Ocean Springs, Mississippi
We needed to get from New Orleans to Tampa, FL and had no place in-between on our list of must-see spots. So we checked out what was available on Airbnb and settled on a small town on the coast of Mississippi, Ocean Springs. We ended up staying with Jessie and her three dogs, Elouise, Stevie and Delores. This house was a perfect fit for us. Jessie’s house was decorated in the sort of thrift store funky / arty look that Melissa is particularly fond of and with an open invitation to drink the beer in the fridge, we both felt at home. We spent a couple of enjoyable days in Ocean Springs catching up on emails, chores and bits and pieces on the blog. Jessie was a great host—exactly what you hope for from an Airbnb experience.
On the first day, we drove to the beach. The sand is beautiful and white. The water, however, looks like the English channel where I grew up: not very inviting. I was kind of surprised, figuring it would look like the Florida coastline. We went paddling in the water (although I’ve been reliably informed that Americans are definitely not familiar with this term, so for any Americans out there, we put our feet in, or at best, waded.) It was warm, but still, we decided not to take a dip, despite the claim that the bacteria levels were “acceptable”. Later we asked Jessie about the water and told her about our decision not to swim. She told us this was probably for the best as the last she had heard there were flesh-eating bacteria in the water and people had lost limbs as a result of it! I’m pretty sure that’s not “acceptable” in California…
We visited Jessie’s new business venture, Greenhouse on Porter and enjoyed some coffee. It is a coffee, biscuit and beer shop with an old greenhouse as the main seating area in which some chard was still growing around the edges. It oozed charm and we’d recommend it to anyone passing through. Opposite was a mysterious bar named “Sweets Lounge” with nothing more than a PBR sign (a cheap but hip US beer) to advertise its presence. we decided not to visit as smoking is still allowed in Mississippi and Jessie assured us we’d get a lungful.
The downtown of Ocean Springs is very charming and has a lot of high-end stores and boutiques. It seemed like a tourist town, but apparently there aren’t any hotels in the direct vicinity, which seems weird. House prices in the area are low, apparently due to a lack of any serious industry, and while its not a place that made it to our shortlist, it felt like a small town which would be fun to live in.
On the day we were heading out of town, we borrowed a couple of road bikes from Jessie and cycled down the road to the Davis Bayou area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore Park. On our way back, we saw an alligator lurking in a large, swampy pool of water by the side of the road. A man drove by who had just been in the same spot with his camera and showed us a nest of baby green-backed herons. We couldn’t see them that well, so we came back on our way out of town with our camera. As we drove into the park, a small bullet-proof piglet waddled across the road: my first armadillo spotting! With their lack of speed, it’s easy to see why the only other armadillos I’ve seen have been squished ones on the road. An armadillo was one of the few animals I really wanted to see in the States, so I was excited to encounter this little fellow.