In Good Company

By on 25 June, 2013 in Fun, Historic Midtown, Kate and Stephen with 3 Comments

Editor’s note: You’ve probably seen that series in the New York Times where they drop a reporter into a city and give them 36 hours (or so) to find fun things to do. It raises the question of what would be the highlights of a surgical strike to a city. That series came to mind when we were recently trying to decide the top highlights of our city when hosting an out-of-town guest. Our report follows:

For many of our friends, Montgomery’s off the beaten track. That means it’s extra special when they visit us here. Over the years, we’ve given a lot of thought to the ways we expose friends and family to our town, many of whom are seeing Alabama for the very first time. This week, we had a friend in town for just two days. Here, we share the itinerary of our visit.

Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – Pickup at Birmingham Airport. Drive through downtown Birmingham and walk through Kelly Ingram Park. Brunch at the Bottletree Cafe for vegetarian goodness. Drive to Homewood for Bloody Marys at the Little Donkey for a taste of Birmingham’s greater metro area, killing time until Vulcan Park opens.

1:00 p.m. – Vulcan! One of our nation’s great monuments, giving us views across Birmingham and its suburbs, as well as a great visitor’s center telling the story of the city. Afterward, we drive to Montgomery.

So much food!

5:00 – Korean food at Arirang. Our visitor had spent a few years in Korea, so we asked him to show us the ropes at one of Montgomery’s many excellent Korean restaurants. Note in the photo that our entire table was covered in bowls of food. Our visitor assured us that the food was as good as he might be served in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. We left absolutely stuffed and fairly-well educated about ordering from the menu. We look forward to using our new information in some of the other outstanding Korean places in town.

Monday, noon – Lunch at Martin’s. After a morning catching up on work, we introduced our friend to the “meat and three” at our city’s best. He marveled at the fried chicken and we shared peach cobbler in season over a lazy lunch. Again, if your visitor is new to the south, this is an excellent culinary introduction.

Jefferson's star

2:00 p.m. – The history tour. We began at the First White House of the Confederacy, though we didn’t go inside. We noted it was moved from its original location. Then we went to the legislature, briefly, before we toured the capitol building. First we toured the grounds, paying extra attention to the statue of James Marion Sims and the star marking the site where Jefferson Davis was sworn in. Once inside, we noted the cantilevered staircases and enjoyed the cool air. (Pro-tip: Only offer tours of Montgomery in June to your heartiest visitors) On the capitol’s second floor, we saw the old legislative chambers and marveled at their smallness. Also, we coveted the magnificent chandeliers. We admired the wonderful murals adorning the inside of the dome. Downstairs, we toured the Hall of Governors. We wondered at the small size of the room where the Supreme Court used to meet.

Really, the chandeliers are amazing.

3:30 – Dexter and its environs. We walked down the capitol’s wonderful Sylacauga marble steps, from the same quarry that furnished the Lincoln Memorial. We saw the church where Martin Luther King, Jr. was preaching when the bus boycott started as well as the RSA’s developments along Dexter. We turned up to see the SPLC headquarters and the Civil Rights Memorial, including Maya Lin’s affecting sculpture. I told the story of Viola Liuzzo. Spoiler alert: the FBI doesn’t come out looking so good.

Dr. King's church.

4:30 – Court Square. We saw the fountain where Zelda Sayre allegedly swam naked (probably false). The beautiful structure marks the spot where the two cities of New Philadelphia and East Alabama became Montgomery. Artesian water brought us together. Also it’s the site of the city’s slave market and the Winter Building, where the telegram that started the Civil War was sent. Just a few blocks away we stood at the intersection of Montgomery and Lee streets, where Rosa Parks got on a bus and picked a fight. We noted that we’d been traversing the legendary Selma-to-Montgomery march route.

The Winter Building.

5:00 – Downtown redevelopment. On the way down Dexter, we’d seen the buildings the city’s trying to develop. Once we got down to the riverfront, we saw the end product. It was too early by far to get into Sous La Terre, so we walked around the Alley development and thought on New Urbanism. We took shelter from the rain in the Alley BAR with pints of Magic Hat #9.

The intersection of Montgomery and Lee Streets (and Montgomery's first skyscraper!)

7:00 – Five Points. We rejoined our tour with Leroy’s extensive cocktail menu. Our guest wondered at the selection and price. We enjoyed the cool, quiet ambiance before we went to El Rey for dinner. We shared a trio of salsa, queso and guacamole before diving into our main courses. It was pronounced outstanding by all diners. Our friend enjoys learning about history, so we had a lot to talk about after all he had seen in our city.

Our guest left for a work function in Birmingham the next morning, and then returned home to the west coast. He pronounced Montgomery to be much more enjoyable than he expected and said that he planned on spreading the good word to friends around the world.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a dog, two fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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There Are 3 Brilliant Comments

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  1. OC says:

    No ASF? No Riverwalk Stadium? Not even a glimpse of the Riverfront?
    And y’all didn’t “pour one out” for Hank?

  2. Wayne Reynolds says:

    Great article. You are obviously very talented. I used to live in Troy and still make frequent trips to Montgomery. Your descriptions are both accurate and inviting.

    You mother must have taught to well.

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