When the crowds of JazzFest entered the streets of The Big Easy, I plotted my escape. I drive out of New Orleans to the east. The urban sprawl dissipates quickly. The intermittent rain and the warming sun compete fiercely for a position in my vacation day. Sunshine won the battle. The wetlands of Louisiana move to the rear view mirror. The air warms, carrying faint scents of the pine forest and the nearby Gulf of Mexico. Local farmers dot the sidelines of US Highway 90 in Mississippi with home-grown produce for sale. Fishermen promote the early morning’s catch of the day from the coastal waters. This setting is a distinct contrast to the bustle of New Orleans.
Bay St. Louis
Only an hour’s drive and the time spent in New Orleans tucks away as memories. Mississippi is my next destination and Bay Saint Louis takes shape with each passing streetlight. This small town is known for antique shopping and casual living. Don’t be fooled, though. Underneath the calm and hospitable exterior is a city that has seen hardships of hurricanes and rallied to overcome every obstacle with Southern grace.
Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antiques Museum
I found an unexpected and delightful travel discovery at our first stop for the day. The Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antiques Museum brings folk art to a very human level. Miss Alice began her craft of acrylic painting at the age of 60, recycling readily available wood and conveying simple messages in each canvas. The pictures dominate the thoughts of the viewer with the brightest of colors and draw me to the center of her visual experience. The museum displays a modest selection of southern antiquities from the 1900’s. A visit to this museum is sure to challenge your mind, lift your spirits, and give you a reason to smile. The art museum is on the second floor of the Historic Louisville & Nashville Train Depot.
The Mardi Gras Museum – Costumes
Renovated after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 1928 Spanish Colonial-style building has another surprise in store. At the depot entrance, the Mardi Gras Museum vibrantly colors the senses. Textile artistry comes alive in these stunning pairs of costumes representing the musical journey of the 2012 Mardi Gras parade season.
Consider the fact that Hurricane Katrina chose this location as the contact point with land on August 29, 2005, and the vibe of the town intensifies. Along Main Street, renovated Victorian houses boast rocking chairs on wrapped porches and tuck themselves neatly beneath the protection of enormous oak trees. The Old Town district explodes with eclectic fun while antique shops mingle with restaurants and artisan displays. The scenic coastline view banters with the beach for my attention. The warm sand is the color of an aging magnolia blossom, the softest hint of golden.
A day in Bay St. Louis soothes my soul while enriching my the mind. The quiet shoreline becomes my private beach during an early morning stroll. For the more adventurous, walking tours and bike tours explore 300 years of history. Follow that with some southern-style sweet tea and a fried shrimp Po’ Boy sandwich on the decked porch of the 200-year-old Shoo-Fly Oak.
For another perspective, visit St. Rose de Lima’s alter mural of an African Christ rising, not from a wooden cross, but in front of a living oak tree. As your day winds to a close, enjoy a sunset dinner while overlooking the beautiful Bay of St. Louis.
This locale is immensely visual – on canvas, on the palate, and along the shoreline; there is an experience for every soul in search of southern comforts.