Spending two weeks in Walton County, Florida has been a quiet respite for us and we have enjoyed having this beautiful beach mostly to ourselves. We chose this destination and time of year, which is on the cusp of high season, for that purpose. A mix of cool sunny days and misty rain has provided the backdrop for relaxation that we were looking forward to. As Malcolm says, “we have perfected doing absolutely nothing.”
On the days that we were not “doing nothing” we explored the surrounding area, revisiting favorite places and making new discoveries. We visited Bellingrath Gardens many years ago (in summer) and it is definitely worthy of seasonal return visits. Peak season for the garden is Springtime, (March/April) but it has been unseasonably warm, so we took a chance and drove two hours northwest to Mobile, Alabama.
This weekend retreat belonged to Walter and Bessie Bellingrath who made their fortune by owning Coca-Cola bottling franchises in Southern Alabama. The sixty-five acre estate boasts beautifully manicured gardens with something blooming in every season. When we visited, the Azaleas were just beginning to open and many varieties of camellias (not pictured) were in full bloom throughout the gardens.
The 10,500 sf home which was built in 1935 has guided tours on the hour and may be viewed for an additional fee. We purchased the combination ticket and enjoyed the tour and history lesson very much.
The home is a museum and displays Mrs. Bellingrath’s extensive porcelain collection and many fine pieces of furniture that are original to the home along with additional pieces that were relocated from the guest house.
The guest house displays the country’s largest porcelain sculpture collection. The piece below was created by Edward Marshall Boehm. His works can be found in many prominent institutions throughout the world, including the Vatican Museum which has a wing named in his honor. It is fitting that this collection should be located at Bellingrath, considering Mrs. Bellingrath’s love of porcelain and nature.
Inside the home was difficult to photograph and I apologize for the awkward photographs below, but this was a ‘tour’, and one must be considerate of others. ugh!
The style of the house is distinctively Southern, with wide covered porches intentional to the high elevation and river breezes. One can almost taste the sweet tea served on the front porch or at one of the many garden overlooks. Who could tire of this view?
This is one of the most photographed vantage points in the garden. My photo doesn’t tell the whole story, but in one month or less the trees will have green leaves and the landscape will be ablaze with color from the azaleas that are just beginning to make an appearance.
This photo from the Bellingrath Garden’s website will give you a better idea of the true beauty of this graceful garden.
This was a good day and well worth the two hour drive. We took a different route home and encountered the National Sea Shore between Pensacola and Navarre Beach. This thirty-five mile drive encompasses seven miles of heaven which is protected as a national park. The endless vistas of sand dunes and crystal clear water are mesmerizing.
There are lots of convenient pull-outs for picture opps and we encountered one very nice RV Park for all you guys who are inclined to experience this pristine beach front property as it should be – naturally. Joe, Beth, you guys need to check this out. I know you will love it.
Our visit is winding down, just as surrender to relaxation is becoming second nature and we are reluctant to return to real life, but alas, we will return, refreshed and renewed.
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