Day 21: On the corner of sunshine and yumminess.

it was a beautiful early autumn day and i could feel the pull of downtown. i had nothing at all planned. no idea where i’d get my coffee from, but it needed to be downtown. i don’t know why. so, i parked my car and started walking the streets. i just felt good. you know, one of those days when you feel really alive. the sun was warm and shining. the sky was bright blue. the moon still hung in the sky, fading away as the bright day took over. and the leaves were just beginning to get that hint of color on the tips on some trees. everything just felt good. and i walked.

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before i knew it, i was right in the middle of downtown. pack square, to be exact. very close to where i was on day 12. i thought to myself that this felt right, and i remembered that there was another little coffee shop on pack square, so i decided to give it a visit.

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bomba is right on the main corner of pack square, just under the vance monument, and in the middle of everything. like, for real.  it’s not really big, but it’s noticeable, with it’s bright red door and complete glass walls. it’s nestled among quite a few other restaurants and cafes, most of them fairly fancy & nice, i think. at least the ones on the biltmore avenue side. but, on the patton avenue side, headed down the street, there are more restaurants, but seemingly a little more regular folk. i could be wrong with my preconceived ideas… i haven’t actually eaten at many of the restaurants or cafes. it’s a highly tourist-filled corner.IMG_4248

as i stood across the street, i felt that bomba was inviting me in to order a cup of coffee, and that it would be a perfect day to sit out in their little seating area and watch the world go by. so, i crossed the street.

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bomba sells coffee, sandwiches, pastries & other goodies, and beer & wine too. it’s got a little bar and some seats by the window, but the outdoor area looks the best to me.  it’s meant to be a place to come and grab a little drink or a snack, not to sit and linger. however, the owner has other restaurants in the area, including salsa’s – a great mexican/caribbean restaurant just next to the coffee shop.

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i went in and ordered a little mocha. without even asking, i got it in a paper (recyclable, of course!) cup. the barista who made my coffee noticed my camera and asked me if i was a photographer. i’ve been asked that quite a bunch from people, i think i’m gonna start saying that i am – or at least that i am a writer, taking my own photos. something like that. i mean, i’m no tourist. anyway, we started talking some about cameras and i gave him a few tips. he was a sweet, young guy.IMG_4249

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i took my little mocha and headed outside. i had a new book with me, thinking i could sit back and read, but i couldn’t seem to settle down. there were just too many people to watch. and too much traffic. and i mean that in a good, entertaining kind of way. i do believe that i accomplished what one should accomplish while hanging out at bomb… good coffee, on the go.

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before long, i gave up sitting there all by myself, watching people. i felt like i should be on my way… like this wasn’t the place the hunker down for the entire morning. so, since the weather was lovely and perfect, i tucked my book away, grabbed my to go cup, and headed off for a little wander through some of the parks downtown. just, nice & lazy.

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if you’re on the go, or just want to have a little break, then this cute coffee shop on the corner of biltmore and patton is just what you need. grab some java. drink a beer or a glass of wine. snack on a tiny bite of food. sit in the sun, or lean on the bar inside if it’s raining, if you need a little break. you’ll find just the respite you need to help you get moving again. and while you’re there, keep your eyes peeled, because i promise you’ll see lots of the fun, funky, weird, amazing people who make asheville the eclectic city that it is. entertainment and good coffee. perfect.

DSC_0261namaste. /liz

bomba . 1 pack square . asheville, nc . 28801 . http://bombanc.com

 

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Day 20: Halfway!

i can’t believe it! i am halfway done with my 40 days of fika project! on the one hand, it seems as if it has flown by. on the other, it feels like an eternity since that first visit to waking life. wow. and you know what? it’s a little hard to try to put into words all that i have experienced and learned. i’m not sure if i can really even try. i feel like i need to wait until the entire 40 days is complete before i try to process what this project has meant to me.

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i must admit, it has become a little bit harder to keep going. but, that’s how pilgrimages and journeys are. it is so typical to begin with a burst of energy and excitement. eventually, that wears off and it becomes a bit mundane and really difficult to keep the pace going. but, then, there is always a resurgence of new energy, usually even on a whole new level. i’m waiting for that to kick back in. hehe.

for my 20th fika day, it just so happened that it coincided with my birthday, so i didn’t do my usual fika visit. instead, i thought it’d be good for me to pause and reflect quietly. to take a moment to mark the halfway point of this journey with a little ritual. so, i am drinking coffee from my sofa at home as i write this. i want to share with y’all the top four things that i’ve learned and the top four moments i’ve had. so, here we go…

top four things i’ve learned having fika:

1. comfort zones are meant for leaving.

get out! try something new. challenge yourself. just freaking do it. i promise you will come to realize that you are capable of way more than you imagined. for me, it has been about talking with people, meeting strangers, and engaging in conversations that inspire and uplift me.

2. explore the little hidden place that catches your eye.

go ahead. just look around and see what’s near you, and then go for it. go into that little door, or behind that tree. drive down that road you’ve never been to before. of course, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t put yourself in danger. at the same time, take a different way home. or just set aside some time to walk or ride in a new area of town. and keep your eyes peeled. who knows what kind of beauty you will find, or what amazing person you will meet. you never know when you may discover some little hidden cafe, pub, vintage shop, or secret garden that becomes your special place.

3. one can have too much coffee.

and i think i am becoming that person. for. real. i never thought it’d be possible to have too much coffee, but my limit has almost been reached. the thing is, i drink coffee at home in the mornings and sometimes later in the afternoon. and all of that is in addition to the coffee that i drink during my fikas. so, for the last 20 days, i’m only going to drink coffee during my fika project. no more coffee in the mornings at home. it’s only gonna be juice and water, baby. perhaps a tea every now and then. i think it’ll make me feel better physically. i’ll keep you posted.

i can’t believe i  have a coffee limit.

4. community is the key.

the coffeehouses and cafes that have a special connection with the community are the ones that stand out in my memory. it may be that it is a place that works directly with the community or a place that has a great community vibe. but, just a hip, cool, warehouse-y cafe does not do it for me. i mean, it has it’s place, and it’s fun to visit, and i loooove the design of those places. but, so far, the places that evoke humanity and love for community – local or global – tug extra hard at my heartstrings.

on a similar community note, i am totally one of those people who loves to have a working fika, complete with my laptop, journal, and pens by my side as i sip my coffee. but, you know what i crave? companionship. 20 days of coffeehouse visits by one’s self can take a toll. i yearn to have someone sitting with me, to chat with and just shoot the breeze. i yearn for my love and i to silently sip coffee together. it’s not that i do not welcome anyone to have fika with me, it just hasn’t happened that anyone has been able to join me during the times that i am visiting cafes & coffeehouses. so, my goal for the last 20 days is to try to incorporate more mutual fika times with people. not every day, though, because it’s still important for me to be able to do much of this on my own and meet people.

however, i’m starting my new goal of meeting friends for fika… yes, next week i am going to meet the cool chick who is the designer and creator of the asheville blog, where this fika project is being posted daily. yay!

now, for the top four moments. that is a tough one. i do not claim to have a favorite yet. nor, do i expect for a favorite to arise at the end of the 40 days. truly each and every place has been unique and amazing. i’m sure i’ll have a few favorite recommendations, but you have to be responsible for finding your own fika place, based on what you plan to do and what kind of mood you’re in. i, for one, have a different mood every day, so i am most definitely a coffeehouse hopper. however, there are a few that have left a special place in my heart so far… these are not my favorites and they are not not my favorites. they are places that have touched me in some way. here ya go…

my top four moments:

1. most fun: Double D’s and the hippie vibe.

2. most like home: Panacea – the place where all is cured.

3. most touching: Firestorm – where everyone belongs.

4. most spiritual: Dobra Tea Room is my new sanctuary.

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one more thing, i just want to say thank you, to each one of you my readers and followers, for keeping up with this little project of mine. you all are a very important part of my fika community. and i receive so much inspiration and support from your feedback. i am amazed and humbled that you would even take the tiny-est interest in following this silly, fun, crazy little journey of mine. i wish i could meet each and everyone of you for fika one day to celebrate!

peace and love to you all. namaste. /liz

Day 19: Sunning in the city.

It was a totally last minute decision to head to Charlotte Street and visit the City Bakery Cafe. It’s a fairly popular place for people who live in Asheville, at least I think it is. Though I am not sure where I am getting that information from. In any case, it was another beautiful day and I was just dying to be outside. For some reason, this cafe popped into my mind and I headed to Charlotte Street, hoping they had outdoor seating.

You know, I can never get enough of the urban architecture in Asheville. There are so many brick warehouses, art deco spaces, arts & crafts cottages & bungalows… and Asheville businesses and individuals are really into repurposing, reusing, and redecorating. i mean, just look at this building where the City Bakery Cafe is located… above the first floor, where the bakery is, are a few apartments. i can just imagine all of the character and amazingness up there…

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jackpot. there is a small outdoor seating area. it’s a busy road, but, who cares. i was ready for a little cup of coffee – and perhaps a bite to eat. hehe. time to go in…

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city bakery cafe actually has two locations in asheville, one in the middle of downtown, and this one… just north of downtown on charlotte street. as most of the coffeehouses and cafes in the area, they work with other local businesses to create organic, local, and fresh coffee, pastires, sandwiches, and breads. oh, the breads… the cafe bakes fresh breads daily… it smells heavenly, as you can imagine.

the inside of the cafe surprised me (surprising, huh?). for some reason, i pictured it as a more pick up and go kinda place. but, there were people coming in and out constantly, people working on their computers, people chatting with each other. i immediately spotted an amazing red chair by the window that i wanted to snag and soak up the sun streaming in the window. but… i promised myself to go and sit outside. so, after order coffee and a fluffy, american biscuit, i went to find a little space in the sun.

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as you can see, downtown is there in the distance. so, it’s not that far away from the action. actually, charlotte street is quite a coveted neighborhood area, with tons of those bungalows and cottages and arts & crafts style homes. some have been converted into apartments. some are single family homes. but, it is one of the places to be… albeit a little on the expensive side.

i sat at one of the wrought iron tables and watched the traffic moving past, both people traffic and driving traffic. by the way, there were people darting in and out of the cafe the entire time, picking up a cup of coffee to go or fresh baked bread. well, i sipped my coffee and just sat there… watching people and enjoying the amazingly warm indian summer day. i just love the bright blue skies of autumn around here.

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after a while, i decided to cross the street, so i could get a little photo of the front of the cafe. i scrambled across, in between all the traffic, balancing my keys, my coffee, my camera, and my trash. i caught my breath and  snapped a few photos before realizing that i needed to go soon. si i risked my life again, crossed the street and entered the cafe one more time to throw my trash away.DSC_0219

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and , man i am so glad that i went back it. as i threw away my trash, a newspaper caught my eye. my eyes immediately fell on my horoscope, which lay there wide ope, right in front of me. i picked up the paper, sat down in that empty red chair in the sun, and soaked up the amazing words before me. it was such a great message. i’m not usually a horoscope kinda girl, but i do believe that when we are open, there are little messages and signs all around us. it’s actually more about just being aware. here’s what it said:

“the most important thing is to find out what the most important thing is” wrote shunryu suzuki in his book zen mind, beginner’s mind. that’s your assignment for the next three weeks. do whatever it takes to find our beyond any doubt what the most important thing is. meditate naked an hour a day. go on long walks in the wildest places you know. convene intense conversations about yourself with the people who know you best. create and sign a contract with yourself in which you vow to identify the experience you want more than any other experience on earth. no waffling allowed, libra. what is the single most important thing?

i looked up from the newspaper, feeling inspired. directly above me was this piece of art work. a sort of mosaic of the asheville area… the small vertical pieces in the middle symbolizing the downtown area, and the rest of the symbolizing the natural area surrounding the city. i thought it was magical. and i must, say, that it moved me. so, feeling completely connected and grounded and inspired by all that i had seen, felt, tasted, and read, i was quite ready for… well, anything.

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isn’t it amazing what a little fika time can do?

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namaste. /liz

city bakery cafe . 88 charlotte street . asheville, nc . 28801 .  www.citybakery.net

Day 18: I just had to listen to the Beatles as I wrote this.

there is a cafe that i have seen many, many times, yet have never gone “in”.  or rather, “to” it. but, the sun was shining, the air was warm, and i had just enough time, so i decided that this would be the day!

western north carolina people, did you know that there was a real, live double decker bus from england in the middle of asheville’s downtown? and, better yet, did you know that it has been converted into a cafe?! for. real. admittedly, i went for years seeing this big, red bus on the corner of biltmore avenue and ashton street simply thinking it was another piece of art, a decoration, if you will. and it is just that. but, it is oh so much more!

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if you take the time to slow down and look as you pass by on the sidewalk, you will notice that this bus is a working cafe. now, whoever had this idea was freaking brilliant. i mean, who doesn’t think that a double decker bus is fun?! kids love it. grown ups love it. it’s just a big ole red bunch of eclectic fun! and to realize that you get to go inside this bus, tucked away under some trees and yet in the smack middle of downtown, to order coffee, well, that just makes it all the more amazing. but, it’s not just the bus, it’s a courtyard patio as well. little concrete tables and bright, red umbrellas to match the bus are available for outdoor seating. i’d had enough of just ooo-ing and ahhh-ing this place from the outside, it was time to board that bus!

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oh my gosh. kill me now. i’m in love…. my thoughts exactly as i entered the bus all decked out with a coffee bar from the middle to the back. the front half was a counter for preparing your coffee & waiting in line. there were posters, ads, and other funky decorations making me feel right at home. after i finally shut the fold-in bus doors, the barista greeted me with a smile. i was so excited i just had to exclaim that this was my first time inside and admit to the sweet barista (who must have thought i was a weirdo) that i was pretty freaking excited. i looked at the plethora of coffee yummies and desserts on the menu and decided to go for a pumpkin spice latte, the flavor of the season. yes, i was splurging and mixing it up, instead of simply going for regular coffee. i wanted to celebrate. just because. y’all do that, don’t you?

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i entertained myself as she prepared my coffee by snapping photos, thoroughly enjoying myself. when i got my latte in its recycled paper take-away cup, i headed upstairs to the second level to check it out. holy 60s flashback love! i felt as if i was plopped into the middle of a beatles video recording, but i was the first one there. or, perhaps, it was an across the universe movie set. either way, i was channeling a 60s vibe. and i loved it. have i said that before in this post? sorry.

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after my little self-tour, as much as i did not want to leave the funkiness inside the bus, i decided that i needed to experience the little patio area too. so, i headed outside,  found a spot under a glowing tree, sat on the cool concrete, and sipped away…

how about a little information about the bus? yes, a history lesson. but, i promise it’s cool. this particular bus was used in the 60s and 70s in bristol, england. a fun fact for me, since i’ve been to bristol. and the time frame must be why i was channeling a 60s/70s vibe. just think of all the people who used this very bus as their daily transportation, with their beehive hairdos, butterfly collars, beatles music, hippie beads… gaaah. so interesting. somehow the bus ended up in atlanta, georgia in the 70s and served not only as a mode of transportation, but gained a reputation through its used as a party bus as well. again, were my vibes spot on, or what?! in 1999, it made it way to its current home in asheville. and there is at least one happy girl that it landed here. i hope it’ll stay forever.

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as i sat and reveled in the glorious day, enjoying every little moment, i noticed a man stumbling his way through the gate and into the courtyard. he stumbled his way all the way to my concrete table and sat down. he reeked of alcohol. and his eyes were completely glassed over. he was totally and completely wasted. i had my camera and my coffee cup on the table, so it was obvious i had money. he began mumbling and i asked him if he was ok. he replied that he was, and then asked if i had a dollar. i asked him what he was going to use it for. he asked me if i wanted the truth and i said that i did. he told me he wanted beer. when i  suggested (no, just flat out said) that he did not need any more, he tried to convince me that he did. i asked if he’d had any already, and he said yes. we then began talking about the beautiful weather. and he asked me where he was… i told him. asheville. and inquired if he was from here. no, he was from tennessee and had no idea how he ended up here. before i knew it, he stood up and staggered back out the gate and onto the sidewalk. perhaps the double decker’s owner spooked him. in any case, he was gone in a flash. and i just sat there… (that’s him in the white jacket, in the photo below).

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i took a deep breath and just let myself be for a moment. people who live on the fringes, outcasts, do not frighten me at all. i usually enjoy my interactions with them. but, this one disturbed me, in that my hear was hurting after our exchange. it was that helpless feeling of not being able to do anything. my only hope is that i provided that man with a few minutes of rest and kind conversation. though, i know he won’t remember a single thing.

dear universe, please take care of that man…

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i turned my attention back again to my cafe project, but kept him in my heart. you know how i said there was this cute courtyard outside the bus, and it was where i had been sitting? well, when i turned around and looked behind me, i realized that it continued around the back of the bus. there were more tables and chairs, all nestled under beautiful trees. it was the ultimate little oasis. a natural setting for peace and relaxation, complete with a fountain and lights strung in the trees. note to self: come back after dark!

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i have to say, this place is fun. unique. you seriously need to stop by sometime. it’s filled with a positive, upbeat, peaceful, and funky warmth. i felt the history of the bus. i loved the latte.  i can’t wait to sit under those trees through the changing of the seasons. and i really can’t wait to have a few people with me, head to the upstairs of the bus, and channel those hippie, party, celebrating life vibes that are oozing throughout. peace out, man.

DSC_0205namaste. /liz

double d’s . 41 biltmore avenue . asheville, nc . 28801 .  doubledscoffee.com

Day 17: i traded in what’s “hip” for a classic american morning.

sometimes you just gotta get back to basics. so i did something completely different for my 40 days of fika visit today. i left the hip, industrial cafes behind and decided to hang out at a typical american diner. you know a greasy, breakfast all day, sit at the counter, casual, regular folk kind of place.

you see, when i made my original list of cafes & coffeehouses to visit, i included a diner, because of the coffee… it is a staple of all diners. i know you’ve seen it on tv. or you’ve been to a diner yourself. you know the scene: people sitting in booths and at the counter. ordering hot coffee from the waitresses. eating hamburgers and fries, or eggs and bacon.

well, that’s exactly what i wanted to experience – even though i’ve been to tons of diners before in my life. so, i chose a local diner, one i had never been to, and not a chain diner, mind you, and parked myself there for a couple of hours to soak it all up.

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just north of downtown, only a few short blocks, in fact you can still see the buildings, is five points restaurant. my diner and cafe of choice for the day. it’s called five points because it is located on the corner of an intersection where five streets meet. it’s also just down from the hip coffeehouse, high five that i visited a few weeks ago. 

i parked my car among the random array of models and hung around outside for a while, snapping photos, greeting customers on their way in or out. all of them were friendly, even if i looked like a weirdo taking photos from strange angles and such. from what i could tell, this was going to be a fun time in the diner, based on the many different kinds of people entering and leaving.

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i couldn’t wait any longer. i opened the glass door, heard a little bell ding, and was greeted by a woman behind the counter saying hello and offering me to take a seat wherever i liked. the counter stretched out in front of me and to the right, men dotted the stools. i considered joining them, but then my back would be to the rest of the diner. so, i turned right and walked toward the far end of the diner, the counter on my right and the booths by the windows to my left. it was full. but, i snagged a little place at the very end and sat so i could face the whole place. awesome.

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a sweet lady came by and asked asked me what i wanted to drink. coffee, i replied. and in a minute i had a piping hot cup in front of me. i knew i’d be ordering some home fried potatoes, so i went ahead and told her when she brought my coffee. then i pulled out my camera and began to wonder how in the world i would take a bunch of photos without looking creepy. there was a middle-aged man at the table directly in front of me, and we were basically looking directly at each other. so, i decided to write instead. he read the paper. i wrote in my journal.

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the diner was noisy and busy. the waitresses were yelling at the cooks (to tell the orders), people were chatting and talking, food was sizzling on the griddle. but, it wasn’t annoying… it was life. it was clean, but no where near modern. still, it was exactly as it should have been. and it was functional.

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and there were all kinds of people. business men stopping for a cup of coffee and a burger . hippie 20 somethings who walked in without shoes. an african american woman, all gussied up with about 20 bangle bracelets, rainbow eyeshadow, and fancy clothes. a hispanic motorcyclist. two mom meeting for coffee. constructions workers. of course, there were regulars. usually they are older people, and it was no different here.

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a sweet little man entered the door in front of me, and just stood there. soon i realized that he was holding the door open for his wife. they finally made it in the door, literally after about 5 minutes. i had never seen a woman move so slowly. i watched intensely, but i never saw her really move, even though she did move across the floor. she held only a cane in her left hand, and her husband held on the her right arm. it was so touching, watching his patience, watching them both take about 10 minutes to get from the door to a seated position. i was amazed that they even left the house if it was this much of a process to do anything. when the woman finally sat in her seat, the husband then lifted her and scooted her in.  by now, tears were streaming down my face.

the thing about diners is the people. it’s not about the coffee. it’s certainly not gourmet. and it’s not about the food, which is most likely not organic and local, an definitely not healthy. but, it’s a community. whether you are simply passing by or an everyday regular… you belong. everyone belongs.

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whenever you just need a pick-me-up moment, or some time to ground yourself in a dose of reality around real people, and, of course, to eat some yummy food, find a diner near you. and give me a call. i’ll be sure to join you.

namaste. /liz.

five points restaurant . 258 broadway street . asheville, nc . 28801

Day 16: Chocolate heaven, baby.

what’s your feeling on chocolate? like it? love it? addicted to it? and how do you feel about chocolate and coffee? i, for one, love enjoying some of the yummy dark, sweet stuff and sipping on some coffee. and that is exactly what i did.

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i have the pleasure of having some office space in downtown asheville, so i am close to everything…. including a very unique building. the grove arcade. something of an upscale mall, something of a historical landmark, the grove arcade houses shops, restaurants, and businesses. it’s a little too froo-froo for my tastes =  i don’t shop there, but i completely appreciate this history and the architecture. it is a beautiful, big, two-story art deco building, with an atrium-like feel on the inside. it is unique, elegant, and simply lovely. i feel as if i am catapulted back in time whenever i am there.

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the grove arcade was the brain-child of e.w. grove, a self-made millionaire who lived in asheville in the early 20th century. he envisioned a place that would be the hub of downtown asheville, bringing style and class to a place where people could gather. unfortunately he died two years before the grove arcade was completed in the late 1920s. but, his vision lived on. at least until the the federal government took over the building during world war II. the public outcry for the next 50 years finally resulted in creating a non-profit organization & the “taking back” of the grove arcade to return it to its original purpose… today, the beautiful building is once again a hub of business, commerce, and style.

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and it just so happens that i decided to visit one of the cafes for fika there. true confections... doesn’t that just sound lovely and delicious? well, it was.

now, i had been to this little cafe before, but it was years and years ago, and i had one of the best… wait for it… chocolate cheesecake. my absolute favorite dessert of all time. no kidding. so, i thought that perhaps i’d go and enjoy life and have a little pre-birthday celebration (next week is the real thing!).

i walked in and smelled… chocolate. glorious. fabulous. divine. chocolate. there were homemade goodies everywhere. tables sweetly decorated. cool colors on the walls. lights in the windows. outdoor seating. all the ingredients for a place that i love.

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i stepped up to the counter, after waiting in a little bit of a line – it’s a popular place, and ordered my coffee and chocolate cheesecake. eeeek! i sat down at a table, pulled out my journal, and savored every creamy, amazing bite. oh, gosh. truly. it is the best i have ever tasted. just like i remembered it. oh, thank you, true confections. seriously. it is that good. of course, the food is all made there. and they use local and organic ingredients. score.

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after i finished the cheesecake heaven, i decided to move outside and sit for a while, sipping on my coffee. camera and journal on the table, coffee in hand, sitting back all relaxed and content, i watched tourists and locals walk by.

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after a few minutes, two men from georgia and two women from germany (there were traveling together, but i have no idea their connection. i suppose they were military men now married to the women, and interracial couples too. cool), strolled by. the two late middle-aged men sat on a bench nearby and the ladies walked on. they asked me if i owned the cafe, and i responded that i did not, but that the treats were amazing. one of the men got up and walked inside, emerging a few minutes later with a giant slice of coconut cake.

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in the meantime, the other man and i chatted and he gave me his take on asheville: a super friendly, funky city with a 70s vibe. his words. for real. he asked me if i was a photographer. i never know quite how to answer that. umm… yes. i take photos and use them, it’s not just a hobby. but, no, i am still not getting paid for anything.  he then stated that he noticed that same 70s vibe from me… best. compliment. ever. he then, advised me to write about the cafes and asheville, including the great atmosphere of the city. – we had talked quite a bit about this blog project.

isn’t it cool that tourists feel this way about asheville? and, if you don’t live here, don’t you want to come & visit after that review? what’s so much fun, is that it is so easy to talk to people in this city. locals, tourists, business owners, homeless people. everyone. just flash a smile and soon you can be engaged in conversation with someone. it is truly amazing.

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so, if you want to experience a little history and enjoy some deliciously yummy treats while enjoying some hot coffee and people watching, i’ve got just the place for you. meet you there?

namaste. /liz

true confections . 1 page avenue . asheville, nc . 28801 . 

Day 15: Who’s craving a big, homemade biscuit?

i drove up a tree-lined street in a west asheville neighborhood on my way to biscuit head, and this is what i saw when i arrived:

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wow. all i could do was giggle to myself. and i mean i giggled out of excitement. look at that back outdoor eating  space?! and what you can’t hear is the talking and laughing and fun that was going on. it sounded like life, you know what i mean? people gathering to enjoy some good moments together – now, that’s the makings of a great fika.

after my initial giddiness, and saying hello to lots of friendly people as i made my way through the parking lot, i opened the back door and saw this:

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it looked funky, fun, and relaxing. the first thing i noticed was this thing that looked like a salad bar, only it wasn’t for salad. it was for jelly & jams! i mean, it is a biscuit place, you know. and they had all kinds of yummy jams there with all kinds of crazy flavors – none of which i can remember right now. sorry. anyway, i truly just stood by the jam bar for a while and just looked around at everything. it was colorful, there were menus & messages written on big chalk boards, it was industrial, and i couldn’t wait to get a big ole biscuit.

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so, i ordered my coffee and biscuit, and headed to find the perfect little space to soak up this atmosphere. the cafe was very open, with a soaring copper ceiling (AWESOME), a freaky, awesome green concrete floor, industrial pipes, and lots of tables and chairs – wooden & metal. but, just by the front doors, i  saw it: the perfect place to sit. a sofa, a coffee table, and a big windows. by now, you should know that i’m a sucker for comfy, sofa-seating. i plopped right down and began sipping on my coffee, made from bean werks beans by the way.

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now, for a little introduction to my cafe of the day, biscuit head

i had no idea, until i really looked at the logo, but this cafe was a mere baby, established in 2013! from the looks of it, thought, it is doing quite well. there were people coming in and out the whole time i was there. and it’s location is quite good, which only helps i’m sure. the home-cookin’ cafe is located on haywood road in west asheville… a new favorite place of mine with it’s long street of business, cafes, pubs, bars, and second-hand shops. the new, up & coming, hip place to be. and it’s right in the middle of a fabulous neighborhood area, so the people who live in west asheville can walk to haywood road and have their pick of great places.

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of course, there are biscuits served. big, huge, flakey biscuits. and all that jam & jelly i talked about. but, they also have other breakfast items. and tons of choices to add to your biscuit or put on the side. their food is organic and local, and they use recyclable resources striving to lessen their carbon footprint on the earth. they also seek to be involved in many community organizations, such as manna food bank. always, a good thing.

biscuit head seems like they’ve got their mission and vision, and are working hard to live up to it. so far, so good, in my opinion after one visit. oh yes, that is me implying that i will be back. perhaps for a brunch one day? they also have mimosas, which i loooove. shocking, huh?

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i didn’t have any major interaction with anyone while i was there. to be honest, i didn’t have much time. but, i did notice that there were not many people enjoying the place by themselves… most people came as a group, which i think is fantastic. it seemed like a great space for gathering and enjoying a lazy, slow, yummy breakfast/brunch together.

i finished my giant bacon biscuit and took my coffee with me, since it was in my mug. i walked back through the cafe to exit out the back again. i thought that perhaps i might enjoy the back outdoor seating area while i finished my coffee. there were only 2 women left, chatting and laughing with each other. i snapped some shots of this incredibly cozy and very earthy/organic- looking deck/porch, and then i sat down at a table.

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the air was warm, but the breeze was cool. definitely an early fall day – though i am sure that some indian summer days are still left to enjoy. it was peaceful. quiet. and a perfect way to begin my day. and, if you decide to visit biscuit head some day, come early… they close at 2:00!

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namaste. /liz

biscuit head . 733 haywood road . asheville, nc . 28806 . www.biscuitheads.com

Day 14: Old School Fika.

i’m not perfect. and there are some days that you just can’t do everything you want or plan to do. you know that feeling… like 24 hours in a day are not nearly enough. and the way the weeks have been speeding by are not helping the matter. some days it’s just not possible to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together…

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what i’m trying to say is that i didn’t visit a new cafe today. i know. bad girl. you see, i’ve had a good flow and the perfect time of day to do my cafe visits, and so far, that’s been working for me. and it still will work just fine. it’s just that today i had other business to tend to. important, amazing business. sometimes you’ve just got to prioritize, you know?

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but, i did fika. just not downtown. i didn’t live in sweden for 3 years for nothing! of course, as always, i’m gonna share my fika break with y’all. from home. because, if you remember, i have written about the importance and complete coziness & joy of hosting a fika at home. i’d say that that’s how fikas began, and how they should be. yes. that’s right. i had an old school fika break.

in my apartment complex we have a clubhouse, as many places do. our clubhouse is located on the ground floor beneath us, so that’s super convenient. in the clubhouse they have coffee available all. day. long. and i’m not talking about some machine with hospital, water-downed coffee, in a little white styrofoam cup. no siree, bob. this coffee, station – let’s call it that – has a machine that grinds the beans and brews them fresh, right then & there. all i need to do is put my cup under, make a few button choices, and voila! fresh brewed coffee. anytime of the day. and, they have a fridge there with creamer inside, incase you need to make your coffee a little more creamier, which i do. they have ice. for iced coffee, of course. sugar, stirrers, a sink, tables, chairs, barstools, sofas, a tv, mac computers. yeah. its’s pretty pimped out.

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and would you believe that i had not been down to get coffee until yesterday?! how sad is that? but, i brew my coffee in my home in the mornings and then i have coffee out & about during the day. i’m not much of a coffee drinker at night. by then, i’ve moved on to wine or beer. so, i haven’t needed to go to the clubhouse for coffee. but, i’ve watched people come in and out with their cups and mugs full of piping hot coffee as they sit down by the fire pit outside. or in their travel mugs as they head off to work. saturday & sunday mornings are the most active. my balcony overlooks all of this, so i can see all the comings and goings. hehe. lucky me.

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sunday i couldn’t stand it any longer. i was home all day, so around mid-afternoon, when i started craving coffee, i decided that this would be the day! yep. i grabbed our two thermoses and walked down to fill those babies up with fresh coffee. i was all alone inside the clubhouse, but on my way back up to my apartment, a fellow resident (who was sitting by the fire pit) began chatting with me.

thirty minutes later, and a long conversation about the viet nam war (he was a war vet – and doesn’t believe in war because of the things he saw & did), two friends who had passed away in the past two days, his desire to take off & move to the coast of maine, and the meaning of life (we literally talked about that), i was back upstairs ready to enjoy my fika break.

today, i haven’t had an inspiring conversation like yesterday’s, but i was just as inspired during my fika break. by the way, i just peeked outside and saw the man (i never got his name.) sitting by the fire pit, talking to another man, i am sure about the meaning of life again. anyway, i am inspired and excited because of all that happened during my regular cafe visit time. you know, that business i had to take care of…

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you see, after perusing craigslist last thursday for small office spaces for rent in downtown asheville, just for the heck of it, i found one that looked interesting. and dirt cheap. so, what did i do? i ringed the number on friday morning, and before i knew it, i was meeting the owner downtown to see the space. it is a shared office, with a lady who is a counselor, but only needs it on mondays. it’s in a old building (shaped like an iron!) with an amazing rooftop view of asheville and the surrounding mountains. it was all so surreal that this possibility was unfolding.

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i loved the little office space, only a room maybe 10 x 10 (ft.). and i couldn’t believe that it was in the middle of everything. and the landlord was super nice. but, i needed to think about it over the weekend. i couldn’t be totally impulsive, could i? well, to be honest, i actually didn’t really think about it during the weekend. i just kind of let it be… until monday morning. then, it was time to face the music. should i get it, or not? i was terrified of making a decision. my love tried to help me see all angles of the decision, even making a decision for me in order to help me see what my reaction would be – and yes, phoebe totally did that when rachel was pregnant on friends. well, i clearly felt disappointed and like i was being stupid if i didn’t take it. and if i did, i felt scared.

so, i closed my eyes for a few moments and took some deep breaths, and after a while, it was clear. i realized that, for me, there was no question. yes, i was frightened by what other people might think – like how crazy i would be to rent a tiny office when i don’t have any clients or a business. and i was also frightened by the fact that it meant that i’d be taking a serious step forward. and i told my love all of that. but, when it came right down to it, i knew what was really right, deep in my soul.

so, i called the landlord. and i met my new office mate downtown about an hour later to get my keys.

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that, my friends, is what i was doing during my regular cafe/fika time today. that’s why my fika has been at home. nevertheless, i met a new person, had new conversations, and even made another fika date with my new office buddy – a fellow writer & counselor. i followed my dreams and took a leap of faith. we’ll see what comes of it!

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i’ll be back on track tomorrow. today, i needed to soak all of this in and enjoy the excitement and possibilities that lie ahead. hope you understand. wink wink.

namaste. /liz

Day 13: Going around the world just to find home.

confession time: i have been to this cafe a few times already. ok, A LOT of times already. i guess you could say that i like it. but, what do i like some much about it, you ask? i actually can’t really put my finger on it. i mean, the atmosphere – the global theme and all that – is right up my alley. there are cozy spots to sit inside. the coffee is good. and cheap. and there are places to sit in the windows. i mean, seriously, that in and of itself makes it cool, right? on top of all of that, there is ample outdoor seating. cute, little wrought-iron tables & chairs. and it is right in the middle of a great area, with tons of people. all stuff that i like very much. all things that make a top choice of cafes in my book.

but, i think there is another reason i keep going back…

i’m a local there. well, almost.

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the flat iron building between battery park & wall street. freaking awesome building. world cafe is down there on the right side.

the second time that i ended up at world coffee cafe, i recognized some people. and, dare i say, they recognized me? i did trade a few smiles with a few of the regulars – or at least they were regular in the sense that they were there also the last time i was there. and, also,  as i sat at one of the outdoor tables with my book in my hand, someone passed by that i knew. and we chatted for a short minute or two. i felt like a real local yokel then, ya know?  of course, the real test is when the baristas know what i want before i ask for it. i haven’t been there that often, and quite a few days or weeks have always passed in between my visits. but they’ll know what i want soon. i’m sure of it.

i keep showing up there, because it’s just so easy. it’s like my go to cafe when i have a little time to kill. and it is a place i can enjoy for hours on end. for real. i can sit at the tables and chairs outside and either work on my computer or read all afternoon. and i have done that once or twice. i’ve even had some conversations with random people.

on friday, when i was there for my “40 days of fika” fika, i did just that…

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i had an appointment with someone about something (it’s a secret right now, but it’s super cool!) and he suggested that we meet at world coffee cafe. so, that’s why i decided friday would be my world coffee cafe fika day. we met outside and shook hands, then he led me to the space we were going to visit together – in the same building, just on the 5th floor.  after our short little meeting, we said our goodbyes, and i headed into the cafe to get down to 40 days of fika business.

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i ordered my coffee and began snapping shots of the inside of the cafe. it’s quite big, as there are some different rooms in the back. it’s decorated with art and stuff from all over the world – asian, african, middle eastern. european. i l love that. my wanderlust-y self feels inspired by all of the global artifacts around me, and my travel fever rises.

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of course, since it was beautiful outside i didn’t stay inside, and i decided to grab a little table just off the sidewalk for myself. no longer than i had sat down, and a 20-something girl/woman/lady/chick (?) came over and began chatting with me and my table neighbor, a man on his laptop. all three of us were conversing for a while, then the man dropped out somehow. the girl kept chatting with me, as she smoked her cigarette, balancing it on her lip and swaying back and forth as she stood near my table. she never sat down, though i offered, because she said she was on her smoke break and she sits all day. she also worked in that same building, on the 5th floor.

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she told me of her amazing dad (i don’t know how we got on that subject) and gave me tips on good beer places in west asheville. and we shared our mutual love for asheville as a funky, all-accepting place. we chatted for about 20 minutes. oh, how i love that. you know, that carefree, not-afraid-of-each-other way of striking up a conversation with a stranger. she finished her cigarette and hurried back upstairs. i’m certain we’ll run into each other again.

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i finished my coffee and headed out to take some photos downtown. i didn’t feel like i needed to stay extra long in order to soak up the atmosphere of this cafe… i’ve already got a good grip on it. and i’m hooked. i thought back to why i love this place so much. and i realized that, as i am slowly approaching the mid-point of these 40 days of fika in 40 different cafes, i yearn to go back to many of them. becoming a “regular” means that i have begun to establish a community. and that feels good.

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but, for now, i fika on. ready for the next one… because, it is so much fun to get out of my comfort zone and to discover new places. i’ll have plenty of time later on to establish a favorite, go-to places. there’s no time to get stuck now. actually, i suppose that is a good lesson for life, huh? why would we even want to get stuck in the same routine in life? think of all that we miss when we don’t try a new cafe, meet a new person, travel to a new place, jump on a new opportunity?

at the same time, we also need those places that ground us. that feel like home. we need to return and meet people we know. we need to reflect and recharge in familiar setting, and then set off again on our next adventure!

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fyi: the mug that i carry *almost* everywhere with me is made by my sweet, “sis”, trista hudzik reynolds. she’s a potter in the river arts district, and i love telling everyone about her – since everyone asks about my amazing mug!

yeah. soon i’m gonna know all about 40 different cafes. and i’ll have my favorites, i’m sure. and in a few of them i’m sure that i’m gonna be a real. true. local. world coffee cafe will probably be one of them…

i’ll let you know when they know what i want before i order.

namaste.

world coffee cafe . 18-20 Battery Park . Asheville, NC . 28801 . http://worldcoffeecafe.com

by the way, i’ve started posting in the mornings about my fika experience the night before. don’t ask. it just seems to work better for me. no changes for you, as you can keep enjoying your morning coffee/tea with my fika post. love & coffee. /liz

Day 12: In the middle of it all.

ok. i admit it. my tastes are all over the place. when it comes to coffeehouses and cafes, i like everything. or at least, i like something about everything. i think that’s my stubbornly optimistic, idealistic, find-the-positive-in-everything personality. annoying to some, perhaps. but, to me, it’s just how i am. i can’t change. i don’t want to change. and i don’t think i even could change.

i am the eternal silver lining girl. and it’s not that i’m living in some dream world, some little happy place where i pretend that everything is ok all of the time. that’s not it at all. if you know me, you’d know that i face the difficult stuff head on with my stubborn idealism and hope, knowing that transformation occurs because of the pain & suffering. and i know that because i’ve lived through the light that shines through the darkness. i have seen the morning glory after the dark night… in my work with special needs and gang teens. in my work as a minister in a church, surrounded by death and people dealing with all of life’s problems. in my own divorce. in my denial of ordination rights because of who i am now married to. in my wife’s battle  through (and near death because of) anorexia. and so on… i’m not saying i’ve experienced the worst that can happen, i’m just saying… i know what it’s like to suffer, sister. i know what pain and fear feels like, brother. and it sucks.

but more than that, i know that there is hope. i know that, every day, we have a choice of how we want to live our lives. do we want to be messengers of peace and love and joy? or do we want to add to the pain and injustice? do we want to seek out the good in something and appreciate the beauty that is around us? or do we want to wallow in self-pity, anger, and hate? do we want to focus on the positive, or the negative? i believe that we are responsible for the energy that we bring into this world, that we share with everyone we meet.

i want to be someone who brings light and hope and truth.  i want to be someone who chooses, hundreds or thousands of times every day, to focus on the good, who chooses to find something positive, who is aware of what is true, and who spreads that goodness & truth. bottom line, i don’t want to make people smile some fake, let’s ignore all the tough stuff smile, but i want to be with people and see them smile as they discover that all will be well. it may not be happy and fun in any given moment, but all will be well. and in the midst of anything that is going on, there is beauty, peace, and hope to be found.

 and that, my friends, is why i choose to see the good in every single little thing.

i’d say that today was the complete opposite of yesterday, in terms of my fika experience. but instead of comparing the two places, i am only going to lift up the two for what they are. they have different missions and visions as business. and that it totally fine. the thing is, both are following their vision for the kind of gathering place they want to be, and they are both doing a great job at it. i found good things to enjoy & respect in both places. just like i have found in all 12 cafes i have visited so far.

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i headed downtown again today. this time, i had no plan. and i really didn’t have much time. so i parked close to the very center of town and decided to walk up to pack square. for those of you who don’t know, pack square is the absolute center of downtown. it may not physically be the center, but it is known as the center. it’s famous for it’s big monument, the vance monument, which towers above the streets, surrounded by a little park area. this whole space got a face lift not too long ago, and i’d say it looks quite nice. but, i never hang out here and take advantage of its beauty. so, today, i decided i would.

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behind the street vendor’s cart is the beginning of the park/monument area. the whole space is known as a gathering place for protestors and on any given day you can see people standing on the street corner, waving their signs and protesting any and everything. of course, i love that people exercise their right to voice their opinions and concerns. today, after i had to leave, there was a peace protest against any possible war/military action in syria. yes!DSC_0893

i decided to spend some time just wandering & soaking up the atmosphere a little before i headed into the cafe, which lay across the street from the park. it was so beautiful out. and people were milling about. and there was this amazing fountain… i must have taken 100 pictures. hehe.

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the biltmore coffee company doesn’t look like much from the outside. but, what did i learn the other day? oh yeah… don’t judge a book by its cover. well, the cafe is located in a rather modern (= boring to me) building which houses the corporate offices for the biltmore estate, a phenomenon that you cannot miss when you visit asheville. it’s the largest private residence in the states, though it’s not lived in now and tours are available. oh lord, it’s got a hotel, organic farm, a winery, stables, gardens, and the giant mansion. anyway, the offices are located right here, and the cafe, i assumed was part of the biltmore company. i was right.

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i stepped inside and was greeted by a refreshingly modern, open room… packed with seating areas. there were people sitting having meetings and a few who ahd come on their own to grab an early lunch. i made sure to take photos without people, so it looks like no one is there, but i was just being sneaky. there was a coffee bar with food & coffees, and then it was just seating. round, wooden tables and red, plush leather chairs. gray sofas and coffee tables. counters & bar stools. big, oblong tables for meetings and such. it was nice. but, i didn’t feel out of place, or unwelcome. it didn’t feel too fancy or uppity. oh it was stylish and posh, but in a relaxed kinda way. and the floors… yeah. i was crushing on the floors. i fell in freaking love with them.

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i ordered my regular coffee, added my cream to it, and made myself at home at one of the round tables in a super soft red leather chair. people came in and out, all kinds of people, but it felt like most of the business came from business people who work in the surrounding buildings. some tourists dropped in, and a parks & recreation worker came to grab some coffee. so, yeah, it was an open place. but, hey, with it’s location in the smack middle of everything, i’d hope that it’d be a place where all people came. or at least were welcomed. of course, i’m not sure i’d see many homeless people coming in to this cafe. still, what do i know?

i sat and stared at the beauty of the cafe, with it’s warm colors and cozy mix of wood, metal, and leather, feeling quite at peace. wishing i had more time to pull out my computer and just sit and write all afternoon. but, the gorgeous weather was calling my name, so i moved outside to the outdoor seating. i wanted to get a good look at all the hustle and bustle on the streets and in the park by the monument.

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IMG_3688you know, the biltmore coffee company may have catered to a different crowd than the cafe i visited yesterday, but it was still a place with a purpose… at least for me. i got some work done. did some people watching. and mostly, enjoyed being in the middle of downtown.  i sat back in my chair, sipped my coffee, and felt quite satisfied and at peace…

there is beauty in every moment. there is beauty in every thing. every person & every place has a purpose.

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the biltmore coffee company. 1 north pack square. asheville, nc . 28801 . www.biltmorecoffeeco.com

Day 11: Totally worth the wait.

today’s fika experience was a little bit different. i had it all planned out. (mistake number 1). i knew well in advance where i was going to go, so i drove downtown, parked in the parking deck, and descended the stairs from the grove arcade area to wall street. yes, asheville has a wall street – like nyc. only not at all like nyc.

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asheville’s wall street is really cool i think. it’s lined with independent stores and vegetarian restaurants/cafes. it’s a  tiny, short street. almost like an alley-way. and from what i understand historically, it was a back alley once, where deliveries were made. the shops & cafes on this cute street are actually the backs of other, bigger businesses which line one of the main streets going through downtown asheville. so, while it could have been a forgotten area, funky little places have popped up and are doing pretty darn well, for the most part.

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DSC_0851i was on the hunt for a little cafe called wall street coffeehouse. i had never heard of it, much less seen it. after strolling up & down wall street 2 times, i decided to take a peek at my phone to get the street number of the cafe. ah ha. i hadn’t even passed it yet… it was a little further down from where i had wandered. a little bit past the main area of wall street. no biggie. it was just a few more steps passed these cute little kitties that decorate one area of wall street… a little art in remembrance of the historical story behind the name of the street.

you see, as i said before, wall street used to be an alley fro deliveries, and this space, where the fence is in the second photo below, is on the top of a wall that was built to keep the hill above from falling down onto the buildings below. ya gotta love mountain architecture. and back in the day, the doorways on wall street could only be reached by a catwalk, hence the little kitty statues you see. interesting trivia, huh?

DSC_0850just beyond the cat on the pole, i noticed a coffee cup sign and figured that it had to be my place. i walked across the street and shot some photos of the outside, and then made my way to the door. i was definitely craving some coffee by now.

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DSC_0857from the outside, the cafe looked pretty tiny. cozy, i thought. and it felt a little more local, not so touristy or chain-y, which is always a good thing in my book. it also looked a little dark inside. hmm… one quick look at the hours on the window, and my suspicions were confirmed: closed. well, damn. however, it would open in an hour, which would still give me time to at least try it out, but i’d have to kill and hour and not spend as much time as i’d like. what to do, what to do? i sat down on a chair on the cute outdoor furniture and watched some birdies play while i decided what to do. it was really nice to just sit there. people walked by, but otherwise, i felt as if i’d found a little secret, out-of-the-way place. after some time, i decided i was hungry, so i went up the hill and grabbed a bite to eat.

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after lunch, i headed back to the coffeehouse and knocked on the door. i asked the lady who answered if i could come in. she warned me that she wasn’t quite ready to open yet, but that i was welcome. i told her i just wanted some regular coffee and to sit down. then, i shared with her about this 40 days of fika  project, what i’m up to, and such. i also asked if i could take photos of the place. theresa, the lady, said she’d rather me not take photos of the art on the walls, and then, she explained that it might be pointless to take photos of the rooms/space because she would be moving where her lease is up.

i admit i was a a little disappointed, but i completely understood and respected her wishes. so, today instead of getting all wrapped up in taking photos, i wrote down what i saw. i talked to theresa, and i just let the place sink in.

do you know the definition of a coffeehouse? well, it’s not starbucks. i mean, starbucks is a house of coffee, but let’s get back to the original definition of a coffeehouse… like the kind you’d find in grreenwich village in the 50s, 60s and 70s. a coffeehouse is place of social interaction. during the beat generation, it was a place for open mic nights. there has been a link between coffeehouses, folk music, poetry slams, book clubs, free expression, art, and social & political action. instead of just being a place to grab coffee and either chat with someone or sit alone & read, true coffeehouses (in my opinion) have an element of community, and seek to be active in society. if you know anything about me,  you know that this right up my freaking alley. this is what i’m all about. coffee. conversation. social/political action. literature. music. art. a coffeehouse combines all of my passions into one place.

and that is exactly what this place is.

the art on the walls that i couldn’t photograph? it was done by homeless people, regular people, amateurs. the tiny cafe that i thought this was, opened up behind the coffee bar into a huge gathering space, filled with sofas and coffee tables and other second-hand furniture. there were games and books. and as i talked with theresa, i learned that the coffeehouse is open from 1-9 or 1-11 (in the evenings) because there is community, social stuff happening there. like meetings. and groups. open mic nights. art shows.

wall street cafe is a safe place, a place for people on the fringe of society. a place for those who may be struggling and need a sense of community and belonging. a place to learn and to be creative. and, of course, a place to just sit and be and philosophize. it’s not flashy or fancy. it’s very simple, but filled with meaning. it’s not just a cafe with tables. in fact, it’s not really that at all. it’s a place for resources, for inspiration, for action, for connection.

i was freaking out with excitement as i talked with theresa and learned more about wall street coffeehouse. overwhelmed and astonished at her sheer love for what she does. as we chatted, we discovered that we could relate to each other in our current lives. as i mentioned before, her lease is up soon, and she i looking to move to another location. she has no idea where, or what’s in store for her, or for the coffeehouse community she has built up. i personally think some organizations and business need to get behind her and help her financially. i didn’t even meet any of the people that hang out there, but i know she is making a difference. i could see it and feel it.

we decided that we’d stay in contact with each other, and, at the least, offer each other support and pep each other up… reminding ourselves that whatever the universe has in store for us, all will be well. and it will be exactly as it should be.

unfortunately, i couldn’t stay very long , and just as i was settling in, it was time for me to go. it felt really great to meet theresa and to know that we’d keep in contact with each other. we exchanged contact info., and just before i was about the walk out the door, she invited me to teach some classes there, if i wanted. WHAT?! i could hardly believe my ears. in a sense, it was an offer for me to create some small groups to teach whatever i feel that i can offer/is needed.

this was (and is) overwhelming to me. it’s like a dream. of course, there is still no money in it. gaaaahh. money is so unbelievably annoying. still, to have a chance to use my gifts, to give back, to connect with people, and to use this coffeehouse as a meeting place… it is an amazing opportunity. like. amazing. so, i’m gonna spend the rest of this week planning, thinking, and searching.

i think i’ll probably stop back by the wall street coffeehouse one more time this week as well. if you live in asheville, you should too.

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even though it was closed when i first got there, and i had an hour to kill, it was totally worth the wait. and it’ll be worth the wait to se what happens to it as well. i’ll be sure to keep you informed and let you know when they move.

namaste. /liz

* 62 wall street . asheville, nc . 28805 . http://wallstreetcoffeehouse.webs.com

the first 10 days.

it was bound to happen. a day would come when i couldn’t go anywhere for fika and i didn’t have any saved up visits to write about. yep. that day was today. i couldn’t head out anywhere because my love & i decided that it was time for colds. yes, that’s right. today i traded in my coffee for lots of tea with honey. and while it has been good to be home, we have complained back and forth to each other that it’s no fun being sick. ugh. oh well, we’re gonna be back on track tomorrow – colds & all. but, today, my fika experience was at home.

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as i thought about the fact that i wasn’t going to have a cafe experience to write about today, i realized, that the first 10 days of the 40 days of fika is now complete, and that it might be a good idea to reflect a little before i move on tomorrow. my journey is now 1/4th complete. 10 cafes down & 30 to go. so, what am i feeling? what have i learned?

well, i’ve learned about asheville. tons of hidden places and spaces. new roads. new neighborhoods. new shortcuts. and the roads not to take as well. so, while i have most definitely learned where new cafes are located, my sense of where things are and how to get to things in asheville has grown astronomically. and that makes me feel like a real, genuine local. score me.

i’ve also learned that i feel a great sense of community in coffeehouses, even if there is no talking involved. perhaps it’s because of the united, like-minded love of all things coffee.

speaking of all things coffee, my coffee knowledge has increased quite a bit. i even found my way to an organic grocery store in town and ground my own coffee beans – a simple thing, yet something i’d never done.

i have become way, way, way more outgoing in just 10 days. i find it extremely easy to talk to people, to ask questions, to be the first one to make small talk. of course, it could also be that i have saved up a lot of chit chat after living 3 years in sweden where, a: people don’t chit chat at all, and b: even though i was almost completely fluent in swedish, it still freaked me out to be the one to begin conversations, for fear of it getting too deep and going too far for my swedish to handle. here, i don’t have to think when i talk, i can just talk. in any case, it feels great to just begin to chat with the person sitting beside me, to truly encounter people, listen to their stories, or simply share our thoughts on the weather for the day.

and guess what else?! 40 days of fika has grown! there are quite a number of you who are following the blog (and leaving comments, and i am so grateful for that!). in addition, there is a new facebook page called asheville coffee which features this website, and all things coffee-related. it’s a fun page  that another person made me co-administrator of. and, finally, while i have no book deal or newspaper deal that makes me money yet, i have been asked to be a part of a website! it’s an asheville informational website, and i post there daily (though about 4 days behind this blog). it’s so cool to connect and generate more readership through that website. it’s all about networking, you know! and what a great opportunity it is.

go check out where i am being featured: www.ashevilleblog.com

many of you have said that you sip on coffee or tea as you read the blog. i am so touched and overwhelmed that you are joining me on this journey.  some of the cafes have found me on instagram, and i’ve been able to begin to have contact with them. so, yeah. i’m gonna become regulars at tons of coffee houses. hehe. and, there are also two fellow blog friends of mine who have begun their own coffee journeys, and are sharing it on their blogs here and here. please let me know if you begin your own fika adventure or if you enjoy fika while you read this blog. i’d love to keep up with you too!

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so, there you go. 10 cups. 10  cafes. 10 days. so far.  it’s been freaking amazing. and i have discovered some fabulous places in asheville, places that i can’t wait to return to when i am done with my 40 days, though i’m sure i’ll go back to some before the journey is over. but, now, it’s time for days 11-20! and i can’t wait! i hope you’ll stick around for the ride and see how sitting down for a cup of coffee in a cute, funky, or eclectic cafe can be an amazing experience of community, church, inspiration, and transformation – basically whatever you make it to be.

oh, and i’ve already started getting inspired for my next project when this one is over. one reader suggested a pub/brewery project. same idea, just with beer. that pretty much sounds fabulous to me. and i’m also thinking about starting a meet-up group: people who meet over a cup of coffee at least once a week, for discussion, support, fun… like a book club, but a coffee club. and i’d be there to teach the art of fika and provide any kind of support (mentoring/spiritual direction/life coaching/general facilitation). there could also be a blogging group that meets. or perhaps that a second group – and that one could even be on the internet, so it’d be available globally. just a bunch of thoughts… we’ll see what comes together at the end of this journey.

there’s one more thing i want to share with y’all. i drink coffee at home every morning, and i use flavored creamer in my coffee. however, i’d love to make it myself in order to save money and be a tiny bit healthier, if at all possible. anyway, someone posted a link to a recipe for flavored creamer on the asheville coffee facebook page, and i tried it out this weekend. what a success! i thought i’d pass the genius and easy peasy recipe on to you:

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  1. gather ingredients.
  2. 14 oz. sweetened condense milk, 1 cup soy milk,  3/4 cup half & half creamer
  3. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  4. pour all the ingredients into a jar
  5. close the lid and shake
  6. voila! soy vanilla creamer. enjoy!

of course, you can change the flavor by changing what you put in. instead of vanilla next time, i’m adding chocolate syrup and peppermint extract = peppermint mocha creamer. yum!

well, fika lovers, i suppose it’s time to close the first chapter of the forty days of fika, the first 10 days, and prepare myself for the next 10. thanks ever so much for reading and for supporting this crazy love of mine – writing, coffee, photography, and people. may the next 10 be even more inspiring and amazing!

namaste/ liz

Day 10: A cure for your every need.

get in your car and drive down interstate 40 for about 25 minutes to the little mountain town of waynesville,  and there you will find a coffeehouse that claims to be a solution to all your problems, to solve all your ailments, & cure your every need. ok. they don’t actually claim that, but their name does… panacea is one of my favorite coffeehouses in the world. in fact, it just might actually be my favorite. the word, panacea, means a cure-all for every ailment, a remedy, a solution to all problems. for me, panacea coffeehouse has been just that place. i have spent countless hours there in my life, discussing life and theology, meeting friends, catching up, reading, working on my computer, and just being. it is a cafe that has been part of my life for quite a number of years, and it is a place to which i have returned anytime i have been in the area.

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before living in sweden, when i was living in haywood county, where waynesville & panacea are located, i visited as often as possible. it was my go-to cafe. and a place that i called home. i snuggled myself down into the sofa or chairs, sipped on a big ole cup of mocha, and usually stayed for hours. i’ve been known to close down the place time and time again. anyone who has visited me has also enjoyed a visit to panacea. i truly take everyone there. come & visit me now, and we’ll make the drive from asheville to go there. i promise. i love it that much. anyway, at this point in life, i am certain that i am biased and that nostalgia plays a big role in my love for this coffeehouse – so many memories. and i still find reasons to visit… because every now and then, i just need to slow down and be. and i have found no  other place, in all of the places i have visited in the whole world, that is quite like panacea.

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there is this one, little special area in downtown waynesville known as frog level. i don’t know the story behind that name, but my guess is that it was one of the most level areas in waynesville, seeing as the town in the heart of the mountains. it was a flat area, with a creek running through it, so i can only assume that at one point there were tons of frogs there as well. there could still be tons of frogs there, for all i know. still hanging out by the creek.

now, frog level was once a booming little area, the hub of the industrial part of waynesville, with a few factories and a train depot. the factories are still there, still in business, but the other businesses closed down and the warehouses were abandoned.  frog level is not the heart of the downtown waynesville, since main street is about 2 blocks uphill from it. so, for a long time, nothing much happened there.

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however, panacea saw it’s chance to create a unique coffeehouse in one of the abandoned warehouses, and frog level began to buzz again. it’s still not the busiest place in waynesville, but it has grown. businesses have returned, and it is recognized as a national historic area, with locals and tourists making their way down from the cute main street to have a coffee or a beer or to do some antique/second-hand shopping in the “new”  warehouse district. mind you, this is still a small town, so you don’t get overloaded or ever feel rushed. but, that’s its charm. panacea is big and open and smells delicious when you walk in. they do their own roasting there, so it can be warm on really warm days. but, it’s dark and cozy, so it never gets really hot. the atmosphere is just amazing i think.

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i had not planned to go to waynesville, much less panacea, when i found myself there, so i didn’t have my mug. and i didn’t have too much time either, so i ordered my coffee to go. now usually i sit down in my favorite spot, if it is available. and if it’s not, i have a little temper tantrum inside myself. my favorite spot is this old, ratty, soft, almost ugly, very orange sofa. or sofas. they are not attractive, but they are sooooo comfy. i’ve had some of the best talks of my life with very important people in my life on that sofa. and it’s by the window, so there’s great people watching. bonus.

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there are also tables, chairs, and relaxing chairs available as well. not my fave places to sit, but they’ll do. the atmosphere is still completely cozy. it’s pretty near perfect in my opinion. brick walls, industrial pipes. dim lights. second-hand furniture. perrrrrfect. but, if you want to be a little nature-y (my made -up word), then you can go out back and enjoy the creek from the deck. that’s right. they have a backyard, with tables, chairs, picnic tables, trees, and a fairly large creek.

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i went out back today. the weather was perfect. blue skies. green grass & leaves, with a few yellow leaves beginning to turn & fall to the ground. there was even a black cat on the deck, ready to snuggle with my legs, and giving me the coziest fall/halloween feeling. i sipped my coffee and chatted with my parents who were with me (they live in waynesville). everything was so relaxing. and i felt as if i didn’t have a care in the world…  that’s the magic of panacea.

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after about 30 minutes i knew i needed to get on with my day. this visit to panacea was not near enough time for me to soak it all in. as i said before, a good trip to panacea is about 3 hours. minimum. yes, a trip to panacea should be well-planned in order to enjoy the entire experience. ultimately i would spend time outside & inside (on my favorite orange sofas, of course). but, today, i had to leave. quite soon after arriving. so, cup in hand, i headed out of the coffeehouse, across the street, and toward the old train tracks near my car. i hopped in, sad, like always, that my time at panacea had ended… for now. but, the beauty of it now is that i only live about 25 minutes away. so, i can technically go back whenever i want.

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oh yeah. i guarantee you that i will need the panacea cure again… and probably real soon.

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namaste.

panacea . 66 commerce street . waynesville, nc . 28786 . panaceacoffee.com

Day 9: The Sanctuary at Asheville’s Dobra Tea Room.

i did something a little different today. as usual, i had not planned where i was going, but i did know that i needed to be in the downtown area. i had heard about a noon “pray for peace in syria” gathering, and i felt compelled to participate. so, after strategically parking in a parking deck, i made my way to trinity episcopal church. now, i’m not a member of an episcopal church, but i’m all for ecumenical gatherings of all faiths. especially when we are united for one common cause… peace. besides, how else are we going to achieve peace than by meeting with each other, accepting our diversities, but relying on our common, human values?

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i entered the sanctuary, with images and symbols all around me, and it felt as is should feel. sacred. holy. safe. it was silent until the bells tolled alerting us that the time of meditation would begin. what followed was a a lot of ritual and tradition, of reciting words together and listening to words of wisdom, all of which were very comfortable and familiar to me…  it was a moment of awareness for me. i felt present. alone, and yet, surrounded in a loving community of strangers and friends who had gathered for one common cause… peace in syria.

it felt good to connect to a religious tradition for a few minutes, to be surrounded by familiar words and practices. however, i am in a place right now in life where one religious tradition does not do it for me. i need, i want, i feel connected to god, the source, the universe, the mysteries when i am experiencing the traditions, rituals, and words of many traditions… buddhist, christian, native, sufi, jewish, etc. in addition, i feel connected to the great mystery in nature, and with people, when i am alone, meditating, protesting, writing & reading, or even just drinking coffee. right now, in my life, it is more about relationships than denominations or institutions.

anytime that i am truly present, whether i am alone or with people, i am connected to a higher source that, i believe, connects us all. and i believe that a balance of time alone to meditate and simply be, to connect to myself and who i call god (you may say something else, or nothing at all), and time spent with other people is the key to a spiritually balanced life that seeks to live an authentic life and make a difference in the world.

ok. enough of that.

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so, filled with the community spirit of praying for peace, i headed out on the streets of asheville to decide where i would have my (somewhat shortened) fika time. i passed this sign on a pole, marked the date in my calendar, and then suddenly, it came to me: dobra tea house. i have seen the outside of the tea house many times, and the eastern-looking exterior has always intrigued me. since studying theology in seminary, i have known that i am deeply drawn to the mystery of eastern religions and lifestyles. i knew that going there would be the perfect transition and continuation of my focus on peace during this day.

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i had no expectations this time. in fact, i don’t think i was even really thinking about what it would look like when i entered. i did love the huge open window, though, so i was pleasantly surprised to see lots of round, cafe-sized, wicker-ish tables and chairs right when i walked in the door. there were people there having tea and conversations – it looked like the epitome of fika. there was another working on his computer. and straight ahead of me, i saw a counter-space, with tons of little, tiny bowls with different tea leaves in them. and i mean tons. like 40 or more, i suppose. there were drawers and cabinets behind, places where the tea was stored i suppose. i admit, i don’t know much about tea, so i am totally guessing. i saw a buddha on the wall. funky, asian-inspired lights, pottery, tea pots, tea cups, photos of people from the east, and candles. it was like heaven to my eyes. and to my nose… oh, the smell of the tea. it was like incense. everything was telling me that this was a place that would touch my soul. be still, my bohemian soul.

i approached the counter and talked with the person standing there, telling him i had never been there before and ready to receive to some instructions about the process of this tea experience. i could just tell that, here, i would not just sip tea in a tea cup, i would have an experience. and i was so right. i also explained that i’d be taking photos, if that was okay and that i was doing a blog about different cafes in asheville. he seemed receptive to my idea, and that felt good.  he told me to wander around and decide where i would sit, and then he was come and explain everything to me. super friendly, thanks!

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he explained that there were three different seating areas  = three different atmospheres, and i could pick wherever i wanted to sit. there was the front room, that had the wicker tables & chairs and was open to the outside. then there was the middle space – an indianish inspired red & gold area with little tables and benches in a u-shape. and finally the back area. a space oozing with atmosphere and mystery. it was a dark turquoise blue color with only floor seating, as far as i could tell. pillows, low tables, beads. i so wanted to sit here, but i felt that i’d have a better chance for photos in the middle area. so, i sat myself down in the corner of one of the u’s and pulled out my journal.

the guy came over to explain things to me right after i sat down. here’s how it goes:

  • there is a big book with all of their teas in it, arranged by type of tea (black, green, etc.) and land from which it comes (china, india, cambodia, etc.). they also have little snack foods and tea cakes & cookies.
  • i could just peruse the book and read about each tea at my leisure in order to decide which tea i wanted to try.  – whew. that took a while, as there were so many different teas. but, i knew i wanted black. now… which country?! india!
  • once i decided, i was to ring the bell that he bought to me. someone would be right with me after i rang it – and they were. i ordered & then sat back and waited. well, i took pictures, wrote a little, and smiled to myself. this was cafe heaven. it was a sanctuary in and of itself. not the same as the episcopal one, but one in its own way,  nevertheless.
  • my tea was delivered on a wooden tray with a tea pot and a little cup. simple. organic. beautiful.
  • i poured the hot tea into the cup and set my spoon in it (the spoon was a gift i received from a dear australian friend in the mail the day before. i promised i would use it during my fika time. i loooove the spoon. so delicate. so perfect with the tea.).
  • then, i simply sat and sipped.

what tea did i order? well it was a black tea from india called assam brahmaputra. the description of the tea in the menu book states that this tea is one that is suitable for drinking before a long journey. i had picked out this tea before i realized that. but when i did, i knew that it was the perfect tea for me. why? i don’t know i just felt it.

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DSC_0782dobra tea’s story begins in prague in the late 80s/early 90s, during the fall of communism. tea had been reserved only for the government & military elite, but a few passionate tea lovers began smuggling in rare and exotic teas from china, japan, and india. in 1992, after the fall of communism, a group who called themselves “the society of tea devotees” met and opened the first tea room in prague. the tea room was known “as a shelter, a place for safety, where like minded individuals could gather and taste the world of tea. much success blossomed with Dobrá’s idea and the company began to spread its tea concept to many small towns throughout czech republic, hungary and poland. in 2003 dobrá tea opened its first u.s. tearoom in burlington, vt.”  the tea room in asheville opened in 2010 (quoted from the website). what a great story. and history.

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i soon realized that time was moving more quickly than i wished, and i needed to leave if i was to make my next appointment.  i quickly finished my tea – which went against everything in my coffee/tea/fika nature, and headed to the counter to pay. then, i took one more peek at the back room, just because i could. it was everything i want in a place to just be. it felt just as sacred and holy (in a completely different way, of course) as the big episcopal sanctuary i had visited earlier. i yearned to take off my shoes and sit in one of the dark corners with a book all afternoon. oh, it looked like heaven. my contemplative, introverted self was quietly whispering to me to just breathe & relax…  i would be back. today was not the day to stay.

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there is no question if i might find time to come back to dobra tea. i have to come back. and i will… even before the 40 days is over. i need to return so that i can slowly enjoy my tea and the atmosphere. i need to return here, just like i need to return to churches, synagogues, nature, pritchard park. i felt inspired here. i felt the holy here. and isn’t that what spirituality is all about? meeting the holy in the midst of the every day… because, that which is spirit, that which is divine and sacred, it is not up there in the clouds or out there somewhere. our journey is not a journey to some place. it is all within. the sacred. the journey. the divine. spirit. we carry it with us. and these holy places remind us of that. they remind us to tap into that spirit, that gut feeling.

today, i found the holy within the prayers of a community of faith in an episcopal church praying for peace in syria. and i also found the holy in the silent moments sipping tea in an eastern-inspired tea house. earlier this week, i encountered the holy in four different men that i met on the streets of asheville. i saw the holy in the beauty of nature surrounding me. and i met the holy in the moments i spent with my wife, my brother, my friends, and my parents.

yes, dobra tea room, you are a beautiful sanctuary that welcomes all pilgrims to rest for a while on their journeys of peace.

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namaste. /liz

dobra tea . 78 n. lexington avenue .  asheville, nc . 28801 . dobrateanc.com

Day 8: Coffee & a… pug?

it was bound to happen at some point. daily fika overload. not that i’ve had too much coffee, by any means. i’m not even sure that that’s possible. but, the daily finding a new place and experiencing something new is actually exhausting . the impressions, the feelings, the leaving my comfort zones are all good, but it requires a lot of attention and action. so, today, this self-proclaimed introvert had the desire to just go to a comfortable, familiar place. and just be.

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BUT, i stuck it out. i drove up merrimon avenue in north asheville, and parked my car at edna’s of asheville. i totally was not feeling it, though. nothing against the cafe, it was all me. the decision of where to go had been annoying – i have my list of 40 places, but i don’t have them planned out so that i can be spontaneous and go with the flow every day. the problem was, i had no idea where i wanted to go. didn’t feel any inspiration about it. and had a limited amount of time. it was soooo tempting to go to my safe place. but, i managed to make the choice to stick to my plan, to stay disciplined, and to not give up.

was it worth it? oh, yes.

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edna’s of asheville is, as i said,in north asheville. so it is a stand-alone building with a parking lot around it. actually, merrimon avenue is in front, and parking lots/the entrance to a strip mall-ish type place is on all the other three sides. so, there is edna’s, all alone. my first impression was that it was a remodeled diner/fast food restaurant. i was just going on the shape of the building & the fact that there was a drive-thru window, which i noticed when i left, they still use. cool!

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i passed by the outdoor seating, which was quite large and headed inside to find a nicely designed cafe. of course it was filled with organic, fair trade, and local coffees and snacks/food. the coffee is roasted in-house and the pastries are freshly baked, so that’s even better.what was good about this place so far, was that it was not a chain – as it is for most of the cafes i am visiting. it was a unique space, with it’s own niche, or so to speak.

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edna’s is not named after the owner, but after a dog. a pug, to be exact. edna is the owner’s pug, who has been known to take quite a few licks of her owner’s coffees. so, when it came time to name the cafe, edna just seemed to fit. apparently edna the pug makes appearances every now and then. but, don’t worry, you will see plenty of pug faces, pug art, and pug stuffed animals when you are there. the good thing is, it’s cute and not overbearing. in act, i suppose you could come in and never really make the edna the pug connection. but, it’s a sweet little theme when you realize it.

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i ordered my regular coffee, tapped it off with milk, and went searching for a place to sit down, hoping that my mood would change. you’ll be happy to know it did. and you know why? two words: sofa and fireplace. that’s right, folks, in this industrial-styled space, with tons of tables and chair for eating, conversing, and working, there was also, on the far wall, a fireplace and two leather chairs, a sofa, and a coffee table. heaven! a sitting area! and better yet, no one was sitting there. so i plopped myself down, pulled out my journal, made a few notes and then sat quietly, just reading. it was exactly what i needed.

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it was clear that this place was a popular college student hang out, as it is very close to UNCA. it’s warm tones and hip, urbanish atmosphere creates a perfect work space or space for intimate conversations. you know that you are welcome to come in and sit for a while at edna’s. in addition to the amazing (i love it!) sitting area, they have a rack with magazines, shelves with board games and cards, and even a place to swap books.

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so, thanks to edna’s, i worked my way out of this funk and feel rejuvenated. but, you know, that’s all part of the cycle of everyday life. we can’t be excited and pumped up all the time. it’s good that we embrace those amazing days and enjoy them as they come; but it is also good for us to allow ourselves to simply feel and be how we are. and then, to remember that we have a choice. we can always choose how we want to respond to any situation. it’s natural to feel exhausted or uninspired, but the question is, what are who (and how) are we going to be in those moments?

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let’s grab a cup of coffee & ponder these things together…

namaste. 

* just incase you are wondering, namaste is a greeting that means “the light within me honors the light within you.”

edna’s of asheville . 870 merrimon avenue . asheville, nc . 28804 . www.ednasofasheville.com

Day 7: Coffee is RAD.

i am still reeling from the amazing day that i had yesterday. it was truly unbelieveable and i can’t stop thinking about it. i think i needed my fika time today to just enjoy some time alone and process it all = write a blog post on my personal blog. so, i headed down to the RAD and did just that.

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you see, there is this part of asheville that is uniquely asheville. well, i suppose you could say that about most of asheville, but this one particular area is not just a cool street or the funky downtown area. it is a neighborhood of sorts. not a neighborhood of homes, but of businesses. a place by and for artists, and it’s known as the river arts district.

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the river arts district (or RAD) is known for it’s artsy, warehouse-y businesses of all kinds. potters, jewelers, painters, woodworkers, craft beer breweries, cafes and other creative types call this place home. they have their own businesses or share their work in co-ops. there are working studios, galleries, breweries, and other places to soak up some culture and art. but the RAD is more than just a place of businesses, it’s a community. very important to asheville, very much appreciated (i hope) in asheville, and a very popular place for tourist these days. when you visit, you don’t need to get dressed up. just come as you are because you’ll see the artists as they are… with clay on their clothes, in t-shirts, wearing relaxed clothes, giving off that creative, hippie, earthy image.

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it was beautiful out today, so i took a drive by the river (the french broad river) and decided i’d stop for a coffee at clingman’s cafe – i needed to practice my art (writing) today in order to process yesterday. what better place to get pulled into moments of inspiration than down at the RAD?

i pulled into the tiny parking lot and spent about 20 minutes outside, just taking shots of the area. the RAD is dotted with brick buildings, many of which have been painted vibrant colors. there is a definite feel of artsy-ness everywhere. the other buildings in the area are warehouses that have been converted into studios and breweries. i love the old, urban, railroad feel of the place. yes, not only is there a river running by the whole area, but there is also a railroad and an old railyard. seriously cool. gaaahh. the urban-ness is so amazing.

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i walked down the sidewalk a bit and took in the artsy sights, and then finally decided it was time to head in for some coffee. walking into the cafe, i saw a tiny space split between an area for customers to order and sit at a bar in front of the window, and the kitchen/behind the counter area. there was a lot going on in that space, and the longer i stood there, the more it became crammed with people.

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clearly there were local artists who came by often, because the cashier and the guy behind me began talking and catching up. it was all very personal, but i felt a little out of place. the other people squishing themselves into the ordering area were tourists or locals too, i suppose. but they were all mostly retired couples. as i stepped up to order i realized that i forgot my mug! oops. so, instead of my regular coffee with milk, i ordered a chai latte. it was freaking huge. and doubly, creamy yummy.

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i grabbed my big mug and headed into what i thought was the back, corner room. wrong. i, well, it was the back, but it was not a corner. t was actually a large eating area with tons of cozy tables. brick walls, metal, and wood dominated the decor. local art was on the walls. the mugs were made by a local potter. the place looked a bit like a cafe & gallery combined. i saw a table in the corner, and headed right for it. i sat facing the ordering area and the rest of the room, so i could keep an eye on what was going on. the cafe began filling up, more and more people (mostly tourists – you can just tell) coming in to grab lunch and a coffee. i soon realized that there was a 2-seater bar table with 2 stools available, so i packed up my computer and things, and moved over there. i figured i needed to leave my 4 person table for a larger crowd.

my new table was like a bird’s eye view of the entire cafe… except the ordering area and the outdoor seating (oh yeah, there is outdoor seating!). however pretty soon i was extremely wrapped up in what i was doing and did not notice the other things going on.

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there is a little phenomenon about fika-ing in the states that i have realized and discussed with my wife. here, when you walk into a cafe, you will almost always find people sitting by themselves, enjoying a cup of coffee =  having fika alone. most have a book in their hand and/or a computer on their table. everywhere you look there are people working or using social media or studying while they fika. i am totally one of those people. and i love it. it’s a good way to get out of the house, potentially meet new people, and get things done in a cozy atmosphere. in fact, i find it inspiring to be around people, even if i’m not interacting. and sipping coffee makes it all the more perfect.

in sweden, the home of the “fika”, people usually meet up with each other to drink coffee. it is more of a social thing. an hour to two to reconnect with someone, chat, catch up, and enjoy each others’ company. i truly like the social aspect of fika-ing in sweden. the personal touch is the purpose, actually. however, more & more you see people independently working, studying, and enjoying a cup of joe alone even in sweden. just as, in the states, you most definitely see people enjoying a cup of coffee together.

so, there are definite differences in the two countries, however, they both are places where you can enjoy a fika alone or with your best friend/colleague/spouse. in my opinion, i want to have a good balance of both in my life. i think i’m doing pretty good with that, right?

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today, though, it was all about me focusing on me. i sat up in the my little corner, writing away for over an hour. before i knew it, time had flown by, my chai latte was gone, and i needed to pack up and move on to the next part of my day. clingman’s cafe was a popular, busy cafe… and a great place to focus and work, even in spite of the busy-ness.

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next time, i think i’ll grab a cup of coffee to go and walk around to check out all of the artists’ spaces. yeah. that sounds like fun. and if i stay in the area long enough, then i can go grab a beer at the wedge before i leave. perfect.

namaste.

clingman cafe . 242 clingman avenue . asheville, nc . 28801 . www.clingmancafe.com

Day 6: Open your mind & be who you are at Firestorm Cafe & Books

i didn’t end up on the wrong side of the tracks or anything (which i usually do in my personal life anytime i explore some place new), but i did leave the comfort of the touristy, main streets of downtown asheville and ended up on a smaller, alley-ish-like street behind all the typical places. but i was so in that kind of mood today.

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let me back up. it all started with a nice little walk through pritchard park, a park well-known to ashevill-ians as a place of beauty and unique diversity in the middle of the city. people gather there to rest, to chat, to seek respite, to play games, to dance (on friday nights), to show off their creativity, to mingle, to be alone. and all kinds of people gather there. homeless, families, tourists, couples, hippies, street preachers, protesters, police, photographers, artists, loners. some days it’s full of activity, some days not so much. on this day, i was planning on taking a photo of a tree in the park, which i did. afterwards, i sat down on a bench for a few minutes to bask in the sunshine. soon, a man came and sat on the bench beside me. it wasn’t long before we smiled at each other and then broke into conversation. a 30 minute long conversation about everything under the sun and then some, including practicing counting to 10 in several languages. he was a kind, intelligent man. those kinds of moments and conversations always inspire me and leave me feeling humbled & alive.

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in the midst of our conversation, a man rode up and just interrupted us by saying to me that i was doing exactly what i supposed to be doing. huh? how did he know me? and then i remembered that this exact thing happened to me years ago when i was in alaska. a woman came up to me, a stranger with piecing blue eyes, and said the exact same thing. upon remembering this, i took this guy on a bike a little more seriously. he continued to talk with me and tell me that it was important that i take pictures of people, of asheville, and make the world aware. he then said that so-and-so (insert the name of a minister i know) was very pleased with my work as well. now, this minister that the guy on a bike mentioned is someone i emailed back in the spring as a possible contact person to help me with networking. i have never met this minister face-to-face, but we have emailed each other. so, the guy on a bike mentioning him was just another weird coincidence in a long line of coincidences… or was it? in any case, i heeded the feeling that i was having in my gut: something was happening. things were lining up. the universe was conspiring. god was moving. my soul was bursting. something big was going on. and i knew that i was in the middle of it, no matter if the guy on a bike was crazy, or if he was mistaking me for someone else, or is he was a prophet of some kind. i had gotten a message through his words, like i did before in alaska, and i knew that they were for me. what the message was, i don’t exactly know. perhaps an affirmation of who i am, my dreams, and what i am doing/who i am being. what i did know was this feeling i was having, so i just let it sink into me.

after finishing my conversation with my original guy friend, i ran into that guy on the bike, thomas, three more times during the day. very interesting.

it was both of these interactions with interesting people, that had me in a mood where i felt connected, grounded, and inspired. i felt that this was a day that would mean something. and that i should try something new. not just go to the same old kind of easy, relaxed place, but to embark on something a little different. and boy, did i.

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just to the right of the purple thirsty monk building, on the back side, near the cellar entrance of this popular beer hangout, lies firestorm cafe and books. i think i’d been in this cafe one time before, but it was year and years ago. so, today was actually my first real visit. i walked right in the door, without even giving it a second thought. you see? i’ve gotten over my little fear of entering some place new all by myself.

well, i took a few shots of the outside of the cafe while a twenty-something year old guy smoking a cigarette watched everything i did (i admit i was a little creeped out), and then i confidently walked inside. the first thing i saw was an area of books, which, of course i was drawn to. looking at the titles, i noticed that they were all books on activism, social issues, global issues, sustainable living and anti-capitalism/institution. i realized that this was not your cutesy, downtown tourist cafe. toto, i was not in starbucks anymore.

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down a little ramp there was the coffee bar on the right and a few table on the left, including a table with a computer for free internet use by customers. it actually turned out to be available to anyone who walked in – even to just use the computer. and plenty of people did that. cool, i thought. a nice way to be open and welcoming to any and all people, which is a theme running through the cafe/bookstore.

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not only is it liberal in its books, and ecologically friendly in its food & coffee, but it is lgbtq friendly as well. the bathroom had a very obvious sign that all people, regardless of gender or gender expression were welcome in any of the bathrooms. and just out side the bathrooms… contraception. for free.

there was clearly a philosophy that ran every thought, word, and deed of this little hidden, dark, coffee shop. you know, come to think of it, i thought of places that you would find in greenwich village (nyc) in the 50s, 60s, 70s. a place filled with poetry slams, open mic nights, and full of radical, free-thinking liberals discussing taboo topics and reading censored books. this is exactly what this place is, only in 21st century asheville.

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while i was sipping my regular coffee with almond milk at a table near the front of the cafe, i wrote down some words in my journal which popped into my mind as i sat there:

grassroots, community, anarchy, censored, anti-establishment real, radical, free, share, diverse, open, education.

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the barista was a very friendly and intelligent expressing herself in her own unique way… like we all should do. the patrons who came in were from all walks of life, though the cafe was never super duper crowded. there were just enough people at all times. there were charles manson worshippers (i know that for a fact because the man i talked to in the park tried to talk to the charles manson couple about jesus), lesbians planning their day, middle-aged men having a discussion, people on alone on computers, a mentally disabled young man, seemingly in a gang or something like that, who talked with me for about 15 minutes, a few tourists who dropped in for some food, some tough guys, men who i believe used the restrooms to bathe, hippies, middle-aged women sitting and drinking coffee. i’m telling you, all kinds of people. and every single one of them was welcome – just as they are.

it’s like you might feel at out of place when you first walk in, but soon you realize that everyone is out of place. you can’t define this cafe. and so, everyone fits in because no one fits in. get what i mean?

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now the thing that makes this cafe really unique, as if all of the above stuff is not enough, is it’s philosophy: it’s a co-op. there is no boss. instead the workers who work there are the owners together. they share responsibilities. and they make their vision well-known with a giant sign over the coffee bar and little charts on every table. they want you to know that this is not a top-down, hierarchical place. instead, it is run by horizontal, equal management. in other words, it’s run by the people. on the tables you can read about firebooks beliefs: providing radical literature, using vegan and organic goods,having free computer resources available to anyone & everyone, providing free event space for sharing knowledge and talent, building community, and mobilizing for social action.

in fact, this evening they were open for a gathering of people who wanted to come & volunteer and prepare activities, posters, etc. for the upcoming international day of peace on september 21. i almost went back, but it didn’t fit into my schedule. but, i will go and take part in some community social action at some point. that’s a promise.

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so far, this cafe has been the most intriguing. it has triggered the most thoughts and feelings within me. not that it’s my favorite so far. actually, i don’t have a favorite yet. all of them are my favorite for what they each are. but, this one has made the biggest impression on me. it is a place that i recommend that to you so that you get out of your regular ol’ routine, get yourself ready, open your mind, and get out of your comfort zone. so go. get some coffee. just observe. just listen. just let yourself be. you don’t have to agree with everything… that’s the beauty of it. just be yourself, and while you are there, you’ll find a place that allows each and every person to simply be themselves too. it’s refreshing. and challenging. and a beautiful thing.

for that matter, go check out any community hidden off the main drag. find someplace and some people who are really different, and challenge yourself to go in, open your mind, listen, and soak it all up. you’ll thank yourself for the experience. i promise. besides, this is how world peace is made.

namaste.

firestorm cafe & books . 48 commerce street . asheville, nc . 28801

Day 5: High Five!

IMG_2785just down the street, under the highway 240 bridge,  and only a few blocks walk from lexington avenue, lies a little coffee shop in the bottom corner of a fairly newly built, arts & crafts style building on broadway (just behind greenlife grocery).  i think i had passed the coffee shop before, but never really noticed it. it’s not that flashy, and it just sort of blends in with the rest of the building, which is used for offices on the bottom floor and apartments on the top floors. of course, that’s the point, i think. i was expecting a very hip, starbucks-like atmosphere inside, but what i found what completely different.

i am beginning to learn that nothing is every anything that i expect it to be. for real.

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this neighborhood, just north of downtown and close to five points, is known as a walking-friendly area. residents in the cute, cottages that dot the streets behind high five walk everywhere. to the grocery store. to downtown. and to this coffee shop. so, even though there is ample parking in a gravel lot across the street (which i didn’t know to begin with, of course), i parked on the street in front of one of the cute cottages and walked the block to the coffee shop. i actually always like walking places, especially since i don’t walk as much as i did in sweden.

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i walked up to the building and the first thing i noticed was the large amount of outdoor seating in front of the shop. little tables and metal chairs, and then some big concrete slabs with stools. very unique. i like that. let’s see what happens when i open the door…

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i entered the industrial-inspired room and noticed the buzz. there were people chatting, coffee steaming, beans grinding. and music playing. but, it wan’t too much. it wasn’t noise overload or anything, which surprised me. and even though the floor was hard, the tables were high , the ceiling had exposed pipes, and so much was going on, i felt a sense of warmth. it was definitely a hip place. but, it was warm. like a little coffee community.

it could be the community tables. this is a unique and freaking cool feature of high five. and i love it. i made my way to the counter, ordered my regular coffee (but forgot my mug. gaaahh!), and looked around as i waited. there were a couple of tall, curvy tables with stools, which were very inviting. it looked a super easy place to sit and not feel awkward even if you were sitting with strangers. there were also counter spaces facing the windows with bar stools. and then, the mother of all places to sit. little round-ish wooden tables on a platform. but they were close to the ground, so you have to sit on a pillow when you sit around these funky tables.  soooo cool.

i didn’t get to sit at one of these cool tables, because it seems everyone else thinks they are cool too. so i put down my coffee, pulled out my book, and plopped myself down on one of the stools at a tall, curvy counter-table thing. i didn’t even mind that there were 2 other individuals sitting at the table. we could share. ok. i did freak out a little inside – introvert alert.

but, the other two people were quite involved in their own activities… reading, writing, surfing. it is a coffee shop that works well as a place to visit on your own. it’s also a great place for conversation. there seemed to be quite a few students, or at least people studying. but, there were also middle-aged, young families, and elderly patrons. some were funky, some were granola hippies, some were hipster, and some were tourists (you can tell by the maps and the cameras). the thing i noticed most about the people, was that they all seemed to be totally away of what’s going on there = they are locals. still, it was a welcoming place.

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i sipped my coffee and read my book, looking up every now and then to see what was going on. i never really chatted with anyone, but then, again, i got really absorbed into my book. and pretty soon i realized that this was a cafe i could visit quite often.

there is another thing that i have realized as i spend time in cafes around asheville… i love studying and reading. and people fascinate me. i am considering beginning a program in an area i have dreamed about/felt called to for quite a few years now. the book that i am toting around with me is reaffirming that sense of desire. if i do sign up for this program, it will take two years, and then i will be certified as a spiritual guide, a mentor. my idea is to not focus on any one spiritual tradition, but to use bits and pieces from many different ones. as a part of this program, i will also get me memoir done. and the cool thing? the spiritual school is just outside of asheville. more about all of that at a later date…

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what i am saying is, that spending this intentional time by myself has helped me to slow down enough to observe the things that i feel the most passionate about, and the gifts/skills that i have. the quiet time has given me some space to breathe and to just be. and so, i feel a sense of direction. i feel a sense of comfort and inner peace. and all of this from only 5 days in cafes, with limited conversation with people. i wonder what the next 35 days have in store for me?!

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who knew that a cup of coffee could trigger so many thoughts, ideas, dreams, and opportunities?

how ’bout a high five for that?!

namaste. ~ liz

high five coffee bar . 190 broadway street . asheville, nc . 28801 . www.highfivecoffee.com

please let me know (leave a comment) if you’d like to meet up with me one day for a fika. i’d be more than happy to share this project with any of you!