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Three Cheers for Fairhope!

John Deiner

Who doesn't love lists? You don't have to agree with them, but they're always fun to read.

And I have to say that's certainly true about the list compiled by Coastal Living magazine of the "Top 10 Romantic Escapes." The key word here is "coastal," so it's no surprise to see such honorees as New York City, Naples, Fla., Niagara Falls (Ontario) and even St. Michaels, Md. It was rather odd to see that Barbados was the only spot in the Caribbean to make the cut, but there's a lot of coast out there, I suppose.

Another local entry: North Carolina's Outer Banks. I'm an OBX fan, but I never really considered it all that romantic. But then the magazine press release gooily proclaimed that while there are plenty of tourist diversions, "it's also easy to sneak away and find your own private stretch of beach, with vivid stars overhead, moonlight-silvered surf at your feet, the sea breeze tousling your hair -- and magic ready to happen." Sounds like any nice, empty moonlight-slivered, magic-filled beach to me, but I'll buy it.

But what to make of another entry on the list, Fairhope, Ala.?

I've never heard of the place, but, then again, I've never heard of a lot of places. Still, how could Fairhope compare with other magazine faves like Sausalito, Calif., and La Jolla, Calif.
Pretty easy, it appears (and I'm sure the fact that the mag is based in Birmingham, Ala., has nothing to do with it). Here's how Coastal Living describes the town:

"This charming village nestles on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay like an idealized, movie-set small town. Blossoms burst from planters and flower boxes along every block of the tree-shaded downtown. Wrought-iron balconies lend a bit of New Orleans flavor--appropriate for a community that celebrates Mardi Gras with a half-dozen parades spread over more than two weeks. Couples could spend days contentedly browsing the boutiques, art galleries, antiques shops, parks, and, most deliciously, the restaurants. Day's end brings a beautiful bonus: sunset over the bay."

Sounds ideal, doesn't it (except for that icky "most deliciously" part)? My friend Betsy, who sits across the partition from me and can hear me typing this, grew up in Alabama and is sort of familiar with the town. She agrees it's a nice place, but even she's a little dubious about its new status.

In lieu of deliciously strolling around town, I just went to the town's Web site instead. One of the country's most romantic spots? Dunno. But it sure is cute.


By John Deiner |  February 2, 2007; 10:05 AM ET  | Category:  John Deiner
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Fairhope...I had a college classmate from there, and one spring break, ended up down that way for an afternoon stop while driving from New Orleans to Destin. It's really quite nice, every bit the coastal village that the Eastern Shore towns are, but with more sun, warmth, and the Gulf. The other thing is that it really is tucked away from the coastal "main drag"...you've got to know it's there before you run across it, and that makes it a find.

Posted by: 23112 | February 2, 2007 10:57 AM

Hi, John. . .
I can tell you a thing or two about Fairhope, Alabama, and you can disregard the fact that I'm a senior editor at COASTAL LIVING. Don't let that bias you one bit. The magazine moved me to Birmingham, AL headquarters 9 years ago from San Francisco--where I'd lived for 22 years (including 8 years in the Napa Valley). They wanted to beef up our West Coast expertise. Three months after that move, I sauntered down to Fairhope. I fell so in love with the village and its surrounding "Eastern Shore" (of Mobile Bay) that we have a staff joke now: I'm in charge of travel coverage for West Coast and Mobile Bay. I've been to Fairhope about 12 times--always finding new things to write about in the environs because of its interesting people, and some of those trips are just for personal fun. My first story about the Eastern Shore ("Deep South Surprise," Sept/October 2001 opened with my hoo-hooing a rumor I heard that it was "the Carmel of the South." I stopped hoo-hooing after that first visit. Just let me know if you want some travel tips for the Eastern Shore. You should get out of the Beltway more often. You can email me at susan_haynes@timeinc.com if you wish. :)

Posted by: Susan Haynes | February 5, 2007 11:28 AM

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