On the Flora-Bama

I first learned about the Flora-Bama on our first trip to the Alabama coast in the early 2000s when we visited my in-laws wintering in that area. My father-in-law raved about it, so we went for dinner and music while not knowing what to expect.

“Honky tonk” is a good first-impression description. The weathered siding – floors probably hosed down at the end of the day. The room was full of patrons engaging in food, beverages, and conversation while listening to music in a room with many pieces of underwear hanging from above. I recall enjoying watching the patrons.

However, over time I learned that “honky tonk” isn’t applicable – after all, I introduced it to you in this past post as the Last Great American Roadhouse.

My in-laws would change locations every few years, so time passed between my visits to this local icon. The next would be between 2005-2007 they rented about 2+ miles away. It’s also easy to remember because in September 2004, Hurricane Ivan brought havoc to the area – including upon the Flora-Bama. National news even reported that Ivan devastated it.

Despite the fake news (I couldn’t resist), the legendary Flora-Bama would not die. Battered and sand-filled, it re-opened after cleaning and a bit of restoration that probably included nails and hammers.

We took this image dated 13 February 2005

I recall it seems more rickety than ever – but that was part of its charm. Refrigerated trailers were in front of the building for storing food and beer. A temporary shack sold souvenirs.

florabamatempentrance

The housing-financial collapse of 2008 delivered another crushing blow as the principal owners filed bankruptcy because of failing real estate investments. The long-time owners became minority owners and the new ownership restored the venerable venue.

The trailers and the souvenir shack are gone, but the rustic weathered look remains. The new Flora-Bama is a mixture of old and new that maintains the original character. The original area I first sat remains as another music area – as does the adjacent large tent area.

florabamadeckstage

Inside the new brick front contains a large area for merchandise with a main lounge and stage on the second floor. The decor is a display of pictures, framed news articles, fishing nets, underwear, musical instruments, license plates, and more to go along with the countless names written with a black marker onto the walls.

florabamamainbar

With 3 stages, music is plentiful at the Flora-Bama. Yep – there are times when three musical acts are playing at the same time! On this night, only Rhonda Hart and Jonathan Newton were performing. We enjoyed them so much, we heard them three times.

florabamamainstage

The Flora-Bama is alive and well. The colorful place with a colorful past that includes a large cast of colorful characters remains. A place for a wide range of ages from different places – from northern snowbirds to colors – from retirees to young adults. From low-key weekday afternoons to raucous weekend nights. If you are ever in Pensacola, Perdido Key, Orange Beach, or Gulf Shores, consider stopping by the Flora-Bama Lounge Oyster Bar and Package Store

Entering from the beach – Notice the tents to the right!

 

One of the opportunities to take a picture.

 

Because many enjoyed the Kenny Chesney song about the Flora-Bama in my previous post, it’s still appropriate here.

On a Slice about Americana

florabamabeach

There it is … sitting along a beautiful beach sandwiched between a high-rise condominium to its right and a parking garage of another high-rise condo to its left. A place where friends meet. A place where others become friends. A place for good times and good music.

It’s a local legend, yet a place well-known throughout the South. A place that northerners in the condos as vacationers or snowbirds came to know. The place actually straddling the Florida-Alabama state line – although it is mainly in Florida. A place that was a very short walk from where we stayed in January.

There it is – A place displaying a weathered look while sitting along the beach since 1964. A weathered look of normal wear and tear that beach side brings, plus the occasional hammering by storms and hurricanes.

The Flora-Bama -a colorful place with a colorful past that includes a long list of colorful characters.

The Flora-Bama – a place featuring music seven days a week by local and regional musicians songwriters. Some who made it to the national stage of hits and awards while others maintain their local craft.

The Flora-Bama – with its more than eclectic collection of artifacts adorning its walls and ceilings – plus walls with names of patrons written in permanent markers – let alone the framed signed pictures of visitors and performers – and yes, even there is even more to see.

The Flora-Bama – an institution to many, no wonder country music star Kenny Chesney wrote a song about it. No wonder he performed his only concert of 2014 along its beach to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Before I tell you more in another post, I’ll let his lyrics and his music video introduce you to this slice of Americana – the place its documentary called The Last Great American Roadhouse. Welcome to the Flora-Bama Lounge Oyster Bar and Package Store.

On Alabama Tidbits

Although I’ve been to the state of Alabama before, staying a month allows ample learning opportunities. I present tidbits you may not know about the state of Alabama.

1) These people are football crazy! During the month and no matter the day of the week, the newspaper’s Sports section features college football – even weeks after the season is over. Ohio is enthusiastic about football. Texas thinks they invented the game – but Alabamians are just bonkers over football.

2) Grapefruits and oranges in the store were of pathetic quality. I get better tasting citrus in Ohio. Being close to Florida, one would think the quality would be better. After all, Florida thinks they invented grapefruits. Why we couldn’t find pink grapefruits from Texas is beyond me.

3) We stayed in Orange Beach – where sales tax is 10% on everything!

4) The Alabama coast is only 100 miles (160 km) – but the beaches are very good.

5) Restaurant menus offer many fried foods – they may be willing to fry anything.

6) Politically, Alabamians are very conservative, therefore all troubles can be traced back to presidents who were Democrats – especially Obama and Clinton.

7) Alabama is home for manufacturing/assembly plants for Toyota, Airbus, Honda, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz.

8) Alabama is home to the first Mardi Gras in the U.S. (Mobile).

Image from Tennessee’s Boll Weevil Eradication Program

Image from Tennessee’s Boll Weevil Eradication Program

9) The Atlas rocket that launched astronauts to the moon was built in Alabama (Huntsville).

10) Alabama is home to the monument honoring an agricultural pest – the Boll Weevil (Enterprise).

11) Alabamians described President Trump’s inaugural address as uplifting, refreshing, unifying, powerful, great, and amazing.

12) Alabama has the longest Constitution in the world: over 300,000 words and 775 amendments.

13) Alabama is the only state naturally possessing all the raw materials for steel. No wonder a statue of Vulcan sits on a hilltop above Birmingham.

14) I’ve never seen so many billboards advertizing attorneys – and the number of TV commercials for attorneys is very high. I saw this commercial 10 times in 45 minutes – while wondering about the content. Any thoughts?

On a Month Without

For us, January 2017 started with change questions. What would a month be like without ballroom dance, without handbells, without volunteering, without our friends, and without our normal routine?

Jan 1: We left Cincinnati on a cool, foggy morning for a day of driving, which included a light rain that occasionally became more – but not a constant rain. We noted the slow increase in the temperature.

Jan 2: The final 4.5 hour drive, again with intermittent rains of varying strength. Dry at the time of arrival, but the view of the surf while unpacking told a different story – the dangers of a nearby tornado – so down to the lower lobby we went. The evening storms off the coast provided an extraordinary light show that was worth watching – but the next morning would be a positive omen.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Jan 3-5: Cool but comfortable days. Sometimes shorts, sometimes jeans, but always long sleeves and usually a jacket. Good enough to find our routine of breakfast, lounge, walk, lounge, lunch, lounge, walk, lounge, shower, dinner, cards/television, and sleep.

Jan 6: A stormy day that also brought falling temperatures – a good day for a movie (La La Land).

Jan 7-9: The northerly winds delivered quite the chill, yet no matter how cold, it was warmer than home. Walkable days, but shorter distances.

Jan 10-19: After the initial transition day, a string of days of sunshine and 15-20 degrees F (13-24 C) above normal. Perfect days to continue the routine. Days that would treat us to glorious sunrises, colorful sunsets, and brilliant nightly moons.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Jan 20-21: Although temperatures remained above normal, unstable air delivered an angry sea and occasional storms – even tornado watches and warning severe enough to interrupt normal television. Good days for movies (Hidden Figures and The Founder).

Jan 22-25: The normal routine returns as storms are gone, but the above normal temperatures remain. It’s been quite a streak of warmth.

Jan 26-27: Normal temperatures finally arrive – 60 F (15 C) by day – 40 (4 C) at night. The breezes are cool. Sweatshirts and jackets are the order of the day. Some people in shorts, others not.

Jan 28-29: Noticing the temperature decrease during our return drive home – a home not along the sand and waves, but one of wonderful sunsets when the sky is right. Home – the permanent one, not the temporary. A home with colder temperatures and light snow in the air. Home – the place (while we were gone) that had 1 sunny day, 6 partly sunny/party cloudy days, and only 7 precipitation-free days in January (although overall temperatures were above normal). Home – the place for ballroom dance, handbells, volunteering, friends, and normal routines – just not the routine of January 2017.

That was our January in Orange Beach, Alabama. A time when we had a different routine – one of first-time snowbirds. A time when I drafted over 20 posts the old-fashioned way – on paper – so I now face the daunting task of getting them ready.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On The Fat One

Because I enjoyed a Rick Steves episode about this city along with an outstanding post by Debra, I wanted to go – but thought it was too far away. Then my cousins suggested going there because it wasn’t that far and easily accessible by train … so we went and had a delightful day – but where did we go?

It’s the seventh most populous city in Italy

With settlements dating back to at least 1000 BC, the city has been vital to the Etruscans, Celts, and Romans. The city used to have many towers, but only a few remain today. Formally a walled city, some of its medieval fortifications still exist.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Under the watchful eye of native son Pope Gregory XIII (Mr. Gregorian Calendar), the main square and the surrounding area is vibrant. I personally love the narrow streets of the old city.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Given the age of this city, a variety of architecture exists.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s architecture includes many porticos for shelter when walking- actually 24 miles (38 km) in the city center and 28 miles (45 km) throughout the city. Portico di San Luca is possibly the world’s longest at almost 2.5 miles (4 km) (which we did not see).

dsc03648

Home to the oldest university in the world (founded in 1088) – so it honors its scholars with statues through the city while proudly accepting “the learned one” (la dotta) as one of its nicknames. Today it is the largest city and capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region – and like much of Italy, a wide variety of things to enjoy. Besides, I know to look up.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Nicknamed the “the fat one” (la grassa) because of its culinary delights – so citizens and visitors eat very well as this region that is famous for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (the undisputed king of cheeses), Prosciutto di Parma, mortadella cold cuts, Balsamic vinegar, and various pastas as tortellini and tagliatelle with a famous ragù.
dsc03653

Did you figure out the name of this city? Nonetheless, having Tagliatelle Bolognese with a glass of red wine in Bologna, Italy is a culinary treat.

Whether it’s the learned one or the fat one, visiting Bologna was a treat. Between our many walking steps or enjoying the hop-on hop-off tour overview, it was a grand day. Besides, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many attractive people in one place!

Enjoy this 2+ minute travel video of Bologna and the surrounding countryside. For more about Bologna, visit Debra’s blog (Bagni di Lucca and Beyond) for her 10 posts about Bologna.

On Look Up!

Do you know the place? I so-much what to visit the small town on the two, adjacent hilltops in the distance. Oh well … next time.

dsc03591
If you don’t know, let’s move the camera to the left for some familiar places you may recognize.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These panoramic views are from Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, Italy. Everybody loves Florence! Then again, loving Florence is very easy to do because there is so much to enjoy. I’ve visited twice in the past three years, and I noticed something each time. Most people look left and right to make sure they catch the store fronts. Besides a lot of shopping, one doesn’t want to miss gelato!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But for me, the window shoppers are missing some of the best things to see in Florence because their heads are swiveling on their spine to catch the shopping windows … therefore they are not looking up. So enjoy this view of Florence … the Look Up Tour!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Italy will never be a normal country. Because Italy is Italy. If we were a normal country, we wouldn’t have Rome. We wouldn’t have Florence. We wouldn’t have the marvel that is Venice.” (Matteo Renzi, Italian politician)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“In Florence, classical buildings sit against medieval buildings. It’s that contrast we like.” (Richard Rogers British architect)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Florence and art is something that is part of my life and is part of myself.” (Roberto Cavalli
Italian designer)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Any favorites?

On the Proud One

Upon arriving it the main train station, one can easily notice why the city is nicknamed The Proud One. Do you know where we are? (This isn’t easy, but I’ve the feeling Aussie Debra knows … Pssst … Don’t tell, Debra.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here’s another hint: This monument honors one of the cities most-favorite sons and his house.

Alright – one last hint: It’s actually Italy’s sixth largest city, a port city (I actually sailed in and out of this port in 1958 with my mother), and it has a noble history.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Before going to Italy, my wife asked me where I wanted to visit … and I always listed the Old City section of Genova (Genoa). So one day, we boarded the train to fulfill one of my requests. For those who may want to visit this city by train, Genova has several train stations, so select Genova Principe.

Blogger Debra did this post about her trip to Genova, and her pictures captured my attention and remained stuck in my memory bank. The Old City is well-preserved and we loved it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


We also took the hop-on, hop-off tour bus for a broader view of the city outside the old wall.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Notice anything odd here?
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To top off this day, we even saw The King.
dsc03534