Roma Royalty in Meridian

Kelly Mitchell, Queen of the Gypsies (Romas), Meridian, Mississippi

Marker of Queen Kelly Mitchell in Meridian

Above is the grave marker of Queen Kelly Mitchell in Meridian, MS. The story is that she died in 1915 while giving birth at a camp in Coatopa, Alabama (which is west of Demopolis). Her family brought her to Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian to be buried. A recollection of that event can be found at this very good site that also refers to the rest of the family of Emil Mitchell, who was Kelly’s husband, the “King of the Gypseys”. The story goes on about the burial customs and the fact that the grave was reinforced with steel bars and concrete so as to discourage thieves (because apparently many fine things were buried along with her body for use on the other side of the Styx).

Kelly Mitchell, Queen of Gypsies (Romas); in Meridian, MS

collection of items left on Kelly Mitchell’s marker

I have heard that when the Roma come through Meridian, they leave items on Kelly’s marker. Visitors do as well (people seem to do that a lot…people leave all kinds of things in Montgomery at Hank Williams’ grave….guitar pics, whisky bottles, etc. Next time I go through, I’ll post a picture). This gravesite also seems to be a spot for people who do geocaching, so I’m pretty sure that some amount of this must have been left from them. Whenever we go through Meridian, we stop at Rose Hill to see what’s on the markers. It is different every time.

Along with Kelly Mitchell are buried her husband, Emil, who died in 1942 close to Attalla (AL), Flora Mitchell (Emil’s sister), Joe “Sharkie” Mitchell and Princess Diana Sharkey Mitchell, Slatcho Mitchell, Helen and Frank Mitchell, Mehil Mitchell, Lawrence Mitchell, Nicholas Gulumba, Costa George Bimbo, and Ovdoikia George Bimbo.

Riverview Hotel, Mobile

Riverview Hotel, Mobile, Alabama

Our room at the Riverview Hotel, Mobile

Room: The Riverview Hotel in Mobile was formerly the Adam’s Mark Mobile. We’ve stayed here probably at least ten times (when it was an Adam’s Mark). About five years ago, we first gave it a try as I was impressed that we could get a 4* hotel under $80 in downtown Mobile. Once we got into our room, I was just taken with the view (the even-numbered rooms face the dock in Mobile, and there is something going on there all day and all night. For someone not used to seeing a dock in operation, it is really something). It was easy to forgive aging furnishings for that view. However, last year we decided that most everything there was so far past-prime that we would find somewhere else to stay for most of our trips there.

Last year, the Adam’s Mark was sold and it is now called the “Riverview”. The website states that they are now undergoing a $17 million renovation.

Uh, I don’t know where or when, but there’s no evidence of it. Anywhere.

We booked a room at a rate significantly higher than the old Adam’s Mark rates. What did we receive? The same worn-out room with worn-out furnishings. Without exaggerating, I can say that I felt every single mattress coil underneath me all night. We won’t be back.

Lobby: Very ’80’s. Very hunter green.

Service: There needs to be more people available at the front desk for check-ins, it seems.

Food: There is no excuse to eat here when there are all kinds of great places in Mobile! I’ll post about that later….. ūüôā

Extra: There’s a walkway between the hotel and the Outlaw Convention Center.

Our experience is this: Never again. If I were a hotel manager, there is no way that I would have guests sleep on mattresses that……..coily.

Grand Casino, Gulfport

Hotel Room, Grand Casino, Gulfport, Mississippi
Our room at the Grand Casino, Gulfport

Room: This was our second stay at the Grand Casino Oasis Hotel in Gulfport. The Oasis Hotel is actually across the street from the casino and main hotel (but both can be reached via an enclosed walkway that runs over the highway) and is a little less expensive since it is a bit of a walk. The room is average in size and amenities to a Hampton (and is a little less in cost).

Lobby: Standard-issue casino hotel lobby.

Service: Oddly, when we got in, the door to our room was open. Not all the way, but the deadbolt arm was extended, keeping the door from closing all the way. A pillowcase was left hanging on the closet door, and there was no extra pillow inside so we figured that the maid must have forgotten to come back with the extra clean pillow. I called down to the front desk to let them know that the room had been open all day and that I just wanted to make them aware of it since I wan’t familiar enough with the room to realize if anything may have been taken (you never know. I really didn’t want to think about someone taking something from the room, but I would have been really upset if we had gotten home and be charged for something.). They made a note of it.

Food: We didn’t eat here, but we DID have supper at Vrazel’s. This was our first time at Vrazel’s and it was great. I do have to say, though, that we walked in wearing blue jeans and although no one said anything or even looked at us weird, we should have really been dressed nicer. We both had fish, and everything was excellent!

Our experience is this: We would stay here again.

Sheraton Four Points, Ft. Walton Beach

Sheraton 4 Points Hotel Room, Ft. Walton Beach, Florida

Our room at the Sheraton Four Points, Ft. Walton Beach

Room: This was our first stay at a Sheraton Four Points (which I think is supposed to be their answer to Hilton’s Hampton Inn and Marriott’s Fairfield Inn chains). As late as the 80’s, this hotel was the Coronado Beach Resort, where Av and his brother used to go on vacations with their grandparents a few summers. Our room was on the 6th floor of the ‘tower’, which has been built since the Coronado days, I believe. The room was about average in size, but the room as a whole was in serious need of an update. Our room also had a balcony with a couple of plastic-y Wal-Mart style chairs. Since Ivan blew through, the hotel has decided to undergo a renovations of the rooms which will take place later this year.

Lobby: Golden Girls-eque decor.

Service: Those at the front desk and breakfast restaurant were very friendly.

Food: Our stay came with a breakfast buffet which was *much* better than average.

Extra: It’s on the beach, and there’s not a whole lot on either side, so I would guess that during the busy season the beach in front of the hotel isn’t just overrun with other hotel’s guests. During our stay, the beach was closed to repair the dunes.

Our experience is this: Honestly, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of better choices in Ft. Walton Beach, especially since a few are still closed for repairs after Ivan. Would I stay at this hotel again? Maybe. I’d sure spend some time looking for something more interesting, though.

The Beach Club, Orange Beach

Beach Club, Orange Beach, Alabama
The Beach Club, Gulf Shores

Beach Club, Orange Beach, Alabama
Me on our balcony

Beach Club Master Bedroom, Orange Beach, Alabama
Our bedroom

Room: We reserved a one bedroom condo for three days/four nights at The Beach Club over the New Year holiday. When we got there, we were given a two bedroom condo (it was their reservation system’s error) which we were given at the same rate as the one-bedroom we had reserved. We stayed in the Avalon tower on the 8th floor. It was really decorated nicely. I didn’t want to leave!

Lobby: There’s actually a separate building on-site for checking in. All the public buildings are really nice.

Food: Well, I cooked everything! The kitchen was really well-appointed, so Av and I just went down the road to a Bruno’s and picked up groceries.

Spa: There is a spa, but we didn’t make any reservations.

Our experience is this: We plan to make staying at The Beach Club a tradition. For a few years (when we don’t go to a bowl game) we have stayed down in Gulf Shores for New Year’s. There was a fireworks show practically right in front of our room this year! We’ll also be coming back some time in March.

Grand Gulf Military Park (Grand Gulf, MS)

Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Grand Gulf, Mississippi

Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church (moved here from Rodney, Mississippi)

Organ, Grand Gulf Mississippi

This organ is so pretty in person

Grand Gulf Military Park (Grand Gulf, MS) is **amazingly** beautiful. Grand Gulf was a town on the Mississippi River that used to be pretty large, but now there isn’t much (save the park) since the river changed its course and engulfed the town. The picture above is one of the first buildings you reach in the park – it’s the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic church which moved here from Rodney (Rodney also used to be a LOT bigger before the river’s course moved *away* from it). A lot of people call Rodney a ghost town, but people live there still and there are several hunting clubs around; in fact when we drove there a couple of years ago, we must have seen over a dozen deer along the roadside. I’ll blog more about Rodney later.

Spanish Moss at Grand Gulf Cemetery, Mississippi


Grand Gulf Cemetery - Grand Gulf, Mississippi

Grand Gulf Cemetery

The cemetery pictured above is sooooo pretty. There are also trees here that drop huge (some of them had to be close to a foot long) purple seed pods. I brought a couple home to figure out what they were, but I don’t have an answer yet.

Volvo S40 & Me

Looking downward at our Volvo from the 75-foot observation tower

Mississippi River at Grand Gulf MS

Av climbed the 75-foot observation tower where you can see the Mississippi River. The river is about a half mile from this spot.

Casino Magic, Bay St. Louis

Casino Magic, Bay St. Louis MS

Our Room at the Casino Magic Hotel in Bay St. Louis

Room: The Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis is our favorite hotel along the Mississippi coast. The rooms are nice and we can usually get it for $59 or less – much better than a Hampton (my yardstick for all things ordinary in the hotel world) and we often get upgraded to a junior suite at no cost. Be sure that if you go play in the casino that you get one of their membership cards as many of the perks comes from the level of play – we get something in the mail just about every month from some of the casinos we visit offering free (or almost free) rooms, free buffets or food credit at their restaurants, and free play money. We aren’t even casino people really — we just stay at their hotels because when we travel during the week on business, they aren’t busy, and their rooms which would otherwise go for a couple/three hundred dollars on the weekends are less than $100 during the week. ¬†And many times, much less than $100. ¬†So, same room, just different timing.

Lobby: The lobby here is pretty average.

Service: We’ve always gotten great service here for anything we’ve asked for.

Food: I think that we have only had the buffet for breakfast here, but it was average. We haven’t been to any of their *real* restaurants because we like to eat outside along the beach at the independent restaurants.

Spa: The spa here is nice but not ultra, ultra fancy. I’ve gotten my hair trimmed here a time or two as has Av.

Extra: It’s just…I don’t know…maybe 30 or 45 minutes from New Orleans! Yay!

Our experience is this: We have stayed here several times over the last couple of years – probably around eight or ten times, so it really is our favorite hotel along that part of the coast. The Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis is not related to the Casino Magic in Biloxi – I asked (because the one in BSL is so much nicer than the one in Biloxi) and was told that they used to be, but aren’t any longer. There are actually two hotel buildings in BSL – the Bay Tower Hotel (which is joined with the casino) and the Casino Magic Inn (which we haven’t stayed at), right across the parking lot. The CMI is less expensive, although there is a shuttle to get back and forth from that hotel building to the casino proper.

The hotel/casino property is not actually on the Gulf – it would be about a three minute drive to the beach, I think. When you go to a MS casino, one of the things that just really doesn’t happen a whole lot is people going to the beach. Now I **love** Mississippi for about a million different reasons, but the beach isn’t one of them. Truth be told, the beach in Gulf Shores (AL) or Pensacola (FL) are just…..better. The sand is whiter, and parts of the MS beach have these giant pipe-things going from the land to the water (which….I don’t know what those are doing there…..), and so if we do want to play around on the beach we just park at one of the public beach spaces and go from there.

A lot of little shops, including antique shops, are located in Old Town Bay St. Louis.

Jackson Hilton

Hilton Hotel Room, Jackson, Mississippi

Our Room at the Hilton in Jackson, MS

Room: Very average Hilton. One step up from Hampton Inn, and in this case was $10 more than one of the Hampton Inns that we have stayed at previously (we have stayed in HIs in Jackson on Briarwood and on Greymont).

Lobby: Ordinary.

Service: Our experience here was only with the front desk, and they were courteous.

Food: We didn’t order room service or dine in the hotel’s on-site restaurant during our stay.

Extra: The Hilton is on County Line Road – **very** busy during rush hour and well into the evening.

Our experience is this: Nothing outstanding, either good or bad. In the future we would probably go back to a Hampton Inn. In Jackson – besides this Hilton and the also-mentioned Hamptons, we’ve also stayed at the downtown Crowne Plaza and the one we jokingly call the¬†Edison Warthog (officially the Edison Warthall, but we had such a terrible, terrible experience there…..well, that’s for another post….). What I’d really like to try: The Old Capitol Inn.

Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino, Tunica

Our room at the Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino, Tunica

Room: The room itself here (furnishings-wise) is sub-Hampton, but okay. Although Av and I have been to Tunica several times — not for the casinos really, but for when we are working in the Delta — I really recommend the rooms at Harrah’s. We for some reason got a mailer from Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino offering $29 rooms for a week in December when we were going to need to be in that part of the Delta anyway for business. Since we only needed to stay one night in that particular area, we decided we would go just to see what that particular hotel and casino were like. The hotel has more than one floor, but several of the rooms (including ours) was on the first floor.

Important: if you’re wondering why anyone would stay in a $29/night room, well, agreed. ¬†Until you realize that on the weekends these rooms go for hundreds, and during the week when the crowd has subsided, the casino is just happy to have warm bodies. ¬†Yes, on Monday it’s a $29 room but on Friday this same room is $200+

Lobby: Average.

Service: The front desk was nice. We self-parked because it was snowy/icy and I didn’t want to give my Volvo to a valet, but the self-parking lot is super-close to the door anyway.

Food: We didn’t eat here at all – we arrived well after suppertime and left before we were in the mood for breakfast.

Our experience is this: For $29 would I do it again? …..mmmm….maybe. Certainly not for more than that, which is a silly thing to say, but true. The casino wasn’t very nice (and we’re not gamblers). For a casino experience, there are much better choices (again, Harrah’s) in Tunica/Robinsonville.

Williams Brothers and A Little Vegas

One of my favorite stores is Williams Brothers is Philadelphia.

The store is part groceries, part feed and seed, and part shoe store. The last time we went to Philadelphia – this last summer – we went to Williams Brothers on our way home. It was the month of the Neshoba County Fair – also known as Mississippi’s Giant House Party (I **so** desperately want us to have one of the cabins there!!). We had gone to a very nice conference at one of the casinos there, but the casinos themselves – both the Golden Moon (the newer one) and the Silver Star – not so wild about those.

About four years ago Av and I went to Las Vegas as part of a convention I had to attend and we stayed at Mandalay Bay, which was very nice. At the time, it had the largest bathroom of any hotel we had stayed at (::especiallyinParis::). Oh, and their spa……one of our friends bought me a ‘Mandalay Day’ and it was so nice……massage, facial, manicure, pedicure, etc etc etc. They also have a Robert Cromeans salon there which was great.

We spent some time at some of the other casinos, and especially since we were there on a convention with some other friends, we had a great time taking in a lot of the very nice restaurants on the strip as well as in the ‘real’/older part of Las Vegas. Very quickly: we did NOT have supper at Aureole, but this is the Charlie Parker restaurant with the 4-story wine tower. We did, however, we did get a kick out of seeing them retrieve bottles of wine via harnesses, from the large window inside the hotel. We did have supper at: Rum Jungle (wow!!), Shanghai Lily (really wow!!), Trattoria Del Lupo (this is a quicky Wolfgang Puck place – not so good), and thankfully, Venetian Italian Restaurant on W Sahara Ave (not affiliated with The Venetian Hotel – this restaurant was in ‘old’ Las Vegas) which is no longer open but was a **great** experience.

If we were interested in staying elsewhere, we love ‘American Casino’ on Discovery Channel and may want to go have supper and spend some time at Green Valley Ranch Resort. I am really looking forward to our next trip!