Day Trip: Mobile

By on 1 May, 2017 in Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

We had concert tickets, given as a Christmas gift, to see Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals at Soul Kitchen in Mobile this past Saturday. It was the kind of gift that promises a future adventure together while also fitting into a stocking. Then, suddenly, it was time. So we planned our weekend trip. Which, sadly, involved missing Taco Libre. But we had a great time in Mobile, and this post is to recommend it to Midtown Montgomery residents as a destination for an overnight trip or more. We should say as a disclaimer that we know there’s way more to do in Mobile than we did – the fort, the aircraft carrier, the art museum, the shops, etc. This trip was just a snapshot. It’s what we did on a wonderful weekend at the end of April. It took less than 24 hours.

Step One: Drive to Mobile. This was pretty low key. We knew we were taking the dog with us, so we just had to figure out which of our wonderful friends would come by and feed our truculent cats one morning while we were gone. Then it was just a matter of getting up and out on a Saturday in time to have a nice time in Mobile. We listened to a great new CD (yes, an actual CD) on the way, as well as to a few new-fangled Pandora channels. The drive down I-65 to Mobile is famously boring.

Step Two: Visit the Dog Park. We like to take the dog on road trips, and although she likes to ride in the car, she also likes to stretch her legs. So when we made the short 2.5 hour drive to Mobile, we stopped at the Julian Marx Dog Park. It’s just about 15 minutes off of 65, and it’s worth the side trip with your fuzzy friend. We love our hometown dog park, but this one is kind of better. It’s got giant shady trees and benches all around the perimeter, with no obvious drainage problems. We’ve been there several times now, and the crowd is always friendly, well-behaved and welcoming.

Step Three: Check into hotel. This isn’t a paid advertisement, but we’ll say here that when we travel with our large dog, we always stay at a Residence Inn. The rooms are nice, and they’re all pet friendly. Plus, the hotel was only about 20 minutes from downtown, where our night would be happening. We fed her and left water and a bone. She knows the drill.

The peach cobbler bread pudding. Exceptional.

Step Four: Eat dinner. We’d cruised Internet recommendations and asked a few friends, and we made 6:15 reservations at the downtown location of The Dumbwaiter. We were able to score a cheap, free parking space in the downtown scrum by arriving before six, and walked down Dauphin to the restaurant. On the way, we passed the concert venue and a number of bars that were already full. You could tell it was going to be a big night downtown. As we walked into the restaurant, we noticed some kind of religious revival happening in the park across the street. Mobile is lucky to have downtown parks like Cathedral Square and Bienville Square. Montgomery would be enhanced by having some of these. Dinner itself was great. It’s a beautiful “New South” cuisine restaurant that manages to be loud but private, with good oysters and an outstanding salmon special. Don’t miss the peach cobbler-themed bread pudding.

The venue

Step Five: Go to Concert. Doors opened at 7, we got there close to 8. The opening act started around nine. Soul Kitchen is the kind of mid-sized venue that Montgomery really needs if it’s ever going to get in on the mid-market music touring scene. It’s a compact building that’s larger inside than it looks on the outside – a full block deep, with three bars inside and a nice sound system. We got there in time to get close to the stage. This also meant that we stood more than two hours before Ben Harper took the stage, but it was worth it.

Ben Harper being awesome.

Step Six: See Concert. Ben Harper is an amazing professional, and if you have the chance to see him live, you should absolutely not pass it up. He’s got charisma, humility, crazy good musical chops and emotional depth. He really makes you feel like he’s giving you every single breath he can squeeze out of his wrenched and aching body. It’s brilliant to behold. And his band is just terrific, a little alchemy of wizards assembled for a singularly virtuoso performance. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t a little bummed at the volume of audience talk during some of Harper’s more emotionally vulnerable and quiet numbers, but the best part of that is that he actually won the audience over. This is the beginning of the tour – catch it if you can.

Step Seven: Go to Hotel. On a Saturday night, Mobile’s downtown is cranking. We left the venue just after midnight, and everything was packed. People were still lining up to get into bars at midnight. It seemed like a very cool scene, and like nothing else in Alabama – a centralized area where everyone in town gets together on a weekend night. Next time we’ll stay to see some of the joints and experience the fuss. This night, we were tired out and needing to check on the dog (she was fine).

Step Eight: Go to Flea Market. The next morning, we had one final mission before we left town. We planned to go to the flea market. We’d been once before, just as it was closing, and had vowed to return. On a Sunday morning, it was already going – if slowly. You could tell that by noon, despite some rain, the place would be in full effect. When we were there around ten, it was already a feast for the senses. We saw tons of plants, phone cases, a dreamcatcher in the style of a confederate flag, puppies and baby rabbits, tomatoes, roasted corn, used books and vintage comics. It’s a place to wander and wonder. We finally left to give the dog a break.

Step Nine: Eat Lunch. We drive through Mobile a lot. Probably half the time we stop for Indian food at Halal Cuisine of India. The buffet is great, not greasy, and just the thing to fuel you for a drive home (or to New Orleans, depending on which way you’re going).

Step Ten: Go Home. Mobile is not that far. There’s a way in which it feels closer than Atlanta, even though they’re about the same distance. And there’s so much to do there – our overnight just touches the surface. But there’s nothing like going home, and it’s nice to look at the GPS after lunch (and coffee) and see that it’s just a 2.5 hours drive. When we got home the cats were angry, the dog was tired, there was a newspaper to read, and everything was right in Montgomery. We look forward to our next trip.

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