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Alabama in the southern states – an unforgettable journey in history, gastronomy and nature

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Sponsored post. We guide you on an unforgettable tour of the southern state of Alabama in the USA.
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Alabama in the southern states – an unforgettable journey in history, gastronomy and nature is written by Trine Søgaard in cooperation with Alabama Travel og Brand USA, who had invited us along on the journey. All opinions are, as always, the author's own.

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alabama - gulf shores - USA - the southern states

Sweet Home Alabama

The rain whips against the windshield, and the large windshield wipers seem almost hypnotic to me, who has almost been awake for over a day. Yes, I'm the type who can't sleep on the plane either. We have landed at Pensacola airport in Florida in the south USA and have now set course for the state of Alabama, where we will travel around for the next five days.

I have to admit that despite the overwhelming fatigue, I am crazy excited. The southern states have always been high on the wish list, and I am completely ready to have all my prejudices confirmed - or the other way around.

A large road sign lights up in the distance as we drive along a long country road. “Welcome to Sweet Home Alabama” it says. Fantastic. 

In the same second, our charming bus driver Maralene perks up and bellows in her heavy Southern accent: “Wait, I got a song for y'all.” 

Before we know it, we're soaring over the Alabama border as Lynyrd Skynyrd's world famous hit blasts out of the speakers with Maralene as back-up singer. And so begins my unforgettable and moving trip to the American South on a cool and rainy evening in November.

Alabama - Gulf Shores - Beach - Sea - Sun - The Southern States

Gulf Shores, Alabama

When I draw the curtains the next morning, I am greeted by a gray sight. The strong wind causes the waves to crash and it honestly looks like something you would expect to see at Vesterhavet i Denmark, when autumn rages. Practice

For several weeks leading up to the trip, I faithfully kept an eye on the weather report. 26 degrees and high sun. It lasted until we had to leave. I put on my jacket and head out in 15 degrees, drizzle and wind. 

It turns out that there is a single week in November when the weather can be not so good in Alabama. And that's the week we've hit. I can't help but be a little annoyed, because during the other weeks of the year, the beaches along the Gulf Shores look like pure paradise. 

The locals refer to them as 'sugar sand beaches'. The sand here is so chalk white that it looks like sugar. It looks beautiful in the pictures I googled. But that little annoyance doesn't last long, because I don't have time to think about the weather any more. 

Now it has to be experienced. 

  • alligator - reptile - lake
  • heron - bird - lake - USA

Scenic areas

The weather is gradually clearing up and I'm really starting to get a feel for what this part of Alabama is capable of. It's clear that Gulf Shores is perfect for outdoor living.

One morning we hop on a couple of rented bikes and head across the road. Here lies the scenic Gulf State Park, where herons, eagles and alligators are just a small selection of the many animals we get to see as we cruise around the big lake. 

Our guide Cory tells us about the wildlife, the park's plants, trees and shrubs. He is a passionate biologist who has incredible knowledge of the area's flora and fauna. It's a lovely morning for a nature lover like me, and now the sun is even shining. 

Gulf Shores is undoubtedly a mecca for nature enthusiasts. The area attracts water-loving visitors who indulge in paddle boarding and kayaking in the crystal clear sea when the weather permits.

There are countless different paths in the park that we cycle around ourselves, and I'm told that many also come to fish, while others come to play golf. There is something for everyone. 

seafood - food - fish - the southern states

Top class food in Alabama

Speaking of taste, it's pretty much impossible to get past Alabama's amazing cuisine, which we're introduced to right away. I have a great love for everything-good-from-havet, and I was in heaven. 

Lobster, grilled prawns, baked oysters and all kinds of prepared seafood adorn our plates several evenings in a row. The aroma of spices and fresh fish hits the nostrils as soon as we enter a new restaurant.

It therefore does not surprise me either when my sidekick tells me that the area has an annual oyster festival, the Fort Morgan Oyster Fest, which takes place in February. It must have been quite an event. 

If you also cannot stand for seafood, you should try visiting Zeke's Restaurant, located down by the marina in Orange Beach.

guitar - guitarist - performance - the southern states

The sound of the southern states

The notes of guitar playing interrupt the conversation, and I turn around in my chair curiously. On the stage sits a young guy with a brown cowboy hat. His fingers dance effortlessly across the strings and soon his deep singing fills the room with a blissful feeling. 

It's country night at Lulu's. For me, this genre is the sound of the southern states, and something that I have been looking forward to experiencing. Alabama is known for its country and bluegrass, influenced over time by jazz, blues and folk music from the Appalachians. To this day, this gives the music a completely unique sound.

Alabama has produced many musical talents, including Nat King Cole, Hank Williams and the now deceased but legendary Jimmy Buffet, whose sister Lulu Buffet also owns the restaurant we are sitting at. 

It is probably no secret that Gulf Shores attracts many music enthusiasts. There are numerous venues both outdoors and indoors where you can listen to anything from old-time country to the more modern electronic rhythms. If the sounds of the southern states are calling you, be sure to make your way past Lulu's and the iconic Flora-bama venue

Mobile - Alabama - USA - Dauphin St - Southern States

Mobile Alabama

We have set course for the city of Mobile, which is located in the southwestern part of Alabama on Mobile Bay. Apart from a few individual high-rise buildings along the main street, the city consists of small charming streets, neat parks and lots of history. 

Founded back in 1702 by French colonialists, Mobile is the oldest city in Alabama. Over time, a sea of ​​European immigrants has influenced everything from architecture to the art of food and over time created a cultural melting pot. 

  • oysters - food - Alabama
  • Gumbo - Southern Food - Mobile - Alabama - USA
  • Conde-Charlotte Museum - Mobile - Alabama
  • Conde-Charlotte Museum - Mobile - Alabama

The historic city

I sit down on a bench, a little heavy, because I'm incredibly full. We have spent most of the day on a local 'food tour' around the city, and I have tasted everything from the classic gumbo for grilled oysters, fish and tasty apple pies. Absolutely wonderful experience. 

Bag with beignets, a deep-fried cake with powdered sugar, is next to me, and although they taste heavenly, I have to surrender. I am on Dauphin Street, which is one of the more well-known thoroughfares in Mobile. 

It is Friday evening, and the many cafés and restaurants, whose colorful facades are reminiscent of something from an old western film, are beginning to come to life. A perfect postcard of what many probably associate with the southern states. How charming it is.

The city is full of historic buildings. This can also be experienced in the special area De Tonti Square Historic District, which mainly consists of large old town houses built between the years 1840 and 1860. 

If you want an authentic insight into 1800th-century bourgeois life in the southern states, you must visit the Conde-Charlotte Museum. The museum house was originally Mobile's first prison and was later bought by Jonathan Kirkbide, who made it a home for his family. 

To this day, the museum is full of antique furniture and even relics from its prison past, which the skilled guides eagerly tell about on tours. 

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Mardi Gras - Procession - The South

Mardi Gras – party, colors and flying MoonPies

Many probably associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans. But this festive event actually started in Mobile and was established by a Frenchman back in 1703 when the city served as the capital of what was then Louisiana. 

That's why it's probably no surprise that Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras to such an extent. The season already starts in November, while the magnificent parades can be experienced in January and February. 

For weeks, the city's streets are filled with brightly colored costumes, floats with impressive decorations, marching bands and a curious tradition of flying MoonPies.

This snack, which is made of biscuits and chocolate-dipped marshmallows, is served to parade-goers during the processions. If you stand in the right place, it is possible to come home with a small handful of delicious cakes for the sweet tooth. 

If you want to experience Mardi Gras from a distance and get an insight into the history behind the colorful event, the Mobile Carnival Museum is definitely worth a visit. 

Africatown - Mobile - Alabama - Southern States

Descendants of Africa in Alabama

The sun is shining from a cloudless sky as we pull out into a small parking lot just outside Mobile. We have driven out to a special area that has a very special history, namely Africatown.

The town was founded by survivors of the last slave ship, the Clotilda, which arrived in Mobile one fateful day in 1860 with over 110 African slaves on board. Although slavery was outlawed at this time, many continued to bring in men, women and children West African countries to ship them illegally to the United States. 

The Clotilda was burned down after arriving in Mobile, and the remains of the ship have been searched in vain - until recently, when the evidence of the terrible stories of the descendants has now seen the light of day. The finds are today exhibited at the museum "Clotilda: The Exhibition", which you should definitely visit.

What makes Africatown special is not only that the city is a testament to resistance and unity in the last chapter of the slave era. But many of Clotilda's descendants still live in the town, and they have managed to build a community full of history, art and culture, which you can experience up close. 

The locals have an unusually warm-hearted relationship with the visitors and openly tell their personal stories. It is hard not to get a lump in your throat when you are faced with a person whose ancestors were torn from their homeland and had to struggle to survive in inhumane conditions. 

And that is why Africatown is something very special. The town is more than just a community, but more like a living historical monument here in Alabama. A visit will undoubtedly leave you with a deeper understanding of the history that has unfolded in the United States and in the southern states – both the light and the dark.

  • roof terrace - bar - montgomery
  • Food - Montgomery - Alabama
  • Montgomery - Buildings - Alabama

Montgomery, Alabama

The last city we roll into on the round trip is Montgomery, which is the capital of Alabama. I haven't really heard of the city before, but it doesn't take long before I start to understand its historical significance and why so many go here. 

Montgomery's downtown is a neat district with cozy shops and cafes, art museums and lots of beautiful old buildings. There is a peaceful feeling about the area, and it must be said that it is in no way overrun. On the contrary, I am reminded of how quiet it is here. 

At the weekend, the city livens up a bit, and people go out into the nightlife to enjoy the many good restaurants and rooftop-bars where you can enjoy a drink with a view over the city. 

flag - usa - southern states

The story lurks beneath the surface

It is a chilly morning as we move around the city with our guide. The still current of the Alabama River flows lazily past us, and the orange colors of autumn are reflected in the water on the other side of the bank. 

It's hard to imagine the story that unfolded right here, because it's so quiet and beautiful here. But this chapter in Alabama's past cannot be ignored, nor does it seem to me that it is something that is being tried to hide. On the contrary. 

Montgomery has been a central hub for the slave trade in the United States and the southern states, and it was on the same waterfront where we now stand that thousands of slaves were unloaded and transported to Court Square to be sold at auction.

In several places in the city, there are signs that tell about the many different events that have taken place in Montgomery. 

It was at the same auction site, which today is a roundabout with a fountain in the middle, that Rosa Parks got on the bus in 1955 and was arrested two blocks away. It was a landmark arrest that triggered the beginning of what we know today as the Civil Rights Movement or Borgerrettighedsbevegelsen in Danish.

It is obvious to choose a guided city tour to get under the skin of the many events, because there is a lot to hear and see. Also far more than I can get into in this report. 

If you want to delve into the history of slavery on your own, visit the Legacy Museum, but be aware that it can be an overwhelming experience. At least it was for me.

  • Fitzgerald Museum - Montgomery - Alabama
  • Fitzgerald Museum - Montgomery - Alabama

Baseball and literature

Although many people come to Montgomery to learn about the history of Alabama, there are also many other interesting and pleasant reasons to visit the city. 

It's no secret that Americans are very fond of baseball, and this city is no exception. The local team, Montgomery Biscuits, often play big games at home. This attracts both locals and visitors who come to experience the lively atmosphere when the match kicks off. 

If, like me, you are slightly interested in literature, a visit to The Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum will be exciting. The beautiful villa is located in a neat neighborhood, and the house was home to the well-known writer couple back in the 1930s. 

The villa is today a museum, where guided tours and stories about the couple's interesting life are on the programme. You can even rent and spend the night in Scott and Zelda's old apartment, located on the first floor, decorated in an authentic old style and with crooked floors. It's a bit funny.

My Southern Alabama tour has come to an end, and I cannot stress enough my enthusiasm for this exciting and heartwarming Southern state. Hurry to pack your bag and go, because this is where adventure awaits.

Really good trip to Alabama in southern states, USA.

This is what you must experience in Alabama in the southern states:

  • Gulf State Park
  • Southern cuisine
  • Civil Rights Movement
  • Mardi Gras
  • Africatown

About the author

Trine Søgaard, co-editor

Trine is a co-editor, and has a degree in communication from AAU - and she is extremely fond of travelling. Her passion for traveling shows in the length of the list of countries visited, where she has also lived in Australia and Zanzibar. In her spare time, Trine is creative and spends a lot of energy on photography. Her joy in documenting her experiences has since paid off, as a publication in e.g. Lonely Planet was the springboard for wanting to work in the travel industry.

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