Thank God for the TVA...

Trip Start May 04, 2012
Trip End May 20, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hampton Inn & Suites, Florence, Alabama
What I did
FAME Recording Studios
The Wilson Dam
The Sweet Magnolia

Flag of United States  , Alabama
Thursday, May 10, 2012

Firstly I'd like to start by saying just how beautiful Florence and Muscle Shoals are. Absolutely stunning towns with hospitable, helpful people who seem bemused as to why we would holiday here. We woke up around 7am and headed down for an early USA style breakfast... Dave was so happy that the sausage gravy hadn't followed us from Tennessee that I swear he practically danced with his full plate of waffles.
Our first stop off today was FAME studios in downtown Muscle Shoals; famous for the Muscle Shoals sound and a recording studio that has seen so many famous artists and session musicians that it would be near on impossible to list them all but here's a few: Aretha Franklin (cut her first two hits at FAME), Wilson Pickett, Little Richard, The Rolling Stones, Etta James, Paul Simon,,, and of course, the very artists that brought us here; Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell.
The studio itself is still working and so Dave had to call to book an appointment. Our slot was 9am with a guy called John. John was incredible. He had been given a pile of work to do and so gave us a quicker tour than usual with no charge. He went through the history of FAME and reeled off the famous names and faces as if he was reading a shopping list. He knew everything we asked him and kindly took the pictures you see in this entry. Having been to both Sun Studios where Elvis was discovered and Johnny Cash sang and then going to Studio B where Dolly Parton recorded, we didn't know what to expect from FAME but it certainly didn't disappoint. We stood in the very room where the Truckers epic album The Dirty South was recorded and sat at the same sound desk Isbell uses to produce his own records... It was incredible.
From FAME sudios we had a little jount out and found the TVA reservation. This 11 mile long nature park was founded when the Tennessee Valley Authority moved in to Muscle Shoals to built a dam to generate jobs and power for the people of The South. The reservation itself is stunnning; so much greenery and wildlife and it was only enhanced by the weather. Unfortunately the visitors centre was closed and driving across the dam prohibited but we were still able to pull up and walk round to one of the most iconic views of Deep South and North Alabama history. As you can see from the photos it was awe inspiring, we don't have anything of this ilk in the UK, especially of this scale so Dave and I were both astounded but pleased we'd made the effort to see it... And of course, on our way out of the reservation we played Uncle Frank and TVA on the stereo to pay hommage to the good people of Alabama, the TVA and the Truckers.
We tried to call in on the Alabama Music Hall of Fame but due to funding issues it's temporarily closed. Tourism isn't huge in Muscle Shoals or Florence and so we can see why the closure happened. We stopped for a Quiznos at lunch (where we had a French dip sandwich - Nom!) and the young girl behind the counter couldn't stop saying how beautiful my accent was (eh???) and how amazing it was to be from England. The town's people are so friendly and helpful but I don't think they can understand why we'd spend our honeymoon here.
We've just been for a swim in the hotel pool and found that in Alabama they don't have a problem with the bug to chlorine ratio but instead with the spider to chlorine ratio... Dave and I made a swift exit.
Tonight we're headed to downtown where we're going to a restaurant called Sweet Magnolia that was recommended to us by some sweet people who own a wine shop in downtown Florence... I'm really looking forward to that as they do genuine good food and good atmosphere.
Tomorrow morning we're off to Birmingham which we're both a little apprehensive about. We've heard good and bad things about the city so we're gonna do some investigating and possibly stop for lunch... If not it'll be straight on to Montgomery.

Until then, "y'all have a good day now!" as they say here...

Sian xx

P.S. Dave and I have just returned from The Sweet Magnolia... OMG AMAZING. One of the best meals we've ever had with some of the friendliest most genuine hosts we've ever had. Special mentions for Ken the owner, Mike our waiter and Duwayne our chef; all beautful people with generous and kind souls. We were made to feel like a million dollars thanks to them and we're so glad we made the trip out. We've reviewed our evening there on Trip Advisor so search for Sian_of_the_dead or The Sweet Magnolia Cafe.
If anyone is in the area y'all need to check out the hidden gem:


So sad to be leaving The Shoals...
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