Artifacts in the Moundville Museum

These were all shots from inside the Moundville museum (see my entry from yesterday for more about Moundville).

Artifact from Museum in Moundville AL
This artifact has a hamsa symbol in the middle! This is supposed to be what’s referred to as a ‘Southern Cult’ piece, I think.

Artifact from Museum in Moundville AL - Canoe

Artifact from Museum in Moundville AL - Pottery

Artifact from Museum in Moundville AL

Artifact from Museum in Moundville AL - Arrowheads

Largest City in North America 800 Years Ago : Moundville

Av and I visited Moundville, AL for the first time this weekend. 800 years ago, Moundville was the largest city in North America, with about 1000 people living in this direct area and another 10,000 or so in the valley. It was populated mostly from 1000 CE to 1450 CE.

There are about two dozen mounds total.

We had a great time walking around. At first I was afraid that it was sacreligious to go climb up the chief’s mound, because I thought that people were buried in the mounds – but apparently it was regular practice to build huts and other buildings on top of the taller mounds, and it was the smaller, shorter mounds that held burials. The shorter mounds are off-limits anyway, so I didn’t have anything to worry about.

Of the burial mounds, the higher-status individuals were buried with copper axes and ‘Southern Cult’ pieces, like a hamsa symbol (a (hand) palm with an eye in the center). For people whose burials were more simple, there might only be a few pots found with them. Over 3000 burials have been excavated.

There were residential sections, the north-east corner being probably the nicest. There were also craft workshops (shells, ceramics, etc), and a sweat house, among other structures. I don’t believe any of those have survived.

I am soooo glad we finally got to visit….it’s so pretty – and I am in LOVE with the totally-retro museum (in an upcoming post). Here are pics of Moundville:


Close-up of steps to smaller mound, Moundville

Representation of Chief's Home, Moundville
Representation of the Chief’s home

Art in Quiet Places #4

From Tuscaloosa’s Greenwood cemetery, across the street from Bryant-Denny Stadium (earliest grave here is marked 1821):

Monument, Greenwood Cemetery, Tuscaloosa AL

In the Shadows of Bryant-Denny, Greenwood Cemetery, Tuscaloosa AL
in the shadows of Bryant-Denny Stadium at Bama

Monument, Greenwood Cemetery, Tuscaloosa AL

Hampton Inn, Auburn AL

2005 Hampton Inn, Auburn AL
Our room

Room: This was a very average Hampton room – from furnishings to room size.

Lobby: Again, average.

Service: Friendly.

Food: Av snacked a bit at their breakfast and said it was okay.

Extra: Common areas showing some age (but not really significant).

Our experience is this: we arrived in Auburn pretty late, so this Hampton was fine, although average in *every* way. If we had stayed more than a few hours, we would have probably stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn or – if we’d been there two or more days – the Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National, which looks very nice (and is one of the properties the RSA owns).


New Photographic Series, and First in the Barbecue Series: The Pig Stand in Hartselle (AL)

I’m thinking of starting two new (very amateur) photographic series.

Right now, I have my cemetery marker series. But I think I’ll start two new ones.

There are two kinds of restaurants that I really like to see: Barbecue and Chinese. These two types of restaurants have their own kind of architectural and graphical joie de vivre.

In general, I loooove mishmash of ethnicity (no matter how true-to-form or watered-down, doesn’t matter) here in the Deep South.

Here’s my first in the barbecue series – The Pig Stand in Hartselle, AL:

Drive-Thru Signs at Pig Stand BBQ in Hartselle AL


Catering Van for Pig Stand Barbeque in Hartselle AL


Signs at Pig Stand Barbeque in Hartselle AL


The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville (TN)

The Hermitage Hotel Room, Nashville TN

Room: The room was a nice size; it featured an armoire for the television and minibar, a desk with internet access, a sitting area, and a very nice bathroom with double sinks, a glass-enclosed shower, nice-size bathtub, and the commode area was enclosed. The bath products – soaps, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and gel – were from Molton Brown (we liked the Molton Brown shampoo so much that we bought a bottle of it from the shop downstairs). The room’s overall decor was very nice, and very comfortable. Robes were provided. Our room rate included the cost of breakfast the next morning. It was a **great** value. The Hermitage is Tennessee’s only AAA 5* hotel recipient.

Lobby: The lobby is absolutely ***beautiful***. People have weddings here all the time, and for good reason. Amazing! More pics of the lobby below.

Service: The service was Fantastic. The bellman, Frederick, took us on a little tour, and made it a point to let us know what he suggested to have for supper, what the hours were of the little shop (but also said that since we were guests of the hotel that no matter what time it was, we could have anything we wanted), and that we would be 100% taken care of the whole time we were at the property. Turn-down service included cookies, ice, slippers, and bottles of water. The check-in was nice, the concierge let us know that he would arrange anything in the world we wanted, and when we left the valet was prompt and let us know just how much they appreciated us coming for a visit, and to come again soon. Hermitage, you have my heart.

Food: Av had a drink after we checked in at The Oak Bar and had a really nice time. The on-site restaurant, the Capitol Grille, was voted one of the best new restaurants in the US by Esquire magazine, and is one of two 5* restaurants in Nashville. Pics of the supper we had there are below. I have to say that supper was good (the crab cakes were Amazing and the best we’ve ever had) but on the whole not up to the expectations we had for it.

Extra: The hotel is downtown, so it makes for a great location, especially for people on government business. Everything about the hotel is top-notch.

Our experience is this: From now on, as long as there are rooms available at the Hermitage, we’re not staying anywhere else in Nashville. We used to stay at the Opryland Hotel quite a bit, and especially enjoyed the balcony rooms, but there is absolutely NO comparison between the two hotels. In fact, I’m listing The Hermitage as my new #1 hotel pick, moving the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans to #2.

Caesar Salad from Capitol Grille at The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville TN
This was my Caesar salad. The dressing was on the bottom. Very good.

Steak from Capitol Grille at The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville TN
This is a not-so-great pic of Av’s steak. It was better than average but not amazing.

Chicken & Thyme Sandwich from Capitol Grille at The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville TN
This was my chicken & thyme sandwich on foccacia, with potato salad. I wasn’t especially wild about either.

Cheesecake from Capitol Grille at The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville TN
This was my cheesecake dome. Average.

Chocolate Cake from Capitol Grille at The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville TN
This was Av’s chocolate cake. Super-rich. I *think* it had an ingredient in it that originated in Lynchburg.

Lobby, The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville TN

Lobby Ceiling, The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville TN


Skylight in Lobby, The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville TN

Lobby Archway and Ceiling, The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville TN

Lobby, The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville TN

The Cincinnatian, Cincinnati (OH)

The Cincinnatian Hotel Room, Cincinnati OH

Room: Since we were in Cincinnati two days, and there were two historic hotels we really wanted to stay with, we stayed at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza (which ranks #1 among all Cincinnati hotels on one evening, and The Cincinnatian (which ranks 3rd on the same list) on the other. I had requested a room on a higher floor (we were given a room on the highest floor, the 8th floor) and non-smoking accommodations. When we got to the room, there were matches and ashtrays in the room, but there was absolutely no smell, so we didn’t mention it to the front desk. Our room was small, but the bathroom was nice and large, the complete opposite from our stay at the Hilton Netherland (large room, small bathroom). The bedroom’s carpet had a nice inlay, a comfortable bed, and featured a skylight. The only window was so high that you couldn’t really see out very much, and it was situated over the desk area, so it really was of no use other than to let in just a little extra light in the otherwise dark room. The desk was built into a portion of the room that jutted out a bit, and was actually something of a shelf. The major problem with the ‘desk’ was that it was built into the walls much too high for actually doing any work (unless you were 8′ or 9′ tall, perhaps). Overall, we were a little disappointed with the room, but the more spacious bathroom was a nice surprise. The rooms also have a DVD player, and the hotel has a library of DVDs to rent at $2/ea.

Lobby: The lobby is nice, and inside is ‘The Palace’ restaurant, which I think is supposed to be one of the better restaurants in the city.

Service: Service was nice. Turn-down service included cookies.

Food: We didn’t have supper at the hotel, but ‘The Palace’ restaurant (mentioned above) is inside – and where I would have really liked to dine, Maisonette, is within walking distance. Maisonette has 41 consecutive Mobil 5* awards to its credit.

Extra: The hotel is right downtown, and within walking distance to the Great American Ball Park, where the Cincinnati Reds play.

Our experience is this: We might stay here again, but probably only if the room rate was significantly lower than at the Hilton Netherland.

Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield, Ohio

Jungle Jim's Foodie Land outside of Cincinnati

Jungle Jim’s is a grocery store (and so much more) outside of Cincinnati (maybe 20 minutes?) in a town called Fairfield.

Jungle Jim’s is….an amusement park for foodies.

I used to think that Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market (in Decatur, GA, just outside of Atlanta) was the most amazing place to go grocery shopping – it *is* a remarkable place where you’ll see all kinds of groceries for sale that you’d never otherwise find – including fresh meats and fish. Well, Jungle Jim’s beats YDFM any day.

We bought food from England. Japan. Taiwan. Singapore. India. Thailand. Scotland. Ireland. China. Sweden. And several more, including some nice beers Av picked out.

I wish I could show you more pictures of the inside, but photography isn’t allowed.

We got…Tayto ‘Crisps’ from Ireland, Dodekai Baby Star Crispy Noodle Snacks from Japan, I-Mei ‘Just Black Choco Sandwich Cookies’ from Taiwan, Jotis Bechamel sauce mix from Greece, Kinder chocolate candies, Botan Rice Candy – when you eat this candy, you also eat the inner wrapper, Muscat Gummies from Japan (on the front it says, “Its translucent color so alluring and taste and aroma so gentle and mellow offer admiring feelings of a graceful lady. Enjoy soft and juicy Kasugai Muscat Gummy.”), Clarendon Yorkshire Toffees from Ireland, Av’s beers: Trafalgar, Triple Bornam Ale, Hitachino Nest White, Weyerbacher Heresy, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted, Sapporo Reserve, Duvel, and Fosters, La Valle Pomodori tomatoes, rose syrup from Singapore, Ahmed rose water from Pakistan, Mackay’s Orange Marmalade from Scotland, Tasty Joy Lychees from Taiwan, and Southern Comfort Tea (we’ve never seen that before).

Cincinnati Reds Game

Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati


Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati

We went to the Cincinnati Reds vs. Houston Astros game Friday night and it was so much fun!

The Reds play at All American Ball Park, which opened in 2003. It is soooooo nice! We sat about 25 rows back, beside 1st base. The game was really fun, although we lost 10-7.

Our seats were really good, but Av said that the Reds also have a special seating category where you have your own waiter to take care of you while you’re watching the game (as well as other benefits)….for only $14,185/seat for the season!!! I found the details on their website.

After the game, a local bakery sponsored a fireworks show (I looove fireworks) for upcoming Independence Day which was also really great.

Cincinnati: Camp Washington Chili

Camp Washington Chili Sign


Camp Washington Chili, Cincinnati OH

Gourmet Magazine a month or two ago devoted a good portion of its pages to street food.

(This is my for instance:)
When in Montreal, Quebec, have poutine. You can’t find poutine in Iowa.

When in Decatur, Alabama, have bbq chicken with white sauce. You can’t get white chicken sauce served in New York.

And when in Cincinnati, have chili. You can have chili anywhere in the US, but Cincinnati has its own chili that you can’t find in Florida.

Camp Washington chili is apparently the mother church of Cincinnati chili. And what makes Cincinnati chili different? Well, it’s like this: take spaghetti noodles, and top with (any or all): beef, onions, beans, cheese. Take all five and it’s called 5-way chili.

At first, I was thinking of soupy tomato-based chili with beef that people sometimes add beans to (depending on where you live. I don’t generally believe in chili with beans). When it came to our table, it was truly different – and get this – delicious.

Av had a hotdog (a “coney” here), which at Camp Washington comes two dogs/bun. He liked that too!

And: our lunch came to just a little bit over $10. Not bad for a James Beard award winner!