Serendipity! Heading slowly towards Memphis, we stopped for a few days in Knoxville, a place neither of us knows anything about. Turns out, we arrived during their annual “Dogwood Arts Festival”, a 3 week long celebration of flowering dogwood and azaleas – music, art, food, and mapped routes through Knoxville neighborhoods graced with some of the prettiest of springtime’s blooms.
A special event is planned for each weekend, and we hit the “Chalk Walk”, artists creating their works on the concrete canvas of downtown’s Market Square. With a bit of research, we discovered that Market Square is also home to Knoxville’s Saturday farmers market. Sounded like fun to us. We plugged the Knoxville Visitor Center into the GPS and took off.
The Visitor Center is on the edge of Market Square. We got the lowdown and a map from the center’s staff, moved our car to a free parking garage, and headed to the small farmer’s market to buy a few grocery items from the locals: organic eggs and pork cutlets, a loaf of cherry/pecan bread, a bag of collard greens, and a giant cookie for immediate gratification. These we stashed in a cooler in the car, then took off on a walking tour of downtown.
Add Knoxville to the list of cities that deserve more exploration. The University of Tennessee is here, within walking distance of downtown, along the Tennessee River. The downtown area is beautifully revitalized, with a mix of interesting old buildings (again, much of the history here is pre-revolutionary war, never mind pre-Civil War), a few appealing new buildings, and a share of ugly boxes built during those years before the idea of saving the old buildings caught on. We walked six blocks from Market Square to the Tennessee River, where paved walking paths through “greenways” along the river offered an appealing stroll.
The old and new, side by side.
Walking the path towards University of Tennessee
After exploring the riverfront greenway, we headed back to Market Square to check out the artistic action. Much more crowded in the afternoon! Since we were hungry, Odel picked a cafe and we settled into an outdoor table for a delicious meal, a cold draught beer for him, and my new favorite (southern) beverage: sweet tea. (I can hear Doug and JoAnn laughing!) We sat in our shady spot, lingering over a slow meal, enjoying the people watching.
View from under the awning at Cafe 4
Excellent people watching during lunchtime
It was such a lovely day that we weren’t ready to head home after lunch. We found a bench in a small park nearby, in the sunshine (yes, it was cool enough that sitting in the sun was perfect) and watched other people watch the artists and snap photos flowers and families. Time slowed. The afternoon stretched out. After five minutes passed without a peep from either of us, Odel turned to me and whispered, “I could fall asleep here”. I’d just been thinking the same thing. Time to go!