Aug 18, 2016

Meandering through Montgomery (and landing in the Aviator Bar)

After our midday detour through Lynchburg, Tenn., Punky and I continued our honeymoon road trip with a night in Montgomery, the state capital of Alabama.  We chose Montgomery for no particular reason (we actually stayed in a nice but nondescript Courtyard Inn on the northern outskirts of the city) except for the fact that it was a convenient stopping point on our way to Walt Disney World.  Our decision was rewarded, however, once we decided to  explore our surroundings.

Our agenda-less meandering through downtown Montgomery and to some of its historic sites proved once again that the journey is sometimes as interesting as the destination.   And it wasn’t hard to navigate, either.  We took the first exit off of Interstate 65, and in just a few blocks we were in the heart of downtown.  

If you’re directionally challenged, the layout of downtown Montgomery might throw you at first.  The streets appear to run diagonally compared to rest of the city, with Water Street along the Alabama River serving as its northernmost boundary.  The streets are lined with an abundance of historic brick buildings, many of which have been re-purposed to accommodate shopping, dining and sightseeing.  Commerce Street, which is extra-wide with diagonal parking on both sides, seemed to serve as downtown’s main artery -- at least that’s where we saw the most activity on the Saturday evening we visited.  We took some mental notes for future dining and drinking, spun around Court Square Fountain at the end of Commerce and headed uphill toward the capitol building.  

As you drive up Dexter Avenue, the view of the Alabama State Capital Grounds only gets more impressive.  We showed up well past “closing time” apparently, because we had our choice of parking spots to begin our own self-guided walking tour of the surrounding area.  

And look what we happened to park in front of -- the first White House of the Confederacy.  We only saw it from the outside, so I can’t give a fair critique of the site.  It does seem a little small for the home of a head of state, though.  And it appeared, at least to me, dwarfed by the capitol and other nearby state buildings.

Our walk around the capitol helped us realize we were simply too late to properly tour any of the museums or other historic sites Montgomery has to offer (even the Hank Williams Museum on Commerce Street was closed despite heavy foot traffic), so we headed back downtown to find dinner and drinks.

We found both near Alley Station, a cool complex of restaurants, apartments and a special events venue in a section of restored warehouses and alley connecting them all.  As indecisive as ever, Punky and I eventually chose Sa-Za, a hip looking Italian eatery with a great view of the chefs hard at work making specialty pizzas in the kitchen.  Sa-Za is probably blogworthy by itself, but somehow I failed miserably at getting any good pictures here.  Still, the cocktails are excellent (try the pineapple upside down cake martini) and the pastas are decadently good.  Punky loved her eggplant Parmesan, and my seafood mix over angel hair with chardonnay sauce was outstanding.

What follows a great meal?  Drinks, of course, and as fate would have it, the Aviator Bar was right next door.  And if you’re wondering why they call it the Aviator Bar …  

… the theme becomes pretty apparent once you’re firmly inside,

The atmosphere may remind you of a combination of a cavernous nightclub and a quonset hut doubling as an aviation museum.  Check out the model airplanes above the bar, for instance …

… or this more private seating area near the back of the bar ...

… or this backroom area which I dubbed the foxhole.  

The scenery definitely made the Aviator Bar worth a stop for a nightcap for Punky and me, although the drink prices did seem a little “sky-high” for a city of Montgomery’s size.  Nonetheless, they had a good craft beer selection, so I stuck with some decent local offerings.  

Our evening in Montgomery turned out to be a prime example of what commoners tend to do most -- finding enjoyment in wherever your travels take you.  Montgomery, Ala., was never on my radar before, but now I have good reasons to want to return and check out much more of this very likable and historic city.

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