I Haven't Even Arrived In Mobile, But I've Already Had A Taste of Southern Hospitality

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Bellingrath Gardens outside Mobile is one of the places I've been told I can't miss

I haven't even arrived in Mobile, Ala., yet, but I've already had a taste of "Southern hospitality."

For a girl from New Jersey, it's been a nice change!

I'll be the guest of mayoral candidate Sandy Stimpson, who invited me after I  wrote a post calling Mobile the third most miserable city in America , based on Gallup data.

Since I wrote about my upcoming trip to Mobile earlier this week, I've received close to 300 emails welcoming me to the Gulf Coast and offering advice about the city.

I still don't know whether I'll find that Mobile isn't so miserable, after all. I've been warned it's pretty hot and humid this time of year.

But I'm looking forward to finding out. I'm still reading through all the advice I received from Mobilians, but here are some insights  — good and bad  — from email and comments on Business Insider:

The Food:

  • "The absolute best crab claws are at a little hole in the wall called The Lighthouse. It is located in Bayou La Batre and has no view. The crab claws make up for it. People will want you to dine on the Causeway (and yes they have great food too) but the best is a bit out of the way."

  • "For a cheeseburger rated best in Alabama by USA Today, go to Callaghan's. It's a great neighborhood bar that was also rated as one of the best bars in America by Esquire magazine. It's the local hangout, also called the unofficial 'town hall.' Great live music most nights too."

  • "Yes, everything will be fried so put your diet on hold while you're there. It's worth it and you can work it off later. ALWAYS order fried pickles whenever they're available. Trust me, you won't regret it."

  • "Mobile  is home to some of the  best   seafood  on the GC (Gulf Coast). The Beach House and The Original Oyster House are two of my favorites for  seafood ."

The Sights:

  • "While you are visiting Mobile please check out the 5 Rivers Delta park on the causeway and go kayaking in the delta. This and the many rivers in Alabama make river kayaking very pleasant."

  • "If you haven’t been aboard a battleship, don’t miss touring the USS Alabama.  The school children of Alabama raised the money, by collecting coins, to help bring the USS Alabama to Mobile."

  • "Take a stroll or guided tour on foot through Bellingrath Gardens and home. It is truly breathtaking. Skip the boat ride here, though, it's long and not as informative as others."

  • "Mardi Gras in Mobile is smaller and a lot easier and safer than New Orleans' Mardi Gras. Mobile is where you want to bring your family for Mardi Gras... Of course everyone in Mobile loves to tell you that Mobile is the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the states, not New Orleans. You are a smart person if you never bring that fact up while living in New Orleans."

The Weather:

  • "It's a little unfortunate you'll be visiting during the summer —  I'm sure you've been warned about Gulf Coast summers —  but try not to let the heat and humidity hamper your enjoyment of the city! Just wear a lot of sunscreen, drink a lot of fluids (of the alcoholic variety particularly) and be in reach of some powerful AC."

  • "There really isn't much to do in Mobile if you aren't an outdoors person and then not in the summer! Too hot and buggy!"

  • "We are one of the rainiest cities in the world —  consistently in top 3 in the USA."

 The Rest:

  • "The best way to sum up Mobile is a family-friendly New Orleans. The history is similar, the architecture is similar, and the racial issues are similar. Mobile is still a very segregated city and that is where a large part of the problems there come from. The people can be a little backwards. However, there are a wide-range of people in Mobile. The food is fantastic and the art scene seems to be exploding. All in all, it is not a bad place to live, or it wasn’t when I left around 2007, but the economy is a little weak. That appears to be turning around. I would not call Mobile miserable so much as I would call it under-utilized. It could be much better."

  • "People here hate it when I tell the cold hard truth about Mobile. For many natives, it's a very special place because it's their home. They do not want to face the reality of extremely poor quality from education to medicine to career opportunities to diet to lack of healthy, organic food to lifestyle choices. Oh, and then there's violent crime. The business community devotes a lot of effort to constructing smokescreens and attempting to create illusions as a world view rather than making systemic changes."

  • " You've got to talk to folks down here about football: Pro — Saints; College — usually Alabama or Auburn; and high school — too many to mention."  

  • "People who come here to visit agree, Mobile has some of the most wonderful people you'll ever meet. Even the Walmart near my house received the "friendliest Walmart in America award." I wasn't surprised, and I'm not even a Walmart fan."

  • "If you're not a God-fearing, Church-going conformist who's drunk the kool-aid of the Southern Bible Belt, or a party-hard Greek Life college student who enjoys trolling Dauphin Street  on Friday  and  Saturday  nights week after week, there's not a lot to do around here as a local."

  • "I love this town, but like most have had my moments of misery. That misery is usually related to the summer humidity, the traffic on big weekends, and the fact that you just can't 'hide' ... Literally. It's rare to go in a place and not know anyone there."

  • "I've lived in Mobile for most of my life and when I moved away I was absolutely blown away by how backwards Mobile is on race-relations compared to the rest of the world."

  • "I am 85, I've lived in India, France, England, Egypt and in California, Colorado and Alabama. I've lived in cities including London, San Francisco, New Delhi, Denver, Birmingham (UK), Bristol (UK), Nice (France), Colorado Springs and Port Said (Egypt). I married a lovely French girl, I speak two languages. My experience allows me true comment on Mobile city: Mobile is beautiful, has live oaks and idiotic traffic, too many very rich and poor, good seafood and mudbugs, Vietnamese restaurants, a few villains but also some of the nicest people I've ever met. I love it. So did my Colette, who died here."

Disclosure: A couple of months ago,  I  included Mobile, Alabama on a list of the "most miserable cities in America,"  based on Gallup data. Sandy Stimpson, a mayoral candidate in Mobile (#3 on the list) objected to my characterization, and offered to fly me down and show me how great the city really is. After a little prodding, I agreed to a visit.  Stimpson is paying my travel expenses and arranging my travel in the city. I'm not planning to cover the mayoral race, but look forward to forming my own opinions about Mobile.



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