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It was May 2018 and it was HOT…set the oven to 450 degrees, roast your skin off HOT. Instead of going north to a cooler clime I went south, DEEP south to the land of Susanna, Slammers and white sauce. (Alabamians love their white sauce!)

I arrived in Birmingham with the sun beating relentlessly down but that did not stop the exploration. I could sense the dichotomy that existed and still exists today in the city. There is an invisible line that separates old from new, modern from traditional, slave from free, rich from poor. There are distinct moments where it is palpable. I suppose it makes the city interesting and alive as it goes through its metamorphosis.

There is a lot of great public art, it’s clean, there are cool light installations, public parks along with shops and eateries. However, what Birmingham has that many other cities across this country do not have is a history of violence and discrimination. The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument downtown is humbling. The history of the Civil Rights movement isn’t something in a text book. It isn’t something that “happened before”. It is current. It is living, breathing and shaping the city. If you can walk through the park, taking in the monuments and not feel the solemnity of the ground on which you stand I encourage a revaluation of self.

Alabama making itself known in downtown Birmingham

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument to commemorate the atrocities perpetrated against communities of color.

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument to commemorate the atrocities perpetrated against communities of color.

An important message from Maya Angelou

Having left Birmingham I traveled south through lush green landscapes and pulled off the highway for some lunch at a quintessential southern country store. It was everything I wanted it to be. Filled with tchotchkes and assorted country and farming paraphernalia it also had an all you can eat buffet of which I happily partook. I had crispy fried chicken with white sauce, a biscuit, collard greens and pecan pie. One might think the pecan pie was the best thing I ate that day but you’d be wrong. I am almost embarrassed to admit the best thing I ate that day was some type of chopped apple chutney with crumbled Ritz crackers throughout. I swear, it was the devil’s magic.

The walls of the Country Store adorned with eclectic signage.

After my tummy was happy, I continued south to Montgomery, the capital city of Alabama. The city’s small footprint makes it easy to walk around and enjoy rather easily. What struck me most about being here was the history. Things I’ve only ever read about in my school text books were suddenly very real.

View up the main thoroughfare to the State Capital Building in the distance in Montgomery.

These two plaques below are a reminder of the somber history of Montgomery. I felt small and humbled to stand and read.

Something I did not know, or I suppose maybe I learned once upon a time and it has since gone into the dark corners of my brain was that there was an alternate White House once upon a time. During the Civil War, the Confederacy had their own president and their own White House.

First White House of the Confederacy

After a lot of heavy history I needed a pick me up and I wandered down to the Alabama River to take in the views and got to see a beautiful old fashioned steam paddle boat.

With my time in Montgomery coming to an end I continued my southerly route to the gulf cost to Mobile. OK, I know I said it was hot when I first started this post but the heat and humidity of Mobile, Alabama is like something else. It was an oppressive wall of heat that knocked me back when I stepped out of the car. The thunderstorm that rolled through Mobile while I was there literally exploded the tires of the car in front of me when lightening hit it. Missed me by 10 feet!

Mobile is like a mini New Orleans. It has similar architecture and vibes. The downtown buildings are adorned with arcades of beautiful filigree while cocktails are mixed in the local bars. There is a vitality in Mobile that surprised me and if I had the time I would have stayed longer. Always an opportunity for a future visit!

Beautiful arcade on a downtown Mobile building

Downtown Mobile

Downtown Mobile

Downtown Mobile

In honor of Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile

Alabama surprised me. I definitely carried certain prejudices in my head as to what to expect. Most of my references to Alabama were derived from its depiction in My Cousin Vinny which wasn’t even filmed there! I am glad I left a lot of those thoughts behind and left the state with a new appreciation.

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