My birthday was last week, and boy, did I celebrate! Actually, I've been celebrating for a whole month thanks to my family and friends, and on Thursday my husband and I headed south for a nice long weekend at what was a "new" beach for us, Orange Beach in Alabama. We had a wonderful time, marvelous weather, lots of good shopping and lots of great seafood. On Friday I took advantage of our proximity to Mobile and headed over to a place I'd been wanting to see, Bellingrath Gardens.
First opened to the public in 1932, the gardens were the creation of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. (He and his brother owned the Gulf Coast's Coca-Cola franchise.) I took it as a good sign when the first thing I saw in the visitor center was this 1960 transferware cup and saucer bearing an image of Bellingrath Gardens.
First stop is the rose garden, a dream of a place for rose lovers with its 2,000-plus rose bushes. Selections for the All-American Roses are tested here each year before they're put on the market.
The shrimp plant doesn't look much like shrimp to me, but it was beautiful nonetheless.
Do you like mermaids? I LOVE mermaids! This fountain's mermaid is said to be unique because she has two fish tails instead of the usual one.
"Rebecca at the Well" is the title of this bronze relief illustrating Genesis 24:15. It marks the spot of an artesian well dug when the Bellingraths were searching for good drinking water. The Bellingraths certainly appear to have recognized the source of their blessings and believed in giving back. I absolutely loved this bit I read about about Mrs. B.'s actions during the Depression: "As the economic depression worsened, friends quietly kept Mrs. Bellingrath aware of families in need. She would appear checkbook in hand, begging for an azalea, camellia or whatever bloom she saw in the family yard. She would convince the stunned homeowner that Bellingrath Gardens had been unable to locate one and then offer hundreds of dollars in an era when the U.S. government declared that $25 per week was a comfortable income." My husband commented on what a creative way this was of providing charity, and I agree.
When I saw this bridge across Mirror Lake, I almost didn't cross it, but I'm glad I took the time to ...
... go on ahead. Because I got to the top of the overlook and found ...
... Aslan! (Any Narnia fans here?) Actually, this lion was found by Mr. Bellingrath when a Mobile homeowner was remodeling, but I preferred to think of it as Aslan greeting me!
The Oriental Garden has beautiful water features and offers a breathtaking view.
And of course no tourist's visit is complete without a stop at the gift shop, where I found Bellingrath's Tea Time Honey and a pretty teabag canister which is marked "Bellingrath" on the bottom. (And made not in China but in New Iberia, Louisiana, which I found interesting.)
As if all this weren't enough, on the way back to the beach I hit several antique stores and came across a vintage English tea infuser in a style I've not seen before. ("What is it?" the shop owner asked me. I explained it to her and was grateful she didn't know or it might have been more than $3.) And so, I ask you, does a day get any more perfect than this?