Photo Locale of the Month – June 2017

Nashville has been in the news a lot lately.  The Nashville Predators, an NHL expansion team that debuted in 1998, are fighting for the Stanley Cup. They won their last two games, and the the city’s nightlife-rich streets have been filled with even greater than the usual number of revelers. Additionally, the 2017 Country Music Awards air this Sunday on CBS, and the CMA Awards are the city’s perennial Big Event. If that isn’t enough, it was just last month that Governor Bill Haslam announced, from Nashville, that legislation recently passed naming Tennessee the first state to promise free community college tuition.

Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the south, and last year it surpassed Memphis, three hours to the east, in population. Downtown Nashville, its Cumberland Riverfront in particular, has much to offer.

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The Second-Oldest Town in Tennessee

It was perhaps 16 months ago when I visited, and blogged about, the oldest town in Tennessee. That would be Jonesborough, once part of North Carolina and today just a stone’s throw from the redrawn state line. I remember walking around the antique shop-lined Main Street on a hot, sunny day, walking past centuries-old churches, some of which still feature separate seating for slaves.

The weather was decidedly different – autumnal, cold, and sporadically rainy – when, two weeks ago, I visited Dandridge, the second-oldest town in Tennessee.

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City Showdown: Memphis vs. Nashville

Memphis has traditionally held the title of “Tennessee’s Largest City,” ever since westward expansion post-Civil War brought settlers across the Mississippi River.  But that honor changed hands not long ago.  Nashville, the state capital, is now 25,000 people greater than Memphis in population.  In fact, Memphis actually has fewer residents than it did in 2000!

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What is going on here?  How can a city decline in population?  And which city is the better one, really?  Over the next several paragraphs, I’ll give my $0.02 on which city reigns supreme in categories of location, food, museums, parks and gardens, sports, nightlife, and – most important of all – overall livability.

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Tennessee Main Street Towns

Jonesborough 8

The picture above is of Main Street in Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennessee.  Jonesborough, founded in 1779, during the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, pre-dates Tennessee as a state, and was established as the capital of Washington County, North Carolina.

Tennessee itself finally gained statehood in 1796, with Knoxville, located in the eastern third of the state, serving at the state’s first capital.  As Tennessee – and the U.S. – expanded westward, the capital eventually moved to Nashville.  But the earliest seeds in what later became known as “The Volunteer State” were sown in and around Knoxville.  Nearly all of the state’s pre-Civil War towns still exist.  The luckiest thrive as tourism towns for history buffs, day trippers, and antiques collectors.  Jonesborough, which I wrote about in more detail last August, is just one of several.  Here are four more.

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The Mountain Culture of Tennessee

Museum of Appalachia 9

Tennessee is gorgeous in the fall. The eastern third of the state, which sees the Smoky Mountains rise to heights of almost 7,000 feet, is stunning. The fall colors peaked just last week, and as you remark about the crisp weather and the fallen leaves, don’t be surprised when you discover that fall’s harvest season carries with it a sense of community and, in rural parts of the state, a throw-back to simpler times.

I have spent the last two weekends taking in a sampling of this culture firsthand, albeit in somewhat of a staged environment. Mountain Makins’ is an annual fall festival of music, arts and crafts, and food. The Museum of Appalachia, meanwhile, is an open-air museum of highland culture that ranks as one of the best folk museums in the world.

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The Oldest Town in Tennessee

Two paragraphs of my last blog entry, A Potpourri of Updates, referenced a recent day trip to Jonesborough, Tennessee. I finished labeling and uploading my photos from the day, and, after viewing them again, thought I’d write a bit more about the day.

My parents and I had heard good things about Jonesborough, and my parents said that the town was featured on a recent episode of the PBS series Tennessee Crossroads. We visited Jonesborough on a sunny, moderately-humid Tuesday. I happened to have the day off, and woke up to sunny skies, which simply beckoned.

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A Potpourri of Updates

Mesa Rim Trail 13

It has been almost three weeks since my last blog post. So much has happened that I’ve barely had a chance to come up for air. But for the next 13 days or so, I’ll have a respite from the usual craziness, and even a chance at my first solo vacation since My (Not Quite) Coast-to-Coast Trip Report of 2014.

Meanwhile, I thought you might appreciate a CliffsNotes-style update on my life, and on things that are of interest to me.  I am still alive and well, Loyal Reader. I promise not to be offline for so long before my next post.

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A Day Trip to Knoxville

Last Monday I joined my parents on a day trip to Knoxville, Tennessee’s three-time former capital and the biggest city in the eastern half of the state. My parents travel to Knoxville (about an hour away) every eight weeks or so for Target and Publix runs, and this time their destination was a high-end international grocery store called Fresh Market.

Fresh Market is a stone’s throw from downtown, so when they asked me to tag along, I suggested adding on a visit to the East Tennessee History Center, with the caveat that we could grab lunch somewhere near Market Square, a center of pedestrian activity and a gathering place that is flanked by sidewalk cafés. (Market Square also plays host to countless Knoxville festivals, including the annual “HoLa Fest” that celebrates Latin food and culture. I attended HoLa Fest last year and blogged about it here.)

East Tennessee History Center 51

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Finding Bush in Tennessee (It’s Not What You Think)

Tennessee continues to surprise me.  I’ll go several weeks lamenting about the fact that there are no bars, Indian restaurants, or art house cinemas where I live…but then I’ll read about a scenic hiking trail close to home, or drive through a picturesque Civil War-era town, or stumble upon a surprising museum, and I’ll feel invigorated again.

It is this last discovery about which I want to write a few paragraphs today.

The Bush Beans Museum and Visitor Center

A few years ago, my parents toured the Bush Visitor Center in Chestnut Hill, TN.  I remember their enthusiastic review of the experience, particularly their raves about the on-site restaurant.  They suggested a return visit one day last week, and if I wasn’t as excited as they were about the prospect of touring a plant that is most famous for its production of baked beans, I nonetheless agreed to tag along.

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A Taste of Latin America…in Tennessee

September is Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States.  Two weeks ago I attend “HoLa Festival,” Knoxville’s annual celebration of the food, music, and culture of Latin America.  For two days each fall, Market Square and adjacent Krutch Park are transformed into pedestrian malls with kiosks and booths selling food, drinks, arts, and crafts from various Latin nations, including Spain and the Caribbean.

My mom joined me for the day.  She was most interested in seeing the costumes and watching the “Parade of Nations;” I was most interested in tasting the food.  Krutch Park is a small green space in downtown Knoxville dotted with modernist sculptures and park benches.  Market Street, which runs along the west side of the park, was closed to vehicles and turned into an open-air food carnival, similar to the Taste of Chicago and other venues that I am familiar with.  Two drinks tents operated on a ticket system – one sold bottled water and soft drinks, while the other sold cervezas y margaritas!

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