Leaving Nashville in the mid-morning for a casual drive south down the highway (one of the very many) to Birmingham, “Sweet Home” Alabama (which is on the big sign when you cross the border so not just something from me). Good fun getting used to opening the correct door but maybe not as much fun as remembering to drive on the right side of the road. This is actually not as hard as one may consider and it only becomes tricky when turning but doesn’t take long to pick up (also the fourth time I’ve driven over here).
Birmingham was only two and a bit hours away so we decided to call in for some BBQ on the way – as you do. We made a detour to Decatur and called in for some lunch at Big Bob Gibson’s. Not bad either, although most BBQ is pretty good (except I kind of got a bit crook that day, must have been the coleslaw or potato salad – not the ribs).
Made Birmingham easily and our room was ready for check-in. Birmingham was a rich source of iron ore and important during the early years of industrialisation and railroads. It later became a bit of a boom city and was coined the ‘Magic City’. More importantly, Birmingham was an important city in gaining attention for civil rights in America and worldwide attention. If you have any interest at all in civil rights, then you should visit Birmingham.
This was one of the main reasons for our visit; unfortunately the civil rights museum was closed for repair. But we got our own personal talk from homeless Andrew in the park across the road (which was the centre for a lot of the protests and diagonally across from the church – read up on the history for yourself, you won’t be disappointed). And we were quite happy to slip Andrew a few bucks for his talk, which was very, very good.
There are signs around Birmingham – or Bham as it is known, that lead you on your own walking tour of the civil rights marches. There are several different trails each following a different march – very interesting to read all the information on the way. As everything is clearly sign-posted with a new story every block.
Bham is also interesting for having the appearance of a city that has been forgotten and business just left, some buildings look they’ve been abandoned for many years with someone just turning off the lights and locking the front door. But the city is taking on some rejuvenation and in a few years this will be a beautiful place to visit. For instance there was a lot of abandoned weeds and rubbish along the old train lines, which has now been turned into a lovely walking park. There are some interesting neighbourhoods (we drove out a few times to eat in Avondale – great place in the middle of the ‘burbs and would be where our inner city types would flock to – we even got a great cappuccino there and this is a rarity on USA) and they have even fixed up their iron statue of Vulcan who was made for the 1906 St Louis fair and later left to ruin at the Bham fairgrounds for many, many years. Second largest steel statue in the world after the Statue of Liberty.
We also had an excellent dinner at Bottle & Bone, a butcher shop, come bottle shop, come restaurant – excellent. Again in a great new eating area, which if you look on google maps is vacant land. Highlight was a flight of bacon (house, hot and sweet and all excellent) and what I consider a magnificent cut of steak charcoaled to perfection.
Birmingham was worth the visit. Good hotel (Tutwiler, historic and good location); food – plenty of surprises; history – plenty. Two nights here, next stop off to Atlanta, Georgia.