Things I’m (Very) Grateful For, No.1: A Journey to Banner Elk

Yesterday I promised a few posts about things I was happy about, and things I was not happy about, nothing major.

The “nothing major” part wasn’t entirely accurate. This first post describes something very big that happened to me–over Thanksgiving weekend.

Are you ready for a story?

Here goes. The other week, I posted some pictures of a journey I took to North Carolina. Many readers seemed to like the smoky white skies, the dark roads.


All the pictures in that post were from the road between Knoxville, here in Tennessee, and Asheville, but our actual destination was deeper in the North Carolina high country, a winery in the small town of Banner Elk. You may possibly remember a few pictures I posted back in the summer, when Jeni and I had visited that winery the first time. We had been very happy then.


Banner Elk Winery, Summertime.

But now it was late November, and snow storms were forecast on the mountains. All the week leading up to that day, we had been checking Ray’s weather warnings, working out how we might safely leave Knoxville, get to Asheville, and then on to Banner Elk. We drove to Asheville with no snow in sight and spent Wednesday evening there; on Thursday we had a simple Thanksgiving lunch in Whole Foods, watching through the window the dustings of snow come and go. Snow in Asheville was no big deal: snow in Banner Elk might be a problem.

Fortunately, when we were ready to leave Asheville, the sun was bright.


I don’t think I’ve mentioned how much, over the last two and a bit years living in this part of the US, I’ve come to love the North Carolina high country: the area around Banner Elk, Boone, and Blowing Rock, in particular. To me, there has always seemed something deeply peaceful and vivid about that area; the Blue Ridge Parkway, from there to Asheville, is an epic range of valleys and peaks stretching on for hours. (This fondness of mine is the result of several weekend trips; I know very little about the area’s actual life, only what it makes me feel.)

We weren’t in search of scenery on Thanksgiving, however–just to arrive on time. As we got closer to Banner Elk, the snow got closer, too. The picture below was taken, at most, an hour after the one above.


By the time we arrived at the winery, snow was falling fast, cars were crawling forward on the un-salted stretches, and the whole area was being covered over. We parked on the flat ground beside the winery, had a quick tasting, and then clambered through several inches of snow to the villa where we were staying.

In the morning, as the sun came up, the whole area looked, well, spectacular.

IMG_0236Back in the summer, when Jeni and I had been to the winery the first time, we had both noticed a flier for a wedding service. We hadn’t talked about it, then, but when, a couple of months later, we had decided to elope–to get married in a private ceremony–we both loved the idea of coming here. It seemed a great middle path, between a wedding we couldn’t really afford and a courthouse ceremony. Our parents were kind enough to help out with the cost of the “elopement package,” for which I am very grateful. They were also kind enough to respect the “elopement” part, leaving us to get married alone.

It was now the morning of Black Friday: we would be married that evening.

The winery had a few locations available for the ceremony. One was the winery tasting room itself, but this, once the evening arrived, was quite crowded with casual drinkers. It seemed silly to have come all this way, just the two of us, and to get married in front of a bunch of random types. But it was far too cold to stand outdoors. The winery, we learned, also had an “enchanted barn,” a building they had locked up with the passing of the warmer weather. We decided: we wanted the barn. A bit of organisational work, and the barn was cleaned up and some heating repaired.


The enchanted barn.

Would you like to see some wedding photographs?





Looking at these pictures now makes me smile.

We spent the rest of the weekend at the winery, with the snow slowly fading away.

Jeni, by the way, is the director of the small press and literary events company, Burlesque Press, and a great fiction writer, too.

She runs the wonderful Hands On literary festival, in New Orleans, every new year’s eve–without any outside funding or external support, creating the whole the thing from her own hard work and the excellence of the writing community in the city. It’s remarkable what she’s able to do.

You should probably expect to see a lot of photos of that festival, too, in the early days of the coming year.

Thank you for reading my wedding story — I hope it was okay to share.

Best wishes,




7 thoughts on “Things I’m (Very) Grateful For, No.1: A Journey to Banner Elk

  1. Best wishes on your wedding and I wish many years of marital joy and happiness for both of you. It sounds like a memorable wedding and both of you look very happy. You needed a wife and we are all delighted that you found one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Is jeni I from New Orleans? Also, your shoes. British? The part over your toes seems rather ample. The bridal gown is beautiful. You both look very happy. A lovely wedding.


      • Daniel, your feet don’t look long or big. It is the part of the shoes over your toes that appears to be large. I wondered, since you Brits drink so much tea, if, perhaps they were stuffed with tea bags from England that you brought back from your visit to your home.


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