10 things in Birmingham that don't exist in the Bay Area

1418 oak mountain

1418 oak mountain

Birmingham is different from California.  That's obvious.  But living here is a breath of fresh air in some regard. I love Birmingham.  Here's a little of list treasures in Birmingham that don't (exactly) exist in the Bay Area.

1. takeaway cups for drinks.  You know when you're eating at a restaurant and they let you take your food home?  Well, at some sit-down restaurants I've been to in Birmingham they'll also ask if you'd like to take home your drink in a takeaway cup. How genius is that?!  Awesome. I always like drinks to go.

2. short trips. The nice thing about Birmingham is that you can drive to many places in a short amount of time, unlike in California.  We could drive to the next state in under two hours.  We can also drive to all our amenities in under 10 minutes.  Fifteen to twenty minutes is a long drive here.  But it's a strange concept.  I wouldn't think twice about driving an hour in California to visit my friends in the South Bay or an hour & a half to Santa Cruz.  But here, you're in a whole other world when you drive that far... I'd even consider it a road trip.

3. low gas prices.  Thankfully gas prices are very low here.  When I first arrived it was around $1.95/gallon for unleaded.  Now it's around $2.12/gallon.  I think that's about a dollar cheaper than California prices.

4. plastic bags. I had just gotten used to bringing reusable bags everywhere in California when I moved here.  It's bizarre enough that they don't charge for bags, but even more jarring that they use plastic bags.  While I do like using reusable bags, it's nice to have plastic bags to reuse as garbage bags for the car and what not. And it's really great and convenient to not be charged for bags if you forget yours.

5. trees. The Bay Area has its forests like Muir Woods and Big Sur which I miss, but Birmingham doesn't just have trees in parks, they're everywhere.  The trees line the freeways and cover the mountains and shelter communities.  The trees in Birmingham are undisturbed parts of nature that communities built around, unlike the Bay Area.  Everywhere you look here there are trees. You see more trees than buildings sometimes. It's so beautiful.

6. Styrofoam. I can't remember the last time I saw Styrofoam cups in California. It seems so archaic now to get them at restaurants. Styrofoam is everywhere here. They're great insulators, but so bad for the environment.  But my fingers do thank the styrofoam for protection from cold drinks.

7. four seasons and lots of rain. In the time I've lived here it's rained a lot.  Maybe my point of reference is off because I'm used to the drought in California and forgotten what El Nino was like when I was a kid, but it does rain pretty often here. And now I fully understand why the kids were scared in Sound of Music; thunderstorms are no joke here. Birmingham definitely has distinct seasons.  It may not snow regularly, but winter is very cold for me.  Spring is beautiful.  Summer is deadly (I hear). And fall is perfect.

8. creative parking.  I don't know what it is but people are horrible drivers here.  Parking spaces are huge, yet they'll park askew or too close to lines.  But what tops it all is the fact that people literally park everywhere.  In a parking lot, if they can't find a space, they'll parallel park in the driving lanes. They'll pick a spot and just park there.  On campus, people park on the grass medians.  Even in residential areas, they'll park facing the opposite direction. So if you can't find a parking space here, you can just make one!

9. a sense of safety. I feel relatively safe here. Granted, I live in a very wealthy neighborhood. But people leave their purses and wallets around on tables in public and no one thinks twice.  When I'm at a coffee shop in California I'm very aware of where all my belongings are.  Either my purse is tethered to something or it's between me and a wall.  I'm always on guard. Here I'm still conscious of my belongings, but the looming threat of someone stealing my stuff is low.  Also, in California I wouldn't leave anything of worth in my car for fear my car be broken into.  Where I live now there's much less reason for that.  People are much friendlier and the crime rate is considerably lower here.  (I still don't leave valuables in the car. But I like the idea that I could if I wanted to.)  With all that said, this could be a false sense of safety.  Who knows.

10. good southern food and sweet tea.  Everywhere you turn there's southern food. Sounds pretty obvious that Birmingham would have a lot of southern food, but literally, it's everywhere.  Some of it's really good like turnip greens and barbecue and some of it's not… (i.e. too much fried food.) In addition to the southern food, there's sweet tea everywhere.  In California I can only seem to find sweet tea at McDonalds.  Here's it's at practically every restaurant, fast food place and anywhere that'll serve a beverage. Southern food is comfort food for sure. And, as an added bonus I finally have access to Cracker Barrel.  I love Cracker Barrel. It's definitely not healthy, and I definitely don't eat there all the time, but I just love it.  I love the good ole country food and the decor and the old timey candies and the rocking chairs and the breakfast.  Yum. California, you're missing out on this one.

Oak Mountain State Park. February 4, 2015 | Fuji x100s