Kiss and Don't Tell

by Melanie McGee Bianchi . photo by Stewart O’Shields

The Fonz had Inspiration Point. Fats had Blueberry Hill. And when Popeye and Olive Oyl floated down Lovers’ Lane, they uncorked an iconic place name to be co-opted into infinity. (Google it and you’ll find everything from Midwestern sex shops to Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas.) So how about WNC’s Makeout Mountain? Perhaps area teenagers have a secret peak they’re not sharing. No matter. On condition of anonymity, we convinced plenty of local grown-ups to share their favorites.

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Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 10:47PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References14 References

Duck Into a Speakeasy

by Mick Kelly . photo by Stewart O’Shields

Walking through the doors of the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Biltmore Village is like walking into some sort of rustic, elegant European hunting lodge. Pretty much everything about the hotel says "intimate." There are soft lights behind the hotel’s intricate stone columns, antler chandeliers and carved-wood pillars. There’s a sexy red glow in the Red Stag Grill’s bar and private back dining room. For a night of serious girl talk over decadent desserts, try the Red Stag Velvet Cake or Black Forest Lava Cake (both $7). Ask Keith or Sam at the bar to make you a Carolina Cosmopolitan ($10.50) or a Puffin Martini with watermelon vodka ($8.50). If you can splurge, the Girlfriends’ Getaway package, including cocktails and spa treatments, starts at around $500 a night. 828-505-2949 or .

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Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 10:45PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

Find Your Om Away from Om

by Maggie Cramer

Yes, there’s the hustle and bustle of funky Lexington Avenue above, but in a basement space of the WriteMind Institute for Corporate Contemplation in downtown Asheville, you can escape for a few hours before work or during lunch. Most days, you should call to make a reservation to use WriteMind’s downstairs, which feels like a peaceful dungeon. But not on Mondays, when $15 will get you into the "mindful Monday morning" routine. Start with 6am meditation with institute founder Jonathon Flaum, then yoga class with Joyce Thornburg, followed by oatmeal, tea and a book discussion. 828-253-1733 or

Great Tree Zen Temple, a Soto Zen temple for women, sits on a hill just outside Weaverville. While Great Tree’s purpose is to offer an environment conducive to a "uniquely feminine expression of spiritual practice," anyone can meditate there—and take in the spectacular mountain views. 828-645-2085 or

The Southern Dharma Retreat Center is about an hour northwest of Asheville, but the 15-acre property, within a 135-acre preserve near the Pisgah National Forest, truly has an "off-the-map" feeling. Retreats run from two to seven nights and range from lessons in Soto Zen to American Zen to Won Buddhism and Sufi dancing.

Embracing Simplicity Hermitage is a Buddhist monastery near Hendersonville. Need we say more? If you’re looking for peace and an unusual place to meditate in the woods, check out its walking paths, lush plants and rambling stream. 828-338-2665 or

Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 10:33PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Sneak Off to the Spa

by Mick Kelley  .  photo by Matt Rose

Sparrow may be WNC’s greenest spa yet. Jen Charlton, who owns Asheville’s two Sensibilities spas, took a leap last fall and opened a third spa, Sparrow, in the new LEED-certified Hilton Hotel in Biltmore Park. The water in the spa—in fact, all water in the hotel—is heated by a huge solar panel installation on top of the building. At Sparrow, which uses organic skin care products, you can get a hot-stone massage, a thermal mud wrap or a manicure treatment with avocado and wild-crafted ginger. 828-209-2772 or

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Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 10:31PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment


by Jess McCuan

You’re never too old for anything. Not even a walk to the North Pole. When she was 48, Helen Thayer was standing atop a 25,000-foot summit in Tajikistan, thinking she wanted to do more. The former medical lab technician, who lives outside Seattle, packed a 160-pound sled and walked 345 miles to the North Pole. At age 50, she became the first woman to make the trip alone. Then she set off across the Gobi and Sahara deserts, down the Amazon, across Antarctica and back to her native New Zealand.

When VERVE caught up with her, she had just returned from Africa, where she and her husband Bill spent a month living with Tanzanian bushmen. "I’m still finding out what my own name is," she joked, feeling jet-lagged as she readjusted to the 11-hour time difference. She’ll speak at Asheville’s Diana Wortham Theatre on May 13 and will sign books at Mast General stores in May.

Do you and Bill run out of things to talk about walking 2,400 miles across the Sahara? We’re two recycled teenagers. We just have that chemistry. We don’t have to talk. There are times when we talk, talk, talk. When things have to be done, they get done. We do very well together. We never take anybody else, and I suppose we never will.

Why? No one would want to put up with us. We’ve been known to walk 15 to 18 hours a day. We don’t have a base camp, and we don’t have managers or public relations firms… I’m 72, Bill’s 83. We’re as fit as when we were 25.

Any bits of wisdom to share from other cultures? We in the Western world could learn to put that cell phone down, put away the iPod. We need to look around ourselves and see nature as it truly is. Instead of something going on in your ears, brought in artificially, stop and look at the wind on the trees. What are the clouds like today? It costs nothing to observe. Especially young people, who are constantly texting. It’s sad to see that. These tribes—the bushmen wouldn’t know a cell phone if they saw one. They’re doing remarkably well without them.

Helen Thayer speaks at Asheville’s Diana Wortham Theatre on May 13. For more details about her May appearances, visit  Proceeds from all events go to Manna FoodBank.

Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 10:28PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment