Sunday, July 27, 2008

METRO ALABAM!

I've never been to the metropolitian center of this state. So I'm relying on good information from the tourist board and the locals. For this part of the state I am going to focus on the city of Birmingham.

BIRMINGHAM:

It is estimated that the population is around 1,108,210. The city was founded in 1871 as a steel-making center and because of that the founders named the city after Birmingham, England, a principle industrial city.

Since that time Birmingham has evolved into an exciting cultural and historical destination. Yes, Europe, we consider 137 years a long time. ;)

You can spend a week or longer and not run out of things to do. Sports fans will enjoy the Sports Hall of Fame, art lovers will appreciate the Birmingham Museum of Art, history buffs will want to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Southern Museum of Flight. Music lovers be sure and go to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame,Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and for those of you who appreciate Ballet, Birmingham Ballet

There's a lot for the kiddos too! They will thrilled by the Alabama Adventure Theme Park and Birmingham Zoo.

There are golf courses, incredible shopping, and a broad spectrum of dining offerings from down home to world-class. And being a gardener, one of my fav attractions would be the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Where to stay?

If you want to save your money for all the fun and only plan to use your room as a place to drop off your luggage and a place to sleep, I highly recommend the Hampton Inn. Don't get me wrong, it is also a very nice, comfortable place to relax and unwind.

If I were you, I'd choose the sights I wanted to see and find a good central hotel.

What to wear?

Birmingham has a humid climate. Expect hot summers, mild winters, and abundant rainfall. January's average daily high temperatures of 53.0 °F (11.7 °C) and lows of 31.8 °F (−0.1 °C). In July the average daily high is 90.6 °F (32.6 °C) and the low is 69.7 °F (20.9°C). The average annual temperature in Birmingham is 62 °F (17 °C). Snowfall averages only 1.9 inches (4.8CM) March is normally the wettest month and October the driest. The spring and fall months are pleasant but variable as cold fronts frequently bring strong to severe thunderstorms and occasional tornadoes. The fall season features less rainfall and fewer storms, as well as lower humidity than the spring, but it is also a secondary severe weather season.


I hope this helps. All I know is that after researching this wonderful city, I WANT TO VISIT IT!


UP NEXT: The River Heritage area.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

SWEET HOME ALABAMA!






Hi Ya’ll! (Southernspeak for “all of you”)

Today is the beginning of my tour of the USA! Before I start I want you to know that I am not paid to do this in anyway. I simply do this for the love of traveling. If I omit a favorite place of yours, let me know. I will be happy to include your information. Either leave a comment or write me at lindacapple@gmail.com.

Today I’m beginning with our 22nd state, Alabama. From mountains to beaches, Alabama has it all! The Alabama Tourism Department divides the state into four regions: Mountain Region, Metropolitan Region, River Heritage Region, and the Coastal Region.

This is good. It will make my covering the state much easier. This morning we will visit the Mountain Region. I will highlight two places, Lake Guntersville and Huntsville, because my husband, Neal, has firsthand experience with both.

Huntsville

Neal’s parents once lived here while his father worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He was a rocket scientist. No kidding! J One of Neal’s favorite places to see was the US Space and Rocket Center. If you or anyone in your family is interested in aeronautics, put the on your “must see” list. This museum has an extensive collection of artifacts from the US space program and hands-on interactive exhibits and space travel simulators that the kids really enjoy, plus IMAX movies that take you on space walks and footage of astronauts living in space the spacecraft.
The museum is open 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Ticket prices vary depending on the package you buy. Prices are listed on their website: www.spacecamp.com/museum. Adult tickets start at $20.00 (£10.15/ €12.77) Children: $15.00 (£7.61/ €9.57)
Another fun museum is the North Alabama Railroad Museum, the smallest Union Station in the USA. It offers a museum plus a 1 hour train ride. Now I know that my friends in Europe have their daily fill of train rides. But this is a piece of our history, the way we traveled in the early 1900’s. Unfortunately, we do not have the wonderful railway system like the UK has today. Current admission is Adult: $4.00 (£2.03/ €2.55) Child: $2.00 (£1.01/ €1.27)

Where to stay? We stayed with the folks, however, in our other travels we really like the Hampton Inn Suites, http://www.hamptoninn.com/, They are reasonable, comfortable, clean and offer free breakfast every morning. A little more pricey but well worth it is the Hilton Garden Inn, http://www.hilton.com/

Where to eat? Well, as I wrote earlier we stayed with Neal’s parents, so we dined there. However, I’ve heard about a fabulous Italian restaurant, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and after visiting their site, http://carrabbas.com/, I’d like to try it the next time I visit.

You will find the usual chain restaurants in Huntsville. But let me recommend The Cracker Barrel for all of those outside the South. One complaint I heard from the UK folks who had visited the US is that the food wasn’t fresh, but canned. Well, at the Cracker Barrel you will find fresh food. And their pancakes! Maple, Pecan, Blueberry! To die for! And you can have them any time of day!

A word of warning to visitors from the UK – biscuits in the US is bread and on most southern breakfast menus you will find biscuits and gravy. In the US, what you call biscuits, we call cookies! Another thing, baked beans in the South are in a thick, sweet, sauce. What you call baked beans are like our canned pork and beans. You probably will not find beans on toast on most southern menus and bacon is thin, crispy strips of smoked pork. Not like your bacon which is more like our breakfast ham.

I’ve not had the pleasure of visiting other counties in Europe and beyond, therefore I am not aware of the differences in our cuisine. Hopefully, I’ll visit and learn one day.

How to dress? In the summer, cool! It gets really warm there. This week it will be 32C. What makes it so uncomfortable is the humidity. However, fall and spring is comfortable at 22C. Winter can be very chilly at 0.6C.

We in the South like comfy clothes and a lot of color. Don’t worry about standing out. You will see EVERYTHING here.

Situated on Alabama's largest lake, Guntersville Lake, with its 950 miles of shoreline, this small Southern town is a recreation bonanza. The city is renowned to anglers for its bass fishing and hosts various fishing tournaments year-round. Water sports include skiing, boating, jet skiing and sailing.

Guntersville

This town is situated on Alabama’s largest lake. Just imagine 950 miles of shoreline. Neal says it is a nature lovers paradise. If you like nature hikes, fishing, skiing, boating, or even golfing, this is the place for you. Guntersville lake encompasses 69,100 acres and stretches 75 miles.
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Where to stay? Lake Guntersville Bed and Breakfast! I spoke with owner and innkeeper Carol Dravis this morning and I could tell right away that she is a warm and delightful person who loves what she does. She has owned the Inn for 14 years. The location of this B&B is ideal. It is on the tip of a peninsula so that the guest view of the lake is breathtaking. And for those of you who like to shop, it is a short walk to downtown. And if nature is your calling it is an equally short walk in the other direction to the state park. The best of both worlds!!!!

Carol read some of the comments she has received from guests. The consistent praise was that this B&B has a wonderful breakfast; the home was comfy, restful, and quiet.

I asked Carol what she served for breakfast. All I can say is WOW. She makes fresh squeezed juice, gourmet entrĂ©es that change each day, fresh fruit and breakfast breads, and sometimes a breakfast dessert. Woo Hoo! I’m all over that!
This place is so wonderful that people who visit actually plan to come live in Guntersville after retiring. Be sure and visit her website: http://www.lakeguntersvillebedandbreakfast.com/

For all of you anglers, Guntersville Lake is listed as one of the Pro Bass Tournament’s five favorite lakes. And I’ve heard that not too far away you trout fishermen can cast your lines, too.

Golfers, there is an 18-hole golf course at the Lake Guntersville State park. The course rating is 71.2. I’m not a golfer, so is that good? Probably is.

Where to eat? I’m sure that Carol will have great suggestions! J

Day Trip Suggestion:

Helen Keller’s Birthplace, Ivy Green.

One difference I noticed about the UK and the USA is how we celebrate our famous authors. While in Oxford, I had a hard time finding anything noting one of their most famous writers, C.S. Lewis. We finally found a fellow who gives tours and took us to C.S. Lewis’ home and haunts; however these places for the most part were not marked. And it they were it was hardly noticeable. Same for J.R.R. Tolkien.

If Mr. Lewis had been a son of the US, we would have at least preserved his home and opened it to the public, maybe throw in an annual C.S. Lewis Festival and have outdoor summer performances of one of his many novels. And maybe the wonderful folk in Oxford do just that and somehow I missed the information. I hope that is the case.

Alabamians certainly celebrate their famous daughter Helen Keller, author, activist, and speaker. When this amazing woman was nineteen months old, a serious illness left her deaf and blind. She was the first deaf and blind person to graduate college. Her home, Ivy Green, is just 70 miles west of Huntsville and 105 miles west of Guntersville. This sight is well worth the drive. Remember, in the US that is just a short distance away!

You will be inspired by Helen’s story, of how she learned to communicate with the outside world by a determined teacher and a water pump. Her home is preserved in its original state and the grounds are beautiful. I’ve been there twice and being the history buff with an overabundance of imagination I could stay there all day. Neal can’t, so I have to make do with a few hours.

The Helen Keller Festival is held in June and the summer performances run from June to the middle of July. For more information go to http://www.helenkellerbirthplace.org/index.html

NEXT UP: THE METROPOLITAN REGION

Remember! Suggestions and information are wanted! Questions? Write me and I’ll do my best to find out! Till next time!