Love Affair with Everywhere: HOME
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As is my routine (no matter how many times I end up on the same airline in a month and have to flip through the same version) between boarding and takeoff I browse through the airline magazine in my seatback pocket to see if there is something or somewhere inspirational to add to the travel list. This time I came across the editorial of the president of American Airlines (which, by the way, is my 2nd least fave airline after United, but they have the only direct flight from Chicago to Chattanooga) who wrote about running and how he feels connected to a new city just by going for a run.
I can easily relate to this. If you have read even one of my rambling posts you will know how much I love exploring a new city...by foot
The closing of his piece read, "Like air travel, running connects you to the world; to the people and places on different continents. Of course, whether you're traveling by air or by foot, the best journeys always end in the same place--home" I read and reread these two sentences. Then took my phone out, took a pic so I could remember it exactly and decided my next entry would be about one of the places I love most in this world: Chattanooga, Tennessee...my home.
When meeting new people (anywhere in the world), "where are you from?" is always among the first questions asked. With pride I get to say, "Chattanooga." Then add, "Tennessee," and if the person is outside the US and looking at me like I just said "Mars" then I may add, "it's in the States". People I have met over the years tell me that they had previously never heard of Chattanooga or maybe some have because of the song "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and didn't know it is an actual place, but after they met one person from there it seems like Chattanoogans are everywhere! It's true, we are! And I will admit that we are all slightly (ok, a little more than slightly) obsessed with our little town!
Granted, it is no longer the little town we (who grew up there in the early 80's) remember it to be, but the change and growth have been mostly positive (I am not a fan of the fact there is now traffic, but other than that...). Chattanooga in the 60's was titled the 'dirtiest city in America', but through a massive regentrification plan and undertaking by the city, Chattanooga is now one of the most beautiful cities in the country (in my opinion, the world, but I am a little biased). It has been given the name "Scenic City of the South." The city is located 120-150 miles from other major southern cities like Atlanta, Nashville and Birmingham, and the city has made itself attractive to investors, businesses and people looking to move from other cities. It amazes me that every time I visit home there is a new restaurant, gallery, boutique or neighborhood in town.
Chattanooga is increasingly gaining popularity and recognition as a tourist destination. You may have seen the hilarious YouTube video showing a young girls' disappointment (and tantrum) that they were not going to Chattanooga, but to Disney World for Spring Break (if you haven't, watch it, its super funny) and it was listed in the NYTimes "Top 45 places to visit in 2012" (http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/travel/45-places-to-go-in-2012.html?pagewanted=1&ref=travel). So, now if you don't believe me, maybe you'll trust them.
Unless you are in the South within driving distance, Chattanooga may not sit very high on your list of places to visit, but I can assure you that if you make the trip, you will not be disappointed. There really is something for everyone. The city has historical significance, notably due its location and relevance during the Civil War, the largest freshwater aquarium in world, a waterfall inside a cave (Ruby Falls), an outlook where one can see 7 states from one location (Rock City), numerous options for outdoor adventures (hiking, rafting, kayaking, hang gliding, etc), the Bluff View Art District, lots of shopping, great restaurants and bars, museums, the riverfront walkway for running, biking or walking, and so much more! And the people are just amazing! You will likely be referred to as "sir" or "ma'am", but please don't take offense, we aren't saying you are old, its just our way of being polite. We give "southern hospitality" a new meaning.
One thing I really love about Chattanooga is that we have all four seasons! We get to experience the hot, humid heat of the summer and the cool, crisp weather in the fall. Since we have an abundance of greenery, we get to witness the trees go from green to beautiful autumnal shades of red, orange and yellow and watch as the leaves fall giving way to the colder, winter season. We have a relatively mild (compared to our northern neighbors) winter, but still get the chance to see a little snow and pull out those cute warm sweaters and jackets and then back into Spring when the flowers are in full bloom and the trees grow their leaves.
A few (if I gave you a full list you would be reading for a long time) of my favorite things to do when I am home are:
1. catch up with my parents and friends in town. I love hanging out with my parents, and am quite content to just be at home when I am back in town, and I love getting to see some friends who still live in the area
2. Plaza del Sol, or at least Mexican food somewhere. I am seriously obsessed with Mexican food (and have been told am a Mexican food snob because anywhere else its never like the Mexican food in Chattanooga and Dalton).
3. Drive up the ridge. The feeling of peace and content I feel sitting atop Missionary Ridge looking out over my beautiful city in the valley, on the river, surrounded by mountains is indescribable. In those few minutes (before I head back down the ridge and off to wherever), my mind is clear of work, to-do lists and everything else.
4. Stop into Ciao Bella boutique to check out the latest collection
5. Sleep in my old bed
While I live in Chicago (and love it) and travel around the world, there really is nothing better than printing that boarding pass with the destination: Chattanooga knowing that in a few short hours I will be welcomed back by smiling, friendly faces and that awesome southern drawl I miss so much. And in another 10 minutes after claiming my luggage, I will be back at the island in the kitchen, catching up with my parents over mom's delicious cooking! It's true what they say, "there's no place like home."
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