As noted in part one, the order in which cities appear in the two blog pieces on Tennessee is not chronological and was chosen to even out the number of photos in each. With that disclaimer in mind, let’s turn our attention to Knoxville, which in this story swaps places with Nashville.
Though over time we had grown rather indifferent to less-than-extraordinary gardens and arboretums found just in about every major U.S. city, for some reason we made an exception for the UT Gardens in Knoxville. Perhaps, because there wasn’t much else to see.
In fairness, the center of Knoxville is not half bad, thanks to the World’s Fair Park, whose Sunsphere Tower and Tennessee Amphitheater almost entirely define the cityscape. Still, it does not excuse the mediocre urban planning.
Market Square, for instance—another place with great potential—is sort of hidden between two streets.
Or the sketchy alleys just around the corner that could be ennobled in clever ways to promote tourism.
The building façades lining up the downtown streets look very agreeable.
The Old City, though good-looking on occasion, was, sadly, defaced with numerous pockets of construction work.
One last place we checked out in the vicinity of Knoxville was the Ijams Nature Center. While a decent site to walk, it’s hardly a breathtaking one.
There was, however, an peculiar maze of ropes and bridges strung around tree canopies near the end of our trail.
As a bigger city with richer history, Memphis had substantially more to offer than Knoxville in terms of sightseeing. We started off by paying our respects to Elvis at his gravesite in the Meditation Garden just outside the Graceland Mansion.
More prominent Tennesseans, musicians and others alike, are buried at the Elmwood Cemetery.
A dozen blocks to the North of the cemetery we found ourselves in the Victorian Village, which, as the name suggests, features a handful of Victorian houses.
Though next we arrived at the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid center, we soon had to retreat back to the car to catch the the locally renowned Duck March act at the Peabody Hotel. Not sure if it was stage fright—hundreds of spectators crowding in the hotel lobby and mezzanines—but the ducks’ performance was sloppy, in bright contrast to the hotel’s splendid interiors.
With the most time-sensitive stop out of the way, we headed towards the Beale Street, where we went for a stroll past countless cafés, bars, and gift shops.
Of course no public place in Memphis could do without some sort of reference to Elvis.
Not before too long it was time to return to the Bass Pro Pyramid for a longer look-around.
The store is simply gigantic. In fact, it is the biggest Bass Pro in the world. And it’s got loads of great stuff inside, from pools with live fish to jungle-themed walls to a miniature shooting range.
And, what’s more, there is an elevator that takes guests to the restaurant right under the rooftop.
Hungry or not, the trip to the top is well worth it because of great views of Memphis.
Later that day we swung by the Sun Studio, another place that bears relevance to Elvis’s musical career. In fact, it is considered by many to be the birthplace of rock’n’roll, for many legendary musicians besides the King had recorded here on one occasion or another.
Having left the downtown behind, we made a quick stop by the Tom Lee Park for a panoramic shot of the city.
It was followed by an equally transient halt at the Overton Park for a picture of its artistic arch.
For the purposes of cultural enrichment we also paid a visit to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. Though the gallery part of the establishment is fairly modest, the collection does feature some solid items—mainly, ornate china
and works of impressionists.
The gardens are much roomier; and they, too, have a few gems scattered about the grounds.
We finished off the trip with a quick survey of the Crystal Shrine Grotto, a colorfully illuminated cave adorned with depictions of various biblical accounts.
The grotto is also quite eye-catching on the outside, and the little pond by its side (with swarms of hungry fishes in it) is only adding to its appeal.
The customary map: