Life is grand on Alabama's gulf coast

by Mac Lacy 15. October 2010 00:49

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

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Alabama Gulf Coast

Find time for Foley and Stacey's Rexall Drugs

by Mac Lacy 14. October 2010 02:53

From our homebase at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, we made a daytrip today down the coast and inland a bit to Foley, Alabama. Someone had told us to check out Stacey's Rexall Drugs, and to maybe do a lunch stop there.

It sounded like our kind of place. There is a huge Tanger Outlet in Foley, so the idea of heading that way had even additional merit to Kim. We made our way down there in a half hour or so and I dropped her off at the Ann Taylor store, one of maybe 50 stores in this complex.

I headed over to Cracker Barrel for a cup of coffee since it was mid-morning and I had a bit of time to kill. I met a couple there, Mark and Nina Will, who live in Fairhope. Mark is an artist--he works in acrylics and paints sunsets from the area.

The sun sets directly over the bay from Fairhope and Point Clear, so he has his pick of dozens of gorgeous landscapes a year, I'm sure. I asked him if he had a website he'd like to include in this blog for his art and he smiled and said, "No. I gave all that up when I retired from my real job. People find me anyway."

I picked Kim up about 12:30 and we headed to Stacey's Rexall Drugs back in mid-town Foley. When we sat down, one gentleman next to us was having an ice cream cone and a table of four were doing the same in the corner. We ordered sandwiches--Kim had the egg salad that had been recommended highly to us, and I had tuna salad. I asked the table of four if they minded if I got a shot of them and they said to feel free.

"We all go to church on Wednesday and then come down here and have an ice cream cone for lunch," said one woman.

"Every week?" I asked.

They all nodded yes. After our sandwiches, we ordered a Turtle to split. It's made with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and caramel syrup and pecans. This iconic drugstore and soda fountain is the oldest in Baldwin County and dates to 1929. Next time, we'll make it for breakfast--coffee's only 10 cents a cup.


A father and son from Tuscaloosa played checkers as they waited for a table

Fairhope artist Mark Will and his wife, Nina, had breakfast in Cracker Barrel in Foley

These two couples from Foley have ice cream cones for lunch at Stacey's Rexall Drugs every Wednesday after church

Stacey's Rexall Drugs has been in business in Foley since 1929

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Alabama Gulf Coast

An October getaway on the Alabama Gulf Coast begins with golf

by Mac Lacy 13. October 2010 04:17

I was invited to join a good friend, Ron McConnell, and others from the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau for dinner and a round of golf during their annual Slice and Hook program for meeting planners during a getaway to the Alabama Gulf Coast.

We joined their group of 20 or so meeting planners for dinner at Felix's Fish Camp overlooking Mobile Bay. These planners from across the country who were in town to do some fishing, play golf and check out the meeting facilities in the Mobile area. I took the chance to reacquaint myself with two downtown properties that handle a lot of the city's convention delegates, the Renaissance Riverview Plaza and the Renaissance Battle House Hotel and Spa. The Riverview has been completely remodeled in the past several years and the Battle House was a restoration of one of Mobile's grand old hotels. They both look great and give Mobile more than 600 first-class rooms across from its convention center.

I played golf with the group the next day at the Falls Course at Magnolia Grove, on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. I joined Ron, Bill Tunnell with the U.S.S Alabama battleship, and Kent Blackinton, the general manager of the Riverview Plaza. Paul Martino, the director of golf there, told me they have just re-opened the Falls course after extensive redesign. The Crossings course was also re-designed and in total, $12 million has been spent making these two layouts a bit more friendly to average golfers. They're still exceptional, but there are fewer shots into elevated greens. The greens are also larger and have less undulation.

We had our BankTravel Conference here in 2006 and it was good to see so many of the industry people who worked to make that meeting a success.

The Falls Course at Magnolia Grove included gorgeous fall-colored marshes on many holes

Bill Tunnell putted while Ron McConnell and Kent Blackinton looked on

The 18th on Crossings features a new lake since its re-design

We joined the Mobile group for a dinner at Felix's Fish Camp on Mobile Bay

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Alabama Gulf Coast

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