Wednesday, September 12, 2012

alabama highlights

I took a long weekend trip down to Alabama at the end of August to visit my parents and sister. It was a nice departure from the city but not quite as quiet as I had hoped. I feel like I was running around doing more stuff than I do here in the city! I can relax when I'm dead, right? It was still a fun time and we squeezed tons of stuff into just a few days. I'm hoping to spend more leisure time (i.e. on the couch) when I go back for Christmas.

I typically don't fly into the Huntsville Airport, but we found a good deal this time. I loved flying in over the city and being able to identify all the roads and parts of town. The landmarks aren't quite as clear as, say the Empire State Building, but notable nonetheless. What I did notice was a boat load of new construction. Sadly, the majority of it is monotonous subdivisions and massive big box shopping centers to replace ones outdated after 10 years. Le sigh. Northern Alabama isn't making any strides to appeal to my urban love. It was still fun being about as far away from NYC as I could get in a weekend!

I had a crazy early flight out of NYC and lost an hour in time zones, so I was ready for lunch at about 10:30. Perfect time to beat the crowds to some delicious barbecue!

I had honestly never tried Thomas's Bar-B-Q when I lived in Alabama, but there was always a line of cars waiting in the drive thru, so they must be doing something right! Our pulled pork sandwiches definitely did not disappoint, but all those people sitting in their cars are totally missing out on the interior of Thomas's! Horns and tchotchkes everywhere! Such a classic Southern establishment :)

My first night in town, I twisted my mom's arm to try a yoga class I had heard about at the Huntsville Museum of Art. Align and Wine is a weekly class held in the galleries and taught by Mitzi Connell. You do about and hour of yoga and then head to the restaurant connected to the museum for wine, snacks, and conversation.

Of course the week we decide to go (and I coerce my nervous mother into trying yoga for the first time), there is a local news crew there reporting on the class. Somehow we ended up in the front row too! We didn't end up catching the broadcast, but hopefully we looked moderately coordinated on TV :)

Other than a few television butterflies, it was the most fun class I've ever taken. It was really laid back and actually fun. Mitzi was fabulous and hilarious and is opening a new studio in Huntsville. So go take her classes! All the regulars in the Align and Wine class were so warm and welcoming too. We had a great time hanging out at the restaurant after class (with a few glasses of wine too)!

Do you know what else was awesome? The El Greco pizza at Pane e Vino (all the pies are names after artists...I'm a sucker for a good theme). It was topped with goat cheese, artichokes, roasted red peppers, red onions, garlic, and spinach. This will have to be recreated here at home as soon as possible! 

Ah, pool time. I am very sad that I only went swimming once while I was home! ONCE! It was fun while it lasted. I hope it will renew the desire I had several months ago to "start swimming" at the Y. 

I did go running several times and I forgot a few things about Alabama: the roads are long, straight, flat, and boring. Plus, the South is effing hot. Seriously, it's like the surface of the sun. Thank goodness I never saw a soul while out on a run because I was a sweaty, disgusting mess.

I fit in a few games of pool with my dad and sister in the new pool room! Remember my design attempts? Well, it is a very slow work in progress. I will save the updates for another post, but my parents are gradually chipping away at it. We discussed several aspects while I was in town, and I have some new design recommendations that we can hopefully implement by the end of the year, but it is really looking stellar. Slow and steady wins the race!

Until then, Dad is working on his game and is going to sweep the floor with Kurt if I can convince him to come down at Christmas :)

The whole family hit the Shrimp Blast at the Von Braun Center after church on Saturday.

It mainly consisted of an enormous exhibition space filled with tables and people stuffing their faces with shrimp and other seafood. Fun times!

There were several bands that only the kids danced to while their parents ate and ate and ate :) Oh, and enjoyed $2 Bud Lites. Even I had to slum it at that price.

Oh my. It was good. We sampled some fried and boiled shrimp and fried fish. The hush puppies were a personal favorite though.

Lest you think all I did was eat while at home, my parents and I also did a mini wine tour of Tennessee wineries! The Gravelines know how to live it up.

Our first stop was at the Winery at the Belle Meade Plantation.

Somehow these two are pretty agreeable to my goofy suggestions after a wine tasting :)

Our next stop was Arrington Vineyards. (Fun fact: It's owned by the "Brooks" of the country group Brooks and Dunn.)

It was a little bit of a drive to get there which made for gorgeous scenery.

How I love Hatch Show Print.

Our tasting here was awesome (and FREE). Tennessee has weird laws about serving alcohol and such, but you can also buy a bottle of wine and take it outside to drink. I'm hoping they set up some heaters outside because I have big plans to come back at Christmas! 

Thanks for the great visit, Mom and Dad! See you in December!


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