Day 182 (11/29/14): Pensacola Beach, FL
For our final day in the Pensacola area, we didn’t venture too far from our campground in Pensacola Beach, FL. We were staying at the Pensacola Beach RV Resort located on Santa Rosa Island, the barrier island of Pensacola Beach. The RV resort sits on the sound side of the island overlooking Pensacola Bay with access to the Gulf of Mexico right across the street. Santa Rosa Island is a section of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which stretches 150 miles throughout the Gulf of Mexico barrier islands of Florida and Mississippi.
From the RV resort, we took a short drive heading east on the FL-399 and found the most amazing beach! The clear as glass water was a stunningly vibrant aqua shade, and the blindingly white sand was incredibly fine, soft and fluffy. Yes, “fluffy” (not a word I ever thought I’d use to characterize sand, but a fitting description in this case). Walking on the thick blanket of sugary sand was like walking on clouds. Our feet wanted to stay here forever and be eternally bare.
Unlike most of the other beaches of Florida that were littered with clumps of seaweed, this expanse of beach was absolutely pristine! Other than a washed up jellyfish and our inches-deep footprints, the shoreline was immaculate. There were hardly any other people around, and the surrounding land was virtually undeveloped, making the tranquil beach feel rather remote and private.
This Pensacola Beach surprisingly rivaled Wailea Beach of Maui along with Coligny Beach of Hilton Head Island, SC, our top two all-time favorite beaches! I never thought I would compare any beaches in the contiguous U.S. with a Hawaii beach, but I had to make an exception for these phenomenal East Coast beaches!
After “oohing and ahhing” over the heavenly Gulf Coast beach, it was time for a late lunch. A fellow RVer at our campground highly recommended Peg Leg Pete’s, a restaurant just a few miles up the road. She said we absolutely had to try the Grouper Nuggets, so that’s what we started with. She didn’t steer us wrong! The scrumptious morsels of fried fish were the highlight of our meal!
For our main course, we had a Catfish Po’ Boy as well as a Shrimp Po’ Boy. Both Po’ Boys were decent, but they didn’t stand up to the Grouper Nuggets. In addition to the food, we also had some Shipwreck cocktails that were similar to my new favorite drink from the Flora-Bama. The tasty beverage came in plastic souvenir cups perfect for an RV! We’ll definitely be holding on to those! 🙂 When we were done with our meal, we walked across the street with our beach chairs and watched the sun set over the Gulf.
Day 183 (11/30/14): Gulf Breeze, FL | Alabama | Mississippi | New Orleans, LA
The Pensacola area was our last destination in Florida. In a way we were somewhat excited about finishing our stops in Florida because we haven’t been to a new state in awhile. With Florida behind us, we passed through Mobile, AL. We were hoping to get a good look at Downtown Mobile since we weren’t going to stay there. But unfortunately, just as we were approaching the downtown area, we had to go through a tunnel. By the time we came emerged, we had already passed the downtown. Tragic.
Next, we drove through Mississippi along the Gulf Coast and eventually arrived in Louisiana. That makes 4 states in one day for us (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi & Louisiana)! Our destination in Louisiana was New Orleans, one of the cities we were most excited about visiting and experiencing! We wanted to spend the majority of our time in “The Big Easy” at the French Quarter, so we stayed at the French Quarter RV Resort just a few blocks from the famous historic district. While it wasn’t in the best section of town, the location couldn’t have been more convenient!
As soon as we got everything squared away with the trailer, we immediately headed out on foot and walked to the French Quarter. As we approached the historic district, it literally felt as if we were entering a foreign country while simultaneously stepping back in time hundreds of years. The colorful French and Spanish-style buildings with ornate wrought iron railings, hanging plants and gas lamps contributed to an overwhelming amount of character.
Suddenly, a foul stench overpowered the air and smacked us in our faces. The best and most polite way to describe the pungent scent would be as a combination of body odor, vomit and other bodily functions. Trust me, that’s putting it nicely. There was a general grunginess to the area with every surface seeming to be coated in invisible grime. The sidewalks were sticky from God-knows-what. With each step, we had to peel our shoes from the cement like Velcro while trying to avoid puddles of a murky grey liquid we didn’t dare step in.
However, the troubling street conditions were quickly forgotten as soon as we witnessed the spectacle of Bourbon Street. For some reason, I always thought Bourbon Street was filled with classy restaurants and high-end shops. I should have known better. With the word “Bourbon” in the name, it’s a place for debauchery, a never-ending party. I wasn’t prepared for the chaos. Rambunctious people filled the street, including street performers and topless girls barely covered with body paint and nipple tassels. Glaring neon signs announced countless bars, restaurants, strip clubs and gift shops. The lively street was extremely entertaining and reminded me of a cross between the Las Vegas Strip and New York City.
As we kept walking through the French Quarter, the entertainment and fascination continued. There were bands playing live music on practically every street corner. Horse-drawn carriages and local artist vendors were lined up in front of Jackson Square. The St. Louis Cathedral, said to be the oldest cathedral in North America, sits in the background of the historic landmark and faces the Mississippi River. From there, we crossed the street to the Washington Artillery Park river overlook where we had an excellent view of the Crescent City Connection bridge lit up over the Mississippi River.
There was so much to see, we almost forgot to eat! For dinner, we were determined to sit on one of the upper balconies overlooking the streets. We decided on the Royal House Oyster Bar but almost changed our minds when we were seated. The balcony was slanted! Sitting at an angle was unnerving, and we had to hold onto our glasses and plates the entire time to prevent them from sliding off the table. As for the food, we weren’t too impressed. Plus, fully enjoying our meal was a bit of a challenge as we constantly worried that the balcony would detach from the building at any moment. Luckily, there was a violin serenading us from the street below, easing our anxiety somewhat.