chattanooga getaway
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.

chattanooga arts district

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:

my chattanooga picnic
tim's chattanooga picnic

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.

hiking at lookout mountain

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.

alleia chattanooga

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.

alleia inside
pizza and goat cheese ravioli

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.

chattanooga bridge
glass bridge
chattanooga sunset

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.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. Jacqui

    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. Jenny

    this post makes me smile.

  3. Lan

    this post seriously made me swoon. i am so happy for you, where you are physically and in Life.

  4. Joanna

    My favorite! What a perfect, romantic time for you both. (And I always support a gratuitous bread shot.)

  5. Jarrelle

    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!!!

  6. MaryAnn

    Sweet, sweet, sweet! And you are so right about love boomerang-ing right back at us with gifts we could never anticipate. God is good to us like that.

  7. Elie

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

  8. Gemma

    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.

  9. Jen

    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.

  10. Ginger

    So happy for you. So glad that you are blooming where you are planted…

  11. J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog)

    Sounds like a lovely day! I love your picnic-in-the-car and that pizza. Everything looks so enjoyable. Beautiful pictures, too.

  12. Katie

    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!

  13. Caitlin

    How incredibly lovely. You deserve every second of happiness, and you should know that.

  14. TJ

    Awww. That sounds so sweet and like so much fun!

  15. Kim

    Oh, lovely loveliness. Swoonie swoonieness. Really, just so sweet and wonderful.

  16. Abby

    Beautiful post. You two sound so happy.

  17. Shannalee

    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!

  18. heather @ chiknpastry

    sounds like a fun fast getaway! love that (and yes, i clearly notice little details in pictures) you still have your jewel osco card on the keyring and a depaul bag :). makes me think of chicago too!

  19. Vicki

    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!

  20. Maddie

    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.

  21. Hannah - Bake Five

    that is too sweet! sounds like u two had the most wonderful time together (:

  22. Shannalee

    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!

  23. IslandEAT

    Hi, Shannalee. As always, a beautiful heart-felt post and your remarkable photography make your site one definitely worth visiting. Thanks, Dan

  24. Shannalee

    Well, thank you, Dan! I really appreciate those kind words.

  25. Christina

    I’m a new reader! This just happens to be my city! I’m so glad you read you enjoyed your time here!

  26. Shannalee

    Thanks for stopping by, Christina! You have a lovely hometown. : )

  27. molly

    way to carpe diem, shanalee.


  28. Shannalee

    That made me smile, Molly. : )

  29. Kim

    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!

  30. Shannalee

    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! : )

  31. Kim

    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.

  32. Pingback: Orange Crostatas | Food Loves Writing

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