Our time in Germany is over, for now. We’re packed up and living stateside. My husband still swears we’ll end up back there one day. As for now, I am ready for sun, sea, and San Diego!
We moved back to the states in early January and started our journey to California. Along the way we made a little detour to Alabama. We visited my husband’s hometown, a very small town in northeastern part of the state, Fort Payne, which is also home to the band, Alabama. Woohoo, a little Dixieland Delight, anyone?
When we come to the area, I always enjoy heading up to Chattanooga, TN which is about a 45 minute drive and full of stuff to do. On this trip, we checked out the Incline Railway (mostly for my son) and took in the views on a clear, icy day in January from the top of Lookout Mountain.
As we rode up the track which became increasingly steeper and steeper (those afraid of heights – beware!), we viewed massive globs of icicles hanging off the sides of the large rock formations, wild deer nibbling along the edge of the track, and unique little houses nestled into the sides of the mountains. The price at $15 a head was quite high in my opinion, but once at the top you can walk about 5 minutes to see the Civil War museum, admire the views and walking trails, or visit the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park which is the site of the “Battle Above the Clouds”. It took place in the fall of 1863 and helped give Union troops control of Chattanooga. There is also a little gift shop at the top that sells souvenirs and an extensive amount of tasty-looking fudge and chocolates. This was a huge hit for my 3 year old. ANYTHING involving trains is a huge hit for my son, which brings us to Chattanooga.
Chattanooga Incline Railway open daily from 10am – 6pm
We parked at the bottom: ST. ELMO STATION 3917 St. Elmo Avenue Chattanooga, TN 37409
Our friends that we were traveling with took us to the Terminal Brew House located in downtown Chattanooga, directly across from the Chattanooga ChooChoo. The food is pretty decent with quite a few vegetarian options and southern staples such as pecans (located in many menu items) and ribs. There are burgers, fish dishes, a hearty steak and meatloaf, and light salads. Plus, anywhere that I can share a flight of craft beers while my child is served crayons and an activity page is quite alright with me.
The biggest hit on this trip to the city was finally seeing the Chattanooga ChooChoo. This was so much cooler than I had expected! We were here the first week of January so the Christmas decorations were still up as was the large ice skating rink. The hotel is train-themed with the lobby as the old train station and the courtyard has actual train tracks and steam trains that kids can crawl around on. A unique perk is that some rooms have been converted out of antique trains allowing guests to sleep in an actual train car! There is a game room and pool on-site and the hotel is in a great area on the famous Market Street that is walkable to live music venues, bars, restaurants, museums, and so much more.
1400 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402
The rest of our time here was spent relaxing, fighting jet lag, and getting out and about. DeSoto State Park is beautiful filled with trails, waterfalls, and wildlife. It’s a quick drive from my in-law’s house so we took advantage of the free childcare (courtesy of Mawmaw) and did some hiking in the local trails.
Our original plan was to check out the little ski resort in nearby Mentone, AL called Cloudmont. Yup, a SKI RESORT in ALABAMA. However, that was a bust. There was a small hill, two “runs”, and a tow-bar to bring you to the top. Due to the warmer weather, there was only one run open with half the hill filled with slushy snow and big dirt holes where the t-bar was, and the other half completely bare. My husband and I were the only people here and the friendly, southern gentlemen started shoveling snow into the brown spots for us, cranked up the music, and turned on the t-bar. Seeing the conditions, we politely declined to ride. I spoke to the owner who said the weather has to be 28 and below in order for them to blow snow and that doesn’t happen often. With snow, I would highly suggest this as a great learning hill. If conditions were different, we would have liked to take our son here to practice, but be aware this is a hill, not a mountain. It’s about the size of a football field. The other thing to note is that the small resort does offer rentals, but the smallest size boot is a 10 which is too big for most toddlers.
We spent 10 days here on this visit and although it was very opposite to Germany, I haven’t experienced the reverse culture shock yet. I have had some adventures, though…I’ve been woken up by the local roosters, been scared and chased by random dogs in the neighborhood on my attempts to “jog” (most folks around here let them roam free), half of my hair cut off of my head by a salon that somehow managed to knot it into a giant dreadlock of it while washing it, startled half to death by a rogue chicken that jetted out on me at the local park, and yet I still braved walking through town even though there are no sidewalks. Walking in ditches was the main way I got around, ready to take on any dog that felt brave enough to come at me (not really, I was constantly paranoid).
My favorite parts of this visit was having my son and mother-in-law connect so strongly and reconnecting with friends. We laughed so hard my face and stomach hurt. I hadn’t laughed that long in a while and it was wonderful to reunite with some wonderful people. There are so many more people we get to connect and laugh with over the next few weeks. I’m excited for the upcoming reunions and experiences while Germany is quickly becoming a finished chapter in our book of memories.