End of summer road trip 

When we had dinner with Budak in Stockholm during our November trip, two exiting things happened: 1) Budak asked David to be a groomsman in his wedding and 2) he told us the date and place for his wedding: Greensboro, Labor Day Weekend. I immediately began to dream about Southern food and an end of summer vacation…

When it came time to book the trip, as tends to happen, we realized our vacation time and travel funds didn’t quite lineup with my lofty daydreams (next time, OBX  Athens and Savannah!). So, we got creative.

Flying into Atlanta was dramatically less expensive than NC airports, so we decided to start there before driving to Asheville, where we would spend a few nights before the wedding.

We arrived at ATL late Wednesday night and used SPG points to stay at the Westin near the airport. We had a surprisingly delicious meal at the hotel restaurant before crashing after the long day of travel.

Despite the time change, we woke up early, eager to see a few Atlanta highlights before heading…northeast? West?….to Asheville.

David read about Home Grown‘s breakfasts, and after making our way out of the ATL megopolis and car rental, we were in the city, ready for grits and cozy chicken.

More than fortified by that heavy breakfast, we decided to browse through Krog Street Market before heading downtown.

Impeccable design with a charming home store next door, it would definitely be a great stop for lunch or dinner. After admiring the food stalls, we walked a bit on the Beltline before the humidity got to be too much.

Two years back in CA and I’ve become such a humidity wimp! We saw people jogging and wrapping up long walks in the 90 plus, humid weather. Impressive. The Beltline is beautiful and reminded me a lot of the Katy Trail in Dallas.

Before heading to Asheville, I wanted to stop at Olympic Park. Katie’s forthcoming book, Wing Jones, takes place during the 96 Olympics, and I wanted to go back to the park (the last time I was there was 20+ years ago as a child just before the Olympics opened :)).

Eventually, we hit the road for the 3.5 hour drive to Asheville.

The mountains were beautiful-and so green! “It feels like Maui,” David said, as we wound our way through the misty, rainy drive. I was thinking the same thing. Perhaps we’re just totally greenery starved in our dry-as-a-bone California drought-but something about the drive definitely reminded me of the Road to Hana.

After checking into our hotel downtown (thanks again, SPG!) we got ready for dinner. Walking through the downtown on the way to dinner, past the funky shops and eclectic coffee shops, I felt like I was in Portland, but surrounded by the mountains. Everything was just so cool. Including Nightbell, our dinner restaurant. Unfortunately, the food wasn’t nearly as great as the vibe, but maybe it was overhyped?

During the walk back, we must have passed a half a dozen chocolate shops (no exaggeration-two were next door to each other). Everything looked super tempting, but I was pretty content with a cozy tea I picked up from a hilarious Double Decker Bus-turned coffee shop.

The next morning, we started the day with another walk downtown, this time to the highly reviewed Early Girl Eatery for brunch.

It’s on Wall Street, a charming little side street with fun window shopping.  Eek! Once again, I didn’t think the food lived up to the hype-it was good! But no need to return.

Next up-our main plan for the day: touring the Biltmore Estate. As David’s friend Jeff said: “it’s so worth it, even though it’s stupid expensive.” He was right on both counts-it’s awesome, worth it, and absurdly expensive.

Any commentary I have on the Vanderbilt’s “summer home” would fail to accurately depict how magnificent it is. So, I’ll just hold on to these few photos and the happy memories of wandering through, admiring the beautiful rooms and gardens (and pretending I was in Downton Abbey).

That dining room table can seat 48 people! And look at that fireplace.

How on earth did FL Olmsted manage to make so many gardens so beautiful during one life? He was the mastermind behind this beauty, which continues to amaze in 2016.

After a delicious scoop of cookies and cream ice cream, we said goodbye to the estate and made our way back downtown.  Lunch was DELICIOUS.  We stopped into White Duck Taco Shop and tried four different tacos–all incredible.

Soon enough, it was time for dinner. We started the evening with a tasting a Wicked Weed Brewing.  The place was PACKED, but we got seats at the bar.  Since moving away from a city, we basically never meet up at a bar anymore, so it was quite fun to just sit at the bar counter, sip yummy drinks and relax.  This was Friday night, and it was exciting to see how much more buzzy and alive downtown was with a weekend crowd.  Most of the buildings are gorgeously preserved art decco stunners.  As we walked to dinner, we just kept asking each other, “how is this place so cool? Like seriously, what is the history of the city that made it so charming?”

After a loooooooooong wait for dinner, we finalllllllllllyyyyyyyyy got a table at Buxton Hall BBQ. So worth the wait.  I had a FRIED CHICKEN sandwich with PIMENTO CHEESE SAUCE and a slice of cheddar cheese and it was incredible, so worth all the unhealthiness, and I’m still thinking about it every other day.

Saturday was our last day in pretty Asheville.  Thank goodness we were leaving to go to two of our favorite people’s wedding, because it was hard to say goodbye!  Part of it was the realization that we have no idea when we’ll ever return to Asheville (it’s not super easy to get to from CA) and the fact I wasn’t quite ready to part with that relaxing mountain air.

We walked to Tupelo Honey in the magnificent Grove Arcade.  Once again, super crowded with two seats left at the bar-perfect! If we do ever go back to Asheville, I will definitely go back here.  The biscuits and honey were perfectly buttery, as were the rich scrambled eggs. We sat next to the nicest couple, Frank and John, who kindly told us all about the history of Asheville and explained why the architecture is so lovingly preserved (Asheville was a boom town in the 20s, and devastated by the Great Depression. Over the next 50 years, it slowly paid off its debt. During that time, while other cities built skyscrapers, it was still paying its creditors, leaving its gorgeous art deco and historic architecture largely in tact).

Before leaving for Greensboro, Frank encouraged us to drive up the road to the Grove Park Inn-“you have to see it,” he said, “it’s absolutely incredible.”

And it was. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a gigantic hotel-and the setting was even more impressive than the architecture.  It sits perched on a perfect spot for spectacular mountain views, and there is a gorgeous patio that overlooks a golf course to do just that–sit and admire the view.  In another “if we return to Asheville, let’s….” mental note, I promised myself we would have brunch on that gorgeous patio if we ever returned.

So, hopefully we’ll return someday! At that point, it was finally time to say goodbye and get on the road to the #BexandAlex wedding!!




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