Here’s to being a tourist in your hometown

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Last weekend, was Girl’s Weekend in Madison. Six of my oldest, life-long girlfriends from Huntsville High School Class of 1979 converged on Madison making a lasting impact on how I see my hometown.

The trip was scheduled a year in advance no less. These girls had begged me for years to host them. They would say: “We’ve heard so much about Madison.” “Please let’s go there.” “Everyone I know who has visited Madison, adored it.” And, on and on.

So it all went down last week. They arrived Thursday from Birmingham, Charlotte, Huntsville and Nashville. Four of them stayed in the historic Farmhouse at Valley Farm and two stayed with me. Hopefully I’ll not get kicked out of my neighborhood!

I was actually quite nervous about what I’d do with six beautiful, successful women from a variety of large Southern Cities.

But, I needn’t have worried.

Madison was a hit – so much so that one of my girlfriends wants to move here! The others I’m sure will come back for another visit, and they will talk all about Madison to their girlfriends and bring more people to our beautiful city.

For me, I had the unique experience of looking at my hometown in the eyes of a tourist.

And, one thing I found true: The Madison Downtown shopping district Rocks It! So much so, that I literally had to drag them out of the shops for an hour on their last day so that they could see our beautiful collection of Historic homes that the world is always raving about. I was their tour guide, educated by 25 years volunteering for various home tours!

Back to shopping! There were massages and facials at Pure Bliss Spa, and honey these girls spent money like Christmas was next week! For two days straight bags and bags of goodies from our local shops were paraded around. They shopped Teal Couture, Artisan Alley, BB&G, Madison Square Collections, In High Cotton, Amelia’s, Barkin’ Dogs Shoe Co., J&K Fleas ‘A Tiques, Creative Mark, Le Petit Jardin and Madison Markets and more!

Our shopkeepers were wonderful and the staffs on duty at The James Madison Inn and The Brady Inn graciously allowed us to tour their fabulous destinations. We met Kathie Russell on the street in front of her newest renovation project and she gave us an impromptu tour and everyone an update on what was found in the attic of the former Ye Old Colonial restaurant.

Southern Hospitality at it finest.

They loved the fact that the fountain at Town Park was forged in Birmingham. They loved that everything was perfectly walkable. And, did I mention the restaurants? Well let’s just say our restaurants impressed! Madison Produce was the perfect casual spot for lunch, Ricardo’s helped us out with libations and a perfect supper to go; Amici served up a lovely lunch and Town 220 “was like New York.”

Also important was what they didn’t see: trash on the sidewalks, rude people, 18 wheelers rolling down East Washington St. and huge log trucks on Main Street. That’s because the city now forbids trucks on East Washington where we walked each day and our city kindly asked Georgia Pacific if their trucks would use the bypass.

My only regret was that time ran out before I could show them all of the other beautiful destinations and cool retail and restaurants we have to offer. But, don’t worry. They are coming back!

The comments ran along this path: “It’s so clean. I can’t believe it’s so clean!” “Everyone is so nice.” “I need to go back into that store.”

“It’s like a movie set.” “I would love to live here.”

To Madison and Morgan County you get five stars!

We have an eclectic collection of shops and restaurants, each offering something truly wonderful and different — all nestled among a beautiful historic district and an amazing rural landscape.

Sometimes as a local citizen, we get bogged down in everything that’s wrong. Sometimes we need to look at the blessing that is Madison and Morgan County — through the eyes of a tourist.

It made me so proud and grateful to live here. And, it wouldn’t be possible without our great city and county organizations, leaders and volunteers and without our wonderful businesses.

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