Fun Fact! I grew up half in the Deep South (Mobile, Alabama) and half in Kansas City, Missouri.
This means three things. One! I don’t have much of an accent unless I am super tired, surrounded by my Southern family, or in a Southern State. Two! Fayetteville is the perfect home for me because, along with being supremely (yes! supremely!) creative, it’s got this cozy vibe that’s a total mix of Southern and Midwestern charm. Three! I grew up an hour from Gulf Shores and, after we moved, we returned every summer and the whole place still feels like home. Like, I can still navigate Mobile and Gulf Shores and Orange Beach with my eyes closed and the air just feels right. I love it!
When I booked this beach house, I had no idea how much I would need a vacation in the Spring of 2017. The last year has been a flurry of crazy and change for so many reasons but mostly I needed a vacation because my body totally wore out in 2016. It went like this: In May 2016, I had surgery for a pregnancy related, belly button hernia. The hernia was most likely brought on from my pregnancy with Henry (I was HUGE!!) and, in February 2016, it started to annoy me. In April 2016, it became super painful and, a few weeks later, I found myself in the most ridiculously awful pain of my life – and y’all, I’m no sissy. Like, I got up and walked within six or seven hours of both of my C-Sections and I’ve shot several sessions with a sprained ankle. The recovery from the surgery was supposed to be simple but, for me, recovery did not go well. I was in near-constant pain from May 2016 to March 2017 and, while I can now sometimes go weeks without much pain, sometimes it still flares up. Photography is my heart – it was my very first love – but shooting weddings in 2016 nearly destroyed my body. I was in and out of the surgeon’s office for months, had to wear a bandage over my stomach until August 2017 and, worst of all, I was sick for, like, ever. I somehow managed to keep it together while I was shooting but, as soon as I got into the car after weddings my stomach would be on my fire, my body would start shaking, and Andrew would hand me medicine and a huge bottle of water and, if I hadn’t stopped shaking before we got home, he’d hold me until my body calmed down and, after that, I’d download and backup all of my wedding images. I mean, I’ll be honest: I was kind of a badass during this time period. A 29 year old wedding photographer badass with a bandage on her stomach.
And honestly? I REALLY needed this vacation. We had so much fun!
During our vacation, we ate ice cream and doughnuts and hamburgers and crab cakes (my fave!). We saw dolphins swimming every single morning and saw a brand-new baby dolphin on a sunset cruise. Our kids swam for six hours at a time with every floatie known to man: An enormous flamingo and a gigantic duck; a shark and a turtle and tons of swim rings, too. We told ghost stories and ate s’mores and witnessed the most massive (and gorgeous!!) thunderstorms. We saw extended family and alligators and pastel sunsets and we spent a wonderful day with my Aunt Jo and Uncle Dave who live in Mobile and we walked all over Downtown Mobile and perused the best used bookstore, too. It was the perfect six day vacation and I just love all these people so much. Here’s some photographs!!
^^ I mean, could he be any cuter?! Andrew is seriously everything – he spent an entire morning blowing up pool floats and then spent his entire vacation making sure that everyone (especially me!) had an awesome time and I’m just so lucky that this guy is my husband. Cannot believe that we’ve been married for eight YEARS! He’s amazing, even when he makes lame faces for photographs. ^^
I just can’t get over these sunset photographs. Sunset (or sunrise!) walks on the beach are my very favorite – I don’t even care that it’s a cliche! – and I totally make Andrew take strolls with me every time we visit a beach. I don’t even know how many beaches we’ve been to together in the past eight years but it’s at least nine or ten and this beach stroll was one of my top two favorites – my other favorite was a sunrise stroll we took at Huntington Beach in California. I was pregnant with Max, I carried a homemade purse that I’d made from a vintage sheet I’d found at a thrift store, and we talked about love and our future and our hopes and dreams for our life together and, as nice as those hopes and dreams and plans were, the reality we’ve been given has been way better than either of us ever imagined and that does two things to me. One, it totally makes my heart burst. Two, it makes every beach walk even sweeter. Andrew and I have always worked really hard on our relationship but, mostly, I just feel like we have gotten really lucky and I adore him more every passing week and month and year. The man’s my soulmate! And I didn’t even believe in them before we met!
On our most recent beach stroll, we walked until it was totally dark and we talked about the past year and each other and how, in thirty years, I hope we’re as happy as we are now but mostly we just talked about how I was really, really excited to be at the beach and feel salt water run through my hair and I’d say that Andrew laughed at me but, really, he just smiled and and held my hand said that he was happy, too. And, y’all? Those are the moments that are really the best moments. Life is good.
And since I just got real sappy? Let’s take a break and talk about a few of our very favorite things to do at Gulf Shores! Here’s my family’s tried-and-true go-to’s!
Restaurants: Oyster House, LuLu’s, GooRoo’s Grill (in Summerdale), and Papa Rocco’s (I’m not the most enormous fan of this place but my dad is so obsessed that he takes us there, like, every single time we visit). Al’s Hot Dogs and Other Fine Foods in Mobile is a must-visit as well! Their red beans and rice are amazing! // Ice Cream: Matt’s Ice Cream (by Oyster House) and TCBY because their parfaits were my childhood. // Souvenir Shops: Souvenir City. I mean, who doesn’t want to walk through a fake shark mouth?! // Tourist Atractions: The Fun Boat Dolphin Tours, Alligator Alley in Summerdale, and Burris Farmer’s Market (they have the BEST pies!)
Also, Andrew’s Space Jam tank top is from Amazon. You’re welcome.
EDIT: Andrew got his Space Jam tank top from Wal-Mart, not Amazon, and, since he works for the Home Office and they are the best (free two day shipping and free in-store pickup!), he asked me to make a note. Also, check out Online Grocery Pickup! He worked on that forever and we totally used it to stock the Beach House. (Good enough plug for ya, babe?! I think yes!)
And YES!! We saw a baby dolphin on the Fun Boat Dolphin Tours and it was AMAZING.
Ah! I love this place so much! We stayed in the most beautiful neighborhood of beach houses and I just loved every minute. Can you even get over how beautiful this beach is?! I can’t!
And last but not least! Before we drove home, we stopped by Alligator Alley in Summerdale, Alabama and it was such a blast. I am terrified of alligators – when I was four, I went to the park, fed a duck, the duck swam off, and, five seconds later, an alligator’s jaws snapped out of the water and the duck got eaten (!!!) – and I was super hesitant to make this stop. I wasn’t sure how safe the park would be and I have mixed feelings about zoos anyway but, y’all, this place was so well put together, the staff was so nice (we chatted with one of the alligator experts for a good twenty minutes!) and it was so fun. Definitely take your kids here! It’s been two months and Henry still brings it up at least once a week! It was the perfect end to the perfect week and my kids were so obsessed!! That’s a win, y’all!
And also? Thanks for such a fun trip, Bogart Fam! We love you!!