March 4, 2009

Small Surprises in Chattanooga

I love to travel and experience new places. I have always had a curious desire to explore every corner of the globe – no matter how small or far flung – and learn about each and every destination. That said, I will admit I had no desire to come to Chattanooga. My preconceived notions of what I would find caused me to totally dismiss the place.

So, yesterday afternoon – unwittingly – I arrived in Chattanooga. The initial drive from the airport to the hotel did little to change my outlook. I looked out the car window at dingy strip malls, chain restaurants, and square nondescript buildings. Past the yellow Waffle House signs. Past the pawn shops. The air smells faintly fried. Southern suburbia. Having spent the majority of my life living in New England and California this is a difficult place to feel comfortable in.

Then the neighborhood began to shift. Historical buildings started to line the streets. Walking into my hotel I felt like I was walking back in time. The hotel building is beautiful and ornate – and reminiscent of this region's historical past.

Later in the evening I decided to walk down the street in search of dinner – and was excited to find Lupi's Pizza [] – a funky little pizza parlor with a great selection of fresh vegetables to put on their whole wheat pies and calzones. I had a warm whole wheat calzone with lots of spinach, roasted peppers, and ricotta cheese – very yummy! An surprising – and excellent – find in Chattanooga!
The next surprise came on the walk back to the hotel. A quiet shuttle bus went by – with the words “Chattanooga Free Electric Shuttle” painted on the side! So, here in a place that I dismissed as one I never wanted to visit there is free public transportation in zero emissions vehicles! Wow!

Of course, not everything defied my expectations here in Chattanooga. From time to time I get reminded that this is an area of the country that is very different from where I am from. Patrons still smoke in restaurants and bars. My questions get responses of “Yes mam” and “No mam”. The historic flag display in a downtown window prominently gives honor to the confederate flag. I am a far way from the North here.


Judy said...

Yep, you were in Tennessee!

Jessica said...

Yes, I'm in Tennessee... But, another surprise tonight - Chattanooga has a really cool aquarium!