Bed-and-breakfasts suit Asheville. A mountain town on the edge of the French Broad River with an eclectic mix of hip college students; burgeoning musicians, artists, and chefs; outdoor enthusiasts; and sophisticated retirees and vacationers—Asheville demands an alternative to average accommodations.Numerous B&Bs provide a personal, comfortable place to stay. Many inns break the spare-bedroom, doily-decorated stereotype. Younger couples on honeymoons and baby moons now seek out inns as often as middle-age travelers. And inns cater to their interests, including such amenities as breakfasts made with locally sourced ingredients, custom maps for jogging and hiking, evening cocktail hours, and free Wi-Fi.Three inns in walking distance of downtown Asheville, and from one another, offer interesting innkeepers, well-appointed rooms, and creative dishes. All three are warm and welcoming, but each has its own charm.
A couple sips coffee as they discuss the day’s plans. The Grove Park Inn and Craggy Gardens are among the choices. A dinner reservation at The Market Place is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. But first, breakfast.Christina and Jim Muth serve the first course at 9 a.m. The pineapple sticky bun is a twist on the hot milk cake Chris’ mother packed in her lunch when she was a child.“I’m an experimental cook,” Chris, 66, says. “I make stuff up here all the time.”The Muths own the Beaufort House Inn on North Liberty Street, about half a mile from downtown Asheville (www. beauforthouse.com). This is their eighth year as innkeepers of this 1894 pink Queen Anne Victorian with 11 guest rooms. The house sits on one and a half acres that Chris, an N.C. Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, has torn up and replanted and pruned and perfected piece by piece. A 250-year-old oak stands out front, shading the wide, wraparound porch. Her herb garden is in back, steps from the kitchen. Chris uses the delicate, fragrant leaves to garnish breakfast plates.She and Jim, 67, fell for this house about this time of year. They drove by while visiting their daughter, and the inn was trimmed in lights, blanketed in snow, and in need of new owners. They sold their house in Maryland on a Wednesday, drove down on Thursday, and started checking in guests on Friday. “Did we imagine this is what we’d be doing?” Chris says. “No, but this is the adventure.”
“Do you know of any realtors we can contact,” a guest from Florida asks Bill and Emily McIntosh. It’s common for people to visit Asheville and want to stay.The McIntoshes made the move from Boston about four and a half years ago. Both of them worked at Boston Children’s Hospital, Bill, 65, as a photographer and Emily, 62, as a medical illustrator.“We had a Queen Anne Victorian in Boston,” Bill says. “But we had to work so hard to afford it, we were never around to enjoy it.”When they found this 1897 Queen Anne in Asheville’s Montford district, five and a half blocks from downtown, they decided to try the innkeeper life. The house was already an inn when they purchased it, but they eliminated clutter, rearranged, and incorporated some of their own antiques into the space. They opened the refreshed inn as A Bed of Roses Bed & Breakfast in 2010. (www. abedofroses.com)“We wanted it to be comfortable,” Emily says.Before they ran an inn, the McIntoshes used to hold a New Year’s brunch for their entire neighborhood in Boston. And they would take a day off around Christmas and spend the entire day baking cookies.“We’ve been practicing for years,” Bill says. “Now we’re living what we practiced.”
At 5:30 in the evening, James Murray pours a glass of Biltmore sauvignon blanc for a guest, and his wife, Susan, sets down a platter of pimento-cheese-and-bacon bites and another filled with bell peppers topped with homemade hummus. The coffee table is full of hors d’oeuvres. Music plays softly. The Murrays, both 59, sit down and explain how they landed in Asheville.The story involves 27 years living in Paris, London, Hong Kong, and Singapore. When they returned to the United States, each wrote down five things he and she wanted in their next city. They researched on the Internet, traveled around, got to Asheville, and said, “This is it.” They now own and operate the Carolina Bed & Breakfast in the Montford district (about a block from A Bed of Roses). (www.carolinabb.com) Their international treasures accent the Arts and Crafts style rooms in the 1901 home. James plays the concierge role, sitting down with guests for half an hour to go over everything Asheville.“Welcome home,” James says from the front room as a couple returns and climbs the stairs to one of six guest rooms. “What’s fun about having a big, old house that’s empty?” The Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association offers the Asheville Inn-sider’s Holiday Package from November 19 through January 3. Guests of the 17 member inns receive a list of recommended local businesses for holiday shopping and discounts at those stores. The inns also present guests with homemade holiday cookies and a printed recipe. For more information, visit ashevillebba.com.