Tuesday 7 December 2010 - Wednesday 8 December 2010 40 °F
From Panama City we headed up the coast through Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Gulf Breeze, and Pensacola. From there we said goodbye to Florida and entered Alabama.
We got off the highway in Mobile, but it was cold and we didn't have any particular sites in mind so we hopped back on and headed towards Mississippi. Our time in Alabama was brief, so maybe we'll have to head back there someday to experience more of it. Next up was Mississippi...
Biloxi was the first major city we came across, so we decided to stop there for the night. We got a room at the IP Casino Resort and Spa, which apparently has the best buffet in town. When we first saw the price tag of $17 for a buffet, we thought maybe we'd skip it. However, when we realized wine and beer were included we quickly changed our tune. We stacked our plates high with crab legs, enjoyed a nice merlot, and enjoyed the most expensive buffet either of us had ever eaten at.
The view from our room was nice too. We could see the Back Bay of Biloxi and the town of D'Iberville just across the water. We could also see several other Casinos set up right on the shore.
The next morning we headed out for breakfast in Gulf Port. We were fully aware that we were headed into the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but I was still taken back by the level of destruction that was still present five years later. I was very conflicted about taking pictures or even talking about it here on the blog. I'm not a "disaster tourist." I came to the gulf to see the gulf and experience the local culture. But the signs of destruction were just too major to ignore. Besides, five years later we hardly hear about the progress along the Mississippi gulf coast. So I decided to swallow my worries and snap a few shots. I tried to do this as respectfully as possible. Hopefully I succeeded.
Gulf Port appeared to be mostly rebuilt in the downtown area near the water. I didn't see the city before, so I can't really compare. But there were still a couple of vacant lots and a crane lifting building materials up on one of the taller buildings. We had breakfast at the Port City Cafe, where I had delicious Biscuits and Gravy. As many of you know, that's one of my favorite dishes, so I had to have it in the south at least once. Gulf Port seemed like a fine place to do so.
Afterward, we hopped back into our car and headed west on 90. For Sale signs dotted the road for miles and miles. Some lots were completely empty. Some had broken foundations. Others had severely damaged buildings boarded up and abandoned while others were in the process of being rebuilt.
Lots that had rebuilt were beautiful. I love southern architecture, so I was thrilled to see many of the houses come back in that style. It makes me excited for the next segment of our journey down the Great River Road.
Of course, I came here to see the gulf and it didn't disappoint. If it wasn't so cold I may have taken off my shoes and run out into the water. But I've had my fair share of swimming in freezing temperatures, so I passed and enjoyed the view from the shore.
We veered away from the coast after Bay St Louis and headed in to Louisiana.
It was barely noon at this point, so we decided to take a detour across Lake Pontchartrain via the Causeway. The causeway is 23.87 miles across, so when you enter it you can't really see the other side. It was a foggy morning too, so when we reached the halfway point we couldn't see the shore in any direction. We appeared to be in the middle of the ocean.
Out of the fog came the skyline of New Orleans. But we won't actually be there until tomorrow.
Instead, we turned west in Metairie and headed straight to Baton Rouge. Tomorrow we'll take our time following the Mississippi River down to the Big Easy. The route will be lined with plantation houses and beautiful scenery. Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to this!