Its a wide open road……

Travel does the soul good so what better way to enrich ones spirit than to go road tripping once again.

On our most recent trip we headed to Knoxville, The Smoky Mountains, Dollywood, Pigeon Forge and Cherokee.  I wrote about Dollywood in a previous blog post however Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains are also very worthy contenders for their own blog spots.  And once again….don’t travel via the interstates otherwise you will journey for miles and miles and hours and hours and not actually see a single thing!

Eastern Tennessee is the home of Dollywood, the stunningly beautiful lavender tinged Great Smoky Mountains and the lively urban oasis of Knoxville.  This part of the world is home to beautiful lush valleys, heart breaking scenic beauty – especially found in the Smoky Mountains, culture, abundant wildlife and stunning landscapes.

*  Knoxville:  This a great weekend destination as it is only four and a half hours drive from Warner Robins (Georgia).  The lovely and gracious town of Knoxville is nestled at the foot of the Smoky Mountains and is rich in culture, warmth and true Tennessean charm.  It is chock full of restaurants, bars, very good cafes, live music, microbreweries and a very splendid Farmers Market.  As you will know from following this blog spot, I love a good farmers markets and the one located in the heart of Knoxville is fantastic.   There are food trucks (serving great food), fresh produce, beautiful craft, coffee, baked goods and historical reenactments.  I like to watch natures gentle seasonal change through a farmers market.  Summer has been of tomatoes and melons and peaches.  It will be followed by the apple and pumpkins which in turn will be followed by a winter of parsnips and kale – the cooler weather seemingly keeps kale sweeter.  It was sunny and cheerful at the Knoxville market.  A place full of happy and much loved dogs, happy vendors, farmers wanting to talk about their produce, street music and colorful flowers.

The pedestrian only Market Square is the heart of the city. It is so vibrant it almost has its own heart beat.  Not only are the Farmers Markets located there but also live theatre, summertime concerts and musicians.  The square is also surrounded by uber cool bars and restaurants and dinky little specialty shops.   The microbrew scene is Knoxville is also very impressive.  We had some great beers in the ‘Downtown Grill’ located on historic Gay Street – great atmosphere, great food, great staff and very very fine beers.   If in Knoxville do try the Grill.  Beers at ‘The Casual Pint’ are also very highly recommended.

Another must do in Knoxville is to visit Mast General Store.  A lovely American friend recommended this store (located in Gay Street) as it is one of the best and last remaining examples of an old country general store.  With over 500 varieties of old fashion ‘candy’ (lollies to Australians), clothing, home goods, books, music and toys etc. this is a great place to wander around and find that little something special to take home.

Knoxville is a town which will have you wanting to return.  Its a place that just makes you feel good for being there.

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Live Shakespearian theatre on a Saturday afternoon in Knoxville 

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Breakfast of champions – sunny side up free range egg, creamy grits and malt stout cured bacon. Tomato pie and seasonal fruit….plus some hot cinnamon donuts to finish 

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*  Pigeon Forge:  Pigeon Forge isn’t for everyone and it certainly wasn’t for me.  That said, it is one of the most popular destinations for vacationing families with 11 million people visiting this town each year!  Picture miles of highway lined with every conceivable attraction such as mini golf, signs, arcades, signs, chain restaurants, signs, show venues, signs, small fun parks, signs, souvenir after souvenir store, signs, chain motels etc. etc. etc. and signs.  It really was a visual assault.

*  Cherokee:  Sometimes Steve ‘see’s’ a hotel with character and I ‘see’ that same hotel with bed bugs!  Given that, we still stayed overnight in the town of Cherokee which is located adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway.  The town is a bit too ‘touristy’ for me (writes the gal who loved Dollywood), however the ‘Museum of the Cherokee Indian’ is worth a look.  There is history to be found in Cherokee – albeit a very sad episode of ethnic cleansing and duplicity.  Indian art and handmade crafts are another bonus if you can acquire it from the true custodians of the land.  Now there are an awful lot (or lot of awful) very tacky souvenir shops here plus faded facades and run down buildings around parts of the town.  I also did not warm to the massive casino (which happens to be the regions biggest draw card sadly!).  Does a huge casino such as this enrich and empower a community.  I very much doubt it!  There are always too many hands in the honey pot for any real benefit to reach those in the greatest of need on the reservation!  By the way…..the Australian 70’s duo Air Supply are playing at the casino on October 24.

Something of interest though were the colorful, hand painted fiberglass bears dotted around the around the town of Cherokee.  These have been painted by local tribal artists and each bear represents an aspect of Cherokee culture, their stories and the legends the Cherokee people hold most dear.

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Next stop….The Smoky Mountains xx

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