Nashville, by way of Asheville

Starting the Day, Morgan Robertson

On day 2 of our Southern Legislative Conference trip, LEAP Ambassadors headed towards Martin Luther King’s Grave.

The plaza-like set up displays numerous quotes from Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr. himself. The emphasis on nonviolence is displayed on nearly every aspect of the memorial, to remind viewers of the efforts taken to ensure constitutional rights for all.  

On the left-hand side there are the six principles of nonviolence on the stone wall. In the middle of the memorial and in the middle of the reflecting pool stands the tomb for Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, each inscribed with a bible verse. Surrounding his grave was the cascading water with words from his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to the murals of MLK on the back wall, the memorial stands to show the real change that has happened. 

Along Sunset Avenue is the Ebenezer Baptist Church that MLK frequently preached at, as well as the museum dedicated to him. Across the street stands the MLK national historic park, that is complemented with an array of multicolored roses.

In need of some coffee, we stopped at the Chrome Yellow Trading Co. coffee shop before heading to Asheville. The selected coffees for this day were a little different relative to our normal choices, two vanilla bourbon lattes (hot and iced) and just a regular drip coffee. At first the flavor of the iced vanilla bourbon latte was almost too much, but after drinking it for a while it was much more enjoyable. With this group of LEAP Ambassadors, and myself more specifically, coffee has become a recurring topic of conversation. Usually discussing the flavor, method in which it is brewed, and the strength of the coffee we continue learning more about each other’s preferred taste in coffee.

Lunch in Athens, Yvette Mendoza

After getting a boost of caffeine we made a quick stop in Athens, Georgia where we came across a pleasant-looking restaurant that was nestled in between the Courthouse and the City Hall. The interior of South Kitchen + Bar boasted intricate details, suggesting the craftsmanship of an earlier time. There were Corinthian columns inside, stained-glass windows, recessed ceilings, and black, red, and white Greek-inspired tiling.

Although the Architecture and decor may have been Greek themed, the food was pure southern comfort. For appetizers, we chose a hummus and trout dip that were both served with fried pita chips.

Both dips are a variety of different vegetables that consist of radish, cucumbers, carrots, pickles, and lemon zest. While each LEAP Ambassador chose their own meal, we all had a similar dish of it being a type of sandwich. Jessica’s was a chicken salad croissant…

…Morgan’s choice was a portobello dip…

…and I had a grilled pimento cheese BLT on sourdough bread.

Each dish had such immaculate flavors from their meat and toppings garnished within the sandwiches. We enjoyed eating a dash of the south while admiring the Greek revival architecture.

Biltmore Estate, Jessica Cuevas

The LEAP ambassadors were excited to travel to Asheville, North Carolina and add another state to our list of states visited, while also visiting another historic home. And what a home the Biltmore was!

The home was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt for the Vanderbilt family, whose railroad investments allowed George Washington Vanderbilt II to buy the land have this majestic home constructed.

Entering into a massive living area, which was almost completely covered with greenery, we stared with complete disbelief at the size and beauty of the room.

The high ceiling lined with windows allowed sunlight to flood in and perfectly accent the room. After learning that there are a total of 250 rooms in the Estate, it seemed impossible to make it through the tour. In the end, we saw about 40 rooms that were perfectly presented and frozen in time. Yvette commented on how the rooms were so majestic that it looked as though it had come out of a Disney film, when in reality the films could possibly have been based on the Biltmore rooms. The architect of the Estate, Richard Morris Hunt, so clearly put an immense amount of effort into each aspect of the Estate. Hunt even kept the salon closed off, hidden away from Mr. Vanderbilt’s eyes, until it was nothing short of perfection.

Mr. Vanderbilt had a near life size portrait of Hunt commissioned for the Estate itself, which shows his respect and adoration for constructing such a beautiful home. 

Architect Richard Morris Hunt (Left) and Landscape Architect Frederick Law Olmsted (Right)

Everyone was impressed by Mr. Vanderbilt’s Library, but it was my absolute favorite out of all the rooms we were able to see.

It was a grand room, but somehow maintained a cozy feel, and the ceiling was a trompe l’oeil masterprice.

Yvette appreciated the oval shaped design and colors of Mrs. Vanderbilt’s room, royal purple and gold, that represented her status as one of the wealthiest ladies in the U.S.

Morgan’s favorite room was the “children’s bedroom” which was cute in design and had two small twin size beds, a contrast to the other rooms since the majority had Queen-King size beds except for the servants’ quarters. Professor Yawn’s favorite room was the grand hall…

…with its many art pieces and grand organ.

Actually, though, any of the rooms could have been our favorite; they were all beautiful.

Probably the most astounding or shocking room was found to be the two-lane bowling alley.

This bowling alley could have quite possibly been one of the first installed in a private home in America. The lower and basement floors, where the servants stayed away from guests and family, were quite humbling compared to the main house. The basement really gave a clear perspective on the different worlds that lived and worked under the same roof. 

Once we toured as much of the house as we possibly could, we were able to now admire the home’s exterior.

The grounds, which now encompass about 8,000 acres, are incomparable, with statuary and beautiful gardens.

And to no one’s surprise, the gardens were just as vast as they were exquisite. Making connections from yesterday, Morgan was curious to know how it compared to our visit to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. They have multiple gardens that were all super beautiful and blooming that included roses, bushes, different kinds of trees and vines, koi ponds and much more.

Yvette commented that a horse or a golf cart would be nice for viewing the grounds of the Estate. 

We fell in love with how majestic and architecturally beautiful the Biltmore House is and its landscape that is as unrealistic as it may sound. We dreamed of what our lives would have been like in the Biltmore Estate in the 1800s. Where most Americans were living simplistic lives, life in the Biltmore would have been unsurpassed luxury. 

Dinner at Corner Kitchen, Yvette Mendoza

The Corner Kitchen, located a few miles from the Biltmore Estate, is set in a Victorian village of shops and restaurants. Before eating, we took a walk around the village, where we observed the beautiful style Victorian designed shops and restaurants. As we noticed the Victorian architecture, we also observed every store was alike from the outside, all having the same tones of brown and steep, gabled roofs which gave an elegant, uniformed look. The Corner Kitchen also adopted this look, and it was here where we were seated for what would turn out to be a fantastic meal!

We were seated outside, where we had a lovely view of the gazebo with vibrantly green vine like plants growing above us. Our waiter was vividly descriptive vividly described the menu. From the appetizers and entrees to the desserts, everything sounded fresh and overflowing with flavor. The waiter started us off with a cucumber garnished with a balsamic vinaigrette, topped with a cherry tomato and goat cheese, which is interestingly referred as a French amuse-bouche (“mouth amuser”).

We then ordered an assortment of different types of meats and salads that were all unique. As for the meats, each one of us got either duck, smoked salmon, tarragon salmon, or steak.

The duck was like steak but presented a different flavor, the texture would be soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Whereas the steak was cooked medium and flavored with the perfect amount of seasoning that came with potato crisp marinated in oil that were then sauteed. Lastly, the two orders of salmon were garnished with pink and purple flowers or a fresh ball of mozzarella. The mozzarella quickly became a favorite for the group, with its excellent fresh taste and smoothness in every bite.

Each item on the menu is fresh and local therefore they will not have every dish all year around. Their desserts are a great example of having fresh fruits and ingredients. All their pastries are handmade in their restaurant and their sister restaurant, Chestnut. We tried an assortment of their pastries: pear chocolate brownie with ginger ice cream, blueberry cheesecake, key lime tart topped with fresh fruit, and chocolate peanut butter pot au creme.

As each LEAP Ambassador tried each dessert item it was quickly gone before our eyes could see. Each one of them tasted like heaven, which was a “berry” great way to top off our night!

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, Huron Daily Tribune, Laredo Morning Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Connecticut Post, and Midland Reporter Telegram. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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