Biloxi, Mississippi, isn’t on the mind of most people when they think of where to go for a vacation or an easy getaway. This area is filled with so many small charming towns which many out of towners aren’t aware exists and they are the destinations that make some great memories.
If you’re in that area of the south, travelers usually opt for New Orleans, Louisiana. There’s something so charming about this part of the USA, just hearing the words, ‘well, hush my mouth’, or ‘y’all come’ or how about, ‘say hellotomomandallofthem’…one word, one big southern accented mouthful, was enough for me to want to see southern charm first hand.
Even with Hurricane Katrina and its horrendous floods,(2005), and although the winds were much worse in Biloxi than those in New Orleans, the media didn’t waste too many words on this southern coastline of Mississippi. After all, it isn’t New Orleans, although the calamities were equally horrible in jazzy,The Big Easy.
To this day, there are still patches along the coast where houses had been razed to the ground but it seems no one is buying especially the once expensive water view properties since the insurance policies often has become higher than the mortgages.
However, given all these negatives, during my stay at the luxurious Beau Rivage Hotel & Resort in Biloxi, the casino was filled. Gaming is the big entertainment in this area next comes the experience of southern cooking. Exceptional in this casino, is that in the slots and table gaming space, the sound and volume is lower than most other famous casinos. Smoking is allowed here.
As for the accommodations, the rooms are unusually large, as are the gray granite floored bathrooms, mine had separate shower and bathtub and large vanity featuring an array of great amenities. From the room’s floor to ceiling windows, there is a very special treat…views of brilliant sunrises and sunsets over the gulf. And since you don’t need to hit the jackpot, it was worth the reasonable priced room service and also rapid delivery. That vista and a carafe of coffee made a great daily start.
The second floor, posh spacious spa with products that I had never heard of but, I was guaranteed, had great advantages for the skin. A good plus was the well equipped adjacent gym with windows facing the well designed pool and pergolas, the perfect antidote to both the gaming or perhaps a mind boggling conference (one of the reasons for my presence). The nicely laid out small inside street shopping arcade had a full price range of fine boutiques from the $10 store to those with high price tags. Ditto for the restaurants. The high rollers with a taste for the international specialties could wine and dine on caviar and champagne and for those who just want a nibble, there were a few eateries for a more inexpensive repast.
Although there’s not much activity besides gaming and eating in Biloxi itself, there are towns and villages so near by that they could be considered suburbs and are delightful. There’s a variety of interests from jazz, fishing, cycling and art, and, of course, local food, most just a few miles away.
My favorite town, only 2 miles from Beau Rivage Hotel & Casino, was Ocean Springs, on the eastern shore of Biloxi Bay. With a population of only 17,461, it is considered the artistic centre of the State and features ethnic restaurants, unique shopping and the Walter Inglis Anderson Museum. The late Anderson was a renowned artist who lived in Ocean Springs most of his life, had also painted in Paris while Monet, Cassett, Pissarro, Sisley, Degas and Manet and other now top priced Impressionists, were struggling with their new concept of color and unconventional brush strokes and subjects.
Somewhat of an eccentric, however not called that by our guide and art curator for the museum, Doug, who referred to him as an adventurer, Anderson actually cycled thousands of miles in Europe. That very bike hangs in the museum.
A walk down Washington Street just speaks thousands of words for this charming town.The museum with the all glass entrance is really the only contemporary design exterior while the interior has an array of marvelous relatively large exhibit spaces. The pickled pine walls have a grayish hue and the paintings stand out on this palette. And while I was there, the exhibit was of Anderson’s line drawings and oils. Along with fine art in the museum, are wonderful pieces of furniture designed by German born, Gustav Stickley.
A walk along Washington Street takes you to various other fine galleries like Hillyer House where there are notable oil canvases and great marble sculptures and nearby, The Pink Rooster, also has fine art and a room filled with vintage clothing and jewelry. Poppy’s and The Bay Collection, have well priced jewelry. It’s a somewhat gentrified ambience for a folksey street. Do you recall the last time you saw a drugstore with a soda fountain? Well, Lovelace Drugstore will conjure up those memories if you are of a certain age.
It’s easy to identify the Chamber of Commerce with its signature tree dripping with colorful bottles hanging from the branches
The low rise buildings gratefully have not been replaced by high condos, instead it’s a kindly artistic colony filled with culture and century old homes that survived (or have been rebuilt to original state) after Hurricane Katrina and a truly interesting area to visit.