My Kind of Paradise

People of the world, if you have not visited Asheville, North Carolina…you are seriously missing out. It’s truly a “hidden” gem nestled in the North Carolina mountains. I’ve been a lifelong lover of the mountains. After all, I did choose to attend a university located in the mountains. But having grown up so close to Charlotte, I’m accustomed to the hustle and bustle that one would typically find in a larger city. I don’t live in Charlotte technically, but close enough that I just tell people I’m from the “Charlotte area” since odds are, they’ve never heard of my little town just a couple miles away.

Asheville is a perfect mix of these two worlds that I love. It’s a mountain town, with picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains no matter where you’re looking. But it also has a thriving downtown city life with a crazy assortment of unique restaurants, bars, and shops to explore. The historic Biltmore Estate is located just outside of the area and the Blue Ridge Parkway is nearby for countless scenic overlooks and hiking opportunities.

So, now that you know why I love Asheville, I’ll share with you how I spent my weekend in, you guessed it…Asheville.

I bet that totally caught you by surprise, huh.

Over the weekend, I headed up to Asheville for the weekend with two of my closest friends from college. We’re all teachers and we all live/work very spread out from each other so it was nice to come together to hang out in such a fun city. A few highlights:

Friday night: Roamed the streets of downtown Asheville for a bit and came across an AMAZING street musician that was utilizing an electric violin and a looper pedal (View my short Instragram video HERE). Also took in the sights and sounds of Pritchard Park on a Friday evening, which consists of a huge crowd of Asheville’s finest (hippies) at the weekly Friday night drum circle. Walked down to Mellow Mushroom where I ate my weight in a Buffalo Chicken Pizza. Nom.

Saturday: Drove to the Cherokee Indian Reservation to explore for a bit. Only about 50 minutes to an hour away from Asheville. (P.S there’s a theme park just outside of Cherokee called Santa’s Land and yes, it’s just as ridiculous as it sounds). Visited Harrah’s Cherokee Casino where I tried and failed at gambling. I did turn $5 into $16 but I decided to quit while I was ahead. Came back to the hotel and ended up napping for almost an hour. Went to dinner at The Southern Kitchen and Bar which was good, but honestly nothing to write home about. After dinner, we walked down to Off the Wagon Dueling Pianos Bar, which was so much fun!

Sunday: You cannot go to Asheville and NOT pay a visit to Tupelo Honey Cafe. I’ve always hear how amazing it is, so we went and MAN OH MAN was it amazing. I got the fried chicken and biscuits and it was absolutely delicious!

Fun fact: There’s a Charlotte location so you better believe I’ll be frequenting that location very soon. After brunch, we headed to the parkway to try and channel Katniss Everdeen. That kind of failed but we got to see some gorgeous views and drive through TUNNELS.

TUNNELS

Low Country Shenanigans- YALLFest 2013

It’s been a trip in the works since May when Veronica Roth was announced as the keynote speaker but finally the time arrived for me to head down to Charleston, SC for YALLFest 2013. YALLFest in a Young Adult Book Festival created by bestselling authors Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, and Melissa de la Cruz. This year’s festival included 50 fantastic authors with New York Times Bestselling Authors Veronica Roth and Rae Carson as the keynote speakers. I attended with my friends Sarah and Jenna who I have known for over three years but had yet to meet in person until now.

L TO R: Myself, Sarah, and Jenna

The day began early at 6:45am as we stood in line to receive our wristbands for Veronica Roth’s signing line. They were only giving out 500 and we needed to get lower wristband numbers so we wouldn’t miss out on Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs’ Coffee Talk session. We love them. Luckily, we were issued wristbands below #50 so we were able to head straight up to the signing line after the keynote speech was over.

Meeting Veronica Roth was actually very cool for me. Although I’m still a little perturbed with Allegiant‘s ending, I really am a big fan of her series. Having created my fansite Divergent Nation (now merged with Divergent Lexicon as of Oct ’12) in June 2011, I’ve been a part of the Divergent fandom almost since its inception and yet I had never met Veronica Roth! She told me loved my site (and my shirt!) and said she was bummed that she was not able to make it to the Divergent set in May when I, along with many other fansite reps, descended on Chicago. Success!

Getting my book signing by Veronica Roth!

Following Veronica’s signing, we headed around the corner to Coffee Talk with Ransom Riggs and Tahereh Mafi. Both are New York Times Bestselling Authors and happened to married to each other. If you follow them on Twitter, you know they are hysterical. Let me just tell you that they are SO entertaining in person!
Watching these two talk and hearing their crazy stories makes me seriously want them to get their own reality show. Immediately after the panel, we followed them down the road again for Tahereh’s signing. Her line was huge but I finally got to introduce myself to her since I also run a Shatter Me fanpage which she happens to follow on Twitter. They are both super sweet to talk to! (Fun Fact: When Jenna was going through security at Charleston International to go home, she went through with Tahereh and Ransom!)

Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs

From there we had lunch and were planning to go to Ransom’s signing but he contracted food poisoning 🙁 We called it a day on YALLFest and we back to the hotel to rest before doing more sightseeing.

I honestly can gush enough about this trip! YALLFest was fantastic and Charleston has to be the prettiest and classiest city around. We’ll definitely be going back next year!

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