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Just back from: Alabama

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27 June 2012 by Alison Kent

Travel Manager, Alison Kent, travels through the southern state of Alabama.

Where are you just back from:

The Southern State of Alabama.

What did you see/do when you were there:

Birmingham - Where we visited the 16th Street Baptist Church for sunday service. This was the site of a racial bombing by the Ku Klux Klan, which took place in September 1963. Four children died as a result. The choir was amazing and gave me goose bumps! This church was a meeting place for Martin Luther King. This was followed by a visit to the Civil Rights Museum, which is next door to the church.

We only had a brief tour, but you could spend at least three hours in here. A visit is a must as it really helps you to understand the whole civil rights movement. The thing I found so poignant was that this is very recent history. We then travelled to the Barber Vintage Motor Museum, about 25 minutes from Birmingham. This is full of Motorbikes and although I'm not a big fan of bikes, I found this very interesting. 

Gulf shores

Selma - The drive from Birmingham to Selma was around two hours and passed through some interesting small southern towns. On arrival in Selma I noticed how quiet it was. It was a Sunday, the shops were closed and you can not get alcohol on Sundays! I visited the Sturdivant Hall Museum and Anlebellum House. This is a pretty area with some lovely houses very typical of the south. After dinner we did a ghost tour in the old cemetery, which is a must, but very spooky! I also crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which was a huge landmark in the Civil Rights Calendar, where the march of March 7th 1965 became known as Bloody Sunday.

Monroe Courthouse

Montgomery - We drove from Selma to the captial of Alabama (approximately 50 miles). I visited the Rosa Parks Musuem and the Freedom trail, where you can walk in the Footsteps of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Jefferson Davis. I also visited the Capitol Building, where we had a detailed tour. It's a wonderful building and the surronding areas are also very interesting. Montgomery is a cool city with lots going on and a really good downtown area which feels safe and relaxed. There's plenty of history as well as a really good entertaniment area called the Alley that has a New Orleans feel to it. We ate at the Central Resturant, great food! They also have the Hank Williams Museum!

Montgomery to Mobile via Monroeville (approx 100 miles). Home of the book "To kill a Mockingbird". Visited the Beehive Coffee Shop to get a real insight into this lovely little town. You can also visit the Court Room where the film was made.

Monroeville to Mobile via Bayou La Batre (approx 93 miles). Bayou La Batre has to be the best place I have ever had shrimp. This area was heavily affected by Hurriance Katrina, but it has a real community spirit. Bayou La Batre was featured in the movie Forrest Gump - it's where Forest's friend Bubba came from. It's also where the Black Pearl was built for Pirates of the Caribbean.

Bayou

Bayou La Batre to Mobile (approx 18 miles). Upon arriving on Alabama's coastline we made a quick stop at the Historical area of Oakleigh, where they have some amazing houses. Mobile was home to the first Mardi Gras and there is a Carnival Museum. I also visited USS Alabama, a WWII navy ship which you can explore along with the Airforce Museum. We then went on the Five Rivers Delta Tour on the Alabama River, where we saw Alligators and lots of birds. A great little tour for all ages.

Mobile to Fairhope (approx 20 miles). I loved this little town as it has some great restaurants and art shops. Fairhope is very like Carmel or Del Mar in California. I'd suggest a couple of nights here and it's only 45 minutes from the fantastic beach of Gulf Shores.

Fairhope to Gulf Shores (approx 32 miles). You can stop at the Foley Outlet Shopping Mall on route and 18 miles of pure white sand awaits you at Gulf Shores. There are lots of resturants and bars, but limited hotel accommodation as it's mostly condos. We saw the Island House Hotel though and loved it!

Mobile Mardi Gras

What was your highlight:

  • The Fish Club Restaurant in Birmingham, especially the Gazpacho!
  • Central Resturant Montgomery
  • Solitaire Jazz club Montgomery
  • Town of Monroeville, where the book to "Kill a Mockingbird" was based and the Beehive coffee shop, which was a delight 
  • Shrimp in Bayou La Batre
  • Alligator watching in the Five Rivers Delta in Mobile
  • Town of Fairhope and the Simply Divine Shop

What would be your tip for this holiday:

Go to a service at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. It is amazing and the Civil Rights Museum gives you a real insight and understanding of the civil rights movement. I'd suggest you make Birmingham your first stop in Alabama.

Why should a member travel there:

To get a real insight into the civil rights movement. At times I was very moved by what I learnt. The civil rights movement happened in the fifties and sixties, so this is very recent history that caused major changes in America and commemorative events will take place in 2013 to mark this.

Having lived in America I have travelled a great deal, but never to Alabama. I have to say it was much better than I had expected and I really enjoyed my trip. If you want something a bit different its definitely for you!

What is unique about this place:

The history, as it changed America.

Great food. As a bonus, 2012 is the year of Alabama food!

Did you have any disappointments:

No, it was a great itinerary.

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