Staying in a hotel is an experience I’ve taken for granted, as this year of COVID-19 has taught me. After being grounded by the pandemic for what feels like ages, a night in Asheville at the Kimpton Hotel Arras was a perfect opportunity for a needed return to some semblance of normal life.
Much has changed since my last visit to a hotel. Many amenities have disappeared from rooms, daily housekeeping service and yoga classes have been suspended, individual bags of ice fill mini-refrigerators in the hallways, and masks are required for staff and guests in common areas. Even so, stepping into the Arras’s lobby is like a breath of fresh air.
“Mountain modern” is how general manager David McCartney describes the décor, which includes 22 commissioned pieces of local art. From the giant cast-ceramic leaves that appear to float across the lobby ceiling to the sculptural copper work depicting the French Broad River, which hangs above the check-in desk, the interior takes its cues from the area’s lush natural landscape.
The former Northwestern Bank building, erected in 1965 overlooking Pack Square, was stripped down to the girders during its four-year renovation by McKibbon Hospitality. Opened as a hotel a year ago, the 19-story structure still crowns the corner of Patton and Biltmore avenues as the tallest building in Asheville, but the lackluster aluminum panels have been replaced by metal and glass sheathing with stone accents. Sleek Art Deco details added to the façade nod to the city’s impressive cache of Deco architecture, such as the 1928 Kress Building across the street. Floors one through nine are devoted to the 128-room boutique hotel; the upper floors contain condominiums.
The location sells itself. “The Arras is truly at the heart of Asheville,” says McCartney proudly. “Guests can walk to breweries, galleries, shops, the [recently renovated] Asheville Art Museum, and more than 100 downtown restaurants.” Named after a village in northern France known for its tapestries, the hotel continues the textile theme in the title of the in-house restaurant, Bargello (a type of needlepoint stitch).
A cocktail at District 42, the lobby bar, precedes an excellent dinner of grilled octopus, house-made pea ravioli, and mountain trout from Bargello’s menu of Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Then it’s off to my room, a spacious corner executive suite, with windows on two walls affording an expansive sunset view of the city. A seating area leads into the bedroom, and the bath includes a deep soaking tub. More local art complements the calming color scheme of organic browns, beiges, and grays.
Though you might not be able to see their smiles behind the masks, the hotel’s staff members pride themselves on making personal connections with their guests. It’s the little things that strike you. For me, it was when the general manager learned I had a golden retriever at home—who’s not a good traveler, or she would have been welcome here—and presented me with a little “doggie bag” of treats and toys to take home to her (these are provided to all the hotel’s canine guests).
COVID-19 precautions aside, my stay at the Kimpton Hotel Arras provided the “genuine, memorable experience” that McCartney and his staff constantly strive to bestow upon their guests. With my appetite for traveling whetted anew, I’m ready to go back.
Kimpton Hotel Arras, 7 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC. (828) 255-0303, hotelarras.com; weekday rates for a standard room begin at $199/night.
STAY & PLAY
/// Fall at Biltmore Hundreds of chrysanthemums and salvias brighten the display beds at Biltmore Estate during the month of October. This is the ideal time to revel in these autumn blooms, which play against the vivid crimsons and golds of the sugar maples, hickory, and gum trees that forest George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre Gilded Age estate. 1 Lodge St, Asheville,
NC. (800) 411-3812, biltmore.com
/// La Bodega by Cúrate To pivot their restaurant offerings due to COVID-19, Chef Katie Button and her husband, Félix Meana, have reimagined the former Button & Co. Bagels space as a one-stop grocery for Spanish specialty items (including wine, sherry, and vermouth), semi-prepared Cúrate favorites, and delightful sandwiches and charcuterie platters to go.
32 S Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC.
(828) 630-0330, katiebuttonrestaurants.com/la-bodega-by-curate