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Alabama Coast

Steve

We're logging in from Alabama Gulf Coast this month, a place I'd never seen before - though it's warm enough here to feel like summertime back home in Minnesota! Our son, Mike, and his family met up with us in Mobile for a quick vacation. They live in Denver, so they were happy to escape the snow for a warm beach vacation. And of course we were glad to have them.

We started out in Mobile, getting the kids settled. Mike and his wife, Norah, brought the grandkids, little Callie who's just turning six this year and the baby, Alex. Callie said right off that she wanted me to take her fishing, so I started making plans for a side-jaunt down to Gulf Shores where we could get out on the ocean. But in the meantime, Mike was happy to tag along while we visited the USS Alabama Battleship.

If you're a history buff, then you no doubt know all about famous Civil War sites like Richmond and Gettysburg, and you've probably heard more than you need to know about Sherman's march to the sea. But you might not know the story of Mobile, Alabama. It only became part of the U.S. after the War of 1812 when we took the French-built Fort Conde and re-named it Fort Charlotte. Later, during the Civil War, Mobile was an important port and trading center for the South. In August 1864, the Union fleet managed to take the port, but the city held out against the troops for seven months - seven months! - before they finally fell to Union control. There are a ton of great museums and historical sites around Mobile.

Once we moved down to Gulf Shores, I started looking seriously at the boating and fishing charter options. We finally settled on a trip with the Natural Environs Cruise Experience because they take you in near the wildlife refuge, into the bayous. Mike just loves seafood, oysters in particular, so we went out for a big seafood dinner one night while we planned out the rest of the trip. We decided on a sailing adventure that the whole family could go on. Then I spoke up for Callie's fishing trip, so we locked in a few days of fishing at Lake Shelby in Gulf State Park. I know more about freshwater fishing than saltwater, so I thought we'd start there and then find someone to teach us about ocean fishing. Or who knows - maybe we'll go crabbing or shrimpin' instead!

Sally

One of the best things about having grandkids is the way you feel about the school schedule. When the kids were little, I remember being relieved when school started up in the fall or after New Year's. Now I look forward to the holidays all year long! Our daughter-in-law is a teacher, so school breaks are really the only time they can travel - we're lucky to have that big long summer vacation every year.

We met up with Mike and Norah and the grandbabies in Mobile (you wouldn't believe how much Callie had grown, just since Christmas). Norah needed to pick up a few things, so she and I took baby Alex to the Bel Air Mall while Steve went with Mike and Callie to look for a fishing trip. On the way back we stopped to look at the antiques at the gigantic Flea Market Mobile, probably the biggest yard sale/market I've ever seen.

The next day we all went to the Bellingrath Gardens and Home where the spring flowers were just exploding with color. We got there just in time for Callie to join in the big Easter Egg hunt, poking around through the Easter lilies with her little basket. Then she and all the other kids got to color the sidewalk with chalk in an enormous mural. We toured through the home itself, a 15-room southern mansion that was built in 1935. It was filled with this exquisite Boehm porcelain - beautiful!

Steve wanted to take a history trip to the Museum of Mobile, so Norah and I took Callie to look at the Conde-Charlotte Museum House, built in 1860, right during the build-up to the Civil War. We saw amazing etched glass and the prettiest curving stairway youíve ever seen. I could just picture the ladies in their hoop skirts, sweeping down those steps to meet their visitors.

After a few days in Mobile, we headed south about 50 miles to Gulf Shores on the barrier islands, one of the loveliest towns Iíve ever seen. Itís a great place for kids to play, what with all the white-sand beaches. And the water is so warm! We spend days watching Callie race along the beach, digging up sand to put in her little bucket.

We also took the kids to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo to see the tigers and kangaroos. Alex, little as he is, was just ga-ga over - the monkeys - they had him hooting and jumping around for hours. Callie loved the petting zoo, where she got to make friends with a nanny goat. Next we're planning a big trip to the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Everyone has told us that this is the perfect place to go on a nature hike with the grandkids. And of course, I can get in a little more bird watching. Callie keeps asking if we'll see alligators there, but I just tell her that we'll have to wait and see!
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