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I just got back from vacation on the Gulf Coast

Nine days away from pagers, e-mail, Internet, and even, to a large degree, telephones. It was nice, let me tell you.

Actually Emily and I tried to bring Internet access along, but my closest Southwestern Bell dialup number was long distance.It wasn’t exactly a honeymoon, as it was designed as a family vacation. Yes, I just went on vacation with all of my in-laws and enjoyed it. I knew Emily was something special when I met all of her family for the first time and liked them.

So, here’s a rundown of what I learned about the Alabama Gulf Coast (which pretty much looks like the Florida Gulf Coast, but is less expensive and a bit shorter drive for us).

Lulu’s has to be the most overrated restaurant in the whole state, if not the entire Southeast. I’ll be blunt: If it weren’t owned by Jimmy Buffet’s sister, it would be out of business. Five items on the menu: a couple of burgers (of course) and a few seafood dishes, the quality of which is comparable to Red Lobster. The live music was two dirty old men being crude in front of children. And the staff was incredibly rude.

You can get hamburgers and Red Lobster-quality seafood anywhere. There’s no point in wasting your time with that place.

The next night, Em and I went to Original Oyster House, which was every bit as good as last year. Their stuffed shrimp is amazing. Well, everything there is amazing, but the stuffed shrimp is another level of amazing. One hint: If you need to add salt to anything, use the sea salt in the special container on the table, rather than the plain old table salt in the traditional shaker. It’s healthier and tastes better.

Another hint: Get there early. We got there at a little after 4:30. There were four parking spots left. They seated us pretty quickly, and we were eating by 5. By about 5:15 you can’t get a seat without a long wait at that place. It’s worth the wait–last year we waited two hours for a seat and we weren’t disappointed–but it’s nicer to avoid it.

There are two grocery store chains down there: Bruno’s and Winn-Dixie. Bruno’s is the less expensive of the two.

I bought a big bag of Clementines for 99 cents. Clementines are a sort of mini orange. In Missouri you can’t get them very often, and they cost a lot more than that. If you’re a Yankee like me, they’re an indulgence, but they’re a cheap indulgence down there.

If you get a place with cooking facilities, bring along some recipes and stop off at one of the many roadside seafood markets. It’s nice to get fresh seafood for what you’re probably used to paying for beef.

Lillian’s in Perdido Key, Florida (just across the border) is a good pizza/Italian place. Em and I skipped it this year since there are half a dozen places just as good within a 10-minute drive of home, but if you’re not from St. Louis or Chicago, you’ll enjoy it.

The Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida is always a worthwhile visit. It’s free. If you have any interest at all in space, the Navy, aviation, either of the World Wars, or American History, it’s got something for you. The tour of the facilities where they restore airplanes is great.

We didn’t make it to the USS Alabama, which is in Mobile. That’s on my list.

It’s easy to find country/western and classic rock stations down there. If your tastes lean more towards a AAA format (Adult Album Alternative), 92.1 FM is one of the better commercial AAA stations I’ve heard. They play plenty of unexpected stuff without being totally obscure.

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1 thought on “I just got back from vacation on the Gulf Coast”

  1. Wow, I just read this entry and…….damn. It’s so weird reading how you and your wife enjoyed such a nice visit to the Alabama Gulf Coast in mid-August and now the utter devastation there due to Hurricane Katrina. It makes me feel rather sad, both for the hurricane victims there and the fact that those places you visited are now gone. This storm has affected so many lives in so many ways, it’s almost incomprehensible….

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