Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida’s Panhandle.

We witnessed much more of hurricane Michael’s devastation of Panama City Florida as we took off on our third day’s travel. Major hurricanes, and Michael was a CAT 5 hurricane, provide an interesting study on community commitment. It was a wasteland of roofless gas stations,  empty malls and boarded motels. It looked like a war zone. Perhaps it was; maybe Mother Nature decided the area was due for a radical remodel. 

It seemed certain national chains, such as Waffle House and McDonalds made a major commitment to rebuilding. And a whole lot else, whether national chains or small businesses, over seven months after the hurricane were just non-existent, with no sense of when or if they’d return. 

The contrast between Panama City and neighboring Panama Beach was startling. Panama Beach appeared unscathed, a let-the-good-times-roll party place. It was Spring break mecca Daytona Beach all over again. From Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville to Purple Haze to Alvyn’s Tropical Island department stores, to colorful skyrise condos and an abundance of adventure parks… all designed to part tourists from their dollars. 

Destin was more of the same.

In between, we aimed for the remarkably mellow white sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. We were amazed and delighted this quiet beauty was visited by such a small smattering of beach-goers.  We stepped out, stretched our legs, and got our feet sandy.

Mobile Alabama riverboat tourist cruiser. The paddlewheel inadequate to power the boat off the backside is not shown.

Our destination for the end of the day was Mobile, Alabama. It’s an area where there’s plenty of work for Wayne’s skill set. If we choose to take our boat on The Great Loop, or even a portion of it, Mobile could provide a good place to part for a while. 

Bienville Square hints at Mobile’s French roots. We heard drummers there when we hung out.
These oyster-shaped murals were scattered around downtown Mobile, AL.

Wayne’s much more up to speed on Mobile than me. Its affordability, relatively mild winters and rich history and culture intrigued him.

One of many murals on Dauphin Street, Mobile Alabama.

Once again, we scored on our lodgings. Wayne found the Malaga Inn, a small, grand hotel in the heart of downtown Mobile for $79/night plus tax. The hotel was built in 1862, reflected the area’s Spanish influence, and sensationally landscaped with classic Southern touches, like the fragrantly blooming gardenias. The rate included a free breakfast with traditional low country favorites like grits, biscuits and gravy as well as the usual eggs and sausage.

Ornate doors to “our” Malaga Inn, Mobile Alabama in the heart of downtown.

Our room was on the top floor of this three-story hotel. Each room opened off of a central courtyard with a fountain, garden, wrought iron tables and gas lights.

Great period decor of Malaga Inn. The bed was comfy as it as stylish.

But first, after passing a gazillion seafood places between Panama City and Mobile, I was determined to indulge in something fishy. While I rarely eat fried food, embracing the delusion that road trip calories don’t count the same as eating in your hometown, I went for fried green tomatoes and a salad topped with fried oysters. At least I could claim I was getting my veggies. Yes, they were good!

Fried oysters and green salad, the entree after the less photogenic but equally tasty fried green tomatoes.
Wintzell’s Oyster House, Mobile, Alabama.

I justified my piggery with a walk to check out the river and the downtown area, both after we arrived and in the morning.

One of the statues reminding visitors of Mobile’s Mardi Gras.

The gentleman at Mobile’s visitor center described Mobile’s Dauphin Street as “a tame Bourbon Street.” We did find a scattering of Mardi Gras beads. We also discovered the downtown area allows (and it seemed, encourages) folks to purchase and walk the streets with a drink. The drink must come from one of the local bars or restaurants and the prescribed walking area is a relatively small one.

This Mobile Alabama building reminded me of a wedding cake.

Here’s a close-up of its tilework.

The architecture and art was amazing! Nearly every building on Dauphin Street, Mobile’s “tame Bourbon Street” was a stunner. Most were buildings built in the 1800s, with terrific plaster and wrought iron details, well preserved or restored.

Mobile AL’s Saenger Theater (in less than ideal light).

Just another cook place on Dauphin Street, Mobile Alabama.
Wrought iron lattice – didn’t expect to see so much of this in Mobile Alabama architecture.

The one part that struck us both as odd…. As devastated as Panama City was, it almost seemed there were more folks there than in Mobile’s downtown. Maybe we caught it at an odd time, mid-week. There were not many tourists, nor did it feel like a working downtown. We’re just not sure where everybody went!

Where were all the people in Mobile Alabama’s downtown?
And what is the store behind this one lone rose left on a park bench?
One of many anthropomorphized images in Mobile that made me smile.

This and the raccoon that proceeds this were in the window front of an optometrist.
The majority of trees (more of them than walkers or drivers) were enormous oaks.
Not sure what these were; their trunks and bark captivated me.

There were definitely more squirrels than people wandering downtown Mobile.
This is the first albino squirrel I’ve ever seen though!

Surely someone tended this downtown Mobile community garden and put books in its Little Free Library. But who?

Today we are in Austin Texas. Yesterday our stopping point was Lake Charles Louisiana. Post on those stops are still to come.