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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 (read on to find out what the RAD is, if you don’t know).


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 per se, but of businesses. a place by and for artists, and it’s known as the river arts district.


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 all 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 tourists 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. and be ready to just stroll around. on foot is the best way to explore the RAD.


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 walking around & 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 and free expression 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, industrial-ness is so amazing.



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.


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 – better yet, i wanted to be part of the local conversation. yeah, i wanted to be a clingman local. there were also other people squishing themselves into the ordering area too. tourists and locals, 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.


i grabbed my big mug and headed into what i thought was the back, corner room. wrong. well, it was the back, but it was not a corner. it 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.


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 now 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?


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.


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.


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

About Liz McGuire

Liz is a blogger, writer, and amateur photographer in Asheville, NC. She is a returning expat, re-adjusting to American life after living in Sweden for the past three years. On any given day you can find her planning her next adventure with her wife, blogging away on her blog (www.belovelive.com) about daily life and social issues, and discovering little hidden gems and secret places in the city. She faithfully totes her camera and her coffee mug everywhere she goes. And she’s always up for a conversation about spirituality, politics, or other taboo topics. You can find her on the web at www.belovelive.com.

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