Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Florence--Not Italy, but Alabama's Slice of Heaven

In my ongoing pursuit to squeeze out more play time in October before it ended, I woke up on Saturday morning, the 30th, and decided to explore a new area in my state. I'd heard that Florence, AL was a unique area from the man who installed my new dishwasher (oh, and it is a fine dishwasher with magical powers and yes, I love it in a very bizarre mechanical love way).

I got online, found a little bistro that might be fun to try, and enlisted Darling Husband to be my companion. He agreed. I think he would do just about anything to avoid cleaning the garage. And after our journey to Florence, AL, I believe he was glad he made the decision to go with me.

We drove to Florence via highway 72 westbound. The drive itself was pretty. The trees are in full autumn bloom, the river sparkled in the sun, and the little towns were quaint. Truly a postcard quality drive for me. When we arrived in Florence, we went to the little bistro I'd discovered located in a little strip mall called English Village.

Outside the Sweet Basil Cafe--These Painted Cows are Cute!
The strip mall had some cute shops with unique storefronts. We ventured into the Sweet Basil Cafe to try it out and were very pleasantly surprised. The service was excellent, the food even better, and the unique little touches inside and outside made it worth the drive. We asked the counter person what she recommended: chicken salad on croissant with Red,White & Blue salad. We each ordered it and thoroughly enjoyed the slight tangy spice of the chicken salad and the side salad with a sweet vinaigrette dressing.

Really unique painted iced tea containers. 

We also ordered iced tea and there were a variety of teas to try. I chose boring unsweetened tea, but the containers it poured from was not boring at all. Beautiful urns with unique paintings on them housed the tea selections.

After we left the restaurant, we putzed around in the little shops next door. We found cute things to buy, expensive pieces of furniture we wanted to buy, and a florist shop that smelled divine. We also asked the people at Sweet Basil Cafe if there were any parks around. They directed us to McFarland Park which was located near historic downtown Florence.

Gourmet shop inside with lots of interesting sauces.
We drove to Florence and checked out the University of Northern Alabama located near historic downtown Florence. The campus is not large, but it is situated near a lot of historic houses on tree-lined streets. I felt like I had stepped into an episode of Mayberry and at any minute Aunt Bea would call me over for blueberry pie and coffee. 

We didn't walk around the downtown area because we spotted another interesting sign. Frank Lloyd Wright's Rosenbaum house is located in Florence, Alabama. 

Naturally, my Darling Husband wanted to go check it out. No tours for us, but we did drive over to see the house which was located in a beautiful, historical area of Florence. However, Frank Lloyd Wright's house is a modern marvel in comparison to its neighbors. I stepped out of the car and snapped some photos of it while Darling Husband trailed behind  me in the car.

Back view of the house.
I approached the house from the back. We had decided not to tour it because the day was so sunny and bright and we didn't want to miss the golden rays. But we will return to tour this unique structure when the days get cooler. I'm curious about the house design and what is inside the actual structure.

I wonder what it was like to live in that house, too. What did the neighbors think when he built it? I guess I'll have to investigate further. Stay tuned!

Front door.
After a few false starts and missed exits (and some blue words in the car), we finally arrived at McFarland Park. This park is located near a dock and on the Tennessee River. I wish Madison and Huntsville were built alongside the Tennessee River, but I can drive to this park in about an hour so all is well in my world.  A bass fishing tournament was going on so there tons of boats racing in the water from Sheffield to Florence. We saw a few fishermen stop alongside the riverbank and angle for fish. One woman had set up an easel and was painting the scenery. Another couple was harvesting the pine needles that had fallen from the tall pines and dried on the ground.

We talked to a nice lady about a set of teepees we noticed just inside the campground area. She said she had no idea why they were there and she'd seen them for about six years. The sleuth in me wants to know. I will hunt that information up as well. I also discovered that there is an Alabama Renaissance Festival every October. I missed it due to the great deck staining adventure we had during the weekend they held it. Next year? I plan to head out there and see what it is all about--anything but stain the deck!
Amazing view from the picnic area. 

After spending a half an hour walking around the park and taking pictures, we decided to head back to Madison. But we will return. The Muscle Shoals area has a lot of buried tourist gems and I aim to discover them. A part of me wants to go back out there right away with a picnic basket, good friends, a book to read and my notebook for my next WIP. I'd like to brainstorm by the water, listen to children playing and to the hum of the boats racing on the river. Water is an element I'm drawn to all the time. It's an element I miss tremendously here in my own hometown. So you can bet I will return. 

Now I need to know if anyone in the Muscle Shoals, Florence or Sheffield area has any secret suggestions for me about their sweet home Alabama setting. I'd love to learn more about the local treasures. 


Gwen Hernandez said...

What a beautiful setting, and so close. I only wish I had been a writer back when we lived near the ocean. Or maybe that we lived near the ocean still. Yeah, that. I'd be there all the time. =)

Thanks for sharing your adventure.

Jeanie said...

Christine, I'm going to Florence in December with my daughter for the state theater competition that is held at the University of North Alabama! I am so glad you posted this. It will give me a head start on what to do in Florence!

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Hey Honey!

OMG...looks like you had fun! Well I guess I know where I'm taking my next vacation!


Christine said...

Hi Gwen: I know! I wish I'd started writing books a long time ago, but if you look at my scrapbooks you'll see I was writing travelogues in them LOL.

Christine said...

Jeanie, when are you going to be there? What dates? My darling teen might have recital one of those weekends, but I'd love to see you while you're here. I'm going back out there to check out a place called Magnolias, too. I loved the park. That water called to me.

Christine said...

Hawk! I've missed you. Yes, come up and visit Alabama--I know the perfect place to stay!

Wendy S Marcus said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful day with us. It makes me want to take a road trip. Sometimes I feel like life it passing me by.

Christine said...

Hi Wendy: I'm glad you enjoyed my little day trip. I had a lot of fun and am planning to return. There's a restaurant I want to try called Magnolias.

Adventures don't have to take long. I plan on exploring more places in the southeast -- at least once a month I want to go somewhere new as a reward for hard work!

If one of my "3" criteria are met before June 2011, we should plan on going somewhere fun during that RWA Conference :-)