To break up the long drive from Georgia to New Orleans and check out some of Alabama and Mississippi, we did a little bit of research and decided on Fairhope, AL, which turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the trip. It’s Beverly Hills, Alabama! I had no idea this upscale town in the Mobile bay even existed, let alone that we would be so impressed by its beauty and its sushi restaurant.
We spent a few minutes checking out the town of Magnolia Springs, having heard great things about Jesse’s restaurant. However, after pulling into the parking lot to check out the menu another car came flying into the parking lot, threw the car in reverse, started skidding and then started towards us at full speed and barely in control. It was one of those terrifying hopeless moments when you don’t know if you are going to get hurt (the car was coming towards the passenger side, where I was sitting), and the driver was clearly enraged, or else three sheets to the wind. They missed the car by a few inches thankfully, and it was then that we noticed a person kind of chasing the car from the parking lot. He turned around almost immediately and started using his phone, we assumed to call the cops. Weirdest situation, very confusing, very unnerving. We’ve no idea if this guy was pushed out of the car, or trying to meet the car. Was it a lover’s quarrel gone wrong? A drug deal? We’ll never know, but we got the hell out of there as soon as possible as we had no desire to wait and see if he/she came back. Aside from this freakish situation, Magnolia Springs was a charming town, filled with the eponymous trees, as well as more live oak. And again aside from this random scenario we found the people in Alabama to be super friendly, in fact several bars around Mobile boasted cold beer and free advice.
From there we headed to the Grand Hotel to check out the views, and we were treated to another stunning sunset (so many good ones on this trip). We checked out the pier, smartly passing up the Yardarm Restaurant there for Master Joe’s sushi downtown. The downtown area was like the downtown of a really high end suburban town, not at all what we had expected to see on our one night in Alabama, we expected deep south ish, not Range Rovers and Bimmers!
We passed a sign in Alabama promoting Mozart and keeping classical music in general alive. It was ironic given that I had played some Mozart while driving through the Florida Panhandle and Alan teased me for doing so in the Redneck Riviera. Turns out they keep it very classy down here in Roll Tide country.
On the way out of town we stopped for a tour of the Bragg-Mitchell mansion. It was a beautiful house, but the tour was made very special by the fact that we got a private tour (by virtue of being the only guests there our entire time on the property) as well as our guide with the hilarious stories. She had the most epic delivery, never stopping to take a breath until she had to sit down, winded. We learned a couple of things about Southern culture and architecture which we enjoyed: pineapples are used in decoration as a sign of hospitality because the men used to bring them home from war and stick them on the gate posts to let people know they were back and ready for visitors; the walls in corner spaces are rounded so that ladies can fit through with their big dresses; the first banister on the main staircase are called Newell posts and were hollowed out to hold important things like wedding rings and deeds, and they were typically the last piece made in the home so a penny would be inserted in the top to signify the last cent spent; the bed posts had stakes that would raise up to hold mosquito nets; most rooms did not have closets back in the day because they were counted as bedrooms for purposes of calculating taxes. Our guide also claimed that Mardi Gras began in Mobile, AL.
Our last stop in Alabama was the Brick Pit, so that Alan could try some proper southern BBQ. He started telling me about how this is “really good” BBQ even if it doesn’t taste that good, because BBQ is judged on lots of factors other than taste. Um, I’ll stick to the bad BBQ that tastes good, thanks. (Not that this was bad, just not that impressive, though I’m really the wrong person to go to for BBQ reviews. See Alan’s blog for the in depth BBQ post. What Alan doesn’t tell you in his post however, is that Justin Bieber’s name appears no less than four times on the walls of this place.)
We looked for something interesting enough to do in Southern Mississippi and I was ecstatic to see that the World’s Largest Rocking Chair was on our route. I’m big on roadside attractions, something we did far too few of on this trip. I’d like to use this opportunity to state for the record that I’m very disappointed we could do Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas (it would have been hours and hours out of the way, but I’m still very upset we didn’t plan around this).