After the big lights of New York and the clean efficiency of DC we headed through Virginia and suddenly found ourselves in the south. The sudden change in accent as we checked into our first motel was so surprising I almost choked. We drove the Skyline drive through Shenandoah national park and were wowed by the views and the first tinges of fall.
Lucky we did because the next day on the Blue Ridge Parkway we had trouble seeing the road and had our own 'Deliverance' moment when the sat nav judged a steep unpaved single track covered picturesquely but perilously in fallen copper leaves to be the best route off the parkway - our Honda civic rental provided little reassurance.
We celebrated our survival with lunch at the Blue Ridge restaurant in Floyd, VA ('opposite the courthouse' seemed to be the address). No nonsense formica tables and huge portions of barbecue (basically pulled pork in BBQ sauce) served with 'slaw and cornbread followed by apple cobbler and a to-die-for pecan pie. The place was full of locals and several staff members who were off duty. I felt like I was in every novel set in the south I'd ever read.
Ever onwards, we spent the night in Boone, a real mountain town, and temperatures plummeted to near freezing. Dinner at the Hob Nob cafe was delicious.
Next stop Asheville, NC. Packed with art deco architecture, it's something of a cultural anomaly in the Appalachians. It's an arty place full of galleries and interesting shops and notably many people who have moved here for the scene.
We also spent a significant portion of time in a humungous shoe shop where we started something of a debate between staff and customers about the best places for 'barbecue' in Asheville, Nashville and Memphis - everyone had an opinion!
And finally we ate at Tupelo Honey Cafe on unanimous recommendation from the staff and customers of Tops Shoes. The biscuits were amazing (although being served basically a scone, jam and honey as a starter is just weird) and I finally had grits - not sure I'll be revisiting them soon, probably the most misnamed food stuff ever, but I'm satisfied to have completed the holy trinity of southern carbs: grits, biscuits and cornbread.
To finish here's a little run down of what these foodstuffs actually are: Biscuits - basically a savoury scone, but perhaps a bit breadier. Grits - a bit like porridge or creamed wheat. Savoury slop really. Cornbread - the only one that is how it sounds. A dry-ish, course bread.