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Knoxville, Tennessee

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Most people don’t love this city, but I do. I’ve been coming here a few times a year for as long as I can remember, and it’s home to my favorite bookstore (McKay’s Used Books and More, if you’re ever in the city), my favorite ice skating rink (the Ice Chalet), and my favorite sporting events (Lady Vols basketball games). Here are some random thoughts I jotted down the last time I was there: This is the only city I know where people buy and wear orange clothing in such large numbers. This is big orange country, where the entire population lives and breathes college sports. The businesses on the strip plaster their front windows in orange propaganda, and on game day, floods of people dressed in the color fill the streets. I love the energy in the air as people come from across several states to cheer on our team. The air is electric with hope, anticipation, and possibility. When you leave, that same air is filled with either disappointment or celebration, but, for a couple of hours, you’re holding your breath with twenty thousand strangers, uncertain as to which it will be.The pollution leaked into the air taints every breath we take. We gasp at its beauty as it manifests itself as an orange glow (appropriate) over hazy purple mountains at sunset. Were we not breathless at the sight, the smog in the bitter cold air would be slowly killing us. The city sprawls out farther than is reasonable in every possible direction, lighting up the night sky. It is simultaneously crumbling, growing, and unchanging. There are abandoned warehouses, factories brought to life as restaurants on the river, a coffee plant whose huge sign drowns out anything else in that corner of the city, rusting railroad bridges, and new construction on the never-ending, always confusing, always changing reeways. It is expanding, decaying, and experiencing a rennaissance of sorts as it is rebuilt. That construction has been going on since before I was born. I stand high above the river, and the vastness of the city never fails to startle and amaze me. I can’t see the end of it.  

Canal Boating In England

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

hpim0645.JPGThis happened in summer 2007, so my recollections may or may not be accurate and complete, but I felt like reminiscing. The woman in the photo is my grandmother.

After arriving by train from London after flying in from the US, I was exhuasted by the time we got to the boat in Tamworth. I don’t believe I even got past the cushioned bench at the entrance (where I slept) before collapsing after being awake for a good 30 hours!

When I woke up the next day, the sun was bright outside, and it remained bright and warm for all but one of our days on the canal–something of a miracle for England, or so I’m told. We drifted through the gorgeous countryside, and I spent quite a bit of time reading while stretched out on the boat’s roof in the sun. We tied up outside various pubs at night, and ate our meals there. We met locals and fellow boaters, including a couple from London who spent up to six months at a time on the canals. During the day, we stopped at whatever town looked interesting, Tamworth and Lichfield being the most notable.

Traveling with my grandparents, I had freedom that would have given my mother a heart attack. Our first full day in England, I left my grandparents happily drinking at a pub (the reasoning was that if they didn’t have to drive later, why limit the drinking?), and wandered into town on my own.

Tamworth is a lovely city–I loved the English houses, the park stretched out at the feet of the old castle, the walking paths and bus routes that made independence much easier than at home, all of it. It all felt very English, and perhaps some of my love for the town is influenced by the fact that it was the first time I’d been overseas, but I still think I’d like it if I returned. I found the shops in the town centre,  and had so much fun just wandering and watching people. I also loved the discount bookshop! I spent far too much of my money there.

Another day, I visited the castle with my grandparents. It was lovely, with a fascinating history. My favorite story is about Ethelfleda, the power behind the throne of Mercia. When she was fifteen, and travelling there to get married, she was attacked and successfully fought off her attackers! After her husband’s death, she wasn’t just the power behind the throne; she was the real, official leader, and she was awesome. I don’t remember all the stories, but I’m sure you can find them online somewhere.

As much as I loved the castle and its history, I also loved the views of the park and the rest of the city from the castle, high on a hill overlooking the rest of the area. Gorgeous.

The cathedral in Lichfield was another highlight of the trip. The stained glass and high ceilings are, I’m sure, standard cathedral fare, but it still amazed me. Right by it was Erasmus Darwin’s house and garden, also fascinating. The garden was beautiful.

However, it wasn’t a specific site that made this week one of the best of my life. It was the ease of independence, the long walks I took, thinking and just taking in the area and how wonderfully different it was from home. It was the general cheeriness of the people we met along the way at the sun’s extended appearance. It was just something about this place, floating lazily down the canal in the warm sun, that felt right, and I was sorry to leave at the end of the week.

My Travel Resolutions

Monday, December 8th, 2008
I think I need to set some long-term goals for myself, because I know I'll be very unhappy if, at the end of 2018, I look back on the past ten years and I've spent it all in one or ... [Continue reading this entry]

Recent Trips

Monday, December 8th, 2008
In the past three months, I've been on two short trips (long weekends), one to DC and one to Boston. The main purpose of both of these trips was to visit colleges, but I had other fun, too. Boston was a ... [Continue reading this entry]

Musings on Travel in General

Monday, December 8th, 2008
(This is reposted from my non-travel personal blog at

If you know me, you know that I want to see the world. You know that I devote quite a bit of my time, energy, and money to getting to experience ... [Continue reading this entry]

Planning Summer 2009

Monday, December 8th, 2008
I've been planning a five-week trip backpacking around Europe with three of my friends. It will be the summer after we graduate high school, and seems like a great way to celebrate. We plan to spend time in Germany (staying ... [Continue reading this entry]

This Blog Is Coming Back To Life!

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008
I kind of forgot about this blog for months and months, but it's coming back to life now! I have some definite and some tentative travel plans for the next few months. They are:

Madrid, Spain

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007
In Madrid, I learned something about how I travel. When I set off alone, wandering up and down the twisting streets, I was totally (unreasonably, perhaps) okay with it when I realised I was lost and had no idea where ... [Continue reading this entry]

London, England

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007
Obviously, my blogs of past travels aren't really in order, just the order I feel like remembering them in. London was the first stop on the trip (after driving to to the Charlotte airport and flying to Newark), but I ... [Continue reading this entry]

This Blog (And Its Purpose)

Monday, October 8th, 2007
I've been reading a lot on the BootsnAll travel forums (I don't have a lot to contribute as I don't have a huge amount of travelling experience yet), and I stumbled across a thread on good and bad travel ... [Continue reading this entry]