Posted by: Jamie Stamm | May 7, 2008

Vacation, Day 3: The beauty of Bellingrath

Our plan for day three of our vacation was to head to the beach. But we awoke to cloudy skies and temperatures in the lower 70s, and with nearly an hour drive looming if we wanted to make it to the coast, we opted to stay closer to Mobile.

Before we left North Carolina, we had researched some family-friendly entertainment options in Mobile, one of which was Bellingrath Gardens in nearby Theodore, Ala. Cera loves flowers, so we thought she would enjoy the springtime blooms promised at this 65-acre estate. So with our beach plans shot, we climbed in the rental car and embarked on the 20-minute drive. (A quick side note: We saw a great sign outside a church while on our way to the gardens. It read: “Wal-Mart isn’t the only place for saving.” If I would have been a bit quicker with my camera, there would be a different photo here.)

Just a few steps through the gates at Bellingrath, I was transported back to my childhood, when my grandfather grew roses of all colors in his backyard garden. Some of my most cherished memories are of the fresh, fragrant bouquets he would bring me, the stems carefully wrapped in newspaper.

And there before me at those gardens in Alabama were – well, roses of all colors. Pinks and reds and oranges and yellows and whites – even some bushes with roses of multiple colors on the same stem.

There in the rose garden, the view was amazing, the scent was heavenly and the memories were flowing. I didn’t think it could get better. But it did.

We spent the next four hours strolling leisurely through the gardens (yes, you read that right, strolling leisurely WITH THE KIDS) while discovering many plants that we had never seen before.

One of our favorite parts of our visit to Bellingrath was the bayou boardwalk, where we encountered anoles, fiddler crabs, blue crabs, turtles and a variety of fish, including two gars that were … um … doing something that was hard to explain to a 5-year-old.

Another highlight was the Asian-American Garden, where Cera fell in love with the bridge crossing a small pond …

… and Jerry and his sister, Kara, stalked a small black rat snake in hopes of catching it. I’m not one for disturbing nature – plus I’m not a big fan of snakes (my born-and-bred-in-the-country hubby calls me “city girl”) – and somehow was able to convince them to let it be. Instead, we watched the snake cross the walking trail in front of us and go after a squirrel that was much bigger than it, which was one of the more amusing moments of the afternoon (followed closely by Anthony falling into a shallow fountain).

Bellingrath was amazingly beautiful, and it gave me an opportunity to take dozens of photos of my children, which is one of my favorite pastimes. And for the first time on our trip, after walking for miles, I think Cera and Anthony were actually tired.

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