We arrived in Hilton Head on a beautiful cloudless Saturday in March. To be precise, it wasn’t really Hilton Head. It was a small town called Hardeeville, positioned perfectly between Hilton Head Island and the vibrant, historic city of Savannah, just 30 minutes away.
Our resort, Camp Lake Jasper, was delightful and our lake side spot, shown below, made up for the lack of activities offered at the resort.
Hilton Head was not on our radar as a place to live, so we did not contact a realtor prior to our arrival to show us around. We assumed it would be touristy (it wasn’t), crowded (it wasn’t) and expensive (it was). While we loved the area and it may have been beneficial to see a few places, I think it’s more of a vacation destination for us rather than a place to call home.
Our stay in the area was short; just one week, so we wasted no time. We grabbbed our bikes and headed to the ‘Island’ for a day of biking on the dedicated bike trails in Sea Pines, a beautiful enclave of upscale homes, many of which are steps to the beach.
Our ride eventually led us to the quaint waterfront area of Harbour Town, where we enjoyed a delicious brunch of pancakes and stuffed French toast at The Harbour Town Bakery & Cafe, listened to a wonderful, impromptu concert for a bit and browsed the interesting, albeit expensive, shops in the area.
The next day we headed to the romantic and ultra southern town of Beaufort, where we took a carriage ride and enjoyed learning about the history of the town and some of the gorgeous antebellum homes that dot the landscape.
Another day, back at the resort, we rented a canoe and paddled on the lake.
Although we were reluctant to leave beautiful Hilton Head, I must admit I was anxious to see Asheville. I’m a mountain girl at ❤️, and would love nothing more than to live in a home with sweeping mountain vistas. Actually, that’s not exactly true. If there could be some water in the mix, THEN I would love nothing more. Like this maybe?
(BTW, this mansion is from ‘The Night Manager’, an excellent series on Netflix. And the leading man, Tom Hiddleston, is some serious eye candy.)
Our resort in Asheville, ‘Mama Gerties’, was, not surprisingly, VERY hilly. In fact, when we left the resort Fisherman had to disconnect the tow bar on BAM so we wouldn’t risk damaging it backing up into the hill. But the payoff is beautiful views. I would imagine in the Fall it would be spectacular, but in March it’s just brown and boring.
We started our house search almost immediately upon our arrival in Asheville. The plan of attack was to see homes close to downtown Asheville the first day, then the Hendersonville area, a pretty town about 25 minutes south.
None of the homes near downtown appealed to us. For starters, they were in neighborhoods, not gated communities, which we prefer due to the activities that are often offered. That’s something that is important to us. And like any city worth its salt, prices are much higher the closer you are to the action, and we quickly realized we would have to seriously settle on the house in exchange for the convenience of the location. Not gonna happen.
So a couple of days later we went to Hendersonville. It happens to be the town where our realtor lives, so she knew the area well and spent the entire day with us. We had lunch at a traditional southern style restaurant, walked the downtown area and visited two communities.
I didn’t take any photos of the houses we visited, but here’s a few from the listings that were our favorites:
This house, located in a pretty community called Carriage Park, was nearly 3,000 sq feet. That’s more space than we need or want at this point, but its charm was hard to resist. The only thing that wasn’t hard to resist was the kitchen. I like to cook, and I like to bake. If you do too, you know how handy a large island can be, and the kitchen in this house lacked an island and overall seemed like an afterthought. For a house this size, I would expect more of a ‘cook’s kitchen’.
This next house stole my heart from the get go, but its charm quickly evaporated when we visited. The yard in the back is practically non-existent, and although it is around 1700 sq ft, which is just about perfect for our needs, the layout (and the kitchen), didnt work for us.
So while we liked Hendersonville, particularly the downtown area, we didn’t see anything that compelled us to pull the trigger and we weren’t convinced the communities were as active as we would like.
Next up was Connestee Falls, a gated community located in Brevard, about 40 minutes south of downtown Asheville. Connestee Falls reminded us of where we live now, but a bit nicer. The homes are all well maintained and each one is unique. There is a lovely clubhouse that overlooks a professional level golf course, a pool, four lakes, several planned activities (not the least of which is a very active pickleball group) and the charming town of Brevard is less than a 15 minute drive.
The community is quite large, and our realtor sent more than 43 listings. It took forever to sift through them, but I narrowed them down to a bakers dozen. The one thing that stood out was the varying prices. There’s truly something for almost every budget, starting with a small ’round’ home for $90,000 up to well over a million for custom homes on or near the water.
Here’s our takeaway on Connestee Falls: IF we choose to live there full time (we probably won’t), this would have been the house for us. At just under 1700 sq ft, the size was perfect, but more importantly, the floor plan was wonderful. Here’s what I like and don’t like about the house…
I prefer side or back loading garages, but this one wasn’t too bad as it doesn’t stick out and blends with the house.
Love this back porch and view of the lake, but once the trees fill in, the views will be obstructed.
Not my favorite kitchen, but workable. I’d have to do something about that chain from the fixture though. My eye keeps going to that and it would drive me crazy!
Love the ceilings, fireplace, wood floors, just about everything in this space.
Another view of this beautiful room that leads to the back porch.
This house was priced too high for us to consider it as a second home, and frankly this area of the country is too chilly in the winter to make it a destination for that time of year, so unless we moved to this area full time, this home is not in the running.
On the other hand, this next one definitely could be a part time summer home, if we lived in Venice and wanted to escape the summers. It was affordably priced, had a nice layout and a gorgeous garden!
There was so much more to the outside spaces than what you see here. The owners, who are elderly and are looking to live permanently in Florida, built a pretty gazebo at the end of the path on your left. It was truly a serene, inviting yard that I would LOVE to get my hands on. The inside needs some updating. Ok, a LOT of updating…remember those ubiquitous cream colored cabinets with oak trim from the 80’s? Yup. It has that. But I love a project!
Now let me show you a few highlights of Asheville. If you go, you HAVE to visit The Tobacco Barn! It’s a huge antique market that has just about anything and everything you could ever think of for your home.
We also visited The Basilica of Saint Lawrence, a national historic site located in downtown Asheville. Here are excerpts from the brochure:
“The term Basilica is a special designation given by the Holy Father to certain churches because of their antiquity, dignity, historical importance or significance as a place of worship. Presently. there are 56 Basilicas in the United States.”
“The building is remarkable, there are no beams of wood or steel in the entire structure. All walks, floors, ceilings and pillars are of tile or other similar materials. The roof is of tile with a copper coverings.”
Rafael Guastavino, an architect from Spain, came to Asheville in the mid-1880’s to work on the Biltmore House (more on that below). He liked the area so much that he bought land and built a house near Black Mountain, a community northeast of Asheville. In 1905 his design of this Basilica went into construction and was completed in 1909.
Guastavino’s patented building method can be viewed today in many structures such as Grant’s Tomb, the Great Hall at Ellis Island, Grand Central Station, Carnegie Hall, and the Chapel at West Point, among others.
We took a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway one day. Unfortunately it was cold and windy, but here’s one quick shot for you. Pretty much the entire drive afforded views like this!
Did you know North Carolina is known for its white squirrels? Excuse the blurriness, but this was taken with my phone while in a moving car and he didn’t exactly stay still for his close up. We were with our realtor and she was super excited that a white squirrel made himself visible to us. Apparently, they’re quite elusive.
Nothing like a vintage Woolworth counter for lunch, and of course I had a grill cheese and egg cream.
We couldn’t leave Asheville without a trip to Biltmore. It wasn’t the best time of year to enjoy the gardens, but they did have some pretty flowers in bloom.
They also have a quaint shop where you can buy all sorts of goodies, including this caboose for your yard for just a few grand :).
Biltmore is huge and a must see, but our take on it is it doesn’t quite have the ‘wow’ factor as the houses in Newport. The best time to go would be right about now, but I understand their Christmas decorations are wonderful! They also have fabulous bike trails that we would have liked to take advantage of, but it was too cold.
So here’s where we stand: we loved Asheville. It’s a fabulous city, perfect for artists or anyone who loves the arts and/or nature. The restaurants are AH-MAZ-ING (if you go, bring yoga pants. Just sayin’), the mountains are beautiful and there’s lots to do. But here’s an example of how a positive can also be a negative…the mountains are challenging. Connestee Falls, by far our favorite community, is VERY hilly with nothing but winding roads. It does snow in Asheville, although not much, but nevertheless we have heard from residents that at times the terrain can be challenging.
Next week we are visiting Wilmington, NC. If we love the area enough to pull the trigger, we would live there full time. If we don’t we will most likely buy something small in Venice, Florida and do 6/6. Perhaps someday in the future we would then sell our cabin and spend the summers in the Asheville area, most likely Connestee Falls. I’ll just need to keep up with my pickleball, sprained ankle be damned.
So here’s my pros and cons…
Very pretty, upscale feel
Near the beach
Located within driving distance to Savannah and Beaufort
Not much to do at night. Looks like they roll up the sidewalks by 9
The communities were very ‘cookie cutter’
It just ‘felt’ like more of a vacation place, rather than a permanent place to call home
Artsy City with lots of opportunities for taking classes at UNCA
Great restaurant scene
Mountains can be tough to navigate, especially if you want to bike, which we do
Home prices near the city are high
A long way to a major airport
I noticed food prices are higher here than almost anywhere else we’ve been to, including NY
Winters can be chilly and windy
In other news…
It’s a dreary, rainy day today. I spent some time making a cake, then attempting to learn how to knit. I’m pathetic at it, and I think I’ll stick to what I know for now and leave the knitting to the experts.
So here’s my retro ice bowl I mentioned last week. It was super easy to do, but Martha was waaayyyy off in her instructions. I figured it out by googling instead. Making you hungry much?
Fortunately, it didn’t totally melt, so we put it back in the freezer for yet another use.
I have some photos of our drive home through the Shenandoah Valley, which is a beautiful, bucolic area! I think I took more photos of that while sitting in the passenger seat than our entire trip combined! I will *try* to post them next weekend and also give you an update, but if not, shortly after returning.