Today was my last day in Birmingham, and I took full advantage of having the day free from work.
I started off with breakfast at a place that came highly-recommended by a grad school friend and Birmingham native. I’d asked him for biscuit recommendations, and he provided Salem’s Diner. When I walked in the door, I was immediately struck by how tiny the place was – there was a counter and a just a couple booths and that was it. I snagged a seat at the counter and a friendly server immediately stopped over to take my order. They make their sausage in-house, so I opted for a sausage and cheese biscuit with coffee. The sausage (and biscuit) was good!
I especially liked the area of town the diner was in – let’s just say Homewood, AL is wayyyyyy different than the Homewood in Pittsburgh. It was a really cute neighborhood that I could envision spending a lot of time in if I were to come back (which I totally want to).
My next stop was in Downtown Birmingham, to get coffee at Revelator Coffee. I was impressed by the design of the space – everything was very bright and open, and there was tons of comfy seating. The coffee was good, but they only had one size… I would have prefered a much bigger size considering the full day of travel ahead of me.
I walked around Downtown for a little while to make sure I hadn’t missed any shops I’d wanted to see, but I was good to go. Totally love the Birmingham skyline benches around the city… we need to get some of these, Pittsburgh!
My next stop took me into the wild, so I had to drive to get there. But once I arrived… ahhhh. Quiet.
I went to Ruffner Mountain to go hiking and to see some scenic views. Luckily for the folks in Alabama, the weather has been perfect and the trees are super-green. Unluckily for me, that meant I couldn’t see the famed cliff views because trees were covering them. Still, it was nice to get out in nature before spending the evening in airports.
I had two stops left before I had to get to the airport, and one was for lunch (you didn’t seriously think I’d skip a meal, did you?).
I went to a place called Yo’ Mama’s and since it was my last meal in the south for a little while, I got some shrimp & grits. You know how you can tell if someone’s a northerner when they’re in the south? Northerners might try to eat grits with a fork. A spoon would have been helpful, but I didn’t feel like running inside to get one (see: lazy). Instead, I made do with what I had, and I managed to eat a significant portion of that bowl. It was pretty good, and my favorite part was the sausage that was hiding in it. Looking back, it was a sausage-heavy day.
My final stop before the airport was the site of the old Sloss Furnaces. The past few days, I’ve heard and seen people refer to Birmingham as “Steel City” or “Iron City” and it’s driven me crazy – those are Pittsburgh’s nicknames! But on the self-guided tour and accompanying video, I learned that Birmingham considers (probably considered, past tense) itself to be the Pittsburgh of the South. Apparently back in the day, they had a significant portion of the pig iron business, and that’s how the city of Birmingham came to be. I never knew that, so I learned something new today.
It was kind of neat to go inside the furnace area – as the kid of a steelworker (my dad still works in a steel mill), I always hear stories about the different parts of the mill, but I’ve never been inside one before.
Also, and this probably sounds weird, I felt very at-home with the smells in the furnace. The whole site smelled like my dad’s clothes, so it was kind of strange and comforting.
Alas, after hours of traipsing around free-range, I had to head back to the airport. I had rather uneventful flights back home (thankfully), but I thought this was cool – within the Delta magazine, there was a nice story about the CEO of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern. I kind of want to take her job at some point (shhh, don’t tell her!), so I found it to be interesting reading. 🙂
I just got back home and now the fun of unpacking and expense reports begins. But first, a shower and hopefully a really great night’s sleep.
So long, Birmingham and Alabama. I want to come back to you again someday.