Prior to March 2020, my travel goals mainly consisted of two things: hopping on a plane and heading somewhere interesting that is normally far away from my home. However, over the past 14 months, I’ve taken solace in the short trips that are drivable from New Orleans.
Recently, a couple of friends and I hit the road to head a couple of hours east on I-10 to Fairhope, Alabama. We went to visit a friend who lives just a few blocks from the downtown area. This quaint little city is one I’ve driven through numerous times over the years while heading an hour south to the beach but never stopped to walk around or learn more about it.
Sitting along the eastern shores of Mobile Bay, this city of roughly 21,000 has seen a bit of a boom the past 10 years, growing by over 6,000 residents since 2010. It’s known for being the hometown of Jimmy Buffett, several professional athletes, and writers Rick Bragg and Winston Groom (of Forrest Gump fame).
For such a small town, there’s a lot of history here. You can see that history through the buildings that line the downtown area as well as the surrounding neighborhoods.
Walking around downtown Fairhope on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon reminded me of why people love small-town living. Everyone seemed to know my friend and we made several stops to meet the ones who have known her for years and the newer residents who have already become active in the community.
The flowers lining the downtown streets were gorgeous and really added to the feel that this downtown area is the pride of the city.
Fairhope is in the South, so you know the restaurant scene was fantastic. We had great food and wine at The Hope Farm, cocktails and lunch at Thyme, and post-dinner wine at one of the city’s newest wine bars, La Martina. We definitely made the most of our short trip there!
The highlight of the weekend for me was sitting along Mobile Bay with a glass of wine catching up with my friends and enjoying the stunning views. While we didn’t get to see the full sunset, it didn’t matter. The view from the bluff and the area closer to the bay was exactly the calm that I would expect from a small town along the water in the South.
Although I’ll admit that Fairhope has never been a place I wanted to do more than drive through and maybe stop for a quick bite on my way to the beach, I am now intrigued by this small town and want to come back to explore it even more.
To say that the pandemic has changed the way many of us travel, not just how we get to a destination but also what our goals are for a trip, is an understatement. Checking out those great little places near our homes has become something many of my friends across the world have taken advantage of.
While we don’t have the airline miles that we normally have, we are opening our minds to traveling close to home and learning more about the areas where we live.
Where have you traveled that you never considered before the pandemic? Is there a great little town or hidden gem within a few hours' drive from your home that you’ve been able to explore?
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