When I heard that Christina’s friend Leah was getting married in Birmingham, Alabama this May, two words came to mind (after congrats!), road trip! My oldest daughter Christina and I have always enjoyed road trips together. Among our favorites have been the ones to and from Samford University in Birmingham Alabama where she graduated four years ago. Reliving some of those memories along with making some new ones was all the motivation I needed to clean up my new car, grab my camera and a few essentials and head out.
Christina and I always had our favorite stops on this route from Texas to Alabama. A morning departure makes the Country Kitchen in Arcadia a great place for lunch. Stan, the owner of The Country Kitchen was always seated at the front door and his warm greeting and recollection of us on our annual stops was as much a part of bringing us back as was the delicious food!
Fried chicken, Beef tips, okra, mashed pototato’s, yams and hot water corn bread
Crossing the Mississippi is a transition point: leaving a very flat Louisiana behind and a reminder that the more scenic and wooded Alabama highways are not far ahead.
The delicious ribs at Dreamland Barbecue in Tuscaloosa Alabama make this an essential stop!
In between those stops lie hundreds of miles that allow for moments of reflection. As we made our way towards Birmingham, I enjoyed thinking back on Christina’s decision to attend Samford eight years ago and the great friends she made their. Leah, whose wedding we are heading towards, is part of a group I fondly dubbed “the fun girls” as once together, there is non-stop laughter. Comprised of friends and roommates, this group was part of the screaming welcoming crew whenever Christina arrived at school after summer breaks. The “fun girls” also attended Christina and Jacobs wedding in San Francisco two years ago. They just make everything “more fun” wherever they go. The following slideshow images ran through my mind as we made our way north towards Birmingham. In the picture of the two graduates, Leah is the one standing beside Christina.
Christina reserved a Airbnb in Birmingham for our accommodations during our visit there. Hosted by Samford alum Katy and her husband Grant, it was a wonderful choice. They were terrific hosts and took exceptionally good care of us. It was like staying with friends, which of course they now are.
An unexpected surprise was to find that photographer Bryan Johnson of A Bryan Photo and his wife Ashley live within a few blocks of the house at which we were staying. Having photographed two of our weddings (Christina and Jacob, Tessa and Marshall) Bryan and Ashley have become adopted members of our family. We were fortunate enough to run into them on our Sunday walk and enjoyed coffee on their front porch Our unexpected visit became a highlight of our trip. We later had the pleasure of visiting with Bryan and his partner Brandon at his beautiful studio space in downtown Birmingham. Bryan shared some of their latest printing processes and the images were amazing. Their commitment to quality is so evident in all aspects of their work.
The wedding was Sunday evening at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Being a small wedding with limited seating I was unable to attend. Having been a part of the planning process myself on two small and intimate outdoor weddings I completely understood the “number crunch”. I rewarded myself with the best meal I could find in Birmingham.
Chez Lulu is situated in the Mountainbrook area of Birmingham Alabama and is in a word, incredible! I started with the “goat cheese, pear and roasted walnuts salad”, followed by the “Italian sausage, roasted red peppers and goat cheese pizza”. Having chosen an outside table allowed me a front row seat for the accordion music played by their accordianist, Joe. I’ll never be sure if the food was so good because of the wonderful Parisian accordion music or vice versa: either way the result made for a delightful evening. With the evening still young, the weather perfect and the music great I chose to linger and have coffee and dessert. Good decision as the “Chocolate Bread Pudding” was perfection. Made with chocolate croissants from Chez Lulu’s own bakery and served with a hot cup of french press coffee it was the perfect ending to a delicious meal. After pausing to tell Joe how much I enjoyed his music, I made my way back to our accommodations. [Full disclosure, being way to fond of Leah and the “fun girls” I sneaked a peak of the wedding from a distance. It was beautiful! Congratulations Leah 🙂 ]
goat cheese, pear and roasted walnuts salad
Italian sausage, roasted red peppers and goat cheese pizza
Chocolate Bread Pudding
Before heading out of town we stopped at the Urban Standard. Christina worked as a Barrista here when she attended Samford University and it quickly became a favorite. The latte’s are great, food delicious, and the atmosphere inspiring. It was a great place to meet with friends one last time before heading home.
One of the pleasures road trips afford is time to meditate and reflect. As the miles drifted by I thought about my friend Jeff Storie. Jeff is no longer with us but I think of him often. I frequently went to Jeff for advice and Christina’s college search was no exception. Over lunch he recomended Samford for Christina and the rest is history. It never ceases to amaze me how God uses friends to impact our lives in a major way. Sometimes it’s through advice, sometimes through encouragement. With Jeff it was usually both and I am grateful. I smile when I think of what he would have said about my new blog. I’m pretty sure he would have hit the “like” button repeatedly… he was that kind of guy and I miss him.
As always, thanks for sharing in my journeys!