When we pulled into the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama on a Sunday afternoon, there were three wedding parties set up on the grounds. As it turns out, this is the place to get married on Alabama's Gulf Coast. Leon Maisel, president of the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, told me the next day that his own daughter will marry there at the end of the month.
My wife, Kim, and I had come down for a few days of pleasure and business. We had planned originally to go to New Mexico, but after the oil spill, we both knew Santa Fe could wait. We wanted to come to the Gulf Coast and I had been to the Grand a few years earlier, so I knew just the place to stay. This venerable old hotel and resort grace a point off the coast where the sun sets every day into Mobile Bay.
For several days, we'd get up early for coffee, go for a walk/run on the grounds, head into Fairhope for some shopping or lunch, relax by the pool and watch the constant flow of ships in and out of Mobile Bay. And we discovered a lunch stop in Fairhope, MaryAnn's Deli, and a dinner spot in Point Clear, the Wash House, that should be on anyone's list while in this area.
"Everyone in America needs to know how important this bay is to this country," Ron McConnell told me at dinner one night. "Most of the fish in the Gulf of Mexico come into this bay to spawn. The ecological system here is irreplaceable."
After a summer of crisis management, media scrutiny and general upheaval, this pristine part of America has regained its graceful southern pace. Meetings and receptions were being held on the grounds, brides were having the weddings they had dreamed of, and pelicans were skimming the bay in search of a meal. The Alabama Gulf Coast and the Grand Hotel are again enjoying grand times indeed.
A landscaping employee tends to the resort's immaculate grounds
Monarch butterflies by the hundreds rest at the resort before moving on to Mexico for the winter
Massive live oaks grace the grounds at Point Clear's Grand Hotel
The resort's beach offers bicycles and kayaks for guests
A bayside evening reception gets meticulous planning from hotel staff
A solitary pelican surveys his world at sunset on Mobile Bay