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.
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.
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.
I didn’t know much about Chattanooga, just that it was conveniently two hours away and filled with natural beauty.
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.
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).
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.
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.
We’re true adventurers, I tell you. At least we earned our dinner.
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.
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.
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.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.