Friday, July 20, 2018

A Gulf Coast Road Trip

One of the places I hadn't been here in the US was the stretch of the Gulf Coast between the Panhandle of Florida to New Orleans. On our spring beach trip to Pensacola Beach, we made it a point to drive this part of the coast on our way back to the airport. 




Pensacola Beach We began our day in Pensacola Beach looking at the emerald water from our hotel balcony. Once we got in the car, we drove north across Pensacola Bay to the city of Pensacola which looked to be a smaller city with some fun downtown options for eating and drinking along with some places on the water.


Points of Interest along the drive:
1. Perdido Key State Park
2. Gulf State Park



Perdido Key - Next we started our drive south on Florida 292 which hit the coast at Perdido Key and passing Perdido Key State Park. There are some high rises along the coast here but they're not so close together  - I never got a closed in feeling like you can sometimes get at the beach with high rise upon high rise. We thought about visiting Gulf State Park and enjoying some more beach time but the weather wasn't cooperating so off we went.


The Florabama

Our first stop of the trip was at the Florida-Alabama line - at the infamous Florabama! I had heard all kinds of hype about this watering hole that straddles the state line - bras hanging up at the bar, live music, bushwhacker drinks and of course, the notorious Mullet Toss - where contestants throw a dead mullet (fish, not the haircut) over the state line. (The winner is the one who throws it the furthest) We were there the weekend before the Mullet Toss. And just as we arrived it started raining. And it was a Sunday at lunchtime. I expected the Florabama to be open but what I didn't expect was a church service being held at the bar. A real live church service with gospel music in a tent - at a bar. So we did a quick walk-around and then decided to leave - it was all a bit strange and definitely not what I expected of the venue for the Gulf Coast's legendary Greatest Beach Party. I think I just might have to return on a Friday or Saturday night to get a proper view of the Florabama.






Fort Morgan

We passed by Orange Beach and Gulf Shores before reaching the end of the road at Fort Morgan. Built for the War of 1812, Fort Morgan is a pentagon shaped fort that sits at the mouth of Mobile Bay. We were there to board a ferry across Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island, a barrier island in Alabama just south of the Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay. 



Crossing Mobile Bay

Our forty minute ferry crossing was a bit windy, and foggy - with limited views but we still enjoyed it.( We could see several off-shore oil rigs) Right on schedule we pulled into Dauphin Island, a town of about 1200, that is known as the Sunset Capital of Alabama. But no sunsets for us that day. So we kept moving on.






Biloxi

We headed north on Alabama 193 until we hit the coastal road of 90. Our goal was to find somewhere for a seafood dinner with water views. We passed by Pascagoula and Ocean Springs and the grand casinos in Biloxi,along with the famous Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art (no time for it this day but I would love to go back!) Interestingly, at least to me, is that the beaches along the coast here are narrow with very little hotel or restaurant development. I was expecting big, wide beaches like Florida or California but that's not so here - it was such a different coastal environment than I've seen before. We settled on eating at The Reef and were hoping for a table on the patio but the wind was so strong that the patio was closed. So a water view would do - and we learned that they are building a boardwalk here along this stretch of the coast. 








Long Beach, Pass Christian and Bay ST. Louis

Onward we pushed, passing the genteel Southern towns of Long Beach, Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis where the road would veer away from the coast and take us to our final destination of New Orleans.





Another part of the United States that I'm happy that I was able to see!


How about you? Have you driven this part of the Gulf Coast?


Linking up with: WATW at Communal Global, The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party and The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond!






Thursday, July 12, 2018

An Adult Day at Disneyland

There are those who are obsessed with all things Disney. They decorate their house with Disney items, vacation at all of the Disney parks and wear Disney clothes. There are travel bloggers who get yearly passes and visit Disney every week. Or sometimes every day. They instagram all things Disney. They basically live, breathe and eat Disney. I'm not one of those people. Though, I do love to visit Disney parks - I've been to Walt Disney World in Florida many times over, I visited Tokyo Disney Sea for a day and I've now been to Disneyland in California twice - the most recent for a day on the Mystery Trip that we took our adult daughter on after her graduation from grad school (and the first being some 30 years ago when we visited Mr. UR's sister when she lived in California), I would never consider myself obsessed.

Of our three kids, our oldest daughter loves Disney the most so when I was planning her Mystery Trip to Southern California, I knew that the main event - other than visiting family - would be to take her to her first visit to Disneyland. It would be the cherry on top of a fun 10 days in the Los Angeles area and I was hoping she would be excited for it. She was. I checked several Disney Crowd Calenders and picked the Monday of the week we would be there to visit - other days were more crowded with Grad Nite's and Memorial Day Visitors. We bought One Day Park Hopper Passes so we could visit Disneyland and California Adventure - it's super easy to go between parks as they are right across from each other. Our daughter downloaded the app - we purchased our tickets through the app and also downloaded the controversial MaxPass which allows you all the photos taken in the park and Fastpasses. This app costs $10 per person so many people are opposed to paying for fast passes - though you receive all your photos also - but we found it to be extremely wonderful. We took advantage of our hotel's shuttle bus for transportation to and from the park and it picked us up right out front with no worries about parking. We took the first shuttle of the day and were in line to get in by 8:30 am for a 9 am opening - but they opened early, at 8:45, so we were in by 9am.









 And we were off and running down Main Street - well, we didn't actually run - to get photos in front of the castle. We even got photos of the castle with no one in front of it! We visited Disneyland and California Adventure for the rest of the day with a visit to Trader Sam's in Downtown Disney for dinner. We used our Fast Passes to go on various rides - including Space Mountain twice - and I don't think anything that we wanted to do was left undone. We had planned on staying for the full day until closing but by the time the fireworks rolled around, we decided to beat the crowds and call it a day. A very successful and fun grown-up day at Disneyland! 































Know before you go:
- You can purchase any type of pass from one day to 7 day including park hopper passes which means that you can go from one park to another. With our Park Hopper pass we were able to go from Disneyland to California Adventure seamlessly all day long.
- MaxPass is the controversial Photo/FastPass app that costs $10 per person. You download the app to your phone and you then receive access to all photos taken by the park photographers and -what we wanted it for - you can access Fast Passes on your phone (Disneyland still uses paper fast passes as opposed to the Magic Bands of Walt Disney World in Florida) By using the app, we were able to sign up for Fast Passes while in either park to use at either park. (An example: We could sign up for a Fast Pass for Space Mountain while in California Adventure without running through the park and into Disneyland to the Space Mountain ride) I give this a two thumbs up! We went on every ride that we wanted to without a wait - and even on Space Mountain twice with no wait while the regular wait was 90 minutes. 
-We chose a nearby hotel - Holiday Inn Express - and didn't use a package. But Disney offer discounts on their hotels along with Park tickets as a bundle. 
- Our hotel had a shuttle available for park guests which cost $5 round trip. Pick-up was directly in front of the hotel. Parking at the park cost $17 per day so we didn't save much money but had ease and convenience going for us. 
- There is no alcohol served at Disneyland but there is at California Adventure. The Wine Country Trattoria offers wine tastings, a bistro and wine by the glass. If the downstairs patio is crowded, head upstairs for table service on the balcony. Located in the Pacific Wharf section of the park. 
- If eating all things Disney is your objective you can get Mickey shaped beignets at the Mint Julep Cafe in New Orleans in Disneyland and the Plaza Inn has mickey shaped snacks. You can also visit www.disneyfoodblog.com to feed your disney food needs.
- If your visit coincides with a special event, you can obtain a special events button - catered to your own event - at Guest Services at City Hall in Disneyland or the Chamber of Commerce in California Adventure. Our daughter got a Just Graduated button to wear.
- There are many, many websites to visit with lots of information pertaining to your visit to help with your planning process. A few that I used  are: www.disneylanddaily.com, www.parksavers.com, www.mousehacking.com, www.touringplans.com, www.themouseforless.com and the excellent, www.travelcaffeine.com. 
- Downtown Disney containing stores, restaurants and even a bowling alley, is walkable from both Disneyland and California Adventure. We walked to Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar, located outside of the Disneyland Hotel, for an early dinner. The interior of the bar is small and was quite crowded so we opted for patio seating. It's geared towards adults - it is a bar/restaurant after all - and serves tropical drinks and food.




How about you? Are you a Disney nut? Have you been?



Linking up with: Women Around the World at Communal Global, The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party and The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond!