ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

If you've known me for any length of time, you know that Asheville has been and always will be a place incredibly close to my heart. My first experience in this heaven of a city was a summer I spent living in Black Mountain, a small town outside greater Asheville, with FUGE, where my duties included documenting a bunch of middle and high schoolers' adventures in the mountains for three sunny and sweaty months.

I've spent loads of time in this area of the Blue Ridge Mountains exploring, backpacking, driving, eating, drinking, listening to music, dancing to music, looking for jobs, interviewing for jobs I never got, etc. It was only fitting that it was a stop early this winter, and it was only the BEST THING IN THE WORLD that two of my closest gal pals came with.

Sarah and Alex and I met in February 2014 at an international job fair, where we all proceeded to accept jobs that plucked us from our southern homes in the states and chucked us over to the other side of the world. Thankful beyond just about everything that I was able to see both of them over the following three-ish years, we had not all three been together since that job fair so long ago. When Alex, the last of us to return to the states, got back home, we planned a trip to celebrate all that God had done in our lives since our last meeting.

Kindred spirits like these two are INCREDIBLY hard to come by, and I say that because I know for a fact that God put sisters in three different families and we are them. We share so many interests, and one that I'm thankful for is a love for new, good and "twist-on-this" foods. Alex and Sarah will tell you that my list of researched and desirable Asheville restaurants would have lasted us for nigh a month, so we had to be picky.

Night one, we ate in Black Mountain at My Father's Pizza, a local favorite, casual and delicious. Afterwards, we headed to Jack of the Wood, a bar/music venue in downtown Asheville, where we listened to smooth tunes from Moonshine Rhythm Club, a group of talented guys from Music City.

Our first stop the next morning was Early Girl Eatery. We arrived at 9am, the perfect time to arrive, as the dining room filled up immediately after we were seated. Per usual for us, we ordered three delicious plates to pass to the left every ten-ish minutes. Best hash of my life. Best french toast of my life, best benedict of my life.

We continued spending the morning downtown, grabbing some fuel at Trade & Lore per the recommendation of a trusted coffee-loving friend. We wandered to several shops downtown that fed our love of Asian culture and quirky interior aesthetic. See Asheville Market Basket and LOFT.

We stumbled upon our favorite stop that afternoon, Horse + Hero. They offered an incredible selection of art prints and cards, and it was here we discovered our next days activity, The Big Crafty.

Before spending time exploring the River Arts District, we stopped for drinking chocolate and macarons (Let's be real. I stopped for these things.) at French Broad Chocolate Lounge, which had since my last visit expanded to a much more spacious and lovely location. We ordered and tried an incredibly intimidating drinking chocolate, something with rose and citrus in it, I'm sure.

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While at the arts district, we chatted with a few of the artists, some creating while we were perusing. We took advantage of the outrageously colored brick walls and met the folks who run Sunnyside Trading Co., a bohemian furniture company who gets their textiles and fabrics from overseas: I recognized several Thai designs and some quilts I'd seen in the Chiang Mai markets.

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Grabbing a cuppa at Pennycup nearby, we headed back to our cute Airbnb in Black Mountain to do a little wandering around and enjoy the blue-grey weather.

That night we had one of the most divine dining experiences ordering small plates at Rhubarb, a rustic and farm-to-table restaurant on the main drag in downtown. We ordered the preserved plate (the best thing I've ever eaten), Mongolian barbecued lamb ribs, and a couple other things that have since exited the constantly changing local menu. We finished up with some cakes at Old Europe, where we decided that it was much to cold to try to use the hot tub at our place, even with the spicy ginger ales we'd picked up to enjoy. Asheville had reminded us all too well how cold the NC mountains get in December.

We spent our last night watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty since Sarah hadn't watched it (shocking, yes), and turned in rather early, since the next day was our departure and we still had lots we wanted to do. In the morning we ate at Biscuit Head, home of the gravy flight and the jam bar. The rain kept us from exploring quite as much as we had hoped, so after browsing the colorful and loud (and beautiful) craft fair, we spent our last hours at High Five Coffee reading (typical of each of us, actually) to waste the time before we dropped Sarah off at the Greyhound station.

Our weekend, though full, was relaxing and packed with some of the best conversation I'd had in months. If you've ever lived overseas, you know what it's like to connect with those who've had the same experience. There's something about those who have repatriated as well, no matter how long it took them, is taking them, or where they lived and loved before. I am forever grateful to Alex and Sarah for sharing their lives with me, and will think back on this trip with so much happiness. Honestly, it's only a matter of time before we just recreate it. We still have the other four fifths of the list of things to see, taste, do that I'd made before we even left.