Last week, I had a very productive time in Knoxville, Tennessee, working on my book about the Raynella Dossett Leath.  And on top of that, I had lots of fun.  Getting there wasn’t easy, though.

I tried to find a flight from San Antonio to Knoxville and the options were nuts–one even took me to Colorado first.  The time from the initial flight to the final touchdown at my destination ranged from 7 to 9 hours.  I discovered I could fly to Nashville on a direct flight and drive to Knoxville in five hours or less. Go figure.

Michael Rogers, field producer of Snapped at Jupiter Entertainment, recommended the wonderful, historic Hotel St. Oliver (left) on the Market Square in the downtown area.  I loved the place: a large, comfortable suite, right in the heart of everything and a most cordial staff–Robin Carter and Cleveland Hendrick made me feel like family.  Best of all, without realizing it I was staying just two blocks from the office of Community Shares of Tennessee where Shelley Wascom, a dear friend from my former life in non-profit worked.
We went to dinner together that night at a new restaurant on Market Square, Cocoa Moon.  It was fabulous–the food was heavenly, the service impeccable and the ambiance perfect.  We sat in a booth that was more like a mini-living room with seats less like benchs and more like built-in sofas.  I enjoyed the best Shrimp Diablo ever along with a yummy Fiji Martini.

Tuesday morning, as I walked in light snow, I discovered another treasure, Coffee and Chocolate.  I ended up going there daily for a pumpkin spice latte and a totally incredible piece of Chipolte Carmel Chocolate.  I also saw the Tennessee Suffrage Memorial (right) at Market Square.  If you are wondering why it would be there, it’s because Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the amendment giving women the right to vote.  As I shot pictures of the statue, a photographer from the Knoxville Sentinel shot photographs of me.


Wednesday’s highlight was the Japanese restaurant, a block from my hotel, that featured all you can eat sushi that night.  Yum.  Best Tuna Roll I have ever had and a very tasty Nigori sake to wash it down.


On my way to the Knox County Courthouse Thursday morning, I walked through the arch leading to the courtyard in front of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Federal Courthouse and was overwhelmed by the Audrey Flack bust entitled Justice (left).

Knoxville was an interesting place but what made the trip most enjoyable were the people.  In fact, the people in the whole state of Tennessee are some of the most welcoming, friendly folks I have ever met anywhere.  You pass them on the street with a smile and they smile back.  You greet them and they respond.  You ask for directions and if they don’t know, they’ll find someone who does.  And on top of all that, they perform random acts of kindness as a way of life.
Of course, as a Texan, I am well aware of the fact that without people from Tennessee, there would hardly have been anyone at the Alamo.

The only real problem I had in Knoxville were my frequent brain stutters when someone said “U.T.”  The University of Tennessee is right next to the downtown area and it was mentioned by everyone and its color orange was everywhere.  Back here in Texas, when people say U.T., they mean University of Texas, whose color is also orange.  But I am an Aggie Mom and I bleed maroon.  So every time I heard U.T., I thought T.U.–traditional Texas A&M putdown of their archrival–and had to send my train of thought down a different rail to realize the intended meaning.

I really liked Knoxville–if it were only closer to the ocean or Gulf of Mexico, I would move there in a heartbeat.