The truth about Chattanooga
Lisa Lowe Stauffer, who is a native-born daughter of the city, says the article "wasn't bad, just superficial." She adds: "There's so much more to Chattanooga than funky shops and the Choo Choo."
Now, personally, I still think very highly of the piece that Budget Travel ran. But I thought I'd share with you Stauffer's own, unedited take on this much-beloved city...
Nestled along the Tennessee River, enclosed by mountains, Chattanooga is set in one of the world's most beautiful places. It has been a crossroads since the days when spear-throwing was a life skill. The Moccasin Bend National Park, slated to open to visitors in a couple of years, will explore this history with exhibits, archeology finds, and nature trails.
Chattanooga's early incarnation, Ross's Landing, was part of the Cherokee Nation. Pivotal events of the Trail of Tears happened here. As the river front has been redeveloped in recent years, an outdoor art space, "The Passage," has been created to commemorate this Cherokee heritage. The Passage is located next to the Tennessee Aquarium (excellent fresh water exhibits!), along the Riverwalk, a 10-mile pedestrian/cycling trail that leads upriver from the boat landing. Tony's Pasta, just a couple of blocks off the Riverwalk, in the Bluff View Art district, is my absolute, hands-down favorite restaurant.
When the Civil War raged, Chattanooga was at its center, with cannon fire, sieges, and stark battles up the side of Lookout Mountain, along Missionary Ridge, and in nearby Chickamauga, GA.
If music interests you, Chattanooga offers everything from the Riverbend Festival each June with a myriad of musical groups, to a great symphony orchestra which performs in the beautifully-preserved Beaux Arts 1921 Tivoli Theater. If you're lucky, you can catch a showing of a classic movie at the Tivoli. It feels like stepping back in time.
The Hunter Art Museum, a school field trip every few years when I was a kid, has grown to have a wonderful collection of American art, from Colonial to modern times. It's located in the Bluff View Art district.
And outdoor activities abound. Lake Chickamauga offers several state parks. Boating, fishing, camping, water-skiing, and lazing in the cool water are perfect summer pastimes. (For state park information, click here.)
Rock climbers can test their skills at places like The Walnut Wall (under a pedestrian bridge) and Sunset Rock. And just south of town, hang-gliders step off Lookout Mountain, imitating the hawks that circle in the unpolluted sky. (Learn more at Outdoorchattanooga.com.)
So when you go to Chattanooga, lift your eyes to the mountains, swim in the lake, glide in the sky, walk by the river, eat fresh pasta, and think of me. After all, it's my hometown.--Lisa Lowe Stauffer
What is black water rafting?
Reader Stephanie Johnson of Manhattan Beach, Calif., recently shared with us a fascinating thrill she has experienced... On my most recent trip to New Zealand, I went on an adventure tour with my sister and a group of American college students. Our two-week tour dropped us in Waitomo, New Zealand, to go "Black Water Rafting." I had no idea what this activity could possibly entail, but I was up for the challenge. First, we practiced abseiling, which is like repelling, or roping down. Then we were off to a small platform from which we abseiled to underground caves. Out of the eight of us, I was number five. I slowly stepped off the platform and was completely supported by a rope and a sling. This was it. I lowered myself toward complete darkness through a tight tunnel, the end of which I could not see. Friends at the bottom cheered when I arrived underground. </p> <p> </p> <p>_uacct = "UA-1844627-1";</p> <p>urchinTracker();</p> <p> The next step was to ride on a zipline through the first cave. Once again, there was no visibility, but it was a thrilling ride to an unknown destination. Our guides pulled out two inner tubes. Those inner tubes would soon be the only thing holding us together and afloat. We were instructed to place the inner tubes on our behinds and jump off the ledge into the water. Not knowing how far down it was, we all hesitated, but we knew this would be the only way out. When we splashed into the water below, we weren't sure how we would move though the caves. We connected our tubes and were pulled by our guides. This was black water rafting! As we laid back and looked toward what would be the sky, we saw millions of tiny bright lights. Outside the sun was shining, but in the caves, the glowworms created a beautiful night sky of twinkling stars. We enjoyed the relaxing ride, but soon our bodies and minds would be put to the test. We waded through cold, dark water to the base of a gorgeous waterfall whose source was an above-ground spring. Our guides informed us that this would be the only way to get out. We would be challenged to climb up a series of three waterfalls in order to see the sunlight. There would be rushing water, wet rocks, tight spaces, and unexpected physical and mental challenges. I did my best. When I saw daylight, I knew I was close and I pushed ahead, making my way toward the last hurdle. I emerged from the caves with the highest feeling of accomplishment. This achievement deserved celebration, but first, we needed breakfast. To learn more about black water rafting in New Zealand, click here. You may also want to see our 2007 Cool Thrills List, complete with videos of selected thrills. (Note: Stephanie's email was edited for publication.)
What's new on TV
Imagine if you could leave your cubicle behind and travel the world for a year. That's what Brook Silva-Braga did when he was 25. Along the way, he videotaped parts of his experience, and he subsequently produced a documentary of the trip. He gave Budget Travel this first-person account of his round-the-world adventure. In a couple of weeks from now, he'll be offering DVDs of his documentary at his website, and the show is expected to air on national TV later this summer. Meet the Pirates. In case you haven't heard, the folks who invented "Survivor" have cooked up a new reality TV series, called "Pirate Master." The show will send 16 modern-day pirates on a high seas adventure to scour the waters of the Eastern Caribbean for 33 days in search of hidden treasure worth a million bucks. The show will be set in, and around, the nation of Dominica, (pronounced Dom-in-eek-a), which is located near Martinique. The series debuts May 31 on CBS. Details here and here. The Travel Channel has picked its next set of aspiring travel journalists for its 5 Takes reality series. In case you haven't seen past seasons of the series, here's the premise: Five young travelers are outfitted with laptops and video cameras and are sent to a destination with only about $50 a day to spend. These aspiring journalists then offer their perspectives for eight weeks. The new season, focusing on Buenos Aires and other stops in Latin America, premieres June 2, and features aspiring travel journalists like Vinnie Costa. Details here. Hey, Amazing Race fans! Check out Jaunted's nifty online interactive map for tracking the latest edition of the Amazing Race. Jaunted's crack team has created this mash-up Google map. For an explanation of mashup Google maps, click here.
Today's travel intel
Book a stylish, centrally-located London hotel at a discount. Budget Travel recently introduced readers to the Hoxton Hotel, which debuted last fall in London's financial district. Each of the hotel's 205 rooms feature "wood paneling, down duvets and pillows, and a fridge filled with free mineral water and milk." (See article here.) Turns out that the EuroCheapo blog has discovered a trick for booking a stay at this cool hotel at a discount. Simply sign up for the hotel's email newsletter, which offers exclusive sales. You'll find rooms available for between $10 and $160 a night. (Even a $160 a night room is still a deal in London, because of the watery value of the U.S. dollar agains the British pound.) Details here. And for more suggestions for cheap hotels in London, click here. Good-bye, seatback TVs on airplanes. Hello, personal media players.... ...American Airlines will be offering passengers multi-media devices with Bose noise-canceling headphones to passengers on selected long-haul flights out of Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. The devices come pre-loaded with a dozen feature films, up to 15 hours of TV programs, and hundreds of hours of popular tunes, according to this press release. American will charge a fee to coach passengers who want to use the device. The airline hasn't announced the exact fee, but the rumor is that it will be about $5 a flight. First-class and business passengers will get to use the devices for free, of course. If the test is successful, American will make the devices available on all of its long-haul flights. Readers offer their own photography tips. This Just In recently directed readers to this slide show offering advice on "How to take better pictures of your friends." Reader Ed Fitzgerald offers the following additional tip: "What you didn't say was that you also moved in closer and got rid of that competing background that had that awful flash highlight that is distracting. Most people do not crop close enough in the camera when they are taking people pictures." Consider yourself warned. For more reader tips on traveling smarter, click here.)
More than 20 million people have already voted in the new Seven Wonders of the World international campaign launched by Swiss explorer Bernard Weber back in 1999. (Of the seven ancient wonders, only the pyramids are still standing.) The Statue of Liberty, Easter Island, Sydney Opera House, Christ Redeemer Statue, Stonehenge, and Angkor Wat are among the 21 finalists selected by architectural experts. You have until July 6 to vote for your favorites. The following evening--yes, that would be 7/7/07--the winning landmarks will be announced at a flashy ceremony broadcast live from the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon; the mixed bag of performers and celebrity guests includes Jose Carreras, Chaka Khan, and Neil Armstrong. Abreu Tours, which specializes in travel to Portugal, has organized various Seven Wonders packages, starting at $431 per person for three nights at the Amazonia Lisboa hotel, based on double occupancy, and a type C ticket to the event. While it may not sound like it, type C ticket holders actually have the best views of the stage. Abreu's package offers savings on both the lodging and on the tickets, which are valued at up to $190 per person, plus booking fees. For more discounted travel to Portugal, check out a recent Real Deal for airfare and a week in Lisbon and Porto from $1,044. Update (7/3): To vote, visit this website: http://www.new7wonders.com, click on a photo, and follow the instructions for voting.