Touring the Gulf Coast: Part 1
By Cate Boyle
As Victoria and I are both from small towns in New Jersey, we were very excited to explore the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. We would be traveling to many different smaller towns along the coast while meeting with people that would not only benefit from a train stopping in their towns but are eager to help move the process along. Our first stop on the Gulf Coast was Bay St. Louis! This was a beautiful town filled with wonderful people and high spirits. Most of the town was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the people of Bay St. Louis have been working hard ever since to bring the city back to its former glory and protect their shore from being stricken like that again.
We visited the Historic Train Depot in Bay St. Louis which was originally built in 1928 and has recently undergone some renovations to be host to the towns Visitors Center as well as the Mardi Gras Museum and the Alice Moseley’s Museum. Upon entering the Depot, you are blown away by the spectacular colors and designs of the Mardi Gras costumes from the following year's festivities. The costumes line the walls and tell the story of the different themes that were in place during that year. Hundreds of hours are spent drafting, designing and creating the costumes for the parades throughout Bay St. Louis.
The nationally acclaimed folk artist Alice Moseley and her series of works hold a place on the second floor of the depot and is a tribute to following your dreams no matter what age you are. She began painting at 60 years of age while trying to cope with her mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. After a visit to Bay St. Louis, Alice Moseley packed up her life and moved permanently to the area. Alice was known for creating her paintings after deciding on the name for each piece. This city followed her wishes and created a free museum of all her works so that everyone would have the opportunity to see her artwork.
We had the greatest time exploring the city and meeting the amazing people who made us feel at home! Not to mention Bay Town Inn, the adorable Bed & Breakfast we had the opportunity to stay in! The B&B is located just one block away from the Gulf Coast Shoreline and is a beautiful spot for some much needed rest and relaxation!
The next morning, we had an ambitious plan to visit all the cities along the coastline and see how incredible it would be if these places had a train stop nearby. First, a stop into The Mockingbird Café in Bay St. Louis for an amazing breakfast. The owner, creating this establishment out of the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. She wanted to create a safe and comfortable environment for the community of Bay St. Louis to be able to gather and heal after this tragic event. Welcoming people from all walks of life and creating a house of expression, The Mockingbird Café received its name as the Living Room of the Bay.
With the help of Kay Kell from the Southern Rail Commission and Betsy Nelson from The National Association of Railroad passengers, we made our way to Pass Christian, Mississippi. We were able to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with Mayor Leo “Chipper” McDermott at Pass Christian Books. It is a beautiful city with streets filled with local shops. We made a stop into Robins Nest in the Pass which is full of beautiful handcrafted jewelry and gifts. Gulf Coast Olive Oil and Pass Christian Soap Company are also nearby and offer a broad range of incredible products. After we loaded up on soaps and bath bombs we were able to make our way towards Long Beach, Mississippi.
Long Beach was another cute town that reminded us of our homes near the Jersey Shore. We stopped into Bankhouse Coffee Shop with resides inside an old Bank and is the home of Coast Roast Coffee. Through the back entrance of the Bankhouse Coffee Shop is French Kiss Pastries where we indulged in delicious chocolate croissants and Napoleon’s. We couldn’t leave Long Beach without a stop to the Gulf Park Campus of the University of Southern Mississippi to see the Friendship Oak. The Friendship Oak is a 500- year old southern live oak tree with a long-lasting legend stating that those who enter the shade of its branches will remain friends forever.