When Av and I travel around, we almost always visit at least one bookstore, whether it be an independent or big-box since we both really like regional books, and I like design and home magazines.
Small independent bookstores are the best, even though they're more expensive. The best small bookstores we've found are:
Over the Transom
Dancing Rabbit Books
If it's later in the day - past when most small shops close - we'll go to a Books-A-Million (an Alabama-based company (yay!), the 3rd largest book retailer in the US) or Barnes & Noble. If I'm at home, I'll buy books from Amazon, since I have just a few shares of stock with them. When we were in Memphis a few days ago, we went to a Borders. There aren't any Borders stores in Alabama, but there is one Mississippi (Flowood), six in Tennessee, one in Louisiana (Metarie), and fourteen in Georgia.
When Av and I travel around, we almost always visit at least one bookstore, whether it be an independent or big-box since we both really like regional books, and I like design and home magazines.
One of my design magazine annuals listed that the opening sequence for Carnivale had won an award. HBO asked the designers, A52, for something that represented the 1930's dust-bowl era with elements of historic good vs. evil imagery, with the effect being something recognizable yet not familiar. Well, they sure did pull it off. ((The A52 website shows the opening sequence. Just go to their website, click on 'classics', and enter "HBO" in the search field.))
There are three other opening sequences that are really great:
Six Feet Under (designed by Digital Kitchen) - won an Emmy Award in 2002 for Outstanding Main Title Design
Nip / Tuck (designed by Digital Kitchen)
Real Time with Bill Maher
Here's what I served 2nd night:
Simple salad of mixed greens w/ cucumbers, super-red tomatoes, scallions, red onions, and a red wine vinaigrette (I wasn't crazy about the vinaigrette so I'll not put the recipe here. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as great as I wanted it to be.)
Poached Salmon Fillets with Dill Sauce (recipe based on one in the Spring 2005 'O at Home' magazine, but (esp. the sauce) re-interpreted by me...)
2 cut-up carrots, 2 cut-up celery stalks, bay leaf, few peppercorns, salt, 1/2 cup or so of nice dry white wine
For the salmon:
Buy a salmon fillet (one of the loooong ones) that will be a proper size for the number of servings you will need to slice. Wait to slice the fillet to serving sizes just until you're ready to prepare this dish - it keeps fresher that way.
Preheat the oven to 300*. Combine all stock ingredients (except wine) with enough water for the poaching process (go ahead and make more stock than you need, it's easy to toss out or freeze what's left). Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or so. Add wine and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Cut salmon pieces into individual servings and place in baking dish (I used Corningwear). Pour hot stock over salmon - make sure the level of liquid covers the tops of the salmon completely. Place lid on Corningwear (or you could use foil) and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, remove cover, and let set for 10 more minutes.
Transfer salmon to another dish (throw out all the stock) and wrap this dish tightly with Saran. Refrigerate until just before ready to serve, when you'll remove the skin from the bottom of the fillets), and place on a pretty dish.
This is great served cold (I placed it on a bed of arugula) with the sauce below.
Dill Sauce (this is a little more than enough to cover 15 salmon fillets) Recipe and Directions:
3 garlic cloves, diced finely - 4 tbsp capers - 5 of the little stalks of fresh dill (just remove the stem part and use the fine dill) - 1&1/2 cup olive oil - salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Adjust seasoning to taste. Pour over salmon when ready to serve. Yummy!
Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Artichokes, Lemons, and Capers (recipe based from one in the Foster's Market Cookbook, but significantly re-interpreted by me...)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - 2 tbsp fresh thyme - matzah meal for breading - one 14oz can artichoke hearts packed in water, drained - 1/4 c. capers - 1 lemon, sliced thinly - 1 c. good dry white wine - olive oil for cooking
Rinse chicken. Place one breast at a time in a freezer bag and flatten it with the bottom of a mason jar or something else you like that would work, until the chicken is about 1/3" thick all over.
Put chicken breast into a dish with the matzah meal, and coat it as you would fried chicken. Shake off the excess.
Heat a skillet with olive oil (I put my stove on a 7.5 setting), and fry the breasts. Make sure to leave room between the pieces (if you don't you'll be steaming them too much). Cook until done but not overdone (be careful since they'll still be going in the oven later that you don't let them get super-dry on the inside).
When chicken breasts are done, take them out and put them in a plate for reheating later, and place in the refrigerator. Deglaze the pot by pouring in some of the wine. Let it simmer a while to thicken up, then pour that in a bowl and refrigerate.
When ready to prepare the finished dish, preheat the oven on 240*. Put chicken breasts in baking dish, top with the deglazed sauce and top with the capers, lemons, and artichokes. Season with salt & pepper. Cook for about 45 minutes or until nice and warm.
Make slashes in top fat. Rub with rosemary and lots of garlic, and a little salt & pepper into slashes and all over. Place in roasting pan at 300* and cook for about 22 minutes/pound. Let rest for about 20 minutes before cutting.
Roasted New Potatoes (recipe: Cut new potatoes into halves or 4ths. Put in bowl with olive oil, kosher salt, pepper. Spread in one layer on baking sheet lined with foil, bake at 400* for 25 minutes or until tender & browned nicely on side facing bottom of baking sheet)
Roasted Asparagus (recipe: Cut 1/4"-1/2" off bottoms of spears. Toss with olive oil, kosher salt, pepper. Spread in one layer on baking sheet lined with foil and bake at 400* for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness of spears)
Roasted Carrots (recipe: Peel carrots, slice diagonally into manageable pieces (they'll shrink a little while baking). Toss with olive oil, kosher salt, pepper. Spread in one layer on baking sheet lined with foil and bake at 400* for 20-25 minutes, until carrots have nice consistency - not terribly soft but certainly not still hard. This way of cooking carrots is great because it really brings out their sweetness)
Matzah Balls (I have to admit that I can't tell a huge difference between my made-from-scratch matzah balls and the ones in the box, so.......)
Chocolate-dipped Strawberries (melt semi-sweet chocolate pieces in a double boiler, and dip strawberries. Place dipped strawberries on wax paper for chocolate to harden. After a big seder meal, these are perfect)
This year, we did 2nd night seder at our house. First night is very traditional, including the food, but since we do the whole thing over 2nd night, this year we decided to try to make it really fun!
We decided this year to have a "Road Trip Seder" since we go on so many road trips.
We actually started in the future, with Star Trek (Av did this for the intro: "Sinai. The primary frontier. These are the voyages of the Jewish people....."). He did really great with this one. It got corny, but still funny.
Then, we traveled on to Star Wars, where Av was "Darth Seder", which was hilarious! For the different sons portion, we did different Star Wars characters that corresponded with the attributes of the four sons.
For the plagues, we traveled back to earth and went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We gave out beads representing the different plagues, and had everyone guess which they stood for. We had really cute ones with squeaky frogs, red beads for blood, those huge white ball/beads for hail, I hot-glued a plastic grasshopper to a set of beads with lemons for locusts. For boils, we got one of the beads that had on it all the ingredients for a crawfish boil! :)
For the part where the different elements of the seder are pointed out, we went to Japan to the set of "Iron Chef", where Av did the whole Chairman Kaga thing: "Allez Cuisine!........maror."
After supper, we went to Hawai'i for the Hallel and had a Hallel-luau. Everybody got one of those $.75 flowery leis from Party City, and that was fun.
We then went to NYC to the set of Conan O'Brien's show and several of us took part in a 'In the Year 6000' bit. One of them was: "In the year 6000, the Chief Rabbi of Israel will throw up his hands and say 'what's the point of Passover rules' when a line of Kosher for Passover doughnuts is announced by Krispy Kreme". There were a bunch (funnier) others. :)
For the 4th cup, we went to a football stadium and (this is Av's family tradition) did their school song in addition to the regular blessing. My family did our school's fight song too.
We ended with the rest of the songs, including the fun (English) camp version of "Who Knows One?" and those of us who don't do the Hebrew for Chad Gadya did the animal sounds. Everybody had a blast!
Next year we're thinking of doing 2nd night all in retro television shows. Who knows?
Trips Past: Niagara Falls, Chip Trucks at Canatara Park, Bavarian Fried Chicken, and Two Jews in Bronner's
We're going to take a *real* vacation this summer!
We always try to take *some time* out of every business trip to do 'us' stuff, things we think would be fun, which IS fun. But....later this summer we're just going to take off for a couple of weeks and see where we land.
Planning our vacation makes me think about fun trips we've done before.
About three years ago when Av and I were going to a conference at Northwestern University (where we stayed at the Hotel Orrington (which we didn't think was especially good, and overpriced - but they've recently done a $34 million renovation so it may be really great now)) we took the loooong way around.
From home, we drove up into New York state and over the bridge to Ontario to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side (better than the US view). We stayed at the Sheraton Fallsview, which was nice - especially the huge window in the room.
That afternoon, we planned on going on the Maid of the Mist, but it was closing for the day just as we walked over. I had been on it back around 1995 when I was still in college and it was fun - not something you necessarily need to do more than once, but if you're there at Niagara already, you should do it.
We had supper at the revolving dining room at the Skylon Tower, which was good. The town of Niagara Falls really reminds me so much of Gatlinburg - wax museums, a Ripley's Believe it or Not, candy places, that kind of thing.
There were three different things I wanted Av to try food-wise while we were in Canada:
Mr. Sub (which we didn't get to, but will next time)
Tim Horton's (which we did get to - there are Tim Horton's everywhere.)
chips (to us Americans, french fries) from a 'chip truck' at Canatara Park in Sarnia
Canatara Park (this page is a PDF) in Sarnia, ON is on Lake Huron - and under the bridge are a few chip trucks that serve *the best* fries ever. They're served with vinegar and salt, the idea of which didn't really appeal to me until I tried them on my first trip to Canada - and wow(!) are they ever great!
After our chips, we went back over the bridge into the US, and headed over to Frankenmuth, Michigan. Frankenmuth calls itself "Michigan's Little Bavaria", which is akin to Helen, Georgia, a "Bavarian-style hamlet".
I think there are really three main draws to Frankenmuth for most people - one is the Bavarian-like architecture, another is the fried chicken, and the last is Bronner's (although there are plenty of other shops that you don't find other places).
Somehow, fried chicken is big in Frankenmuth. There are two main restaurants there: the Bavarian Inn, and Zehnder's (both places are family). We had a late lunch at Zehnder's (which seats 1500(!!)), which was really very good.
This is what's served when you order - which we did - the "Zehnder's World Famous Family Style Chicken Dinner":
Noodle Soup, Cabbage Salad, Cheese Spread and Chicken Liver Pate With Garlic Toast, Stollen and White Breads and Butter, Preserves, Cottage Cheese, Relish, Frankenmuth Golden Fried Chicken, Grandma Zehnder's Dressing, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Noodles, Vegetable, and Ice Cream.
Part of Zehnder's hotel was demolished for new construction as "Zehnder's Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark" which is opening June 17th of this year.
We also went to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland. ((I know, 'what are y'all doing there!!??')) but everything there is so pretty, and the kitschy part of me just looooves to look at the Department 56 villages. When I was in college, I even bought the Disney Village set that Dept. 56 made. Dept. 56 has a few different non-Christmas pieces now.
There is a very small section of Jewish/Israel things at Bronner's, and we bought five or six Chanukah window-clings, and a super-pretty sequined hamsa.
Our Room at the Tupelo Hampton Inn
Room: This room's furnishings were average, but the room was a little smaller than most Hamptons, I think. The Tupelo Hampton Inn actually has two hotel buildings: one is the old style with doors to the outside, the other is the newer style with the interior corridor. This room is one of the ones in the newer building.
Lobby: Nicer than average.
Food: We didn't try the breakfast that comes with the hotel stay.
Extra: We might stay here again, but would compare prices with the Holiday Inn Express and the Best Western. I was quoted mid-$70's for this Hampton room, and mid-$80's for the Holiday Inn Express the evening we were going to be staying here. I didn't check on Best Western rates, but looking just now the Best Western is in the high-$50's (usually I'm not wild about Best Western, but it ranks #1 on the Tripadvisor site for Tupelo).
Saturday was the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale. We spent the night in Tunica, then drove back to Clarksdale to hear some music, see the racing pigs, do the festival kind of thing. We also stopped in at one of our favorite shops, Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art. We've gotten several things there for the office. I especially like the dioramas that an artist from Meridian does.
After the festival, we went up to Memphis and visited Yarniverse where I picked up:
Trendsetter Yarns 'Segue' in #300 pink
Crystal Palace Yarns 'Splash' in 7189 Tidepool, and
Crystal Palace Yarns 'Splash' in 9219 Strawberry Soda
Yes! More pretty 'Splash'! Yay!
I was so hyped this last weekend - going to Jackson, we were going to stop by Knit Wits on Canton Mart Road, but we got there at 4:20pm and they had already closed at 4pm!
We zipped on over to Vicksburg and went up Hwy 61 - I like that way better than the interstate - (we had hotel reservations in Tunica, see previous two entries), which put us in Cleveland, where we considered having supper at K.C.'s, but decided that since we were going to be back in Cleveland in a couple of weeks, that we would go on up to Clarksdale and have supper at Madidi.
Madidi has been written up *a lot*. It's probably best known because it's part-owned by Morgan Freeman, who still lives in the area. We had read so much about Madidi that we were really happy to finally give it a try.
It being the evening before the annual Juke Joint Festival, the only tables available were in the section with the bar, which was fine with us. We were seated in the back, and although the noise was at times a little loud, we were still very happy.
Av orders the spicy catfish cake for appetizer and the petite filets and lobster for his entree. I ordered the lobster bisque and the 'Delta fish and chips', which was sea bass (although when I think of a Delta fish, it's catfish) and the chips were squash chips.
The catfish cake was good but not seasoned enough - especially for it to be called 'spicy' - and the sauce that covered the plate was completely tasteless, although made for an attractive presentation. The lobster bisque was also good but not extraordinary.
We were still having a very good time and feeling good that we had *finally* after all this time come to Madidi. Then something bad happened. There was a roach on the wall behind Av. Not a giant palmetto bug, but a roach nonetheless. Now, I don't handle bugs well, but I was very calm, and when the gentleman who filled our glasses came by, I very discreetly mentioned to him that he might want to take care of the *bug* on the wall behind my husband when he gets a chance. I said it in a giggly non-threatening this-is-not-freaking-me-out way, and he saw the bug and left. I saw him mention it to our waiter.
At this point, you would think one of two things would happen, or maybe both. One would be: very discreetly remove the offending insect. Two would be: move the diners.
Neither happened. The bug stayed on the wall, walking around, doing his own thing the whole time we had supper.
I was thinking that I could be very cool about this, and that some stupid bug wasn't going to ruin our supper. Bugs are gross, but I shouldn't be some prima donna that thinks that insects never enter restaurants, no matter how clean, right? I mean, he probably just walked right in the front door earlier that evening and perched on the wall. He probably wanted to see what Madidi was like, too.
So our entrees came. Av liked his steak and the lobster, and I thought that my dish - the fish and chips - was especially good. I liked the way that the fish was placed on top of a strip of nova, and what a good match that made.
We were getting to finish our entrees when I looked over at Av and RIGHT NEXT TO HIM ON THE TOP OF THE CHAIR THREE INCHES AWAY WAS YET **ANOTHER** ROACH!!!!
Yuck! It took everything I had not to make a scene. I very quickly backed away from the table, motioned to Av, and we both very hastily sat at another table.
The person who filled our glasses as well as someone else came over and cleaned our original table. We just sat at the other table in shock (okay, I was in shock, Av was icked). Our waiter came over after a couple of minutes and asked if everything was okay. I hesitated (because let's be real, nobody wants to utter the word 'roach' in a restaurant) and then told him quietly our little story. I told him that we really just wanted to pay our check and leave. In the meantime, I left to go sit in the car. I was really trying to be cool about what had just happened, but I was so grossed out that I really just wanted to get out of there. Av says that the waiter came back and told him that our check was taken care of and that they were very sorry. Av told him that he wanted to pay, but it was already done. Well.
So all the way to the hotel that night I had these imaginary bugs on my legs and arms! Ick!!
I **really** wanted to come back and tell everyone how great Madidi was, but.......
Whew! We visited all the casinos in Tunica/Robinsonville this weekend:
Tunica Grand Casino
The Tunina Grand Casino has what I think is the largest game floor in Tunica. Everything here seems really nice.
We haven't stayed at the hotel here, but we have stayed at both the Grand hotel properties along the Gulf Coast, and they were very nice. We'll probably try this one next time.
Tunica Horseshoe Casino
The Horseshoe Casino was okay - the gaming area seemed pretty average overall. When we walked in to sign up for the player's card here, they gave us each a voucher for a free buffet. Since it was around lunchtime, we decided to go ahead and give it a try. I am *not* a fan of buffets at all - but - this one was really great! Surprise! There were several stations: China Town, Home Cookin’, Hickory Grill, Rio Grande, and Little Italy, and two for dessert - one for ice cream, where someone could make you a sundae, and another with cakes, pies, tarts, etc. Av and I agreed that this is the best buffet we have had at a casino.
I have also read some really good things about Jack Binion's Steak House there - it is supposed to be pretty nice - so we may go back and try it sometime.
The hotel on-site doesn't take online reservations, but we plan to try it.
Tunica Hollywood Casino
The Hollywood Casino seems just okay. Not nearly as nice as the Harrah's right next door, or the Grand Casino.
Tunica Sheraton Casino
The Sheraton Casino (owned by Caesar's Entertainment Group) was okay - the best thing about it was that it wasn't as smoky as some of the others. On the downside - the 'mascot' for the casino is icky, which makes the place seem not as nice as it is.
The hotel seems *very* nice - there are 134 suites on-site. We plan to try this hotel in the future.
Tunica Harrah's Casino
The Harrah's here is pretty nice, and the rooms (we've stayed here a couple of times) are very nice. This is one of our first choices to stay whenever we are in this part of the Delta on business.
Tunica Sam's Town
The Sam's Town Casino seems a little below average. It seems very smoky on the inside, and my post about us staying at this hotel a few months ago can be found by going to the December 2004 archive. Since we stayed here, they have started remodeling the rooms, but we still wouldn't stay again.
Tunica Bally's Casino
The Bally's Casino was just okay...there are a lot of better options casino-wise in Tunica, I think. A review of our hotel stay is in the April 2005 archive.
Tunica Fitzgerald's Casino
The Fitzgerald's Casino didn't seem very nice from the outside (and the hotel rooms don't look so great from their website either), but we didn't go inside. This is the only one in Tunica that we haven't been inside.
Tunica Gold Strike Casino
The Gold Strike seemed very nice, and I really liked the hotel's advertising graphics on their billboards, print ads, and inside the casino....much nicer than some of the others. We would consider staying here in the future.
Our room at Bally's Hotel Casino in Robinsonville/Tunica
Room: This was our first time to stay at Bally's Hotel Casino in Robinsonville (Tunica). Bally's is another casino part of the Caesar's Entertainment Group (Caesar's, Flamingo, Grand, Hilton Casino/Hotel, Paris, Sheraton Casino/Hotel).
What I didn't realize when I made the reservation was that the hotel is separate from the casino, meaning that to get to the casino, one must take a shuttle. Re-reading the Bally's website now, I don't see any mention of that - but if I had read the reviews of Bally's on Tripadvisor.com like I almost always do, I would have seen that some of the reviewers mentioned that. BTW, Tripadvisor also notes that among the hotels in Tunica, Bally's is rated #13 out of 16. Not good.
For the date we wanted, there were really two options available there: Harrah's at $110 and Bally's at $65. For the extra savings, I thought...."why not just try it? It's just one night even if it isn't great."
The room was small, furniture very cheap-looking (weird color, too, but I guess that was to make the room appear larger?) , and bedspread/drapes especially tacky (worthy of mention in one of my favorite books, Cheap Hotels by Daisann McLane, the Frugal Traveler columnist for the NYTimes). There was a mini-refrigerator but no iron & ironing board(!). To check out of the hotel, we had to go downstairs to the desk....it may have been possible using their version of Lodgenet (it wasn't Lodgenet but something else) but we hadn't called to get it activated (esp. gagg-y was that the first option on the screen was adult material. ick.).
For a hotel owned by Caesar's Entertainment (even at the low room rate), I was really disappointed.
Lobby: The Bally's lobby was segmented. The check-in desk was spartan, but there was a small separate seating area, and another area with table and chairs - although I don't *think* they served a breakfast of any sort.
Service: Check-in was fast. They also asked us if we were paying with "cash or credit", which is not a good sign.....
Food: There was a room service menu (maybe the food is shuttled from the casino? unsure.) but we didn't try it *or* the food at the casino.
Extra: We wouldn't stay here again.
Well, phooey. I **really** wanted to get over to Terrific New Theatre's production of 'Sand Mountain Saturday Night', but it ends Saturday and there is just no way I can get to it.
My Nanny's people - the Gilberts and the Fossetts - came from Sand Mountain, specifically Grove Oak, where both families are listed as first families.
I don't know how musically-inclined the Gilberts were, but the Fossetts were something else. My (great-)PawPaw Fossett (Azzie Franklin Fossett) could play piano by ear! PawPaw and his brother V.O. sang together, and V.O. Fossett is in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame:
V. O. FOSSETT-- - Dekalb County, Alabama
- Renowned for his thoroughness in gospel song work.
- He was a teacher, an accompanist, a member of the Baxter Quartet, a writer of hundreds of songs, and editor-in-chief of song books published by the Stamps-Baxter Company.
The song has been recorded by (this is only a short list): Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Mississippi John Hurt, Joan Baez (recorded in Spanish!), Peter Paul & Mary, Ricky Van Shelton, Joe Thompson, U-Roy (a reggae version), The Carter Family, and Jessie Mae Hemphill. If you have iTunes loaded on your computer, just go to the 'music store' and search for the song.
"I Shall Not Be Moved", or "We Shall Not Be Moved", was also used as a very popular civil-rights song, and the lyrics were modified a bit and made into a labor/union song.
V.O.'s songs are Christian - that whole side of my family is - but (although I'm Jewish) I am so incredibly proud of that part of my family and their contributions.
Last week when we zipped through Mobile from Biloxi on our way to Pensacola, we made a quick stop at The YarnHaus (I've also seen this place called Heidi's YarnHaus) on Airport Blvd.
They had a really nice selection, and a sale was going on, too - which helped when I wanted to buy a skein of Plymouth Yarn's "Foxy", which usually goes for $27.99. I made this fabulous boa out of it (four knits on #17 needles) - I'll post a pic of it soon. We named it 'Tcotchke', because it's a furry-feel, and it's Tchotchke's colors too!
Plymouth Yarn in "Foxy", Idena in "Happy" in Party color, Crystal Palace in Squiggle - red and white, and Crystal Palace in Splash - Sable.
The YarnHaus also has a membership that you can buy - it's like the discount cards at Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million, where for a year, you receive a certain percentage off. Although I don't live in Mobile, we're usually there so often that it paid for me to go ahead and get it. Yay! A new yarn shop to visit!
Later this week, one of my favorite artists, Nall (who is from Arab) will exhibit his works as well as those of 16 other Alabamians (incl. Kathryn Tucker Windham and Jimmy Lee Sudduth) in NYC in a gallery at the 55 Water Street Building, which is owned by The Retirements Systems of Alabama (!), and also also appearing will be the FloraBama Players and chef Frank Stitt of Cullman, who owns Highland Bar and Grill (among other Bham culinary institutions).
"With Alabama, the soul needs to be explained. The artist says what he feels, he is expressing from his soul. This beauty and this truth and this richness is far superior than what the world looks at Alabama as being," Nall said in a phone interview from his house in Fairhope, a tranquil resort at Mobile Bay and one of the half-dozen places around the world he calls home.
The best part of all is thinking how accessible all this goodness is here in the South.
My 7th-grade teacher was friends with KTW and would tell us lots of very good Jeffrey stories, including that Jeffrey once picked up the phone at Ms. Windham's house once when she called to chat. I've seen KTW do storytelling a couple of times, and I and grew up like every other child in Alabama reading Jeffrey's ghost books.
We bought one of Jimmy Lee Sudduth's paintings from him a few years ago at Kentuck, where he sets up beside a tree - no tent or anything - and when his stack of paintings is gone, he just leaves.
I've eaten a few times at Highland's. I'd really like to try Chez Fon Fon....it's been open several years and I've just never gone.
I could theoretically walk into Monty Stabler Gallery this afternoon and buy a Nall. If I had an extra $6-11k, that is.
And, if I wanted, and truth be told I do, I could go down in a couple of weeks to Gulf Shores and watch the mullet toss while the FloraBama Players did their thing.
Maybe Av would enter, toss a mullet, and get a t-shirt. Fun!
We spent a few hours earlier this week in Ocean Springs, which is just a little east of Biloxi. We've spent time in this area on several occasions.
Miner's Toy Store (927 Washington Ave) - this is a *great* toy store (lots and lots and lots of just really fun, good toys), with lots of beautiful play-withable baby dolls (not just the ones that people put on a shelf and look at) and Playmobil, which I adore.
Shearwater Pottery (102 Shearwater Drive - there are signs to get to it from town) - founded by Peter Anderson, brother of Walter, and continued by Peter's decendants. A book about the history, etc. is available here. I picked up a little fish pendant there three or four years ago.
Walter Anderson Museum of Art (510 Washington Ave) - Walter did all sorts of different types of art - block prints, murals, pottery...but I think is probably best known for his watercolors.
The Art House (921 Cash Alley) - A co-op of local artists.
There are many, many other little shops along Washington Avenue in Ocean Springs to spend a day in...... This trip, we also visited the Tato Nut (1114 Government Street), a doughnut shop that uses potato flour in its yeast-based doughnuts. They were good. But if you've ever had a Duchess doughnut, or a Krispy-Kreme, there's no comparison. :)
Room: We have stayed at the Grand Casino in Gulfport, but this was our first time at the Grand in Biloxi. These casinos are owned by Caesars Entertainment, which also owns Caesars, Bally, Flamingo, and the Paris casinos. The room was comfortable as well as a nice size. The Grand Casino here actually has two hotels onsite (just like the one in Gulfport) - the Islandview Hotel, and the Bayview Hotel. The Bayview is less expensive because it is across the street (although there is a climate-controlled skywalk, so unless you mind two minutes extra of walking, it is **really** worth it to save the extra money).
Lobby: The Bayview Hotel lobby is very nice. Lots of seating.
Service: Front desk was friendly.
Spa: They didn't have any appointments available, but we did get a menu of services. Many services were offered, but the prices seemed higher than what I pay here in B'ham at the nicest spas.
Food: We had supper at LB's Steakhouse, which was very good. I had the prime rib 'Grand', and Av also had a very nice steak. The prices are comparable to Ruth's Chris. We had breakfast at The Marketplace buffet onsite, which was a disappointment. The best casino breakfast - and even though I generally detest buffets - is at the Beau Rivage.
Extra: We didn't bring our swimsuits, but the pool at the hotel looked very nice. We would definitely stay here again.
Room: This was our first time at a Baymont Inn. It got a decent rating in the last Consumer Reports (July 2004) rating of hotel rooms - below Hampton, but well above Sheraton Four Points and some other chains. CR got it right. This room wasn't quite as nice as a Hampton (the biggest difference was room size), but was nonetheless very clean and comfortable. BTW, we would have stayed at the Hampton in Meridian, but the room this particular night was going for $100 (and there's just no way we're going to spend $100 for a Hampton). We stayed at this Baymont at $59 with our AAA discount.
Lobby: No frills/pretty bare.
Service: Front desk staff was friendly.
Our experience is this: We would consider staying at a Baymont Inn again if we were somewhere without a particularly historic or interesting hotel, and especially if a Hampton in that town was significantly higher, such as in this case.