Wine, books and pets … these are a few of my favourite things.
Basically, they are my favourite things and all three come together at Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar in Asheville, North Carolina. Books and champagne, in glasses with dog silhouettes on them.
And dogs (on leashes, of course) wandering through four floors of wall-to-wall mostly second-hand books, and art, animal head carvings, leather comfortable club chairs, lush carpets – ornate salon décor that would please a Victorian Oscar Wilde. Four levels.
This place has a café-style wine bar on one side, a coffee counter in the middle and cheeseboards, trout dips, mini cheesecakes and buckets of champagne served at clubhouse-style sitting circles throughout the bookstore. I’ve never felt so cocooned by dog-loving intellectual privilege and I’m loving it.
Yes, you can bring your dog inside. If this isn’t what heaven looks like, I question God’s aesthetic.
This place is dog-friendly … really dog friendly. Some customers and most staff stopped to ask me about Victor, who was determined to prance single-mindedly through the store (granted, we had been in the car for seven hours prior) until he finally calmed a bit a sat a few times allowing me to thoroughly go through shelves, carefully organized and labelled shelves – glorious. The American Civil War is a speciality here.
Even better, Victor is popular and what proud mom doesn’t want her precious one cooed over? People stop and ask about him. What breed is the most popular question and truth be told I mix it up a bit each time for my own interest. (He’s a huge mix of cuteness). One woman finds me on the third floor and says, “This is the dog I was told to come see.”
Who doesn’t love to hear that? Apparently, the woman I was previously speaking to had recently lost her fur baby and was considering another, a lot like Victor. You never know the back story casual conversations might carry.
We first visit Saturday evening and the place is packed. If you’re seriously looking for books (which I am – we’ve got a four-day cabin retreat coming up), Saturday’s not the best time. Too many ‘excuse mes’ as you’re searching. Sunday morning, however, I launch a second attack.
Sunday morning downtown Asheville is the place to go for brunch and so is Biscuit Head in the West End near The Red Roof Inn – there’s a line up around the corner – with a dog-friendly patio. Basically, Sunday brunch is the thing across the city. By 10 am downtown, I have a hard time finding a parking spot (again). Doesn’t Asheville sleep in?
Victor and I head back to Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, this time for a much quieter nosh along the sidewalk café, the closest I’ve been to Paris, since … I was in Paris.
Sunday morning is the day for leisure book browsing and this Sunday, it’s also pimento cheese and croissant time. That’s right – creamy pimento cheese spread locally made is delish along with some spicy chips and grapes. The plate’s colour palette is monochromatic, but the tastes are exactly what two days eating highway food demands.
I can’t help heading back to the shelves too, especially because there’s fewer people and Victor’s settled down after a hyped Saturday strolling the streets. As we walk the short staircase from the third floor to the second, I overhear pieces of a conversation: “I take her out a lot and socialize is very important,” a male voice says. I know he’s not talking about a kid. Sure enough, two people lounging in window seats are discussing a cute Akita pup who’s strolled into the bookstore.
Has Victor been usurped? Apparently, his 15-minutes of fame amid the shelves of Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar have expired. But there’s still the streets of downtown Asheville. This town is remarkably dog-friendly, maybe even obsessed (no complaints here). More on that next…. on dogtrotting.net.
First, check out day one.
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