Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Break Foley, Alabama

You know that song "Gary, Indiana" from The Music Man? It's okay if you don't. I only ask because it's been stuck in my head for the last few weeks- with one important textual difference. Instead of the words "Gary, Indiana," I've been singing the words "Foley, Alabama." I know, I'm a wordsmith. Will the real Julia Snowden please stand up?

While you're at it, watch this. It has nothing to do with anything apart from the fact that we're sort of talking about American musical theater. One of the most beautiful songs ever written.

Anyway, the city of Foley is in southern Alabama, just a short drive from the lovely beaches of the Gulf Shore. You know the little nubbin thing at the bottom of the state on the left hand side? That's where it is.

View Larger Map

It was founded in the early 20th century by a Chicago businessman named John Burton Foley. Apparently, before he became a fancy land developer he was manufacturing something called "Foley's Pine Tar and Honey Cough Remedy." Nothing says early 1900s like a good "remedy," am I right? You know, dudes in striped suits twirling canes and saying things like, "Pardon me, Cornelius, but I must go to the druggist for Beckham's Essence of Wheat Germ." "Ah yes, Reginald, I do believe I'll join you. My wife asked that I buy her a vial of Whitmore's Licorice Vapors." Then they would die of Tuberculosis.

Back in this century, you'll find a sleepy and refreshingly unpretentious downtown Foley. There are gift shops and antiques galore. I'd like to recommend the adorable old-fashioned soda shop(pe) but for some reason it smelled unbelievably disgusting inside. It was weird. There were all these smiling kids and grandparents sitting at cute wrought-iron tables with ice cream sundaes as though it smelled like rainbows and gumdrops and not the most vile of Gary's sewers. Hopefully it was just a fluke.

South of downtown is the ubiquitous strip of mainstream stores and restaurants. This is where I visited my first Piggly Wiggly. My grandmother on my father's side was born and raised in Alabama and my Dad, as a result, likes to wax poetic on all things Southern. I'm fairly confident he once said, "You've never been to a Piggly Wiggly? Oh, Piggly Wiggly is the best! They don't have stores like that up here." Actually, Dad, Piggly Wiggly is horrible. Sorry. You're right about Wegman's, though. Now that's an excellent grocery store.

Continuing south, after you pass the snazzy outlet mall and just before you cross the bridge that takes you to the beach, (and the ritzy city of Gulf Shores, Alabama) you'll pass a wee amusement park with three go-kart courses, miniature golf, and an elaborate arcade. I recommend the wooden go-kart track. It had three levels. Just don't do what I did and get distracted trying to keep your skirt from flying up. You may get in a small accident and suffer minor whiplash. Yes, I live on the edge.

We also managed to squeeze in a side trip to Pensacola, Florida where we had some really incredible seafood at a place called The Fish House. I'd love to go back in the summer. You might be surprised to learn that Pensacola has been around since 1559. Well, kind of. There was, in fact, a settlement created in 1559 but it was almost immediately destroyed by a hurricane and nobody really came back until 1696. But still.

To close, a sampling of my very average photography:

Downtown Foley

One Horse Town

Orange Beach

I don't care if it makes me less of a New Englander- there are a lot of things I love about the American South.

(This isn't one of them.)

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb

I've always had a complicated relationship with March. Where I grew up, we had a break in February and a break in April. March was the interminable month from hell. I think I'll always associate it with melted snow revealing garbage on the sides of Route 128. Under a gray sky. On the way to the dentist.

Of course, March has had its highlights over the years. For example, the birth of my brother in 1988. And the...okay, actually that's all I've got. And let's be honest, at the time, I was pissed. Today my brother is my best friend and I'm quite glad he was born. That day, I was so angry that I climbed into my mother's hospital bed and bit her in the breast. True story.

And Spring Break. Ah, Spring Break. I can't help feeling like I've missed out. I've been doing the higher education thing for almost 7 years and I've never been to Fort Lauderdale with my girlfriends or done a keg-stand in my bikini or thrown up in a sombrero. Witness the wildest moments of my Spring Break career:

Montreal, 2004
Here I am in my mother's minivan somewhere in Vermont. I think I felt I had to wear the aviators with irony because I was too lame to admit I actually liked them.

Massachusetts, 2005
Yup, at my parent's house. That's Seth on recorder. He'll love that this is on the Internet. This may actually have been Christmas.

Michigan, 2006
I'm not in this picture. We went up for a voice competition. Doesn't get much cooler than that. I tied for 3rd in my category, in case you were wondering.

Chicago, 2007
Hancock Observatory. Pretty much speaks for itself.

Nashville, 2007
Okay, so on Spring Break 2007 I was actually in Chicago and Nashville. I went to Vanderbilt to see a good friend whose name also happens to be Julia. This is her. She was around for a lot of my actual wild moments when we were in Europe circa 2006. If you ever meet her, ask her what I did in Florence. She knows details that I will never tell you. The significance of this picture, though, is that I seem to be wearing aviators with irony again. Groan.

Chicago, 2008
Oh man, somebody get that girl under control.

Los Angeles, 2009
You'll notice that my shirt is halfway (!) off. Where were the Girls Gone Wild cameras??

More Los Angeles, 2009
I finally wear aviators without irony.

Anyway, Spring Break lameness aside, I'd really like to get over my hatred of this month. I don't want to be miserable for a 12th of my life. So what can you offer me, March?

Well, if I were in the UK right now, I could see an illuminated Hadrian's Wall. It's exactly what it sounds like: 250 points of light along the length of the wall. Coast to coast. One night only. It reminds me of what would be my favorite part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy...if I were into that kind of thing.

Alternatively, you could go to the Pasifika Festival in New Zealand, a large celebration of island culture. (You already know what a fan I am of the Pacific Islands.) Of course, it's already tomorrow in New Zealand so technically we've missed it.

Now here's a cool one: Falles in Valencia, Spain. All you really need to know is that it's 5 days of people blowing stuff up. Really elaborate stuff. That they spent a lot of time making. Don't confuse it with the other insane festival where everyone fights each other with tomatoes. That's in August. Anyway, you can see some fun pictures here and here.

Savannah Music Festival
Ostrich Festival (No, really.)
Calle Ocho (Where the world record was set for "longest conga line.")

And Of Course:
The London International Antique and Artist Dolls, Toys, Miniatures, Teddy Bears, and Vintage Fashion Fairs

Just a sampling for you. I'm off on my own wee Spring Break Adventure tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.