Orange Beach, AL to New Orleans, LA — Orange Beach is a mass of hotels and condos along the beach. Parking at a Gulf State Park parking lot, we went for a walk on the white sands amongst hundreds of umbrellas and bathing beauties sunning on the shore. I’d finally reached the Gulf of Mexico for the first time but the scene was so touristy that we finally stopped to talk to a woman named Tammy fishing from shore. In a white bathing suit cover-up over her leathered skin, she was tying a buzz-bomb onto her fishing line.
Tammy told us that she had grown up on the gulf. She said that if we’d eaten scallops, we’d probably actually eaten skate instead, cut into little circles. It turns out that I like skate. Was fishing there dangerous? Well, it was unnerving to stand in the surf and step down on a stingray – the shock was something akin to touching an electric fence. Yes, she said, take the ferry to Dauphin Island (island number 3). If we could find a place to stand in the water, the dolphins would bump our legs. It was magical and having something bump your leg was a good thing in the Gulf. That would be a dolphin and, where there are dolphins, there are no sharks. We thanked her for the info and she told us to have fun, be careful.
At the Orange Beach Welcome Center, we learned there was no wait for the ferry. If we rushed, we could make the 2:45pm ride to the island. We once more listened to Siri’s directions on Lucy’s iPhone, my nemesis in the face real maps, and made it to the ferry landing with minutes to spare.
Lucy had never driven a car onto a ferry. I took a lovely picture of two women from Montreal driving their Westfalia to New Orleans and we made friends, passing them with a few honks on the highway. Later in New Orleans, we realized it was the Southern Decadence Weekend – I’ll get to that – but likely those women whom we met thought we were partners. We shrugged. Lucy’s been mistaken for my daughter before (in the mosque mix-up) so I took it as a compliment. We emailed them the pictures from the ferry.
Dauphin Island has recovered since Hurricane Katrina, as evidenced by the new coats of paint on every stilted beautiful home. If you stand on the main road, you can see the ocean on both sides, clear as the sky is blue, and blue as the sky. Try as we might, we couldn’t find a place to park and see if Tammy was right, that the dolphins would bump into our legs in the ocean. New Orleans was calling. The call, should you hear it, is something like, “You’re circadian rhythm will never be the same!” But we didn’t realize this until we arrived.
Over every bridge to New Orleans, we wondered if we were crossing the Mississippi River. I sang the Bob Dylan song Tangled Up in Blue as a tribute to my dear friend Storm who knows all the words. I decided I would have to find a fishing boat right outside Delacroix and take a picture to send to her. We used airbnb.com to secure a place in Uptown and headed down to Magazine Street for a true New Orleans dinner of po’ boys and jumbalaya. Over-salted, we booked a swamp tour for the next morning and went to bed.
As a side-note, New Orleans architecture is everything you see in the pictures. Residents make the most of their decorative wrought iron along the second stories, along the streets. We felt like we were in a movie. The state mental institution in Chattahoochee felt like a movie, too, but this was a romance.
I’m writing from Dauphin Island to say that I enjoyed your brief description of our community. It’s too bad you were unable to stay longer, but I am pleased to hear of your travels.
As you likely came to realize, we take pride in being a quaint island community, sans the hustle and bustle of the overly developed tourist industry often found along other stretches of the Gulf Coast. While we can’t always guarantee dolphins will brush against your legs as you stand in our waters, we do like to ensure that this is a place where you can lay your troubles aside and enjoy life, naturally…. or, while you’re at it, take in a beautiful sunset. Dauphin Island was recently recognized as the “Sunset Capital of Alabama.”
Thanks again for recognizing us in your travels and in your writing. Please let us know if you decide to come back and join us. In the meantime, safe travels and best regards,
Town of Dauphin Island, AL
Aw, you made my day. A close friend also swooned when I told her we’d stopped at your island so I feel lucky to have visited such a special place. I will be back. Thank you so much for taking the time to write — it speaks to the lovely and welcoming sense of community we felt there. Please pass on my appreciation to everyone and I’ll hope to catch a sunset there someday soon.
All the best,