BACK FROM BIRMINGHAM
The downtown area where we stayed and worked is really quite nice: very clean, tree-lined streets, flower pots hanging from many of the lamposts. The urban center is easily navigable, with some parks, museums, a few main streets with grass & plant-covered medians down the center. Very nice.
Of course, the park near our hotel (Linn Park, I believe) was largely deserted at all times, except for some friendly (but far-from prosperous) homeless people.
Another thing that surprised me was the architecture. I didn't realize this before, but Birmingham was established after the Civil War, in 1871, as an industrial town, with steel mills like the Northern England city of the same name, or Pittsburg. In fact, a statue of Vulcan sits on a hill overlooking the city. In fact it was known as "The Pittsburg of the South" and "Magic City," because of its rapid growth.
(I think I'd rather live in "Magic City" than in "The Pittsburg of the South." Come to think of it, I'm not sure I'd wanna live in "The Pittsburg of the North" either. Perhaps I'll accept "The Pittsburg of the Caribbean.")
Ok, enough of the trivia. Because of its industrial and commercial roots, Birmingham's downtown doesn't look like so many in America today: it's not just hyper-modern, glass & steel high-rises in a small area. There are some of those to be sure, but also late-19th century warehouses and office buildings, plus a lot of 5-15 story, brick structures from the first half of the 20th century. It gives the city a look that reminded me far more of a northeastern downtown than that of Charlotte or Atlanta or many of the other southern cities I've visited. Birmingham's downtown is attractive, and has a more organic feel than those other places.
And as I said, the people were very friendly (more than those I've met in Texas or the Carolinas). Plus, the food was very good (if not "Southern"), and there was plenty of "local scenery" to observe and admire. I'm not joking on that last part. Wow.
That's all for now. I'm pretty sure I'll be back there plenty more times in the coming months, and I'll update and report as need be.