When my mother-in-law and father-in-law suggested we do an overnight away so they could practice watching John Paul through the night (since they're gonna be doing it again when we go into labor and baby makes an arrival!), we were completely on board. It was going to be our first night away from John Paul ever, but we figured we needed to try it some time. And thankfully it just so happened to be around the time we were hoping to go on a babymoon. I was 32 weeks pregnant, which seemed like about the latest we should be traveling. So it worked perfectly. Win win!
We decided very easily on Asheville, NC. It's only about an hour from where we live and it's jam packed with fun things to do and good things to eat. So we figured it would maximize our adventure time while keeping our travel time to a minimum. When you only have 24 hours for a trip, that's the way to go!
We said our goodbyes to John Paulie (ugh, my heart) around 10:30am and drove straight into town for a most delicious lunch at a Lebanese place called Gypsy Queen.
I enjoyed their house tea, while John enjoyed his first-ever Lebanese beer. We ate way too much, including their Lebanese fries (fries smothered garlic aioli and tahini dressing, sprinkled with parsley . . . mmmmm), baba ganouj (smoked eggplant dip), and a kibbeh wrap (the national dish of Lebanon!). We were so full, we basically had to be rollllled out of there.
From there, we drove a few quick miles into downtown Asheville for a relaxation appointment at the Asheville Salt Cave. I wanted to do some sort of special-to-Asheville activity while we were in town, and this strange yet intriguing manmade cave of salt exactly fit the bill.
For $25 a pop, we both got to sit in this salt cave for an hour and breathe in the calming, healing salty air. You can read all about the benefits on their website if you're curious. I just thought it was something neat to do. And it was! Gosh, I feel relaxed again just looking at that picture.
After the salt cave, we wandered around downtown Asheville on foot, popping in and out of shops, and taking in the hippy vibes that make Asheville, well . . . Asheville.
We made sure to stop at a shop called Bathe, just as we had on our Eureka Springs babymoon, pre-John Paul. Just a few days before our Asheville babymoon, we ran out of the lavender bath salts we had purchased on the Eureka Springs babymoon at the Bathe store there. It was totally fate.
At Bathe, you pick the product you want (hand lotion, scrubbing salts, beard scrub . . . ) and then, using approximately 100 different scents, combine to make your own unique scent for the product. It's pretty neat. We created a sandalwood tobacco and vanilla salt hand scrub and lavender bath salts. As we checked out, we mentioned to the cashier that we had enjoyed visiting their shop in Eureka Springs (I believe the only other one) and she said we were the first people she met who'd been to both shops! Woohoo, achievement unlocked!
Following Bathe, we continued adventuring for a while until we stumbled upon a kombucha bar, AKA quintessential Asheville joint. I was thrilled to discover they serve kombucha flights!! When you can't drink booze (because pregnancy), but you find something that sorta mimics the fun things about booze, you do a happy dance.
In case you're not in the know, kombucha is fermented tea. It's a little fizzy, a little vinegary, and a lot of fun. I actually brewed it at home for a few months. And then I got pregnant and it lost its appeal. But I totally intend on picking up the brewing habit again. It's chockfull of so-good-for-you probiotics, so you really can't go wrong.
The flavors I tried, all made by Buchi Kombucha, were . . .
Fire -- cold pressed ginger + cayenne + spices (what?! too spicy)
Water -- elderberry + blueberry + coconut water (my fave!)
Earth -- roasted roots tonic (tasted like rootbeer . . . meh)
Sovereign -- ginger + peach + molasses (second fave!)
Avonlea -- orange + mango + sea buckthorn
Holiday -- cinnamon + cider + vanilla + clove
Belly up to the bar!
We decided we needed a little break following all the downtown adventures, so we headed to our hotel to check in. We didn't stay anywhere fancy. Just a regular ol' Baymont Inn & Suites. We figured it was best to save a little cash on our hotel so we could really go all out on a fancy adventure a little later in the evening.
(Hold your horses, I'll get there!)
After some quick R&R, we headed south south south of Asheville to a Korean restaurant for dinner. We figured heading away from downtown Asheville on a Saturday evening was a smart choice. Good thing this city is so cool that super delicious restaurants can be found still several miles outside of downtown.
We considered tons of different cuisines, but Stonebowl Korean won out, simply because (1) the pics on yelp made me salivate and (2) we don't have any Korean food restaurants near home. Easy choice.
We split dumplings as an appetizer and ordered the beef bi bim bop for dinner. It came with all these fun side dishes. And the bowl arrived at our table snap, crackle, poppin'! The stone bowl was hot hot hot, so the ingredients inside continued cooking while we enjoyed. It was all fantastically delicious AND fun! 5 out of 5 stars! Would recommend! *thumbs up emoji*
And from there, we headed to the main event . . . Christmas at Biltmore! This was our maj splurge during our babymoon, and it did not disappoint.
The Biltmore is a ridiculously huge mansion set in the beautiful mountain scenery of western NC. This crazy estate, finished in 1895, sits on over 10 square miles, and the house has 250 rooms, including 33 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms (what even?!?), 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley. It's like Downton Abbey on steroids. Need I say more?
Our admittance time wasn't until 8:45pm because they were already pretty booked by the time I got our in-advance tickets. So we spent some of our extra time wandering through the gift shops and drinking hot chocolate in the cold. It was pretty romantic.
We were finally allowed into the house and, guhhh, just breathtaking, guys!
I had to take a moment to pose in front of the largest decorated indoor Christmas tree I think I've ever seen. It was in their banquet hall, which has 70-foot-high barrel-vaulted ceilings. Umm, tall much?
We also needed a selfie at the bottom of the massive 4-story spiral grand staircase.
But seriously, it was gorg. The whole thing. It was all decked out for Christmas and they had professional musicians set throughout the house singing and playing classical Christmas tunes. So many happy feels.
We explored for about an hour, maybe more, then decided it was time to say goodbye to the crazy life of wealth and excess and head back to reality.
Our hotel room randomly had a hot tub in it. Like, attached hot tub room for two. It was a little weird and out of place, but wait . . . why am I complaining? We used our newly purchased lavender Bathe bath salts and relaxed in the tub for a tiny while. But then, like the old farts we are, we got super tired and realized we neeeeeed sleeeeeep. So sleep we did!
We totally failed at using this overnight away from our toddler to sleep in (doy.), but we had to squeeze in breakfast and Mass and a trip to Trader Joe's before getting home in time, so we didn't really have a choice. The good news is, we spent our non-sleeping time on so many adventures that missing out on the extra sleep felt totally worth it. :)
Breakfast was at Biscuit Head, a breakfast joint that specializes in creating crazy delicious biscuit dishes.
John got a brisket biscuit (YAS!) and I played it simple with an egg, cheese, and bacon biscuit, plus a side of their homemade yogurt with granola. I also raided their jam and butter bar, as evidenced by the 8 little containers of jam and butter laid across the table in front of John. That didn't even cover half of the available flavors. That jam bar was my JAM!
We sat around a bit to digest the biscuit bombs in our bellies and to wait out the 1-hour-before-Communion fast, and then headed into downtown Asheville one last time to attend Mass at the Basilica of St. Lawrence!
Mass was just lovely. It was the first weekend of Advent, and the Deacon gave a fantastic homily, reflecting on a much more realistic version of the Nativity than we typically hear or see.
Check out this gorgeous Church . . .
*swooning for Jesus*
And since we can't go to Asheville without a stop at Trader Joe's, we headed straight there after Mass to wander the aisles and aimlessly by all the things we don't need but looked too tasty to leave behind. (TJ's, if you're listening, PLEASE COME TO EAST TENNESSEE! PUH-LEEZ!)
We squeezed in a trip to a neat little coffee shop, sorta en route to the highway, Liberty House Coffee & Cafe, and I tried my first London Fog: earl grey tea with honey and almond milk. Mmmmm. They had these ridiculously huge pumpkins on their front porch, which I obvi needed to pose with.
And from there, we headed straight back to good ol' east TN, refreshed from all our fun and adventuring, but ready to see our little John Paul again.
Thanks for the memories, Asheville! You're pretty neat.