Posted by: Waheeda Harris | September 15, 2014

Mobile Bay & the Gulf of Mexico

Many articles seem to endlessly discuss the best beaches of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States, but what about the Gulf of Mexico?

Alabama - Mobile Bay

Visiting Mobile Bay, it was an interesting discussion – people talked about southern culture, cuisine, traditions, and endlessly about the Gulf. But for us outsiders, we only thought about the disasters – hurricanes and the BP oil spill, not the reality of living near a sea on a daily basis. So I was glad to take a tour of the delta and the bay, to truly understand the connection of this city to its salt water.

Alabama - Mobile Bay causeway

Arriving in the city, I crossed this causeway, which made this isolated port city an even more popular place for trading and shipping. The reality of technology – in this case paved roads – helped make it easier for the economy to expand. But the life of the people resides in these waters – fishing, shrimping, crabbing – its all about seafood for the people.

Alabama - Mobile Bay fishing

Although this shows one man enjoying a day on the water, commercial fishing is the area’s lifeblood. And as we continued to explore and spot birds, seeing this resilient coastline survive, I listened to my guide, who told us that the state isn’t committed to saving this beauty – having one of the lowest spending dedicated to the environment in the US.

Alabama - Mobile Delta


Alabama - Mobile Bay delta b





Alabama - Mobile Bay heron on bay

Mobile Bay - Delta c

After a couple of hours, I was glad to learn about the area, and its unique place in this part of the world. When storms – tornadoes, hurricanes, rainstorms  – hit areas farther north, all that water (and pollution) arrives here. Like a filter for the south east, the delta and Mobile Bay try to protect the Gulf of Mexico as fresh water mixes with salt water. With an environment that is multi-layered and distinct, its on a precipice of economics – and needs a protector.

Alabama - Gulf  sunset



Posted by: Waheeda Harris | September 13, 2014

Travel soundbite – Lewis Carroll

“…Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…”

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | September 12, 2014

More southern style in Mobile, Alabama

Another grand lady of Mobile, Alabama, Oakleigh House:

Mobile - Oakleigh a

This Greek Revival home was built in 1833 by a cotton broker – sitting on the highest point of the neighbourhood to escape the marsh and swamp that was close by in this port city.

The interiors were filled with period pieces, unfortunately none that were from the original or consequent owners:

Mobile - Oakleigh parlour

Mobile - Oakleigh toys

Mobile - Oakleigh bedroom

But was even more intriguing than the home’s Antebellum style, was the building at the back of the house – was it a slave quarters? A barn? A residence for servants?

Mobile - Oakleigh barracks

In fact, the house historian, hired to discover its origin, was the first to discover that this building was a military barracks. Used by the Union army after the civil war, this building probably was the home to soldiers and their wives – but also used as the military laundry. History tells us that laundresses was a synonym for prostitute, so this building may have even more stories. The research continues!

But my favourite was the front of Oakleigh – featuring its unique staircase, currently under repair:

Oakleigh front

A grand house museum, situated in the Oakleigh Gardens neighbourhood, its a worthy hour visit to see this Antebellum home and the extensive grounds of live old oaks.

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | September 11, 2014

Fave shot – photographing the photographer, Beijing China

I’ve started to accumulate a few images of people photographing other people – and this one is a recent favourite:

China - Beijing Qianamen Sq b

Standing in Tiananmen Square, this couple chose a popular view – the backdrop of the square and Meridian Gate, the entrance of the Forbidden City.

As he took the photo of her, I thought about how as ordinary citizens they wouldn’t have been able to walk into the palace, unless they were servants. And after the rise of Communism, the monarchy was banished and the people took over. And now Chairman Mao’s photo seems to offer permission to those who wish entry to the largest palace grounds on the planet.

I witnessed endless photography sessions – in China, especially the young, everyone is always taking photos, documenting their world just as much as anyone else who visits.

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | September 10, 2014

Welcome home in Mobile, Alabama

I felt under dressed walking into the historical homes of Mobile – but loved seeing how the locals lived in the previous centuries, like this sweeping staircase in the entrance of the Richards DAR house:

Mobile - Richards aAnd the front parlor:

Richards b

The upstairs:

Richards DAR House

And my favourite – the front door:

Mobile - Richards door

The Richards family of 12 lived here in this Italinate-style Victorian home, a stately presence in Mobile. Overseen by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the house is furnished with period pieces, but the only original family item is the piano you can see in the front foyer.

For a decor fan like me, the style is not how I would decorate my home, but its unique accessories, Victorian furniture and luxe lighting was so well-suited to the home. Can’t you imagine ladies sweeping down the stairs to greet their guests? Conversation in the parlor? And relaxing on the fainting couch upstairs? Yes I can!

Mobile - Richards house

This house also features a ballast sidewalk – stones that were used on ships to balance the weight of trading goods. A common design of the time period, its now a rarity in Mobile, and paired with the wrought iron work, makes this home a notable beauty of the neighbourhood.


Posted by: Waheeda Harris | September 9, 2014

Southern style in Mobile, Alabama

In Mobile, southern style is definitely bold:

Mobile - Battle House a

I stayed at the Battle House Renaissance Hotel, built on the site of Andrew Jackson’s headquarters, and originally opened in 1852.

Mobile - Battle House AJ

But now this lovely hotel, which closed for decades and then renovated, restored and reopened in 2007, features a colourful lobby, a welcome place for guests:

Battle House d

Each corner features an original column, celebrating the four influences on Mobile – England, France, Germany and the US:

Battle House c

And on the second floor, there’s more seating, as well as the whispering arches, a side effect of the architecture, that one can stand at one end and speak normally, while at the opposite end, easily 40 feet away, another person can hear you speak thanks to acoustics.

Battle House b

This bold and welcoming style was seen repeatedly while I was visiting Mobile – and was a welcome place to relax between explorations, especially to gaze up at the original Tiffany ceiling, which has survived three hurricanes:

Mobile - Battle House ceiling

Tomorrow, I’ll share more images from some of the antebellum homes that are open for tours in Mobile, Alabama.

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | September 8, 2014

First glimpse: Mobile, Alabama USA

Is this Mobile, Alabama?

Mobile - Oakleigh front of house

When I think of the south, I do conjure up the grand homes surrounded by the live oaks – of which there were many in this southern city.

But there’s also that southern humour on display – like in the window of The Peanut Shop:

Mobile - south sign

And of course, southern cuisine, like this tasty display from Wintzell’s

Mobile - Wintzells dinner

Gumbo, fried green tomatoes, baked oysters and red beans and rice – its all southern and each had its own Mobile accent. This week I’ll show you what’s going on in this southern city on the Gulf of Mexico.

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | September 6, 2014

Travel soundbite – Stephen King

“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”

~Stephen King, Salem’s Lot

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | September 1, 2014

Happy happy joy joy!

As a teacher’s daughter, this day has significant meaning – it meant summer was over, school was soon back in session and new things on the horizon.

Happy feet

As I remember floating in the Pacific Ocean after snorkeling around an island off the coast of Ixtapa, I also remember wandering the streets of Pingyao, China:

China - Pingyao South street

And I remember the quiet elegance of St. Barthelemy:

St. Barth - main street

Or the fun of learning about the history of the circus in Sarasota, Florida:

Sarasota - circus collage

For each trip, assignment and opportunity, I’m grateful. And cheers to five years of travelling, blogging and being able to share it with you!

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | August 30, 2014

Travel soundbite – John Lubbock

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.

~John Lubbock

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