I don’t know about you, but when I think of Alabama the first thing that comes to mind is white sandy beaches and pina coladas. Wait, what? No. Exactly – to the outsider when one thinks of Alabama the first things that come to mind are football, former racist governors and exploding petroleum platforms. White sandy beaches are not on the short list – but surprisingly Alabama has quite a nice set of them along the Gulf of Mexico.
Brunch was procured at The Ruby Slipper, New Orleans chain brunch restaurant. I chose the chain because the brunch menu actually featured food instead of booze. (Apparently in Mobile brunch is short for “liquid breakfast.” I know I cannot live on mimosas and beignets alone – but apparently someone Mobile does).
The food at The Ruby Slipper was solid, albeit covered in gravy, and the service was very hospitable yet quite relaxed. We could have walked out with half the merchandise on display and our bill and no one would have known the difference. I couldn’t tell if it was because everyone was drunk or if they just gave no shits what-so-ever.
Full of maple custard beignets, coffee, and fatty gravy from our biscuits and seafood we got in the rental vehicle and headed for the coast. We had one stop to make on the way however, as my perusal of the Alabama Tourist magazines had revealed an extreme tourist gem. A Stonehenge replica! And said replica, known as Bamahenge, was on our way to the beach. But first we had to drive over some endless bayou.
Signs seen on the way to Bamahenge “We Sale RVs” and “The Wharf.” Turns out the RVs are not boats, they are just for sale, and The Wharf is nowhere near the water – it is just a nautical themed mall and movie theater complex. Now Bamahenge on the other hand was special.
First, Bamahenge is part of a family friendly campground, golf course and boat launch complex somewhere in what feels like the middle of nowhere.
It is a very short walk from the road.
Now, upon viewing you notice something is a little not right about the “rocks” of this replica monolith. As one goes in closer for detailed investigation you find out that these are not rocks at all, but plastic, or perhaps fibreglass.
After checking the roadside tourist attraction box we made our way to the seashore. Now, I knew and expected to see a bunch of condominiums and other forms of development along the coast. I didn’t expect there to be any preserved natural shoreline. Tyler on the other hand, I’m not sure what he was expecting, but he was very disappointed to see the massive development. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was some well preserved public access and an entire state park preserving the natural dune habitat with an entire wharf and interpretive center. Our first stop was public beach access.
The water of the Gulf of Mexico was so warm it felt like a bathtub. This confirmed to me why there are always water safety warnings about e coli for the beaches in this part of the world. I just dipped my feet in a couple of times and then proceeded to start picking up the tiny seashells on the seashore. Tyler upon less than 30 seconds on the beach started hissing and burning like a vampire and ran his slightly ginger northern viking self back to the air conditioned car away from the equatorial sunlight. He said “take your time” so I poked around in the sand for a few more minutes and then decided I needed to wash the e coli off my feet. And we ventured on to search out a good view of the water from a potentially air conditioned establishment serving cold beverages and lunch.
It was harder than it looked. Apparently Tiki Bars are not a thing along the shores of Alabama. My Florida and Caribbean standards of tourist are too high for these true Southern abodes of family fun times. But we found a cafe on a wharf in the middle of the State Park/nature preserve and it was wonderful. Except for the birds that threatened to poop on our heads and pizza at any time.
I’ll spare you the photo I didn’t take of our beachside pizza and the feast of dragon flies the birds were lying in wait to experience. I wish I had taken a photo but I’ll just have to describe it. After 15 minutes of enjoying our cold beverages and the on and off breeze from the gulf, there suddenly came in a cloud of dragonflies. Not 3 or 5 but hundreds of big insects buzzing about in the air floating in and out of the wharf cafe. Meanwhile the big footed birds who had been hovering and chirping dove in for the feast, ripping the flying insects out of the air with their talons and pulling them apart into gobbled pieces on the table next to us with its long beak. Definitely a National Geographic moment.
Then we drove back to the city. Tyler had to work early in the morning so I went out in search of seafood and an evening stroll through Mobile. In my wander I was almost run over, and found a slew of closed restaurants or places “not seating without reservation” despite the dead-ness of the area. I got some beautiful sunset views but no seafood as the place called 5 that let me in for dinner only had 5 things on the menu and the fish was Mahi Mahi so I went with the aged rib eye.
I have no photos of my food or what came next, but I found myself in conversation with a certain Southern Gentleman who played bass and happened to be a member of one those Mardi Gras mystic societies. So I learned about the white tie balls (saw photos of his tuxedos in his closet), the marathon drinking that is Mardi Gras parade culture, the Mobile music scene and many other details of Mobile and its Mardi Gras that one cannot get in a museum or from a tour guide. My new friend bought my dinner and took me on a guided walking tour of the various music venues and other worthy establishments still open on Sunday night until we could visit no more places because it was closing time.
There is something alluring about the Southern Gentleman. This one made sure that I had an arm to guide me and that he stayed in-between me and the curb, or me and any possible “harm” that could befall a lady. I enjoyed the grace of the gentle masculine energy he displayed in my presence – and wished I was wearing something more formal than a sundress and sweater for this adventure. Walking next to a Southern Gentleman is a very different experience than trying to keep pace with a Northern man hellbent on getting out of the cold or the rain and giving no shits if you are behind him or not. Maybe it is the Scandinavian culture where we women were once capable shield maidens so we could handle ourselves that leaves the men wanting in their social graces. They never needed to take care of us, unlike the soft debutant Southern belle’s who were incapable of even walking on their own due to the heat, the corsets, and the heavy layers of gown that were attached to them back in the day. I don’t know. But the cultural difference in how the masculine energy shows up is marked. And I like being treated like a lady. So as my final evening in Mobile it was a perfect crown to my experience of the culture to be treated with some fine Southern hospitality with a local’s guided tour.