. She does what she wants and doesn’t give a shit about what anyone else thinks.

I bought this book during my trip to Asheville at Malaprop’s Bookstore. Asheville and Malaprop’s are both awesome.

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An urban mountain retreat in Asheville

I can’t believe it took me so long to visit Asheville, North Carolina. I’ve been around other parts of the state’s mountains – Boone, Grandfather Mountain, the Blue Ridge Parkway, secluded forest cabins, comfy bed and breakfasts – but for some reason I only just got to Asheville.

Asheville

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains next to the French Broad River, Asheville was easy to get to from Raleigh but felt a world away. It was no problem walking or driving around downtown, which is pretty small. My husband and I stayed in a wonderful bed and breakfast on the outskirts and walked into town, which is full of great restaurants, art galleries, shops and breweries.

AshevilleOne of the main attractions near Asheville is the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned house in the United States (it’s more like a palace). Tickets are expensive but worth it – we spent the whole day touring the house, wandering the gardens, and eating at the restaurant housed in the former stables. The Christmas decorations and massive Christmas tree had just been put up, so the house was even more impressive than usual. One of my favorite rooms was the indoor pool, a truly lavish addition to a house built more than 100 years ago.

Biltmore Estate, AshevilleI’m a little late getting this post up. We went to Asheville in November, and since then I’ve had a job change, been sick more than I’ve been healthy and dealt with the holiday hassle. Better late than never, I suppose.

Asheville was fun and a perfect weekend getaway for us. We had a relaxing few days of eating, drinking and exploring the city while taking in the beautiful scenery. I’ll be back!

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Travel plans: Asheville, NC

Next month my husband and I are heading to the mountains of North Carolina for a “belated double birthday getaway celebration weekend.” It’ll be good to get away for a few days and relax!

You're never far away from a hike or a scenic waterfall in the North Carolina mountains.

You’re never far away from a hike or a scenic waterfall in the North Carolina mountains.

During our Saturday-Monday stay, I’m hoping to:

  • Check out the Biltmore Estate, the country’s largest private home. Originally built for the Vanderbilt family starting in 1889, it’s still owned by one of the Vanderbilt’s descendants. We’ll be getting there just in time to see the estate all decorated for Christmas! Tickets are expensive, so we will be booking an advance.
  • One thing Asheville has certainly earned a reputation for is beer. We’re going to visit one of our favorite breweries there, Highland Brewing Company, and have a few pints in their tasting room. Hopefully we’ll be able to squeeze in a tour as well.
  • Another perfectly-timed accident, we’ll be in Asheville the same weekend as the River Arts District Studio Stroll. I’m thinking this will be a good activity the day we arrive – strolling around, looking at local art is a good way to stretch out after a four hour car ride.
  • A friend recommended I visit Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. It’s a book store that also serves wine and champagne! AND they specialize in books about North Carolina and the American South. My husband will just have to bear with me, because I need to see this place.
  • Hopefully we will have good weather, but if it’s cold and rainy, the Asheville Pinball Museum seems like a fun option. For $10 you get all-you-can-play pinball on over 35 machines. Some of them date back to the 1940s!
  • Asheville is a great city to eat in so I’m hoping to splurge on a nice meal somewhere in the city.