Sunday, September 18th, 2011
This morning I left Gautier, Mississippi, bright and early, and headed for the beautiful towns along The Gulf. I drove through Mobile on the way. Grande, historic homes lined the streets, and large, majestic shade trees created a tunnel-like effect, making the driving experience very enjoyable. The RSA Battle House Tower (Alabama's tallest building) stood like a sentinel over the city, the magnificent Spanish Mission Revival- style GM & O Railroad Building (Gulf, Mobile & Ohio) was certainly the most remarkable historic landmark in downtown Mobile, and my jaw dropped as I caught view of the massive USS Alabama Battleship, (which served in WWII), just before entering the causeway over Mobile Bay.
|Once Upon a Time...|
It was still morning when I entered the pretty little town of Fairhope, boasting a surprisingly contemporary little downtown that has drawn "an eclectic assemblage of industrious, creative, and free-thinking people" ever since it was settled back in 1894. I paid a short visit to the Welcome Center, where a couple of mischievous young girls playing behind the front desk informed me it was actually not open (odd...). I picked up a Visitor's Guide from the cheerful young man at Hampton Inn across the street, and explored Downtown's colorful murals, modern art, foodie cafes, charming boutiques, and whimsical homes (like out of a fairy tale!).
|The Rose Gardens of Fairhope Pier|
It is after all a resort town, so no trip to Fairhope is complete without a visit to the bustling pier, complete with restaurant, duck ponds, a beautiful water fountain and an award winning rose garden. The pier and surrounding park was hopping with everyone from fellow visitors to locals having their weekend picnic, fisherman, joggers, and a pair of lovebirds passionately kissing by the fountain (get a room you two!) - it's no wonder the pier is nicknamed "Fairhope's Town Square."
|A "Cottage" in Point Clear|
Just south is Point Clear, a summer retreat for wealthy families from Mobile, New Orleans and across the United States, from as early as the 1800's, when they were escaping Yellow Fever. The drive through this stretch of Highway 98 would best be characterized as lots and lots of gated driveways and private drives. I was, however, a few times able to catch a glimpse or two of the extravagant seaside "cottages" tucked in the trees, hundreds of yards away.
|"Run, Forrest, Run!"|
Continuing south along the coast of Mobile Bay, I came to the relaxed, unassuming village of Magnolia Springs, nestled within the undulating curves of the Magnolia River, "the home and inspiration to Alabama authors Winstom Groom (Forrest Gump) and Fannie Flagg (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe)." I apparently reached the center of town when I found the historical marker, church (1902) and Community Hall (1894). After checking the page in my guide book and a call to the B&B, it dawned on me this is it, lol! I spent the next hour or so driving the narrow lanes and shaded streets that lie under the majestic canopy of oak trees, lined with gracious homes and well-tended front lawns.
I walked along the small bridge over the Magnolia River ( which remains "the only river route mail delivery in the continental United States," and whose water from the many natural springs along either side, at the turn of the century, was declared "the purest in the world") to find quaint boathouses gracing the shores, a couple of boaters enjoying a leisurely ride, and a few sunbathers enjoying their last days of summer. Before leaving the area, I curiously followed signs to the Swift-Coles Historic Tidewater Mansion (circa 1882), a restored plantation (figures), which after a little Googling, is perhaps a former German prisoner camp and has reports of paranormal activity, according to THIS site.
|"Welcome to Camp!" :/|
Upon arriving in Gulf Shores, I grabbed some information and coupons from the Welcome Center, and arrived at Gulf State Park ($30+tax, yikes!) around 4pm or so. One of the first signs I saw when pulling in read "DO NOT FEED OR AGGRAVATE THE ALLIGATORS!" :/ To my delight, they had hundreds of sites and the vast majority were vacant (alligator-related? hope not, lol). Camping for me is about disconnecting from civilization and reconnecting with nature , so I picked an area whose entire row was empty, with no other humans in sight :) I got my tent set up and planned for tomorrow, then gabbed on the phone a little bit, went into town to check email, then chatted on the phone again before bed (okay, I guess that was not very camp-like).
|Gulf State Park Beach|
Monday, September 19th, 2011
I went to the beach first thing after getting cleaned up this morning. Other than just four other spectators of the sunrise, it was just me, the waves, and the sugary, white sand - and it was so beautiful =) Not quite the turquoise-colored water I love so much, but I'm getting there...Florida, here I come!