Birmingham was definitely a change of pace. There isn’t a Starbucks on every corner. Not even a 7/11. Not one. In the entire city of Birmingham. But they did just open a cat cafe here.
It’s been a quiet 10 days, but that’s probably what I needed before heading to New Orleans for a week. I’d never thought about going to Birmingham, or anywhere in Alabama, but Vero and Clint’s TrustedHousesitters ad changed my mind.
I was looking after Zoey, the one-eyed cat, in the quirkiest of homes. The home belongs to a Belgian artist, Vero, and her handyman husband, Clint, and is located in Avondale. Avondale’s about 3km from downtown Birmingham. And like most inner-city neighbourhoods, Avondale’s now a gentrified, much sought after place to live.
Clint picked me from the airport before showing me around the area and parts of downtown. He also pointed out the cat cafe shopfront. He said he expected it to open while I was in town. And he was right. We then went to the house where I was introduced to Vero and her Belgian guests. They were all heading to Florida the next day. Before they left, Vero gave me a list of her favourite vegetarian/vegan cafes and restaurants. My favourite was Taco Morro Loco. Literally down the other end of the street.
Vero and Clint’s house’s filled with what I assume is art from all over the world. As well as Vero’s own. Vero used to own and run Naked Art Gallery, in the city’s Forest Park neighbourhood, but she closed it earlier this year. The internet tells me it was open for more than 20 years. Vero and Client are well travelled, and they’re not the kind of people you think of when you think about Alabama. Their house looks like any other, but you’d never guess what kind of good craziness lies behind the dark blue front door.
Zoey, the much loved rescue cat, has 24-hour access to her own screened-in porch. She only eats Fromm Family dry food. Three times a day. Vero said this food’s responsible for Zoey’s super soft coat. You’d never guess how soft it is from the pictures.
Zoey liked to spend most of her time sitting on the couch with me. I do recall Vero and Clint’s ad saying she wasn’t too much of a lap cat (true), but she did love having company and being petted.
Places to go
There’s actually a bit more to see and do in Birmingham than what I’ve listed, but the extreme humidity and unreliable bus system meant I spent half the trip in at the house.
Most of the stuff I enjoyed was downtown. Walkable. And I did walk it two or three times.
- mo:mo: A Nepalese–Vietnamese casual dining option in the Pizitz Food Hall. I found Asian food quite hard to come by in Birmingham.
- Birmingham Oddities: Turns out this store’s only open on Saturday (thanks for that, Vero!). The guy runs it on the side. It’s one of the more affordable oddities stores I’ve been to.
- What’s On 2nd: An art, antiques and oddities store across from Birmingham Oddities.
- Reed Books: A second hand bookstore. And they’ve got some vintage bric-a-brac for sale.
- The Market at Pepper Place: Saturday farmers market.
- The Red Cat Coffee House: This is on the same site as the farmers market. And who’d have guessed? There’s lots of fun cat-related things inside.
- Taco Morro Loco: One of Vero’s recommendations. Their vegetarian taco is delicious and only $3 USD.
- Sloss Furnaces: A National Historic Landmark. And now a ‘park’ of sorts. These guys used to be the largest manufacturer of pig iron in the world. I’d say this is one of the most iconic things in/about Birmingham.
Gatos and Beans
Birmingham’s—maybe even Alabama’s—first cat cafe. Gatos and Beans opened a few days after I arrived. The $10 entry fee includes your coffee or tea. Plus one hour with the cats.
The space was truly designed with cats in mind. The cats can get way up high, all the way to the ceiling, by jumping from piece to piece of wood.
All cats can be adopted and have come from Kitty Kat Haven & Rescue.
My next stop’s New Orleans. Then back home to Brisbane via LAX.