There are people that make you feel at home, and there are places where you feel at home. This weekend, I had both.

First, let me tell you about the person.

Lina is my cousin. The oldest of 20 grandchildren on my Daddy’s side of the family. I’ve loved her as long as I can remember and despite our age difference, we have always been close. She always took up time with me when I was a kid. She made me feel special, and she still does. She is unassuming, kind, thoughtful, open-minded, intelligent. She’s one of those people that treats everybody with kindness and respect and she can talk to anybody about anything because she’s extremely smart and well-read. I have tremendous respect for her as a woman, a mother, and as a human being. She and I are kindred spirits. We have been through some similar circumstances, and share a bond that goes beyond our bloodline connection. We both never want to stop growing, broadening our horizons. But we also just love to have a good belly laugh at the ridiculous nature of life and certain idiots that cross our paths.

Our children aren’t babies or small anymore, and this past weekend was the first one-on-one visit we’ve had since they have grown up a little bit.

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Now, let me tell you about the place.

Just a couple of hours away is a place that I fell in love with several years ago – Mobile, AL. Most people never experience the charms of this fine city because they simply bypass it on the way to the beaches of Florida, or the adventure of Disney World or some such. But I have to say, whenever I want a weekend getaway, Mobile is always at the top of my list. It combines so many influences of history and has so much to offer not just the tourist, but the resident. I think that’s the appeal. It’s not “touristy”. It just feels like a big ol’ front porch where an old friend beckons you to join them for a drink and a visit.

Yesterday morning, we packed up a little cooler of water and lunch and headed to Dauphin Island, one of the best kept secrets of Alabama. I’ve never been to the beaches there and felt crowded. You can usually find a quiet little spot along the shore and just breath the Gulf air and let the breezes and waves lower your blood pressure with their soothing comfort.

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After the beach, we drove downtown. We walked along the streets and she indulged me as I peeked inside of places that are always closed when I’ve been there before. Like the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. I love churches, especially old ones. This one takes my breath away from the outside, and the inside is just as fantastic. I told Lina today, big churches today feel like auditoriums. Big Catholic and Episcopal churches still have some semblance of intimacy that’s hard to put into words. Not knocking the Protestants, these are just my personal feelings.

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Then we took a peek inside the Saenger Theater. I WILL be back for a production one day. I didn’t get to see but a little bit of this place, but it’s just refreshing to be somewhere where art, culture, music, and creativity is happening all around you.

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From there, we made a trip into Bienville Books, the kind of bookstore I only ever see in movies. I bought two books for less than $7 and walked out a happy girl.

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One of the reason I love Lina is because we share a love of good writing, and her bedroom looks like this:

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I LOVE this about her. As I said, Kindred Spirits.

You won’t even come close to going hungry in a town like Mobile either because they offer everything from great bars and taverns to fresh seafood, pasta, bakeries, and delis, just to name a few. All unique and full of personality and atmosphere that breeds great conversation and good times.

We headed back downtown today after Reagan got back from visiting her Dad and had a fabulous lunch at Spot of Tea where we all had plates of beautiful and delicious food that made me wish I could stay a week, just to try everything at that one establishment.

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I had to take Reagan inside the historic Battlehouse Hotel. Shey and I have stayed there a couple of times and I absolutely love it. It’s my favorite hotel of all time. The rooftop terrace has spectacular views of the city, the Bay, and is covered in arbors, plants, and flowers. The lobby isn’t too shabby either:

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OR the ballroom

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Then there’s Wintzell’s, hands down THE best place to eat oysters since….forever.

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I haven’t been to Mobile without eating there the last 4 times I’ve been.

There’s so much to see and do in this treasure of the South. I never have enough time to do but a few things at a time, but just the drive through the old parts of town is enough to transport me to a different, more relaxed mindset.

And at the end of the day, and before we head out on these little excursions, and all throughout the day there is laughter, tears, deep conversations, sarcastic remarks, hugs, smiles, and companionable silence.

I don’t know if I’ll ever live anywhere besides my little acre that I call home in central Mississippi, but I do love Mobile. And I feel like it’s very much a place that I’d allow to become a part of me.

I think it’s so important to see different places besides the familiar. And not just see them, but really experience them. Let them inspire and refresh our weary minds, bodies, and souls.

It’s the same with keeping in touch with our Kindred Spirits. Sometimes a phone call or a text or a Facebook commentary, or a holiday visit isn’t enough. We need the experience of face-to-face connection. And those are always too short as well.

I brought home some treasures from the book store, some empty baked goods containers, and a refueled and refreshed spirit.

Thank you, Lina, for the hospitality and being such a lovely hostess. Thanks for listening and sharing and chauffeuring. For still making me feel so special after all these years.

Thank you, Mobile for the memories.

I’ll see you both again very soon.

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