Day Trip: Asheville

Wednesday, Tim and I spent our first five waking hours driving, through twists and turns and mountain ranges, to Asheville, North Carolina. Just before we left, while I was packing a bag of toiletries in the bathroom, my hair still wet and the window letting in cool morning air, Tim came in and said “I love taking trips!” Or, really, he said, “I LOVE TAKING TRIPS!” because he said it with the same gusto one might have when announcing “I JUST WON THE LOTTERY!” It made me laugh. It made my heart swell. For the record, Tim and everybody: I LOVE TAKING TRIPS, too.

day trip asheville

We packed our car with a small overnight bag, a few snacks we grabbed on our way out the door, our camera and a handwritten list of places to visit. Our laptops, and all the emailing and freelance working that goes with them, stayed behind. For people who are on their computers as much as we are, it felt strange to leave our laptops behind. For people who are on their computers as much as we are, it felt wonderful to leave our laptops behind.

By 2:30 p.m., eastern time, the two of us sat side by side in the middle of Tupelo Honey in downtown Asheville, ceiling fans above us and a packed screened-in eating area a few feet away. Tim said it felt like vacation. I said it basically was. Then our waiter, with his kind green eyes, olive skin and dreadlocks, came by and asked when we wanted our biscuits, “Before, during or after your meals?” and I didn’t know if we were in the mountains or the South or a hipster town, when it hit me that this place, this Asheville, was all three.

tupelo honey cafe

We ordered an open-faced sandwich that started with sourdough and ended with havarti cheese; in between were a fried green tomato, tangy lemon aioli, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and spinach. On the side, crispy, seasoned sweet potato fries. As an extra side, brown butter Brussels sprouts. In our confusion over parking meters and search for spare change in the car, I’d left my iPhone in the seat, so as we sat there getting our fill of vegetables, Tim researched where we’d go next.

us in asheville

Downtown Asheville, on first impression, is busy and colorful and clean. In the three or four blocks we walked from the restaurant, we passed an all-natural soap store, several outdoor cafes, many restaurants, an organic clothing shop, a hippie clothing shop and a sign for an Indian street food vendor we never did find. We left the main area to drive through hilly, historic neighborhoods and almost visit the Biltmore, but we came back within an hour or so for dessert at the spot several of you recommended on Facebook: French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Be still my heart.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge

We had our friends Sue and Jordan to thank for the getaway. They were the reason we were in Asheville, the reason we’d woken up and pointed the car east and found ourselves eating flourless chocolate cake and a chocolate-dipped cookie near the North Carolina mountains. Yesterday was their tenth wedding anniversary. A decade ago, this past Wednesday, I was at their rehearsal dinner, along with their families and other friends. I remember Jordan’s mom crying when she said how much she loved Sue. I remember Sue’s dad telling us in the church, “The only rule is the bride gets whatever she wants!” I remember seeing Sue get ready on her wedding day and thinking no woman anywhere had ever looked as beautiful as she did, right then. Since their wedding, I’ve seen these two only a handful of times: at another wedding, for a quick breakfast, for a lunch and Sue was at our wedding two Octobers ago. But I’ve talked to them about so many things, from church to work to marriage, that seeing them a few days ago felt like such a good gift. Sue was the friend I’d asked, “How do you know you love someone?” after meeting Tim. She was one of three people who prayed for us at our wedding, in our prayer circle of family and friends.

We met them at Malaprop’s, the cutest little indie bookstore, though I’ll admit once we found them we weren’t paying much attention to the shelves. Then the four of us ate at The Blackbird, an upscale, modern restaurant where our table was essentially al fresco, set next to an open wall of windows that let the warm evening air inside. We talked about their ten years of marriage. We talked about our one-and-a-half. We talked about different seasons of work and income and living situations and of praying for answers when it feels they don’t come.

blackbird asheville

We stayed longer than we’d planned to, and when we stepped outside the restaurant, the sky opened up, first with trickles of rain and then a downpour. Working our way back to the cars, laughing at the water falling all around us, we went from damp to wet to dripping everywhere. Our steps quickened, and, at the corner by our parking garages, we rushed to hug and say goodbye.

By then the sky was dark, and the rains grew stronger. Tim and I approached the highway, heading to our hotel for the night, in Knoxville. Sheets of water hit our windshield, one after another, blinding us to the view ahead for a moment, then opening up, then blinding us again. We had to shout to talk. Traffic slowed. An ambulance rushed by. Tim held my hand, and, whenever I was afraid, I’d squeeze it, flinching and gasping at whatever was before us. Eventually he took it back, bracing the wheel with both hands, and both of us felt wide awake, despite what a long day it had been. Then, somewhere in the midst of the mountains, as we followed the taillights of a semi-truck, my heart beating fast, the thought hit me, out of nowhere, that I was not the one driving our car. I knew that, but it surprised me still. I closed my eyes, and the car kept moving, sailing forward, slowly, steadily along. I was not the one driving our car.

While we moved through scary scenes, there was nothing I could do but sit there, patiently, and trust.

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,, 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.

44 thoughts on “Day Trip: Asheville”

  1. OH Asheville is one of my favorite places! And Tupelo Honey Cafe is the best!
    Gerrit and I went there on our honeymoon and have decided that we need to go back every five years for our anniversary (although I love the place so much I’m not sure I can wait to be back for two more years!)

  2. Shanna, this is so beautiful. I love your last paragraph.

    I hope next time you guys are up this way (or whenever Jivan and I finally make it to Nashville) we can share a meal.

  3. What an eventful day trip! I’ve been wanting to visit Ashevile for quite awhile. Now, after reading through your mini-tour, I REALLY want to visit Asheville, even if it’s just to eat that sandwich from Tupelo Honey. As usual, beautifully written and beautifully photographed.

  4. this was wonderful! I visited Asheville 2 years ago and I still think about that biscuit I had at Tupelo Honey. So delicious!

  5. First of all, gorgeous writing and photos, as always. Second, I love, love Asheville! I visited almost 3 years ago and still remember the most delicious brunch at Early Girl Eatery. I think I’d visit again just for that lunch y’all had at Tupelo Honey- yum! Oh, and I’m with you two- I LOVE TAKING TRIPS!! 🙂

  6. You made me get all teary… Love our friendship that can spark impromptu mountain meetings and conversation that leaves me thinking hours later. You and Tim are a perfect pair, and I’m so thankful for how God is still working in both of our marriages!! Love you, friend!!!

  7. When I was 20 I was living in NYC and I took a long train ride to Asheville to visit an old friend who lived there. I was searching for truth but was certain I would NEVER find that truth in Jesus:) It was in the mountains that my heart softened and changed, and I began to get a glimpse of who He is. Asheville will always be a special place to me. I have been back a few times since because my husband has family there. Reading this brought me back to a sweet sweet time. Beautiful words, beautiful photos.

  8. Okay, first and very importantly, what kind of cookie is that chocolate-dipped yumminess?!

    It sounds like you all had such a fun day! I’ve never been to Asheville but definitely hope to visit soon. Thank you for this precious glimpse into your special day with friends.

  9. you know, a couple of months ago Juan and I drove a couple of hours to the Argentine countryside where we’d eventually stay at a ranch so tranquil and beautiful we extended our stayed from two to three nights. The last day, we had to leave earlier because the gathering clouds were threatening a thunderstorm that would leave us stuck in the mud road if we didn’t get out then. Even still, the 5km of dirt road was difficult to maneuver with the increasingly heavy splashes of rain, and as our small little volkswagen golf slippered and swerved from one side to the other of the narrow, reddish mud trail, i gripped the sides of my seat, heat beating with uncertainty and even fear.

    but as you said, knowing that I wasn’t even the one steering the wheel, and knowing that god was in charge of the situation, stilled my fearful heart.

    thanks for sharing your experience with you, and am so glad you’re fortunate enough to have friends as wonderful as Sue! Happy Friday <3

    • Yikes! I’m telling you, these terrifying road experiences are memorable for sure, huh? Glad you survived that crazy drive and glad we survived ours. Thanks for your sweet comment.

  10. I used to live in Boulder and one of my roommates was from Asheville. She spoke of it so fondly that I just had to see it for myself. I made a trip there a few years ago, strolled through the town center and took a hike in the mountains. While it was a nice place, it has nothing on Boulder. 😉 Have you or Tim ever been there? Maybe it could be your next trip! 🙂

  11. I went to Asheville for my 30th birthday (back when I still lived in Wheaton) and I’ve thought about taking a day or weekend trip to visit again. Loved Tupelo Honey! That Chocolate Lounge was not there when I visited but it sounds like my kind of place. The Biltmore tour is well worth it and the restaurants are amazing. If you ever go back, you have to go on the winery tour. My mom and I did a dark chocolate and red wine tasting that blew my mind. Then you can do a tasting and try as many of the wines as you want. Good times.

  12. My heart beat faster with each paragraph and by the end, I just wanted to grip someone’s hand too. Thank you for sharing such poignant moments in your sparkling way with words. I look forward to your posts.
    <3 Lyndsey

  13. Thank you for this post! My in-laws live just outside of Ashville and my husband and I visited for my first time last June. We will be going in a few weeks again for our (belated) wedding party. We went to Zambra last year, a cute and delicious Spanish tapas restaurant. We loved it!
    We will need to try out the restaurants that you posted about when we go at the end of the month.

  14. Oh man — you were an hour from us. Next time … come just a bit further! 🙂

    Other than that complaint, three cheers for a good first look at Asheville. I’ve got bookstores for you for next time, a great cemetery walk, our favorite gallery (there are dozens) — all sorts of good things. Every year we talk about going somewhere else for our anniversary. And every year finds us back in Asheville.

  15. Just visited Asheville for the first time over Memorial Day weekend! We also made a stop at Tupelo … the shrimp and goat cheese grits are amazing!


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