Collecting Cities: A Day In Birmingham

A few weeks ago I booked an overnight trip to Birmingham for me and one of my favorite people. Now, being from Memphis, Tenn., I’ve been to B-Ham several times in my life because it’s only a three hour drive. Every time I visit it’s a different experience. It’s one of those weird southern cities where you just don’t quite know what you’ll end up with.

First, before this trip it had been about three years since I’d actually visited. The other times were just pass throughs on my way to and from Georgia. My friend Erin had lived just outside the city for a brief spell and I went to visit her and the little coffee shop she worked at. Full of fresh grinds and eclectic little shops, this was my previous visit to Birmingham. But, this time I had something else in mind.

If you can’t tell already, I like to theme things. Birthday’s, gifts, trips, writing…giving things a theme helps an otherwise indecisive person break down a million choices. The theme of this trip… HAUNTED. And, holy smokes was that so funny and fun all at the same time. I found it appropriate to write this in the begs of October just in case you need a little spook in your life.

Stop One: The Sloss Furnaces 

Sloss is one of those places that’s on a bunch of different lists that no one quite remembers or pays attention to. That is, unless you go to the festival they have every year or you actually live in Birmingham. When I was researching haunted places near me and this place came up, I was legit intrigued.

The boring part is that for almost a century the furnaces created the industry that would help good ole B-Ham rise to glory. Built in the 1880s the furnaces became one of nineteen pig iron furnaces to begin a rise to industry. Good ole’ Sloss himself was dubbed someone who was spreading the “gospel of industrialism” so naturally he ran for public office. He retired around 1886 and sold off the furnaces to a group of investors who would guide it into an industry boom.

The furnaces stayed open for decades, closing in 1971, then later became a national historic landmark in 1981 then a museum (free mind you) in 1983. They host festivals, concerts and conventions there because the space is really cool. But the coolest part, in my opinion, is that on a nice sunny day when nothing special is going on, you can tour the site on your lonesome and spook the hell out. Which is exactly what we did.

So, what’s the deal with it being haunted? Glad you asked!

In the early 1900’s James “Wormwood” Slag was the foreman of the nightshift of the furnaces. (Can’t get through the word “Wormwood” without thinking about Matilda, yeah me either!) Anyway, an estimated 150 people would toil long hours to keep those furnaces fed. Some would describe working during the nightshift a “living hell” because they would hire the poorest of the poor and temperatures would sometimes reach a stifling 120 degrees. Slag would force his workers to speed production, work in dangerous quarters and do anything to please his bosses. During his reign as night foreman, 47 workers lost their lives. Beyond that, there was no holidays and no days off and numerous people were injured on the job.

Slag, however, got his reparation as he lost his footing one night over the largest furnaced dubbed “Big Alice”, his body melting instantly in the hot iron ore. Ever since, it has been rumored that the furnaces are haunted by an evil presence that has been known to shove people from behind while repeatedly telling them to “get back to work”. One night watchman was burned so badly in 1971, the last evening the furnace was open, that he had fists of burn marks all over his body that were unexplainable. Numerous people have disappeared and there has been several reportings of people feeling an unexplainable “evil presence” on the grounds.

Regardless of whether you believe in haunted things or not, this place is really fun to just toil away a few hours and explore. There is even a tunnel that is dark and damp that the night watchmen refuse to go down…a definite must for the haunted enthusiast. I mean… what’s a few burns as memorabilia. Just in case you were looking for actual memorabilia… the gift shop has weird hours and only takes cash and checks. So bring the Benjamin’s in the off chance you want a  one of a kind souvenir cat head made out of iron.

Stop 2: Barber Motor Sports

This place was actual not haunted at all, just a really sweet spot for the car or motorbike enthusiast. Hundreds of cars and bikes on display, an air of general museum quality in which you can’t touch literally anything without an old man yelling at you…this place had to make the list. And… I guess it could gain haunted authority in the off chance that one of the several motorcycle racers in the back face planted and died on the track. That would deem the place appropriately haunted, right? I don’t know, go look at some old cars and shit. It’s pretty cool.

Food Stops — Okay, so Birmingham as a city is probably haunted because no one seems to live there. That or it was an Alabama game night and everyone was far far away in a little town called Tuscaloosa. Regardless, it is one of the most quiet cities I’ve ever been to downtown. We kept trying to find restaurants that were open and even the Chick-fil-A was closed…downtown… on a Saturday, it was weird. But we finally settled on the Paramount Bar, which was totally delicious. We snagged the Great Balls of Fire app, which consisted of fried risotto balls and sauce and after that I can’t remember much else of what we got because I was in a tired food coma. Go there, eat the fried balls. You won’t be sorry.

Our dinner destination was of course founded in liquid courage, Good People Brewing Company had some bomb.com brews that were perfect for a crisp September evening. Their patio is spot on and live music, while it could always be a smidge lower so that you can actually hear your partner, was not too shabby. I’d rate it a 7 out of 10.

Our final stop for Saturday was the Tutwiler Hotel which, of course, is clearly haunted. It was beautiful and they even had moderately pleasant information desk workers who guarded the super posh orange water. People even liked the place so much that they left their wedding albums in the lobby for other patrons to peruse, or make fun of… I’m the latter. Found on a clearly legit haunting site, ” This hotel is said to be haunted by Colonel Tutwiler. He may turn all the lights on at night as he has in the past, but now the staff are required to remind him to turn off all the lights and not make a mess every night. Every since there has been no problem.” Oh Colonel, how civil of you to haunt the place with such submission. Regardless, this place totes has a haunted vibe. Though… it could just be the surly front desk lady. Regardless, I would totally stay here again!

 

The next day we grabbed some breakfast, some of the best coffee I’ve had in a while, hit up the botanical gardens and then hit the road. If you’re looking for a haunted adventure or just want a fun little story to tell, consider B-Ham. You won’t regret it. There’s always something to stumble into. Happy travels.

#28LessonsLearned

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Here I am, another year older and perhaps a smidge wiser. Hopefully. If you’re friends with me on Facebook you might have noticed that I did a series of posts tagged #28lessonslearned. Spoiler alert, I turned 28 at the end of that series. The goal was to eventually tie all of those into a blog post to culminate and further explain all the posts, but I decided against it. Instead, I’m writing this post to catch you guys up on my illustrious life. (exaggerating of course)

This past year I’ve grown leaps and bounds. I’ve put myself through the ringer. I made a promise early on to grow into experiences, not things. I became an aunt for the second time. I became a fur mom for the first time. I dated. I traveled. I wrote. I adventured. And, numerous other things that I’ve lived to tell about.

Amongst all of those things is the one where I learned to love myself. You’d note that in the #28lessonslearned I demonstrate that wholeheartedly. Learning to say no to myself was one of the biggest growing moments I dealt with last year. I had to say no to my version of perfect and accept the present. I had to say no to what unrealistic expectations I had for myself in every area of my life. I had to say no to how I talked to myself almost daily. I learned that no is powerful. I learned that words are powerful. The words we hold within our spirit that are solely meant for us may be the most powerful of all.

In that revelation, the one where I stop being so shitty to myself, I learned how awesome I am. Some days I still don’t believe it. Some days people can tell me that I am the most awesome person on the face of the planet and I will still crawl into a hole as though I am that kid picked last for gym class. Until the day comes when you can accept the good things about yourself wholeheartedly, you will never be able to accept the compliments that people give to you as truth. You are wonderful. I am wonderful.

Real life, real people aren’t perfect. I took this photo the day before my birthday. I hated it and picked it apart and tried to over filter it so it looked halfway decent. My best friend took it and she refused to let me a. not post it and b. over filter it to the point of no return. I took it because I just got my nose pierced, something I had been wanting to do for YEARS. The imperfection of that photo made me not want to share this little victory with the world. I am brave. She said, “Post that photo, even though you don’t like it, it will be good for you.” So I did. I am brave.

Bravery is built in the little moments. It is built in the small mundane things we are afraid of. It is me getting my nose pierced. It is me sharing my thoughts on this blog where the whole world has privy to it. It is me traveling via the ocean to another country, something I was terrified of doing because the ocean is a scary, dark abyss. Bravery comes in small increments. I am brave.

So… in this new year, what will I do? First, I’ll finish what I’ve started. I’ll become a Pilates instructor. I will finish my book. I will write more and more on this little blog. I will write MORE wherever and whenever I can. Numerous people have told me that I’m a good writer, so I will write. I love to write. A great writer was all I ever wanted to be, but I was afraid of it for so long. Being told you are good at that one thing that you’ve always wanted to be but are afraid to do, well it kinda makes your heart explode and it kinda makes you want to do it all the days of your life. I am brave.

Other things I might do… travel to more places on the bucket list. Most notably, Everest Base Camp. Start a business (oh yes, I’ve had a few things brewing for a while now, perhaps I’ll finally get that stuff together). Find my person… hey, one can hope.

Cheers to inspiring yourself. May you find that you are capable of making yourself happy every day of your life.

 

I became a travel writer

What would my life look like if I got everything I wanted the way in which I dreamed up in my mind? I would undeniably complain a whole lot less than I do, have less anxiety about everything and probably be a lot less personally aware. In short, it would be glorious but my life would be boring.

A week and a half ago I found this travel agency that wanted bloggers to help them beef up their online presence. Naturally… being the travel addict and content junkie that I am…I applied. At first, I was rejected because I priced myself above the bracket. I’m new to the whole charging per word sort of thing. I felt like a dunce, but humbly asked them to reconsider and to accept that I normally have an hourly rate and I’m new to the whole freelance world. I.E. I’m a dummy, please give me another shot. They did. They said that my writing style and candor was exactly what they were looking for in a writer for their team. I received my prompts and had them delivered within 24 hours, even though they gave me a seven day deadline. I was a little overzealous. But, I felt really good about the work that I did and I turned it in. I received my first payment within two days.

In a span of a week and a half, I was officially a travel blogger. Though it didn’t look exactly like I thought and I in no way can make a full-time living out of it, yet, I got paid to do something I LOVE. Travel writing is my dream! It melds two things I absolutely adore together, writing and travel!

I’m not perfect at it, I need space and time to grow in it. But, I’m doing it. I’m doing the thing that I thought was impossible, and I didn’t even realize it.

Why does this matter? Why should you care? Because, friends, sometimes the things that we are searching for… the dreams that we’re seeking, they are there. They are in the small opportunities we are granted each and every day. It means we have to let go of what “perfect” looks like…and allow ourselves to pivot. We pivot in a way that gives us margin to say “Yes, this may not be the exact thing I am looking for, but it will give me the opportunity to learn and grow so that when what I am looking for comes along, I will be ready.”

Grow in the small opportunities, in the one’s that don’t necessarily make sense but feel right. Allow yourself the time, freedom and grace to pivot in your own life. Give yourself the fortitude to do big things in small increments… you never know where they’ll lead!

Collecting Countries: Portugal

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Hello lovlies! Most of May was spent traveling for me and doing a lot of soul searching, surprise I know. Even though I have spent a good amount of time traveling this year, it is the most I’ve ever traveled! However, I’ve always been addicted to learning about new places and I’ve made it my mission to turn all the learning, research and pining into real adventures and stories to share.

So, expect a lot more travels coming your way! My favorite stop on this past trip was Ponta Delgada, Portugal. It is part of the Azores and is legit the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in person. I mean look at this unedited photo… brilliant if I do say so myself.

While we were there, for too short a time I might add, we were able to drive a bus up to this picturesque spot where we had the optimal view of the Lagos das Sete Cidades or the  “Lake of the Seven Cities”.  The lakes sit at the bottom of a dormant volcano and they are ecologically different and have different Ph balances or something that create the look of two totally different colors. I made that up…but it sounds good.

Needless to say, next time I win the lottery or have a bunch of vacation and tax rebates saved up…I’ll be visiting the Azores again, but this time I’ll go hiking.

What about you? Could you see yourself hiking up this place? I want to see your pictures if you’ve been.

Until next time, happy venturing.

Kate