The next morning, after I recover from the side effects of a late night habanero burger, we make our way to City Park for “Art in the Park.” We expect a simple craft show, but are instead treated to a park filled with incredible wares from local artisans. Art in the Park has been around since the early 1960’s and was started by area artists who wanted to showcase local talent. The event now hosts about 90 artists at each monthly show and you can find jewelry, pottery, paintings, glassworks, or photography.
After a run through the colorful booths, we set about making our way through the historic downtown shops. The smells from Kilwin’s candy shoppe are maddening, filling the air with a sweet cloud of fudge, baking waffle cones, and caramel. There are bags of apples and iced tubs of cider for sale on the sidewalk and antique stores are spilling colorful wares out of their wooden doorways.
My favorite shop, however, has to be Tazmaraz on Main Street. Although it’s only been in town for a little over a year, Tazmaraz has made its mark as a creative and eclectic women’s boutique filled with bits and baubles that would appeal to any age.
When my husband finally drags me out When I realize it is time for our brunch reservation, we leave Tazmaraz and walk a short distance down Main Street until we see the Village Café sign and a long alley stretching back into a hidden garden.
In an instant, I am transported. I am no longer on Main Street in Blowing Rock, NC. I am in a courtyard garden filled with flowers and two turn-of-the-century white cottages set under towering maple trees climbing with ivy. We are greeted warmly by Annie Whatley, the owner of the Village Café and are quickly seated on the porch of a tiny cottage with a black and white sign that says, “The Nook.”
Within minutes, a refreshing melon cocktail is set on the crisp white tablecloth by one of the smartly dressed staff. After hearing the specials, I settled on a cup of the tomato bisque with smoked gouda and the pan sautéed trout sandwich with house made potato salad. My husband chooses to dive head first into a plate of Belgian waffles.
The soup is delicious and is served with grilled wedges of their delicious bread. The trout comes on lightly buttered and grilled fugasa bread with lettuce, tomato and aioli. It is perfectly sautéed and has that wonderful, fresh and clean flavor that only trout can have. The potato salad is divine, made with rustic pieces of skin left on, just the way I like it. Despite my own mountain of food, I can’t stop myself from stabbing my fork into the thick buttery waffles, rich with chopped pecans and maple syrup.
This eat-fest is shamelessly followed by dessert. With offerings like key lime graham gelato and triple chocolate cake, how can I refuse? My choice is the almond macaroon sundae. He has the rice pudding. The rice pudding is lovely, but since I have a policy against desserts that contain primary ingredients more commonly found in side dishes, I stick to my sundae. Three delicate little macaroons surround a mound of vanilla ice cream. The cookies are perfectly crisp on the outside and delightfully chewy in the center. All of it rests on a bed of melted chocolate surrounded by scoops of freshly whipped cream.
It’s almost time to leave Blowing Rock to head to our next destination, but before we do, I have to visit the Blowing Rock. Yes, there actually is a blowing rock.
Legend says that the unusual winds that cause snow to fall upside down came when a Cherokee brave, who had fallen in love with the daughter of a Chickasaw chieftan, leapt from the rock into the wilderness below, only to be blown back up and into her arms. The less romantic explanation is that the Rock, an immense cliff 4000 feet above sea level, overhangs Johns River Gorge, some 3000 feet below. The phenomenon of the upward wind is created when the rocky walls of the gorge form a flume through which the northwest wind sweeps with such force that it blows light objects upward when they are cast over the edge.
For a modest $4, we are treated to the phenomenon of the Blowing Rock and amazing views of the surrounding mountains.
As our high country adventure continues, we make our way to the Blue Ridge Parkway and head south. We are headed to Brown Mountain Beach Resort and have decided to take the longer “scenic route.”
What my iPhone map does not tell us, however, is that a good 50% of that route is on an impossibly curvy, remote dirt road that twists its way through the Pisgah National Forest. The road is narrow and has no other access roads or turnarounds, so once we find ourselves on it….we are ON IT. We can only drive about 20 mph as we crawl our way through the lush green mountains. It is quietly beautiful and I reflect on the stillness of the deep woods as we drive along. I can only imagine what it must look like in the fall, when the colors of the leaves erupt into a sea of red and yellow.
My reverie is broken as my husband quietly says, “I’ll stay on this road until we see a guy on a porch with a banjo. Then I’m turning around.”
We joke, but in truth we know that this is a special place and that it is a privilege to be able to enjoy the peace and serenity this place offers to us on outstretched limbs
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