July 20, 2010 9:02:00 AM
"The Gulf Coast is lovely this time of year, and besides, we need to support the people down there whom the oil gusher has affected."
My wife wanted to take a few days off, and I said we could go to the mountains or the coast. She voted for the Gulf noting the drop off of tourism down there since the oil disaster. I sent e-mails to friends more familiar with the Gulf and was encouraged to check out Fairhope, Ala.
I checked out the Grand Hotel and other notable lodging, but could not find vacancies for our travel days. Then I looked at bed & breakfast spots, and found hundreds of listings. Providence more than likely led me to a modest home on Fels Avenue built in 1904.
We''ve seen ads on TV inviting tourists to come to the Gulf. State and local leaders turned cheerleaders and pitch people, even national leaders giving lip-service to the need to support folks in the Gulf states, but nothing prepared us for our few days in Fairhope.
We had heard the little village had a lot of artsy-craftsy stores and people, a place where aging hippies went to retire. Our B&B was within walking distance of Mobile Bay and a few blocks from quaint downtown shops offering a lagniappe of clothes, books, jewelry, art, and good food.
Contrary to what one might think, seafood from the Gulf is abundant and as tasty as ever. We ate at Wintzell''s, Panini Pete''s, Old Bay Steamer, Jolly''s, and Big Daddy''s. All provided excellent and tasty cuisine at very reasonable prices. Service was uniformly warm and attentive. In fact, after our first day my wife noted how exceptionally hospitable everyone had been.
Of course, our B&B hostess, Sandra, provided creative breakfasts every morning including fresh figs from her backyard, homemade yogurt, peaches, muffins, and cheese toast. Hot coffee and cold orange juice flowed as well. And, upon request, Sandra brought me some bananas.
Sandra welcomed us into her home and family. We enjoyed playing with Lucy the brindle Chihuahua while we missed nudges from our own dog, Tailer, who had to stay behind. Lucy was shy at first, but eventfully warmed up to us before we had to leave.
Sandra herself was quite a character, telling us about her life in the Peace Corps as a registered nurse, and her 18-month journey with her husband from Indonesia through India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan on a motorcycle. We enjoyed hearing all of her stories.
In the waning days of summer vacation, I''d highly recommend going to any state along the Gulf. You may have to battle BP relief workers for hotel rooms, but you can still find lodging at a number of out-of-the-way places, and may even encounter some interesting characters of your own.
Refreshingly, we wasted no time listening to Washingtonian hypocrisy.
We made time to enjoy exchanging our money for trinkets and gifts for family and friends, as well as enjoying blessings of sharing with neighbors.
Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville. E-mail reaches him at email@example.com.