Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Come along with me on a stroll around Biloxi

Okay it's time for another walk...this time in the Gulf coast city of Biloxi, Mississippi.  So follow along with me as I set off to explore this touristy town - without setting foot in one of its famous casinos. 

First let's have some breakfast at McElroys because how often do I get to have fresh shrimp in my omelette....

and see a view like this......broody....

With a full tummy I then decided to do a bit of beach walking..but first I followed the unique walking path that goes under the I-10 freeway ramp and over the water. 

With perfect views out to the ocean like this:

Then time to walk on the beach...sadly too cold for bare feet...why do I always (okay, both times!) seem to visit this place in January...the sand is a powdery white and just meant for scrunching toes into..


And a walk on the pier...

Time to sit down and have a rest and watch the screeching Sea gulls and graceful Black Skimmers.  Biloxi's lighthouse standing strong since 1848 - it has survived the civil war and more than 20 hurricanes including the devastating Katrina. 

Across the road is the new Visitors Centre - the previous centre was lost during Katrina and they had to use a historic home a few blocks off the main highway.    It is a state of the art facility with multimedia displays as well as films and a fantastic gift shop. (I can't believe I left without buying anything...the reason?  I couldn't make up my mind what to get!)

Yes, Biloxi celebrates Mardi Gras as well and even has a Mardi Gras museum

Yes, even a Mardi Gras tree
You can't visit Biloxi today without witnessing the ravages of Katrina's unwelcome visit on August 29th, 2005.  28 foot wave surges devastated the city causing a loss of 6,000 homes and businesses and even more tragic the loss of well over 200 lives along this coast line - several whose bodies have never been recovered.   A film shown in the Visitor Centre tells the story of that terrible day and features interviews with some of those affected - I think we all left that theatre with a tear or two in our eye. 

A local artist has created sculptures from the beautiful oaks that were destroyed during Katrina...so I wandered down the median of the highway photographing these touching reminders that something beautiful can come out of something so tragic.

Well I don't know about you but I'm getting tired - let's head over to the quaint downtown and have a bit of lunch.  I loved this sweet café called Le Café Beignet


And guess what I had?  I wanted peach cobbler but they had only started making it so darn..had to settle for these! 

We end our walk at the Katrina memorial.  This was completed by the Extreme Makeover team together with an architect and Gulf Coast residents.  A touching memorial to those lost in the worst hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast. 

Beside the memorial is what is called a "shoofly".   Decks were built around the trucks of large oak trees, were constructed to give residents the best opportunity to enjoy breezes off the water under in the shade on a hot, humid and sultry summer day.  Its name came from the servants call to “Shoo! Fly! to remove any sand flies before the owners and their guests came out to enjoy the outdoors.

I hope you enjoyed exploring Biloxi with me.  The citizens of Biloxi are working hard to rebuild their city - like that steadfast old lighthouse, the symbol of their city they will not be defeated.  If you are in the area please visit and help these proud people rebuild their beautiful city. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Exploring Jackson

Finally, the day came - I was set free once again!!  Off to the airport early which was a good thing...the United agent had a heck of a time checking me in. (I was unable to check in online the day before)  Good old United had changed my ticket so many times she had to do it the "old" way - whatever that was....15 minutes later...the people behind me were not amused. 

I had big misgivings about this trip down south and turns out they were a bit justified - although it could have been much worse.  Many flights were being cancelled however I was lucky and mine were just delayed.  Freezing rain that morning in Houston meant flights were delayed going in and out - and being as I was going in and out of Houston...well just leave that up to your imagination.

By the time I arrived in Jackson I was exhausted. So exhausted I saw a carousel with luggage going around and assumed it was my flight.  I picked up a suitcase that I was sure was mine - then I realized it had no luggage tag and while the colour was the same the material wasn't.  To be sure I carefully opened a side zipper and saw suntan lotion -nope!  So I carefully put it back on the carousel and hoped the owner of it wasn't watching me.  A very cringe worthy moment.  I crept over to the next carousel and a few minutes later my flight's luggage came out and there it was.  It was very strange though as I have a distinctive looking small duffle bag and have never seen another one like it.   Had a very expensive taxi ride into downtown Jackson however once I got to the hotel I got a free upgrade to a suite.  What a treat!  It is beautiful -I am staying in an old gracious southern hotel.  24 rooms but only 8 rooms booked this weekend.  Needless to say I crashed when I got to the room. 

This morning I enjoyed the complimentary home made breakfast...scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese grits, biscuits, tomato gravy, porridge, fruit salad, fresh cinnamon buns and of course coffee and juice.  Oh dear my mouth is watering thinking about tomorrow morning....

With a full tummy I headed off to do the 10km walk (which I knew would be more than 10 km) - walking through the downtown area and around the State Capital building.

Unfortunately I couldn't visit as it is only open Monday through Friday so that was a bit disappointing as I always like to visit the provincial/state capital buildings I travel to see. 

I carried on up State St. enjoying all the beautiful old homes - some only a shadow of their former glory.  I then saw the famous Fairview Inn and walked through the Belhaven area which is featured in the movie "The Help" which is set in Jackson. 

I then walked over the interstate bridge and along a busy road ) to get to the museum where the walk information was.  The local contact for the walk had been kind enough to mail the walk instructions to me but I needed to get that Mississippi stamp in my walk book. I then paid the fee to tour the museum which shocked the young fellow at the desk as he said walkers rarely tour the museum.  I enjoyed the displays and then explored the outdoor exhibits as well...typical General store, church, school house - the typical places they feature.  It was only five dollars so worth exploring it and it's the least I could do as they are good to host the walk box.

I thought this was rather interesting

The reason for having to walk along the roads was that this was one of those walks where you check in at one point and start the walk at another.  Well yours truly does not have a car so has to use "shank's pony" as they say.  I briefly thought about taking a taxi back to a place I could walk but I was still smarting from the $40 taxi fare the night before.  Back along the same route...boring...until I got back to Belhaven.  I had printed off a walking tour of "The Help" areas so I followed a bit of it.  And guess what is on TV here while I am typing this..."The Help"!  I stopped off and had a burger at Basil's, which is very casual dining as I was getting quite hungry.  I knew there wasn't any place near me that was open.  Jackson's downtown is not too lively on weekends. 

Then on to the Old Capital Museum which is housed in the Old State Capital Building which was the state capital from 1839 to 1903.  It was fairly interesting and the price was right - free. 

Back to the hotel where I took advantage of the free wine and cheese at 5 p.m. - turned out to be supper!!  That and the chocolates put on my pillow. :) 

It was a full day but a fun one.  Would I come back to Jackson?  I doubt it very much - I came to do the state capital walk and that was it - but I have enjoyed my time here.

Tomorrow morning I plan to have a leisurely breakfast and enjoy my suite.  Then at 1 p.m. it's off to Biloxi and the Gulf Coast on the good old Greyhound.  This misplaced Ocean Child is very excited!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What will 2014 bring?

Well now that we've said goodbye to 2013 (boo hoo...you were an AWESOME year for me!) it's time to look ahead to the empty page that is 2014.

Right now I am spending it at home in minus 50C degree weather...need I say I am not impressed.  This is what -50 looks like...

Okay it doesn't look much different than -20 I guess but it sure feels it - or so I assume...I have no intention of finding out!!! 

However 19 more sleeps and I will be on the road again.  Three months is about the max I can stay at home and it turns out to be three months and 8 days (but who's counting? - yes I am) in between this time.

On January 24th I am off to Jackson, Mississippi to walk my 29th state capital. From there I will bus it down to Biloxi, Mississippi, an area I adore from a trip there previously in 2010.  I will do a couple of walks there and in adjoining Ocean Springs - I hope to walk the Biloxi Bay Bridge as I did in 2010.  Then I hop the good old 'hound again off to New Orleans meeting up with my buddy June.  We are renting a shotgun house through airbnb for six nights, exploring the city (the third time for me - what can I say, I love the place) with the highlight taking part in the Mardi Gras marathon.  We will be walking the half marathon - we are madly training in the field house but let's not talk about my new *&*^^^***#### running shoes and the blisters....it is going to be so much fun.  I always tell everybody - forget Vegas - New Orleans is the place to go for a good time.  From there June flies home and I fly up to none other than the Big Apple - New York City for a week!  I will be spending three nights at an airbnb home in East Harlem.  I am so excited about exploring a new part of New York - as a bonus my host has two labrador retrievers!!! Doggie fix time!   Then I will move to a hotel in midtown so I can attend the big Beatlefest at the Grand Hyatt for three days.  50 years since the Beatles did the Ed Sullivan show - to the day.  I will be seeing old friends from "back in the day" - it is going to be an absolutely blast!  I intend to immerse myself in everything Beatle!  While in New York I hope to do the Volkssport walks in Greenwich Village and Lower Manhatten.  If the weather holds I do have a very cheap return ticket to Albany on the Megabus booked so hopefully I can knock off walking in another state capital.  Woo hoo!!!

May looks to be a busy month as well with a possible long weekend in Vancouver meeting up with a long time pen pal from Australia. (formerly New Zealand)  We have known each other since the 70's and met up in England twice in the 80's while she was living there.  But haven't seen each other since!  So that will be fun.  Then there is the CVF convention in Banff at the end of May.  Lots of walking and getting to see walking friends I haven't seen since the convention in Ottawa in 2012.

So far that's it....I will be looking after my little buddy Casper in Chicago later on in the year but otherwise nothing booked - but you know things will change on that front.  And soon!!!! 

Happy New Year to all my readers and hope 2014 brings you good health, happiness/contentment and a few adventures as well!!! 

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