Visiting and Eating Our Way Through Chattanooga, TN

Last week — after more than a month with a Nashville address and over 30 days filled with the pure luxury of seeing the one person I want to see most every single day — I told Tim it was about time I started carrying a little more of the weight in this relationship.

An image of a tree covered in blooms, near a beautiful house.

He, you have to understand, is the same man who handed me flowers and a homecooked meal when I tried to surprise him last November; who made me chocolate-covered strawberries last month, on a holiday he doesn’t even like; who regularly sits and talks to me because he knows how much I love it; who has given me everything from killer fried eggs and delicious sandwiches to long afternoons working side-by-side at our computers.

An image showing an alley between two buildings.

So Tuesday morning, I whisked him off to Chattanooga — a city neither of us had ever been to before — for an entire day of midweek vacationing just for us. (As a side benefit, it turns out nothing makes a city feel like home faster than planning a day trip away from it.) He didn’t know where we were going, just that he’d need a change of clothes and the ability to leave all work behind.

An image showing a beautiful bridge.

I didn’t know much about Chattanooga, just that it was conveniently two hours away and filled with natural beauty.

A beautiful image of an old building in contrast with newer smaller building beside it.

Now, after a practically perfect day there, I know firsthand they don’t call it “scenic city” for nothing. Here is what we did:

After stopping at the city’s version of Whole Foods (Green Life Grocery), which was packed even on a Tuesday morning, to grab some snacks, we drove up to Lookout Mountain, where no-picnicking signs had us eating in our car, which was actually pretty fantastic, with the windows down and warm 70-something-degree weather surrounding us on all sides.

An image of a gorgeous solid rock mountain.

You can go to Lookout Mountain for the history (it’s actually the site of many Civil War battles), but we went for the hiking. From a place called Cravens House, there are several trails leading to spots named things like Point Park (at the top of the mountain) and Sunset Rock (where we headed).

An image of a woman's lap with bread on it inside a car.

I don’t know if it was the higher elevation, the incline, the giant (!) snake (!) Tim protected me from, or my frequent freaking out over the insanely steep dead drop right next to us, but we ended up out there on the trails for over three hours.

An image of a a person sitting on the driver's seat with bread, meat, cheese and fruit on his lap.

Not only did we make it to Sunset Rock, but we also kept going (unintentionally). Then when we turned around, we ended up on another path, from which we had to backtrack in order to return to the car.

An image showing an elegant interior of a chic restaurant.

We’re true adventurers, I tell you. At least we earned our dinner.

A beautiful Margherita pizza with that table set for two.

If there’s one thing we both like, it’s thin, chewy, charred pizza crusts, which is exactly what Alleia Restaurant (25 E Main) offers. We got the basic Margherita alongside some goat cheese ravioli, set in Alleia’s gorgeous dining room of big-scale decorations, sleek floors, and a kitchen you can see into.

An image of bridge during sunset.

Then to close off the day, we toured a little more of Chattanooga, from the walking bridge to the art district to the cute downtown.

An image of a highway road with the sunset as the background.

And heading home that night, while Tim drove and I had a hand to hold the whole way, I realized something funny about big gestures like surprise vacation days, the same thing you might already know from gifts you’ve given or ways you’ve loved: sometimes when you totally don’t expect it and you try your hardest to avoid it, you realize that you’re still the one being given to — again.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

32 thoughts on “Visiting and Eating Our Way Through Chattanooga, TN

  1. hey, don’t forget that one big thing you did for him (or mostly for him?) — move to nashville! 🙂 shanna, this post is beautiful. the city, the photos (!!!), the story. are these all film? i’m so proud of you! now if only spring could hit these parts so i could get outside and start shooting, too! but alas, there is snow. that’s the other reason you moved, right?

  2. I am sitting at my desk with a huge smile on my face for a few different reasons. . . I am so happy to see you happy, you visited my old stomping grounds and I loved seeing the pics of Chattanooga!!!

  3. What a wonderful idea, and beautifully documented. I’m going to organize a “surprise vacation day” myself for my boyfriend…Thank you for sharing!

  4. What a lovely day, I always feel so content when we manage an impromptu day away. Last Saturday we took the train to a small town on the coast and walked up a big hill (actually an extinct volcano!) and along a sandy beach – so perfect.

  5. Wow, my eyes are teary now. What you just described is exactly how I feel about my marriage, and I’m thankful every day that I have it. We recently took a trip to Nashville and while I planned most if it, it was just having my husband (also a Tim) with me that made it what it was.

  6. Road trips are some of my fondest memories. We always have such a great time talking, eating, discussing, and listening to music. Love the lunch on the lap!

  7. Jacqui, Leave it to you to find a way to encourage me–again. Thank you for your consistently kind, good-finding words. And these ARE all film! I was thinking of you the whole time. Leaving my digital camera’s battery at home (!) has forced me to return to the classics.

    Jenny, Me too!

    Lan, Thank you, sweet girl!

    Joanna, Ha! I should add that it was a fresh sourdough, which is easier to digest because of the fermentation. And we ate it alongside raw cheddar, fresh plums, chopped carrots, organic strawberries, and homemade granola bars. : )

    Jarrelle, Thanks, girl! And thanks for your tips about Chattanooga!

    MaryAnn, He is the ultimate gift giver, no question!

    Elie, Yeah! I love that you’re going to do that! Hope you two have a blast!

    Gemma, Oh, that does sound perfect!

    Jen, : ) You sound a lot like me—I’m always getting teary eyed from blog posts! My Tim’s family lives near Cincinnati, so I told him we need to look into that gelato company on your blog next time we’re up there. YUM.

    Ginger, Thank you!

    J3nn, Thanks so much! There is nothing like film.

    Katie, I know! I love road trips.

    Caitlin, Trust me, if I were getting what I deserved, not a bit of this would be part of it. All grace—pure grace on top of grace. But thank you for your kindness and sweet words, friend!

    TJ, : )

    Kim, Ha! I like swoonie swoonieness.

    Abby, Thank you!

  8. What a beautiful post and beautiful photos! Not sure why but while reading the part at the end about holding Tim’s hand on the ride home made me think of that awful experience you had a few years ago driving through the industrial park in Hodgkins to UPS. If I recall you were upset about having to go through such an experience alone. And now just a short time later you have someone to share positive experiences with!

  9. That last sentence kills me! What a sweet, sweet post, and the photos are out of this world. I think you just proved why film cameras will never go out of style—and convinced me that I need to visit Chattanooga ASAP.

  10. Heather, Good eye! Yes, I am still pretty obviously from Chicago. : ) The DePaul bag goes with me everywhere–super handy at the grocery store!

    Vicki, Ugh, there’s a night I don’t like to think about, except to remember how God comforted me so specifically and practically. I think, whether it’s a night where I feel alone or a day like this one that I spend with someone great, there’s nothing as good as knowing God’s there, and He sees. He is good to give me Tim, too, though. No question.

    Maddie, Aw, thank you! And I know about film! So amazing.

    Hannah, Thank you!

  11. Just stumbled upon your blog from reading A Sweet Spoonful and it is GREAT!! I lived in Chattanooga for four years and loved it. So beautiful. I live in Memphis and you guys should come down here for a night or two! Great food and music. Cheers!

  12. Well, that is nice to hear, Kim! Everyone I’ve met around here talks about Memphis like it’s full of gang fights or something. Thanks for the recommendation from someone who lives there! : )

  13. Don’t listen to them…….trust me. Memphis is not scary like some people think. It’s a super fun and very electic city with a great food and music scene.

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