Thursday, November 10, 2011
We began today at New Orleans’ famous Café du Monde in the French Quarter. Our sugary beignets served as our breakfast in addition to the café au lait we ordered to help us awake. This was not my first time at Café du Monde so I was not a stranger to the famous beignets and the coffee, but with it being 42 degrees outside, my café au lait did provide a little bit of warmth as we walked the few blocks back to the hotel.
After leaving New Orleans, we took about an hour-and-a-half trip to Biloxi, Mississippi. Our first stop in Biloxi was to the Biloxi Lighthouse, which was built in 1848. I have a fondness for lighthouses, and this was not an exception. The 65-foot tall cast-iron beacon provides light to the Mississippi shores, while also serving as a symbol for the state on the drivers’ license plates.
We were treated to an exclusive tour of the lighthouse, a very nice gesture by the City of Biloxi, which owns the structure. Climbing the 50 spiraling steps to the top of the lighthouse generated some acrophobia for me, and it was rather claustrophobic at the top as well. The view was gorgeous, permitting a 360 degree that extended for miles. I was most interested, however, in the Fresnel lens which had the essential task of refracting the light out to sea. Just to imagine how such a small invention can provide so much illumination is fascinating to me.
Our second portion of the Biloxi stop became a series of drive-bys to interesting and unique sculptures of animals that were made of dead trees caused by Hurricane Katrina and were created in remembrance of the lives lost here in Mississippi. Our final stop in Biloxi was at the Katrina Memorial, where a monument was created to mark the destruction of the storm. The height of the memorial matched the height of the storm surge. It was also the site of the largest of the dead-tree sculptures, one that boasted a colorful full-sized swordfish pointing to the sky. These monuments were not only impressive as art, but credit should also go to Biloxi. They made beautiful art out of the residue of Katrina’s destruction. It made me wonder whether the City of Huntsville could do something similar with the trees destroyed by the drought of 2011…
After the four hour car ride to Montgomery, Alabama (which was a great napping opportunity), we had arrived at the capitol building, which was also the former capitol of the Confederacy during the Civil War. I previously attended college in Alabama, and for reasons unknown, this trip to Montgomery was more captivating than my past trips. We were able to visit the capitol building and its surrounding monuments, seeing such sites as the Jefferson Davis statue, the first White House of the Confederacy, and the Alabama Flame of Freedom. The Flame of Freedom, although relatively small compared to the other monuments, was a favorite of mine. The Flame of Freedom is a four-sided monument about 8 feet tall with an eternal flame at the top that honored Alabama War Veterans. As some of you know, I will be entering into the armed forces at the completion of my degree here at Sam Houston, so this monument was something special.
Although the Alabama capitol didn’t quite measure up to the Louisiana capitol (either literally or figuratively), Montgomery was perhaps the more interesting town, offering much to history buffs and those interested in architecture. One interesting site was Old Alabama Town, which offered a collection of Classical Revival and Victorian homes. My favorite style was the shot-gun style that offered rooms on either side of a center passage, much like the Gibbs Powell House in Huntsville.
For dinner, we enjoyed a restaurant near Troy University. Tomatino’s, as it was called, was one of the best pizza places I’ve ever been, and it provided one of my favorite meals thus far. To top it off, Melva and I ordered gelato ice cream, a rich, thick Italian ice cream.
From there, however, it was a six-hour drive to Savannah, the location of the Georgia Political Science Association conference. Along the way, we watched Clint Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the film based on the murder of Danny Hansford in Savannah, Georgia. The movie gave us the flavor of the city we will spend the next day and a half touring and enjoying amidst the backdrop of our first political conference!