I don’t exactly remember the first time I went to Alabama. It was sometime after my first trip to Mississippi (2001) and before the movie “Sweet Home Alabama” came out (2002). I was afraid to travel through Alabama alone and, being from New York City, none of my friends would go with me so I took the safe route and rode an Amtrak train from New Orleans to Atlanta, stopping briefly in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Anniston.
But I always knew I’d go to Alabama for real one day. The song is too famous to not go see for yourself what the big deal is. And when I read an article in Vogue Magazine about Natalie Chanin‘s Project Alabama, I knew that The Shoals would be one of my stops.
The Shoals area of Alabama is made up of four towns – Florence (the sort of prettied up prom queen on the bunch and home to CFDA winners Natalie Chanin and Billy Reid), Muscle Shoals (famous for its legendary hitmaking musical legacy and having a retro giant-arched McDonald’s), the gritty Sheffield, and Tuscumbia, which I wrote about for Budget Travel‘s annual “10 Coolest Small Towns” in 2007. I’m throwing back there for today: