Steel and Magnolias: A Day Trip to Mobile

Mobile, Alabama, is a short ride from my sister's home in Pensacola, Florida. We took a day trip to see the Battleship USS Alabama, the historic Ft. Conde, and a little of the city.

Steel and Magnolias: A Day Trip to Mobile

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Wildcat Dianne on April 21, 2005

Mobile is a city known for its Southern charm and antebellum architecture. But many people don't know that Mobile is also home to the 18th-century Fort Conde and the decorated battleship of the USS Alabama, which is permanently docked in Mobile Bay west of the city center.

Mobile is and was a busy port dating from the early 18th century. It was in 1702 that the French founded Mobile and established its architecture and culture to the American South. During the American Revolution, Mobile was an important port for British ships for the Southern campaign, but the Spanish overran Mobile in 1780 and established another foothold in on the Gulf of Mexico.

The Civil War was seen as Alabama's heyday, with nearby Montgomery as the Confederate capital, and Mobile survived the Union Army's rampages through the South, so much of the antebellum architecture still preserved. Erika and I saw plenty of this architecture while driving around Government Street aimlessly looking for Fort Conde.

Where Mobile lacks activity, it certainly doesn't lack in green parks, tree-lined streets, old houses, and charm. ${QuickSuggestions} If you decide to visit Mobile, make sure you have a good map of the city. I pulled the directions to Fort Conde from Yahoo! Maps, which were wrong. We wound up going opposite from where we were supposed to turn, and it took a gas station manager on Government Street to get us in the right direction. Your best bet for accurate directions is

Bring tons of suntan lotion and comfortable shoes for the trip to the Alabama. It was very sunny and humid on our trip, and I got a little sunburn from being on the ship for over an hour. There is a lot of climbing of steep narrow stairs on the Alabama, and if you are not in good shape, I would advise you to stay on the main deck and look around that way. ${BestWay} The best way to get around Mobile is by car. Mobile is located off of Interstate 10, and it was only an hour's ride from Pensacola.

To get to the USS Alabama from I-10, take Exit 30 for Battleship Parkway. The ship and Felix's Fish Camp are located not far off of the interstate on the left side, and you can see the ship from I-10 as you approach the park.

The right way to Fort Conde and the Church Street Historic District is to go down Highway 90 W from the Alabama and through the Bankhead Tunnel. You will be on Government Street, and from there, take a left onto St. Emmanuel Street. Then you get on to Royal Street; the fort is on the end of Royal and Church Streets.

Felix's Fish Camp

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Wildcat Dianne on April 22, 2005

I love seafood and my sister Erika doesn't, but she knew I wanted to try at least one good seafood restaurant during my visit to Florida and Alabama. We needed a restaurant that served chicken or beef as well as seafood, and Felix's Fish Camp fit our needs just right!

After touring Fort Conde and getting lost in Mobile looking for the fort, Erika and I were two very starved wolves, and we wasted no time in getting to Felix's Fish Camp. The exterior looks like an old fishing shack, and the interior is a la "Pirates of the Caribbean (where's Johnny Depp?!) We were seated immediately at a window seat with a view of the murky Mobile Bay and given menus to peruse. Our waiter, Jacob, came to us immediately, and whoa, he was so cute and charming. Erika burst my bubble after he took our drink order and said to me, "He's too young for you!" Darn!

We started dinner with a fried-calamari appetizer with a yummy marinara sauce on the side. My finicky sister even had some calamari, and it was drowned in the marinara, but she enjoyed it. The calamari was not rubbery and was finished in no time flat. Jacob even noticed this and joked to us.

For our main courses, Erika had the chicken and sausage jambalaya with local sausage and jalapeno hush puppies. I had the daily fish special, a grouper meuniere, which was a semi-firm fish in a seasoned breading and pan-fried, and Jacob had me on the fried green tomatoes, and I had to see what they were all about. Erika's jambalaya was full of meat and mildly spiced and good. I tried a forkful of hers, but she didn't touch my fish. My grouper was just right and very flaky, and the fried green tomatoes had a little tartness, but I can say now I tried them. I told mom that I wasn't going to be running into the garden this summer picking green tomatoes for this Southern delicacy! She laughed.

After our feast, Erika was stuffed, but I was craving dessert. I heard Jacob talking to another customer about a mocha ice-cream pie, and it sounded like the mud pies we loved as kids in Rhode Island. So, when he got to our table, I ordered it, and he knew we wanted two forks because my chocoholic sister couldn't pass up a bite or two. The mud pie was served with whipped cream and raspberry and hot-fudge sauces on the plate for dipping. Erika loved dipping her fingers into the sauce, and the pie it self was, in my words, "decadent!"

It cost us about $40 for two of us to eat dinner at Felix's plus tip. Felix's is located about a mile west of the USS Alabama Memorial Park and is a great place to eat after a long day on ship or in downtown Mobile.

Felix's Fish Camp
3521 Battleship Pkwy.
Mobile, Alabama, 36527
(251) 626-6710

The USS Alabama Memorial Park

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Wildcat Dianne on April 22, 2005

The USS Alabama is one of the most decorated American battleships to serve in the US Navy. During World War II, the Alabama, or the "Mighty A" as it was known to the men who served on her, won nine battle stars for heroic service during the Battles of Leyte, Okinawa, Gilbert Islands, etc., in the Pacific Theater.

The USS Alabama is a South Dakota-class destroyer that was commissioned on August 16, 1942. She is 311 feet and 8 inches long, with a 27-foot-wide beam, and weighs 35,000 tons empty (45,000 when full and battle ready). Close to 2,500 men served on the Alabama at a time. The Alabama is armed to the teeth with 48 40mm guns, 52 20mm guns, 20 38-calibers, etc.

My sister and I arrived at the USS Alabama at about noon on a hot Wednesday afternoon. We stopped in the souvenir shop to pay for our way onboard the Alabama, and I was going to buy some postcards and a thimble for my friend Leslie, but Erika suggested we get onboard in order to avoid the crowd of schoolchildren who were also touring the Alabama that day. I put down the souvenirs, and Erika and I got on the ship.

One can easily get lost on the Alabama because it is so huge, but the park makes it easy for visitors to see the ship by giving you a choice of three routes: Route A, red arrows, below decks; Route B, green arrows, forward below decks; and Route C, yellow arrows, upper decks to level 0-8. Erika and I chose the latter Yellow Route to tour. Erika and I had gotten maps of the yellow route to follow on our tour; it guides you all over the ship and through the museum below deck.

The museum has many very interesting exhibits on the history of the Alabama and the US Navy during World War II. There are also exhibits on the enemy navies we faced during the war that are very interesting, too. The ships quarters are furnished with mannequins and shows what life was like for a navy man during WWII. The captain was on call almost 24/7 and rarely was in his quarters. It was so hot in there when we visited it that I couldn't help but say, "It's so hot in here, I can't blame him for wanting to be on deck!" The stairs from deck to deck are narrow and steep, and I was imagining what it was like for the sailors when they were in battle.

It will cost you $10 to tour the USS Alabama; Aviation Museum; and if you want, the USS Drum Submarine nearby. Upon entering the park, you must pay a $2 parking fee, but the steep ticket is well worth it, as the money goes to support the upkeep of the park.

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
2703 Battleship Pkwy
Mobile, Alabama, 36601
251 433 2703

Fort Conde/Church Street Historical District

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Wildcat Dianne on April 22, 2005

When I did my research for our trip to Mobile, I was interested in seeing the 18th-century Fort Conde and the nearby Church Street Historical District. After getting lost in downtown Mobile with crappy directions from Yahoo! Maps and getting hungry and tired, we had to pull over for gas at the Shell station on Government Street. There, I got the right directions from the manager, and Erika and I were on our way again.

Fort Conde was built by the French in 1724 (the one that stands there today is a replica from 1976). Mobile was under British occupation during the American Revolution until 1780, when the Spanish, who had joined the American cause, attacked Fort Conde and drove the British out of Mobile. Now the fort is a museum. The museum is located in the fort's tunnels, and the soldiers of the 18th century were shorter than we are today because 5'8" me and my 5'10" sister had to duck every entrance. Each room has a diorama showing what life was like in the fort. The top of the fort has cannons and great views of Mobile.

Erika and I were disappointed with Church Street and just walked around the block to see what was there, but we were hungry, hot, and tired and decided to call it a day, eat, and go home.

It is free to tour the fort and museum, and it is open daily from 8am to 6pm.

Fort Conde/Church Street Historical District
Church and Royal Streets
Mobile, Alabama

More Facts About the the Mighty A

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Wildcat Dianne on April 22, 2005

Here are some more facts about the USS Alabama that weren't mentioned in the other entries.

In addition to winning nine battle stars in the Pacific Theater, the USS Alabama shot down 22 enemy aircraft and had a very low casualty rate during its World War II service. Only five soldiers from the Alabama were killed in action, and that was from a friendly-fire incident in 1944.

After the Alabama was decommissioned and permanently moored in Mobile Bay in 1969, many movies for TV and theater and miniseries were filmed onboard its decks. War and Remembrance, Under Siege, and Mission of the Shark are a few movies filmed on the Alabama.

I bought my friend Leslie a thimble of the USS Alabama, not only for her collection, but because her father served on the USS Indianapolis in the Pacific during WWII. The Indianapolis wasn't as lucky as the Alabama, for it was sunk in the Philippines in 1945, and her dad spent a couple of days adrift in the shark-infested waters of the Philippine sea before being rescued by American forces. The captain of the Indianapolis was brought up before a court martial after the war for incompetence, but he was cleared. The captain never recovered from this trauma and committed suicide years later. This story was made into the TV movie Mission of the Shark, with Stacy Keach, about 14 years ago. Seeing the Alabama reminded me of the story Leslie told me, and one must remember those who perished during WWII.

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