Sweet Home Alabama!

November 28, 2014 2:35 am

How y’all doing? This post includes one day from Florida and the rest from Alabama. Loving the South!


Thursday, Nov 20 – Tallahassee FL

We left St. Petersburg last night and arrived safely in Tallahassee. We awoke to the news of a shooting at the University here; not far from our hotel. How senseless and very sad that this continues to happen.


We drove to the Apalachicola National Forest for a hike and to check out the Leon Sinkholes. The park had many dry and wet sinks; the dry ones were just that. No water, but I wouldn’t want to be walking around there!


The wet sinks were breathtaking; it was sunny and the surrounding trees reflected perfectly on the mirrorlike water. But if you look closely in the pictures, you can see the underwater cliffs and deep drop offs that lead to the caves. These sinks were so incredible….


This cave reminded us of a Mexican Cenote; no swimming in this one though!


And this is a dry swamp; you had to cross it on a bridge – good thing!


Leon Sinks Cave System is part of the system that forms the longest underwater cave in the US and the sixth largest in the world; 32 miles (51.48 km).  With all the signs about the multiple sinkholes, it was an eerie feeling to be stomping around; even though clearly noted as safe if you stay on the trails. We thoroughly enjoyed this colourful adventure.

We drove back into Tallahassee and had a Whataburger for lunch. It was pretty good! We walked around the downtown core that was clearly a business / state government area. A little further out we toured some shopping areas and got a good feel for Florida’s capital city.

Today, being the 3rd Thursday in November, is the release of a special wine that my Dad and Joe have enjoyed together for many years. Beaujolais Nouveau is a French Gamay wine that is only fermented for a few weeks before being marketed.  In order to continue this family tradition, we managed to find the wine in Tallahassee and sent my Dad a picture so he knew we didn’t forget! Did he remember??


Friday, Nov 21 – Sweet Home Alabama!!

Our drive today from Tallahassee to Mobile was 4.5 hours and we crossed the Swanee River! Loved this sign; we sang as we passed it!

Hello Alabama! Movie Gallery’s head office was in Dothan so Joe has been here many times. When I worked for Strategic Technologies we traveled to Huntsvillle, AL for a sales meeting (only a week after 9/11). Huntsville is where I learned to love the southern BBQ!

As we drove through Mobile we were surprised how vast the city was! So many shopping opportunities and enticing restaurants. We enjoyed our stay here!


We had a wonderful dinner with Nick and Lyn Mitchell. Nick was another one of Joe’s bosses at Movie Gallery and it was great to see the two of them catching up. Nick is an animated story teller and we split a side laughing. Lyn keeps very busy looking after two businesses and has that warm, southern charm. The Mitchell’s have a condo at the Gulf Shores that they so graciously offered to us for over a week. We are so grateful!


Nick and Lyn filled us in with where to go, what to do, and where to eat during our stay at the shore. They also invited us to join their family for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday so we are very excited about that. AND they are going to meet us in New Orleans to show us the town! The four of us had planned a trip together to New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina hit. Nine years later, we are doing it!

Saturday, Nov 22  – Gulf Shores 

This morning we headed out of Mobile early as we were looking forward to some down time at Gulf Shores.  It’s a quick 1.5 hours drive from Mobile. This island is home to an amazing array of retail, restaurants and at least one dollar store on every block! The condo is awesome; 2 bedrooms/bathrooms with a massive indoor pool a few doors away, an outdoor pool, and of course the ocean at our door step. A perfect retreat after our first three months of nonstop action and the calm before the pending whirlwind a brewing for Europe.


We unpacked and went for lunch. It was at lunch that we knew something was amiss when Joe’s credit card wasn’t accepted and we were asked to call our bank. Turns out we had our first and hopefully last, comprised credit card. I have been pretty vigilant about watching our accounts almost daily so the red flag the bank had, could have only been hours old. The bank rep must have been concerned at first when reviewing the charges with Joe – all valid. We have been to a lot of places lately! But with little hassle, a replacement card was on its way to our hotel in New Orleans.

Next we stocked up for some home cooking at a local grocer. They had so many interesting and delictible things. Here are just a few:


Beer funnel!


Back at the condo we settled in and explored the huge complex. With it being the end of the summer season and just prior to the snow birds arrival, it is very quiet here. We may be the only ones in this building!

Joe made catfish for dinner:


Sunday, Nov 23

We looked at the weather forecast for this morning and it called for rain at 10am. It was 9:35 am so we headed for the beach for a quick walk.


These are the pictures of the sky at 9:59 am, just as Joe said we should head back:


And then, bang on at 10 am it started to rain and it came fast. And hard. We ran. Or at least we tried to run but it was windy and the sand and hail and rain pelleted our faces and legs. I couldn’t see a thing out of my glasses and had to remove them and go blindly. We stopped running as there was no longer any point. We couldn’t be any wetter. We have never been in or seen rain like that before. And we lived in Vancouver for 30 years! We got home, stripped at the door and decided to have an ‘in’ day. Everything, including our runners, had to be washed.

We laugh about it now but can’t imagine what a hurricane would be like! And we gained a whole new respect for the weatherman.

Monday, Nov 24

Forecast today: fog. No problem! Out we go for our walk on the beach. The fog was thick and I even lost Joe in it for a minute! Plus there seemed to be whole new bodies of water: ponds – as a result of yesterdays little downpour. Made for some cool imagery:


And interesting jellyfish with what looks like shrimp inside??


And this cool chillin’ bird:


All this moisture is marvellous for the skin – love that.

Gulf Shores also has a huge Outlet Mall and this afternoon Joe wanted to go there! Yes he did. Actually he wanted to shop more than me too. However, since I am now the holder of the only credit card, it was a lot of window shopping. 🙂

After a couple of days of ‘interesting’ weather, we had a great sun set. Red sky at night….


Lots of amazing starry, starry nights here too…

Tuesday, Nov 25

The sun came out!! It is cold but that is beside the point….


This sad but dead fish seemed to me looking at me through sandy eyes:


And this morning I found an app that will be invaluable in helping me plan the transportation in Europe. Now I am feeling a little less overwhelmed and a lot more confident that I can do this planning! I am still procrastinating but it’s coming together.


Time this afternoon for a little local trip back in history. We took a self-guided tour of Alabama’s Fort Morgan; on the tip of Gulf Shores. Fort Morgan was built after the War of 1812 to increase the security along the coastlines. The isolated position of the Fort had extensive land defences in addition to the heavy artillery from within the star shaped Fort. It was pretty cool:


After that we took a trip further east down the coast. This place goes forever! Lots of hotels, motels and huge condos. We had no idea Gulf Shores was so developed.

Our fun spot of the day was Flora-Bama; a place recommended by both my brother Les and the Mitchell’s. Flora-Bama, is on the Florida-Alabama state line and is a cultural landmark, touted as America’s ‘Last Great Roadhouse’. Built in 1964 this humongous building has live music everyday and is world famous for the ‘Interstate Mullet Toss’. Lots of restoration going on to this funky, rickety building. We are sure Flora-Bama is crazy during the summer! We enjoyed a beer and heard a local musician before heading home. Definitely a ‘must see’ if you are in the area.


We have had every meal at home for the last 5 days and I am having southern cooking withdrawl. Plus my thoughts have a southern accent. No, seriously y’all!

Wednesday, Nov 26

Gorgeous, sunny morning on the beach. We are both working on our running endurance now; self-torture for too much over indulging of late. We also found the pond that Nick said alligators were thought to live in, but no little eyes appeared on the water top.


This afternoon we went for a hike to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and Gator Lake. Great spot – oh how we love to be in the woods. So interesting to see so many different plants and trees.


The trail took us between a lagoon and Gator Lake. No gators that we could see but fascinating to watch the loons. The trail continued over the sand dunes and through the bird sanctuary to this huge, isolated beach. So beautiful.


Most of the trail itself is sand and of course the beach is sand. We figure this hike was about 3 miles and I had aching muscles in my ankles and toes that I didn’t even know existed. Great exercise today!

Time to satisfy that Southern Food craving with a trip to the Shrimp Basket; a local favourite:


Nothing to do with the San Jose Sharks – this a one of two massive souvenir stores:


Thursday, Nov 27

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our first American Thanksgiving! We drove back into Mobile to have dinner with Nick and Lyn Mitchell and 3 of their 4 sons. We noticed we should have been wearing red shirts with an ‘A’ on them – football is in the house! They are all die-hard Alabama Crimson Tide fans for sure. The stadium for this college ball team seats over 100,000 fans! WOW.

Dinner was so delicious; ham and Turkey! And we loved the vegetables – asparagus, green beans, butter beans, squash casserole, sweet potatoes with pecans, corn pudding, creamed corn, deep fried okra. Fresh rolls too. Two pies for dessert – Apple or Egg Custard. So good. Plus the Mitchell’s sent us home with leftovers for later. Such hospitality….

We are staying in Gulf Shores until Monday, then we head for New Orleans.

We will talk to you soon…from the Big Easy!

Paula and Joe


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