You have all the time in the world in North Carolina

Slow and simple America – it's a movement that has been taken to heart in these laid-back Appalachian mountain towns, discovers Robert Nurden

At the Tupelo Honey café in Asheville they were actually playing the Van Morrison track of the same name. It went so well with the laid-back mood of the place that we asked if we could hear it again. Sharon, the proprietor of this traditional southern eaterie, obliged and re-ran the CD.

It seemed that she, like everyone in these parts, had all the time in the world, which is not something you associate with the way America behaves at 9.30am. We downed our third mug of coffee, and demolished our plate of grit cakes and sweet potato pancakes before stepping outside for a tour of this North Carolina mountain city.

Tiny Asheville, which was once sanatorium central for thousands of tuberculosis sufferers, has been given a new lease of life. It's in the vanguard of a movement that is drawing growing numbers of the urban masses towards these blue misty hills in the quest for the simple life. Some call it multi-generational travel, in which children, parents and grandparents pile into the 4x4 on a Thursday evening for a back-to-nature weekend.

"They walk and they talk, hike, go whitewater rafting, visit farms to learn how fruit and vegetables grow, and eat home-produced food," said Angela Norris of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A flamboyant form of Art Deco architecture provides a colourful backdrop to Asheville, where music and antique shops abound and locals shop at farmers' markets. Above the city lies the Grove Park Inn, whose dark façade looks down forbiddingly. Inside, photographs line the walls, testimony to the celebrities – F Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Edison, Bela Bartok, Franklin D Roosevelt, and Dwight D Eisenhower – who have wound down within its palatial walls. It's more a case of who hasn't stayed there.

But it was time to use our hire car and head for the country. First stop, Chimney Rock, one of the most filmed locations in the US, where a lift whisked us 315ft up through a pinnacle of granite to the viewpoint on top. Lake Lure sparkled in the weak sun, with the rocky outcrops of the Appalachians all around.

More music wafted towards us, not that of Van Morrison this time but a live performance on the hammered dulcimer by one John A Mason. "I toured your ol' country nigh on three times," he said in a North Carolina drawl that dragged out the vowels. "I played bluegrass in the clubs of York-shiaarr, but I always come back to the dulcimer."

We moved on to Biltmore House. With its 250 rooms (35 bedrooms and 65 fireplaces) this is the largest private residence in the country. It was built in 1889 in magnificent Loire château-style by George Vanderbilt, the railroad magnate, so that his ailing mother could benefit from the invigorating climate. After a tour of the house and winery, we checked into the opulent Inn at Biltmore and dined on Carolina crab bisque and filet mignon.

But the Biltmore is not what this region – once one of the poorest in the US – is about. The next day, feeling slightly ashamed of our overindulgence, we drove up on to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 469-mile scenic road that clings to the top of the Appalachian range. With its meandering route and 45mph speed limit, it was the ultimate in relaxed driving.

We stopped the car and followed in Bill Bryson's footsteps along the Appalachian Trail, said to be the world's longest continuous hiking path, at 2,174 miles. We were both thrilled and petrified by the thought of meeting a black bear, of which apparently there are many.

Our own slow American adventure was proceeding well: we'd hopped on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and looked down into the gorge as the Nantahala River rushed past. We'd gone watery-eyed as we listened to haunting bluegrass ballads in a backstreet bar. We'd enjoyed marvellous comfort at country B&Bs, which are leading the way in slow food, all pumpkins and green tomatoes.

But it was too good to be true. Our last evening, hungry and lost, we found a restaurant called Ryan's. For $8.95 we could eat as much as we wanted. Those already inside, judging by their girths, had taken this literally. Here was America at the food trough. This was what the slow and simple America movement was up against.

Our mood lifted in the most unlikely of settings: Charlotte airport. A pianist had been hired to soothe the jangled nerves of travellers. And passengers were sitting on a long row of rocking chairs. We found two spare places, took out our books, and rocked back and forward: very slowly, of course.

COMPACT FACTS

How to get there

Robert Nurden travelled with Trailfinders (0845 058 5858; www.trailfinders.com), which offers fares from £430 from Gatwick to Charlotte, including car hire.



Where to stay

The Inn at Biltmore (001 828 225 1660; www.biltmore.com; doubles from $259 (£130).

More information

North Carolina tourism (020-7367 0921; www.northcarolinatravel.co.uk).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
Sport
Vincenzo Nibali rides into Paris on the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France
Tour de FranceVincenzo Nibali is first Italian winner since Marco Pantani in 1998
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Sport
Red Bull Racing's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo (C) celebrates with Scuderia Ferrari's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso (L) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton
sport
Arts and Entertainment
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmComedy was dominated by the romcom at its most insufferable
Sport
Tour de France competitor Bartosz Huzarski’s legs have highlighted the gruelling nature of the race, after he posted a picture on Facebook showing extremely prominent veins stretching from his feet and all the way up his legs
Commonwealth Games
Life and Style
Elle Kaye demonstrates the art of taxidermy
food + drinkFood revolution taken a step further in new ‘edible taxidermy’ class
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
Halsall broke her personal best in the 50m butterfly
Commonwealth GamesEnglish swimmer is reborn after disastrous time at London 2012
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Voices
The Express offices in the 1930s when writers (such as Orwell) were paid around £2 weekly
voicesWebsites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
A cut above: Katy Guest at The Ginger Pig
food + drinkThe Ginger Pig's hands-on approach to primary cuts
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried