In the fourth grade, I did my State Report, a rather long and involved project for the time, on Mississippi. I didn’t know when I’d have the chance to visit The Magnolia State until I received an invitation to speak on the Social Media panel at the 2013 SATW (Society of American Travel Writers) Convention on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi. So here was my opportunity to visit the Deep South, y’all. My 44-hour stay (from Monday late afternoon to Wednesday at noon) was short but sweet. And full of shrimp.
My stay was short and sweet (just under 48 hours) but I got a feel for the Southern hospitality they moment that I was met at the Gulfport-Biloxi Airport by Taryn of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. She gave me and fellow social media panelist Martin Stoll of Sparkloft a great little tour on the way to the hotel. She showed us the most photographed site in Mississippi – the Biloxi Lighthouse, which is the only lighthouse in US (and probably the world) to sit in the middle of a four-lane highway. She also pointed out Marlin Miller’s numerous wood sculptures — the artist turned the remains of Oak trees damaged by Hurricane Katrina into fish, birds and other animals.
We arrived at our hotel, and I was immediately impressed by the Beau Rivage. Owned by MGM group, the hotel’s massive, garden-like lobby did remind me of the Bellagio. As a Halloween fanatic, I especially liked the white pumpkin displays. But really, it was all about the view from my room on the 25th floor – simply incredible! And the bed was very inviting after a long day of travel from NYC to Biloxi…
There was barely any time to rest before it was time for the big SATW gala at the IP Casino. It was a really fun event — a band, two Gulf Coast Shrimp stations, great decorations — and a good opportunity to meet a lot of the SATW members. It was also where I was reunited with fellow Social Media panelist Carrie Finley-Bajak of CruiseBuzz.net. We were both part of the #FollowMeAtSea Alaska Princess Cruise, and had an amazing time sailing among the glaciers. We hadn’t seen each other for over three years but it was like we were right back on that ship.
The next day, I wanted to fit in some sightseeing before the Social Media Panel from 2—5:30pm. This was going to to be my only real chance because the following day (Wednesday), I had a flight at noon. I can’t stand to be in a place and not check something off the list, so I caught the Casino Hopper bus to the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. The museum is devoted to George Ohr, “the Mad Potter of Biloxi,” and I enjoyed seeing his eccentric pottery. Ohr was ahead of his time in many ways, including his clever marketing of himself and his creations. Devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the museum is in the process of being rebuilt in Frank Gehry’s vision of brick and steel. The Pleasant Reed House, an African American home circa 1887 that is part of the museum, has already been completely rebuilt true to its original design and material.
Then it was back to the Beau Rivage for lunch — more shrimp! And finally, my reason for being traveling to Biloxi: the Tuesday afternoon SATW Social Media Panel, moderated by SATW president Lillian Africano.
After the panel, Martin, Carrie, Jason Clampet of Skift and I headed to Mary Mahoney’s for a celebratory dinner. My friend Maryeliza, who grew up in Gulfport, said it was the place to eat if you’re visiting Biloxi. Set in an elegant New Orleans style home that French colonist Louis Frasier built in 1737, Mary Mahoney’s has been serving very Southern cuisine since 1962. It’s as famous for documenting its flood lines as it is for its seafood specialties. I had the Shrimp and Lump Crabmeat Melba, which was broiled jumbo shrimp and sautéed lump crabmeat served on a bed of cheesy, creamy angel hair pasta. It was very good, and marked my third meal of shrimp in 24 hours. I’m a big shrimp fan and fresh Gulf Coast shrimp is worth the trip alone — even if you only have 44 hours!