Birmingham


 As much as I travel, I’ve decided to start a blog about some of the places that I’ve been. Let’s start off with a place that I will probably not be coming back too anytime soon…Birmingham.

First impression…this city is in a state of depression. Lots of empty buildings and empty streets for 4pm on a Saturday. Seriously, if it wasn’t for the occasional car, I wouldn’t have known anyone was there.

birmingham-al-039.jpg  birmingham-al-060.jpg

Something oddly unique about Birmingham was the amount of thrift shops, hair salons and, believe it or not, shoe repair stores. I counted 2 shoe repair stores that I saw while walking with my friend Erin. I can’t name one other city that I’ve ever been too that I remember seeing one shoe repair store. Who repairs shoes nowadays? I know I’ve never repaired a pair of shoes. I replace them. My wife doesn’t repair them either. She keeps them in her closet and then buys new ones.

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Needless to say, being in the Bible Belt, there were plenty of beautiful churches. Presbyterian, Baptist, you name it, there were a lot of ’em. And they were all historical monuments. Historical monuments are big here in Birmingham. Apparently, if the building has been around for more than 15 years, it becomes a historical monument of some sort. How did I know that a building was a “historical monument”? Well…almost every old looking building that I saw that didn’t have its windows busted out had a sign posted on it that said “Historical Monument”. So…if you are into Historical Monuments or churches, you should definitely visit Birmingham. 

birmingham-al-017.jpg  birmingham-al-040.jpg

They do have a very cool looking statue here that sits on top of a high “building” of sorts. However we weren’t able to get close enough to it by walking. So I took a shot of it from the distance. Apparently it was erected in 1904 and is the largest cast iron statue in the world. Located in Vulcan Park, because it is a statue of Vulcan, the God of Fire & Forge, this statue can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the city. Unfortunately it’s also located far, far away. It would have taken us another 2 hours to walk up there, so…screw that. Anyway, if you are interested, here is the story behind Vulcan, the son of Jupiter and Juno (which is also the name of a certain movie that came out last year and won an Oscar for a former stripper. Strippers can win Oscars…just not American Idol.). Don’t say I never taught you nothin’.

http://www.visitvulcan.com/vulcan-story.html

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There was a big theatre located downtown called The Alabama. I saw a few people leaving there. I think they might have performances there and I would imagine, back in the day, it was probably a movie theatre. I’m always a sucker for an old-time movie theatre. We didn’t go in, but I can only imagine what it looks like inside. That being said, I went and checked out this site to see what was inside. It looks awesome! Too bad there wasn’t something going on in there today. I would have liked to have seen it!

http://www.alabamatheatre.com/AboutTheAlabama/TourtheAlabama/tabid/62/Default.aspx

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Needless to say, Birmingham won’t be added to my favorite places to visit list. It’s not terrible here…but from what I understand they only have one “really big mall” and apparently the city is closed most of the weekend…even during an event as large as the NCAA Tournament over Easter weekend. It is warm here though. And considering the weather we’ve been having up north…I’ll take it!

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9 Responses to Birmingham

  1. mandy says:

    Regarding old movie theatres: they always make me think of sitting in the balcony of the Opera House, sipping on an RC Cola, and watching Indiana Jones.

  2. Kim says:

    Not a favorite place huh? And yet . . . you are actually smiling in that picture. A lot. Apparently you have to be in a place you hate to smile?

    Kidding.

    🙂

  3. Elizabeth says:

    As an actual Birminghamian I feel like your visit to our fair city should have prompted more research. Birmingham itself is not a very big city and thus, we have an almost non-existent public transportation system. The surrounding suburbs of Birmingham, however, are brimming with eclectic restaurants, shops, and parks.
    Downtown Birmingham is now dominated mostly by the financial industry, and thus, would be empty on a Saturday. Yes, it has been through rough times and it is not an ideal spot for taking a walk and not a shopping area. However, Downtown Birmingham is home to many impressive and unique sites. The Birmingham Museum of Art, which is currently showcasing an exhibit of Da Vinci’s original drawings on their first voyage outside of Italy, is always free and has a very impressive collection. It’s the largest art museum in the southeast. The Civil Rights Institute is a very important element in understanding Birmingham’s past and present, and a highly frequented historical museum downtown. The McWane Center is a family-oriented science center with an IMAX theater and traveling exhibits that even we college students enjoy visiting. The downtown area is home to many annual festivals for art, music, culture, and food.
    I hope that on your next trip to Birmingham you will explore a little more than the Downtown area. Go walking around the villages of Mountain Brook. Go shopping at the upscale Summit shopping center or the Riverchase Galleria (both huge malls). Visit the Birmingham Botanical Gardens; check out the night life at Five Points south, and for goodness sake… Drive up Red Mountain to Vulcan park, pay 3$ and take the elevator to the top of Vulcan. It’s one of the most breathtaking views of the city.

    http://www.birminghamal.org

    That’s fair. But actually, I don’t do any research before visiting a city. I judge it strictly by how much I can learn or see while I’m there! So if I leave my hotel and wander for hours and find pretty much nothing, I say I saw nothing! I enjoy walking and when I’m put in the downtown area of a city, I would expect to be able to find some kind of entertainment somewhere! I have nothing against Birmingham, and in it’s defense, Cincinnati has become more and more a suburban city also. Which I find to be somewhat disheartening because the city is what brings a community together! Not the suburbs, and I don’t care how cool your mall is. A city should take care of its downtown and bring people together. Maybe Birrmingham and Cincinnati can get together and visit a conference with Seattle, Indianapolis or Denver as it’s head speakers. Those cities at least have a clue!

    BTW…my friend and I WERE looking for Vulcan park. However we couldn’t get there by foot! What kind of park is that?!?! If they want visitors, maybe they should make access a little easier. That would have made the long walk worth it!

  4. TravelCool says:

    Birmingham, I’m afraid, is suffering an economic slowdown just like many other mid-size cities. There’s still a lot of history and sights to explore here; just have to look.

  5. mike b says:

    No research? Wow, what a mistake! I’ve traveled the world over and I never go somewhere without researching. What do you expect to find if you don’t know what’s there?

    I just got back from downtown Birmingham today. I live in Atlanta and have been to Bham a few times, but..ahem…having not done any research prior to my other visits, I hadn’t realized that…
    ..around the corner from the Civil Rights Institute is this abandoned motor inn…that happened to house visiting activists, such at Martin Luther King because it was a black owned hotel.
    ..16th St Baptist Church? Tell me you knew what that was.
    ..Ingram Park? Where in 1963 firehoses and biting police dogs harassed black protesters, making headlines all over the world.
    ..Abandoned stores? Did you happen to notice the architecture around 3rd Av and 19th St? Well, a few blocks west of the place where your arms are in the air. 3 and 19th is where there were department stores: Woolworth, Kresses, and Loveman’s. So what? You ever see pictures of black kids sitting at lunch counters in protest? Ding. These were some of those buildings.

    Birmingham drips history. The downtown area is the sight of some of the darker (no pun intended) days in our country’s history.

    Why go someplace if you’re not going to bother to learn about it? You’re wasting your time and money. Dude, I feel bad for you. It’s like going to school and not opening the text books. What can you expect to learn?

    Tell you what, if you’re ever in Dallas…there’s this spot where three roads form a triangle of land. It’s downtown too, but no worries…if you head about 5 miles east of there, there’s this really good TGIFs…try the potato skins.

    Wow! Nothing like getting a beatdown over a crappy city like Birmingham. Well dude…here’s the deal. The ONLY reason I was in Birmingham was because I had to work there. I would never go there for a vacation and I don’t think it would ever cross my mind to visit for the fun of it. So I didn’t wast my time and I made lots of money watching the NCAA tournament. Maybe if YOU had checked out my bio, you would have seen that I do a lot of travel for work and I also go to a lot of great cities that have a lot of history as well. Name a city, I’ve probably been there. And I could care less if a city has had a bunch of historical pictures taken of kids and buildings. If I want to look at pictures, I can do that right here on the internet. When I go to a city, I expect to be able to find entertainment and dining and places to go. Like your TGIF in Dallas (which I’m sure is a wonderful place…however I have never really been able to hang out in Dallas. Looking forward to it though. I’m sure it will get a glowing review.). So anyway, you can have Birmingham. I give it to you and YOU can visit as much as you want. As for MY thoughts about the city? You haven’t changed my opinion much. It’s a bunch of abandoned builidings. For MY money, go visit Mobile. Much better…

    Oh…and by the way…you can bite me.

  6. James says:

    Dude…come down off your self-righteous high-horse and open your awareness to just how narrow and petty minded you are. Both in your approach to “learning” about a city, as well as in your determination to stand firm on your ill-informed assessments. Open your mind, man, it can use some fresh air.

    Just because a city’s vitality isn’t centered in the downtown area doesn’t make it “crap.”

    Just because you can’t walk to all attractions from city center, or that you prefer not to walk very far, doesn’t make a city crap either.

    Who told you all attractions are even supposed to be located downtown? Vulcan Park is on top of a MOUNTAIN. How likely is that to be located in the middle of any downtown city? And you whine because you couldn’t walk to it from downtown in less than 2 hours. You need a serious reality check, dude. As I recall, it’s not an easy walk to Liberty Park from the geographical center of New York City either, but does that fact make all of NY a crappy city?

    Any fool should know you can’t judge the entire character of a city by a few city blocks on a saturday afternoon. Just as you can’t judge the character of a man by one stupid city review.

    So instead of trashing your character further, I’ll just say, learn something from the beating you’ve taken over the B’ham review. Whatever your real character is, you’ll be a better man, and a better city reviewer, for it. And you might save yourself future ass whippings in the bargain.

    But then again…nah…that would be INTELLIGENT, and apparently that’s a condition to be avoided at all costs.

    Ya know, I had no idea I would take such a beating over this city! It’s been over a year and I’m STILL getting comments! Okay, so here’s is my response to THIS response: Please…with all due respect…maybe YOU should get out and travel a little bit. I have never said, in ANY of my blogs, that I am a “reviewer” of cities. I am a business traveler who is FORCED to spend time in crappy places such as Birmingham, Alabama. If you think I’m ever gonna vacation there, you’d be sorely mistaken. I realize people live there and there is probably a hopping nightlife somewhere in the suburbs of B’ham. But I doubt it. The city was desolate and there was nothing to do. As a BUSINESS traveler who was in town to work for a major sporting event (the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Maybe you’ve heard of it?), you would think the city would have planned SOMETHING for visitors to do? But maybe I’m wrong. Seeing as how it’s such a FANTASTIC city to live in and a wonderful place to visit. But I gotta tell you…I think you’re wrong. And as for NYC? It’s an AWESOME place filled with all kinds of things to do! I love it! As a matter of fact, I had to write 3 blogs about it when I was there. So comparing YOUR city to the Big Apple is probably not the smartest thing for YOU to do…

    But I have been known to be wrong from time to time…

    Jackass.

  7. James says:

    Hey man,

    Yep, and you’re wrong again. On multiple counts.

    Review a city – you’re a city reviewer. Simple logic. Doing it as a hobby doesn’t negate what it is.

    You wonder why you’re taking such a beating over your review of B’ham, so I’ll tell you why. It’s clear to anyone with any insight into human nature at all…

    It’s because you admitted you do no advance research on the locations you visit, and yet you feel perfectly justified in venting your POed spleen about the place simply because it doesn’t live up to your UNINFORMED expectations.

    People don’t like unfairness.

    Now here’s a clue for you. People in the greater B’ham area lament the shortcomings of the city freely. Had you simply stated your surprise and frustration in a less arrogant way, the responses would have been sympathetic and supportive. Then you would have had a legitimate reason to feel smug about your judgment call on B’ham.

    Didn’t your mom ever teach you that you can’t present yourself as an arrogant, self-satisfied jackass without being treated like one? Sure she did, but arrogance is blind to common sense, so you find yourself here…spitting and sputtering even more indefensible bull crap.

    It’s not smart to compare B’ham to NYC? How lucky for me then that I didn’t do that. I said it’s not an easy walk to Liberty Park from geo center NYC, just as it’s not an easy walk to Vulcan Park from downtown B’ham. That’s a comparison of two specific and isolated things, not of the two cities. It’s also a simple truth. I compared apple to apple. Tip for the future: If you are going to refute an argument, at least try to put together a logical rebuttal.

    And wow! I’m shocked that you think I’m wrong about Birmingham. Especially since I didn’t say anything in defense of the city. I just pointed out how infantile your behavior and attitudes are. Aw rats, I’m sorry, that’s not fair to infants. After all, they learn from their mistakes, correct them, and grow from the experience.

    So please…with all due respect…maybe you should not just travel, but travel more intelligently. That’s what I do, and I’ve never felt it necessary to trash my host city because of my own failures, or because of an inability to take responsibility for the same.

    You “work for a major sporting event”?…let me guess…you sell t-shirts.

    Ya know James, you are right. In all fairness to Birmingham, I didn’t do much research because, quite frankly, it didn’t occur to me that I should. I have been to several cities in Alabama and never had any problems, so ya got me there. I’d love to know where you live and why you think so highly of this city that you feel the need to continue this argument. My blog is exactly as I have stated. At no point did I trash the city until you and Mike decided to stop by and slam ME for MY opinion. I simply stated what I saw there, which is a bunch of empty buildings and no nightlife. If that makes me a bad person, then so be it. I’m gonna leave this response as a lesson to myself. If I don’t like a place, I guess I should apparently say nothing. And ya know what…that’s fine by me. I shouldn’t have wasted my time on this blog simply because the city isn’t worth my time. So like I’ve said many times before…you can HAVE Birmingham. I don’t care! I hope I never go back there ever again! But thanks for stopping by. And yes…I sell t-shirts. You have a problem with that? Maybe YOU are the one who is a bit arrogant in your opinion of yourself? I guess selling t-shirts isn’t a good enough job for you? Gee…who’s being unfair now? I’m gonna go cry myself to sleep now…because you’ve hurt my feelings…

  8. Alan says:

    So I’ve been re-reading the comments made by Mike & Jackass James and I’m trying to decide if what they are saying is correct. Have I been narrow-minded in my assessment of Birmingham, AL. Taking their true criticism of me and my opinion, and leaving aside the sarcasm and spite, I am inclined to say yes…maybe I could have been better informed about the history of such a city. But now I have to wonder why? Why should I? And here is my argument for this…

    I understand Birmingham has history. EVERY city has history. That part of this argument I understand and I can agree with these guys…I am narrow-minded in that regard. I have to be honest, I didn’t go to Birmingham to be educated. And so maybe that is my fault. I was there on business (I sell t-shirts. It’s what I do.) and I wasn’t there for entertainment or vacation.

    So my argument FOR my opinion of this city is this…you have a major event happening in your downtown. Yet you do nothing to accomodate the visitors who will coming to your city ready to spend their dollars there and hekp your economy get back on track? That seems very short-sighted if you ask me.

    So there you have it. I am narrow-minded and obviously not a very good traveller. But if you go back and read the blog, I didn’t feel I was being vindictive about Birmingham. I was only stating what I saw at the time. And that was a whole lot of nothing. I hope if I am ever back there that I will find it to be a different experience. And for the record, it wasn’t a horrible experience, just uneventful.

    I was gonna delete this post and the comments but I’ve decided against it. But I have learned a valuable lesson here…everyone comes from somewhere and one needs to be very careful when being critical of someplace from which they have no vested interest in. I don’t care one way or another about Birmingham. That doesn’t mean I wish anyone there ill will. I just didn’t appreciate their city in the way Mike & James obviously do. So they can visit often and I hope they enjoy their stay.

    As for me…I wish to remain humbled by the educated slapdown I have taken over this and I will move on. Thanks guys for setting me straight! I am coming down off my “high horse” and admitting that my reviews of your city and all the others suck. I have no idea what I am talking about. So this should serve as a notice to all reading my blog…the reviews I post here are MY uneducated opinions! Don’t listen to them! You should go and visit places on your own and YOU decide what places are awesome and which are not! And THAT is the point that should be taken here. Because really the only person who can have an opinion of someplace is yourself. Some of us just choose to be open-minded enough to write down our own thoughts and be opinionated and then we take the criticism and react accordingly. In this case, I did not. But I still stand by my opinion of Birmingham. It needs to have something for visitors to do downtown. And there are lots of cities that are just like that all over the country.

    And that is all! 🙂

  9. carrie says:

    I’ve lived in Birmingham my entire life. Yes it is a shame that DOWNTOWN Birmingham has been abandoned. The purpose for living downtown is to be close to the few business buildings down there. If you want to live it up- get out of downtown. You have a right to be disappointed about the lack of the city life, we are too.

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