by Cathy Burford, HER Certified – Yours From The Road
Having Fun in Gulf Shores AL- Ft. Morgan, Bellingrath Gardens & Lulu’s
The biggest problem here on the Gulf Coast is that there never seems to be enough time to do all of the things that you “could” do here. Water parks, zip lining, parasailing, museums, beach bars, beach shops, upscale shops, fishing, kayaking (though we have our kayaks with us, we are NOT putting in with gators,) fantastic eateries, and all the sea (OK Gulf) and sand a person could possibly ask for. For the scant 8 days that we are here we are doing our best to see as much as we can & still have time to just chill.
We made a quick visit to Ft. Morgan, which is also where you can pick up the Mobile Bay Ferry to Dauphin Island, the shortcut to the west side of Mobile Bay. Ft. Morgan was constructed in 1819 when things needed protecting around here, especially something as important as Mobile Bay. It changed hands a bit during the Civil War, but now everyone is able to enjoy this now-tranquil piece of history out on the point.
The short ferry ride to Dauphin Island deposited us on 193, our route to Bellingrath Gardens and Home, which is well worth the trip! Walter Bellingrath of Mobile was advised by his doctor to “learn how to play” in 1917, and that is how this lovely estate (home, actually) came into being. Mr. Bellingrath had purchased a coca cola bottling franchise in 1903 for the princely sum of $1,500. An extremely hard worker, his business thrived, and he even met his lovely wife Bessie there (she was his loyal secretary-does any of this sound familiar?) They purchased the property in 1917 which was at that time an abandoned fishing camp on the Fowl River. But Bessie, with her eye for all things beautiful, saw something besides a fishing camp, and soon work began on the gorgeous gardens (heavy with camellias, her favorite flower, Live Oaks, azaleas, roses, and even a conservatory.) Even before their home was finished (1935), they began opening their gardens for the public to tour on special occasions. By some standards the home is a “little bitty mansion” at 10,000 sf, but my overall impression of it is that it truly is a home, rather than a showplace. Constructed using loads of salvaged materials to give it an old world feel, Bessie was very much ahead of her time! The stories of the Bellingrath’s generosity are their greatest legacy, but it can be summed up in one particular story. During the depression Bessie heard that a family was struggling with an out-of-work husband and mouths to feed. Bessie called on the wife and pleaded with her to sell her one particular camellia bush that she wanted for her garden. She convinced the woman that she would be doing her a huge favor by selling her the plant. The woman agreed, and Bessie bought it from her for an astounding $800, which was enough to literally save that family, including their pride. I just love Bessie!
We tarried in the gardens so long that we didn’t have time to stop by Bayou Le Batre AL, as we needed to get back in time for the ferry. So my “Forest Gump Moment” will have to wait for another day. Back at Gulf Shores we broke our “never eat at the same restaurant twice” rule and stopped at Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s at Homeport for shrimp & gouda grits & bloody marys – it’s THAT good! In fact, all of the food is that good & I even bought her cookbook Crazy Sista Cooking because for once, this famous chef includes ALL of her specialties in it, as well as stories galore! You can purchase it in her gift shop for $4 less than online, and even though it doesn’t pencil out to go in person to save that $4, I highly recommend that you buy it in person. Here at LuLu’s you can chill on the Intracoastal in this open-air eatery, the kiddies can play on all of the fun contraptions in the sandy “beach” area, and you can listen to music (she is, after all, a Buffett sister- not Warren, but Jimmy.)
From the book Crazy Sista Cooking…
Their mother’s Philosophy:
1. Read often, including the classics
2. Accept everyone for who they are, not what they do
3. Be well-travelled
4. Learn to be a listener
5. Live by the sea
6. Listen to your spirit and find joy
7. Education, like money, doesn’t make you happy – but it sure helps
8. Love and family are the best things we have
Yours from the road,
Cathy & William
About Yours From The RoadYours From The Road documents the 110,000 mile motor home journey of staff writer Cathy Burford and her husband Bill. Come along as their motor home, affectionately referred to as the “Queen Mary,” casts off her lines and pushes away from the dock to explore the embarrassing wealth of natural beauty, amazing regional cuisine, and rich history of the land we all call home.