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“Turn left, and your destination will be on the left”, said our trusty navigation app. We’d arrived to Raleigh! And just in time for dinner with the Shauls. We were nervous-excited-thrilled to meet them, because – believe it or not – this would be the first time we met them in person. Stephanie and I’s friendship had blossomed over Google Hangouts, with the occasional cameo from our dear husbands. But in a moment, the virtual turned into the in-person, and screens were exchanged for hugs. As we got out of the car, Stephanie opened the front door and greeted us with a warm, ‘Welcome, Y’all!’. We’d arrived.
The four of us shared hugs and carried our bags inside to their beautiful home. They offered drinks to us and invited us to help ourselves to the charcuterie board they’d prepared on the counter. Three words: wine-soaked cheese. From Trader Joe’s. One of the most delicious things I’ve ever had – a sentiment that soon became a theme for this trip! I caught a glimpse of market lights out on the Shaul’s back porch and felt right at home. We were in North Carolina. Together. With friends to share it with.
The Shauls welcomed us with a delicious meal and the most generous Southern hospitality. It immediately felt like we’d been friends with them for ages! We shared with them our proposed itinerary for the week and they shared their suggestions and tips with us over slices of chess pie, topped with a heaping portion of whipped cream. After dinner, we all stayed up late talking and enjoying each other’s company, all wrapped up in the exciting newness of the trip. When we headed up to the guest room at the end of the night, there was a sweet treat, fresh flowers, and a kind note to welcome us. The Shauls truly showed us warm, welcoming hospitality and kindness through details big and small during our stay!
We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning and I started the day with some quiet time in the Shaul’s sun-strewn living room. Their beautiful home overlooks a lake, and the sun was shimmering on the surface of the water through the trees. The fall foliage was still in full swing and my fall-loving heart was filled to the brim. It was such a gift to have an extension of foliage after the leaves had already fallen in New Hampshire. Stephanie and I left pretty early to meet our friend Carrie Grace for breakfast at Yellow Dog Bread Company.
The bakery generates quite a crowd on weekend mornings with its array of warm bread, pastries, and treats. There was a bit of a line when we arrived. This provided the perfect opportunity to consider the menu and appreciate the atmosphere. Then it caught my eye: the cheese straw scone. It was such a treat to catch up with the girls over hot coffee and fresh baked goods.
After breakfast, Stephanie took me for a drive through Raleigh, pointing out her gorgeous wedding venue (the Merrimon-Wynne – swoon!) and several landmarks downtown. Everything is so charming there, and her tour helped me see the city through local eyes.
When Stephanie and I returned, Dillon and I headed out shortly after for an afternoon of adventuring together. The forecast called for rain for much of the week ahead, so we took advantage of the beautiful sunny weekend to be outside.
Our first stop was Sola, a cafe I’d heard great things about ahead of our trip. I was especially excited to snap our picture with their ‘I Believe in Raleigh’ mural. Sola was super cute and filled to the brim with happy locals. Everyone is so happy in the South, I love it! Every cafe we visited in Raleigh was adorable, inside and out. There was a little shop inside Sola with local goods, and a cozy spot to eat outside.
As hearty New Englanders, well-adjusted to cooler weather, we were the only people eating outside without coats. Many of the locals were wearing hats and gloves and jackets, but we found the 60-degree weather to be pleasantly warm.
After sharing a delicious sandwich, we set out for Umstead State Park. We spent an hour or so adventuring through the well-trodden paths in the park, and forging our own through the crunchy leaves. At every turn, there was a new bridge or landmark to stop and soak in. Holding hands and sneaking kisses with Dillon among a beautiful sun-soaked forest in North Carolina felt like a fairytale.
After our walk through the park, it was onward and upward for us! We had special places to go and even more special people to meet. We were heading to Summit Church for their Saturday evening service! After changing into our
Sunday Saturday best, we made our way to the Summit Blue Ridge campus.
Y’all, there are not enough words for how much I enjoyed our time at Summit. The church members were so warm and welcoming. As they learned that it was our first time visiting, they asked where we were from and were surprised when we shared, ‘New Hampshire!’. They took such good care of us while we were there. We worshipped alongside them, and as the worship set ended, the campus pastor presented the church with a question along the lines of, ‘What is something, right now, that only God can make possible in your life?’. That question was so incredibly timely and set such an important precedent for this season of our life.
After that, we listened to Pastor J.D. Greear speak on surrendering all to God. I love to unpack chapters of the Bible, digging deep into stories and learning nuances and details I might have missed on my own. The message did that and it was so, so good. After the service ended, we stayed for a bit of fellowship, talking with members of the church and staff. When the pastor learned that Dillon works in children’s ministry, he gave us a tour of their children’s programming area and talked with Dillon about the work he does. We left feeling so encouraged, with full hearts – and empty bellies!
We set out to find dinner and decided to try Bartaco at North Hills. Best.Decision. Unbeknownst to us, our restaurant choice would quickly become a favorite of ours! Bartaco was super busy (understandably for how amazing it is) so we left our name and decided to stroll around during our wait. As we walked outside, there it was, across the street: Anthropologie.
At home, our nearest Anthropologie is about an hour away, so this was the best surprise. Dillon graciously walked through the store with me, savoring the holiday candles and looking at the gorgeous paper goods. Husband of the year. When we finished in there, we found another gem around the corner: Lilly Pulitzer. Again, at home, our nearest Lilly Pulitzer store is an hour away. I’m pretty sure I jumped for joy right there on the sidewalk. Dillon once again graciously obliged and even helped me pick a dress or two to try on. Husband of the decade.
When our dinner reservation was ready, we made our way to our table and placed our order. Our server came over with complimentary chips, fresh guacamole, and salsas for us as thank you for waiting patiently during the wait time before. A trip to Anthropologie and Lilly Pulitzer and a free appetizer? Bartaco was quickly becoming my favorite, wait time and all.
We savored every bite of our meal and quickly began plotting a subsequent visit back during our trip. New England friends, Bartaco opened a location in Boston (in the Seaport – my favorite neighborhood!) just a few days after our trip. If you visit, I highly recommend the chicken pastor and crispy rock shrimp tacos, with grilled corn on the side. Dillon likes the carne asada tacos with grilled pineapple on the side.
After dinner, we visited Trader Joes to stock up on some basics for the week and then drove downtown for ice cream. By that time, the temperature had dropped to the 30s so we decided to head back to the Shaul’s to warm up and unwind instead. I was especially thankful for the leftover cheese straw scone I’d tucked into my bag that morning! We went to bed with grateful hearts that night, the perfect start to our vacation.
To be continued soon!
Read more about our trip in this post – Part 1: The Drive