B’Ham More than Civil Rights Destination

One view of B’Ham from the Vulcan monument.

On our last day in Alabama, we had a full Monday to explore. Alas, many places including the Sloss Furnaces and the Museum of Art are closed on Mondays. We were staying at a Hampton Inn close to Mountain Brook. Birmingham is a relatively new city formed after the Civil War to take advantage of the ore deposits in the tail end of the Appalachian mountains. Mountain Brook is one of the first “planned communities.” If Birmingham (B’Ham) has a specialty, it might be producing real estate marketers.

Church Street Coffee and Books

I was thirsty for a real cup of coffee, so I looked for a coffee shop near me and hit the bonanza! Church Street Coffee and Books offered two of my favorite things (it’s just missing yarn). I found my way there and enjoyed both the coffee and the latest Brene Brown book. Most of the books offered were either ones I’d read or ones I’d like to read. Whoever does their book list is my kindred spirit!

I zipped back to the hotel so Phyllis and I could go to Vulcan Park. We followed a class field trip of 4th graders up the elevator to the spectacular view at the top of the Vulcan statue monument. Then we took in the small museum that tells the story of Birmingham.

img_5756We were also close to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and we decided to spend an hour looking at the beautiful gardens. My favorite was the native woods. The gift shop was fun to browse in too.

Birmingham is a place that visitors could enjoy even if you weren’t focused on civil rights places and events. We were ready to go home to California, and we enjoyed our time in Alabama.



Fossicking Around the Fairfax District in Los Angeles

It is not glamorous looking; however, the Fairfax District is chock full of great shops and restaurants.
It is not glamorous looking; however, the Fairfax District is chock full of great shops and restaurants.

Ahh, what a luxury: an entire Saturday to do as I please. One of the great things about the Elan Hotel is the neighborhood. Good thing since Los Angeles is still very car centric and my friend needed to car to visit her kids in Big Bear. First things first, I treated my television deprived self to several episodes of Fixer Upper on HGTV. Then I set off for a leisurely shop/walk through the Fairfax District.

It is still very hot and sticky, so part of me made up an itinerary of walking to the Farmers Market for lunch and then recovering in the air conditioned a movie theater and watch a film before walking back to the hotel. I set off later than expected and set off down Beverly Boulevard.

Tess at Tweak the Best Gift Store Ever
Tess at Tweak the Best Gift Store Ever

First stop was Tweak gift shop where the owner Tara and I had a great conversation. I loved the shop’s concept: a variety of great gifts with one display item and the rest already gaily wrapped and ready to give.

Starting with a West Elm store, the next couple of blocks were focused on furniture. I was looking forward to checking out my next big purchase at Thrive Furniture with my faithful salesman Joe. If my clients pay me I will be able to take advantage of the Labor Day sale. I love the mid-century modern designs in their showroom.

Shrimp Cobb Salad
Shrimp Cobb Salad

I kept walking and when I hit a red light I turned right toward 3rd Street. As I reached 3rd I saw Blue Plate Oysterette and remembered Steve and Jodi telling us how much they enjoyed it. I am not a big fish or oyster eater, but by this time I was very thirsty and ready for a break. I looked at the menu and started fixating on the shrimp cobb salad. It was superb, as was the service and the ice tea. And as a special treat, the women’s bathroom has the best wallpaper ever!

Adorable women's restroom in Blue Plate Oysterette
Adorable women’s restroom in Blue Plate Oysterette

I put my feet up on my barstool and got out my new Brene Brown book, Rising Strong and settled in for a good while. Brene mentioned an intriguing book, Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull. I googled bookstores in my area. Up popped the Traveller’s Bookcase which I fully intended to browse. It also mentioned a fancy bookstore with art collector;s books, and then Three Geese in Flight just around the corner from the travel bookstore and quite close to my hotel.

I set off towards the Traveler’s Bookcase and marveled at Los Angeles where people are super body conscious and yet support a donut shop with valet parking and two juice stores on one block. There were at least 4 bakeries within a few blocks including the yummy Cookie Casa Bakery on Beverly Boulevard.

I brake for yarn, so I had to stop at the delicious Knit Culture (more in another blog). At last I reached the travel bookstore. I had a delightful time browsing the shelves and a difficult time choosing what to buy. As I checked out I asked the lovely store clerk Victoria what she knew about Three Geese in Flight as Google did not have any additional information. She heartily encouraged me to contact Sam, the owner of Three Geese in Flight. She said he only opens up by appointment because his shop is in his living room, but that he totally legitimate. She showed me some of his artifacts and books that they carry in the store.

Sam is passionate about history!
Sam is passionate about history!

I reached out to Sam via email and he called me a short while later. It worked best for both of our schedules to meet just after 5 p.m. It was only a half block from my hotel. I spent over two delightful hours discussing books and shopping for my brother who is a professor of American history and archaeology with a personal passion for Native American studies. There was so much to choose from and Sam worked with my budget. It might seem a bit eccentric to go to his home to shop but makes sense when you think about the book world today. Most of his sales are via the Internet, so why deal with the overhead of a brick and mortar store?

If you are a bookphile, and especially if you are interested in non-Barnes and Noble selections, then check out his website for Sam’s in-stock list or arrange to stop and shop if you are in Los Angeles.

I rushed back to the hotel to meet my friends for dinner at The Gulp Pub and Restaurant on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles. They serve delicious burgers, bratwurst and beer. Casual dining was the perfect accompaniment to catching up with more Panthers tribe mates.

Another great day in Los Angeles.