For about eight years now, at least when the stars aligned and finances permitted, I have received a weekend away from my family as a birthday gift. The stars did not align at the right time this year (my birthday was in April), so I took this past weekend as my own.
Where do I go? you ask. Well, in this case it’s not as much about the destination as it is about being alone. But in any case I happen to think downtown Knoxville is an awesome destination. And it means I don’t have to waste any of my time traveling, and if anything bad should happen (say for example I have to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance for a gall bladder attack, and that is not hypothetical), I am close to home.
I have spent a couple of these weekends at the former Hotel St. Oliver, but more often I have ended up (due to the vagaries of Hotwire.com) at the Crowne Plaza ($80/night this year–not bad for a three-star establishment). The Crowne Plaza suits me for other reasons. It’s a short walk to Market Square, and an even shorter walk to Immaculate Conception Church, which is where I reunite with my family at the end of my weekend.
I’m sure my idea of a good time wouldn’t suit everyone, but the fact is that there is nothing–NOTHING–I crave so much as being alone. I used to think that was strange and was something new and different about me, because I remembered always wanting to be with my friends in high school and in college, but I realize now that I have always enjoyed my alone time. When I was a little girl and a teenager I spent hours in my room, playing with my dolls and horses when I was younger, drawing and writing when I was older. That kind of alone time doesn’t happen in a house with seven people, six of whom are expecting me to referee their battles, chauffeur them from place to place, feed them three meals a day, and do their laundry. I am rarely if ever alone in the house–the closest thing is in the morning when John is gone and no one else is awake–and I am working then. I try to get out of the house every week or two by myself but again I usually have to bring a mountain of work along.
So these weekends are a huge treat to me, and honestly I really need more like a week because I planned so many things I wanted to get done on my weekend that it was impossible.
Some years I’ve done a lot of walking around downtown, but I usually go in early May and it’s hot for walking midday now. Sometimes I visit all the shops on Market Square, try out lots of restaurants, go to the library. But what I wanted to do this time was write.
I checked in on Friday as soon as I could get away. I didn’t leave the hotel that night. I spent most of the evening attending to social media tasks (if you blog you will understand what I mean–it’s a job in itself and honestly one I wish I could devote more time to). I took a break for dinner but just went down to the hotel dining room for the seafood buffet with a novel for company. I stayed up too late because I didn’t want to miss a minute, and I set my alarm.
By the time I got ready and headed out for breakfast (around 9:30 a.m.) things were already in full swing on Market Square.
What an amazing place, y’all. As you might surmise, there used to be a big market house in the square; hence, the name. But it was demolished years ago, and for years except for a few businesses it was pretty barren there–especially on the weekend. But on Saturday mornings now there is a Farmer’s Market and vendors were everywhere. Plus some kind of band that made it sound like New Orleans down there. I’m telling you, I really did feel like I’d gone on a journey. I walked past all that and went to Pete’s for breakfast. That’s a venerable Knoxville institution where one can still get a full breakfast for (I kid you not) under seven dollars.
After breakfast I came back to my room and edited pictures and wrote blog posts and organized things until I was too hungry to wait any more and then I headed back to the Square where I went to Not Watsons for dinner. I should have taken a picture of my food: I had fried green tomatoes and deviled eggs but they were all fancy with unusual toppings, and I washed them down with a Bacon Bloody Mary and I bet you can just imagine how wonderful that was. I want to go back there and just spend all my money ($7 each) on those.
Then I allowed myself to walk around for awhile, went into one of my favorite shops and bought myself a couple of little presents because why not? and stopped at Coffee and Chocolate to grab a cup of coffee and some treats for later (because it’s for my birthday so carbs are okay, right?). I wish my hands hadn’t been so full because I would have liked to take some pictures for y’all as I was walking back to the hotel–pictures of things like the old man playing his white violin, and the kids running through the fountains, and the dreadlocked buskers, and dogs of all shapes and sizes, and rose petals festooning the ground. When I got back to the hotel, I sat in the fancy lobby and enjoyed my coffee then it was right back upstairs to write some more, again staying up later than I should.
Sunday morning I just had time to eat at the hotel breakfast buffet before heading next door for Mass. Maybe next year I should ask for a week?