Do you like HGTV? I sure do, and “Home Town” is one of my favorites. So, as part of our trip to Gulf State Park in Alabama, I planned for us to stop and visit Laurel, Mississippi. We arranged for two nights, so we would be sure to have a full day to explore Laurel and maybe even to find Ben and Erin.
If you are a fan, I know you understand. It’s one of our Meccas, like Waco. Now, HOLD ON a minute all you men folk! Don’t you click off just yet. Let me spell it out for you. The information in this post is very, very powerful. Should the info be used correctly, it could propel you into the stratosphere of your partner’s affections. Whether it’s a good meal, watching multiple sports events, a hopeful twinkle in your eye, maybe even ALL three, this post could get you there. Sound like a place you want to be?
To begin, we started our day in Laurel at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art. While we were parking in the lot behind the museum, we saw Gardiner Park. This is the large rectangular park, lined by charming homes, featured on the show. I had to walk around just a bit, just like Ben and Erin, and enjoy this picturesque area.
On to the museum where we picked up the “Walking Tour of Historic Laurel Homes” brochure. The brochures were here because the museum is currently functioning as the town’s Visitor Center. There had been a Visitor Center on Main Street, but we were told, the museum was now temporarily fulfilling this role as the town was currently “in between Visitor Centers.” This was one of several places we noticed to be in transition as Laurel prepares to meet the demand of its growing role as a tourist destination.
The Walking Tour brochure guided us around a large square block showcasing large, beautiful, historic homes. On this tour, I learned of the large influence of the lumber industry on Laurel’s history. Two of the homes had been wedding gifts for the daughters of a lumber baron. I wondered if these homes were ever offered on a Christmas House Tour, like in my New Town at St. Charles neighborhood or in historic St. Charles. This could be another trip for us. Let’s not tell Dan just yet.
As we walked along the tour, we had to step carefully, as this was another area in transition. One street was even closed. The street was being redone along with the curbing along much of the route.
Next we headed to the historic downtown area which was not too far from the museum. We went into Sweet Somethings, a charming bakery. Though tempting, I saved my calories for later, and we continued on. These downtown streets have a number of shops, of course, but they also have several charming pocket parks.
We ate a late lunch at Pearl’s Diner. I had fried chicken, macaroni n cheese, cole slaw and a roll. Delicious! Good thing I saved my calories. We ate outside at a sidewalk table with live music just around the corner. They were playing lots of Beatles songs. Does life get any better?
While lots of shopping is available, I didn’t want to spend the day inside, and I kind of already have enough stuff. But I did want to see and shop a bit at Ben and Erin’s two stores. But before we went to Laurel Mercantile, there was one more stop we had to make.
On the town’s map, I saw a place named “Shug’s Cookie Dough & Candy Bar.” Cookie Dough Bar? I don’t know what that is, but I sure as heck was gonna find out! The store offers a number of flavors of edible cookie dough, and they scoop it up and give you a spoon to eat it just like that.
Fellas: Do not underestimate the the cookie dough bar. It’s gold, baby. Gold!
I chose a large scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough for my dessert. Any saved calories were long gone! I also bought two cake pops (not on sticks) to have as my dessert for the next two days. Good thing I was doing a lot of waddling around, I mean walking around.
Onto the Laurel Mercantile where there was a large banner featuring Ben and Erin. A nice lady stood at a podium and happily agreed when we asked her to take our picture. Dan asked her if she took many pictures there. Her reply with a smile, “All day long.” She then said I am also often asked to autograph the page featuring my home in Erin’s sketchbook; it’s an adult coloring book. “What?” I replied. “There’s an adult coloring book featuring all of Erin’s sketches of the homes featured on the show?! Where is it?” You can get it right back there, she said with a big, sweet southern smile. And yes, we fell right into this genius marketing ploy. And I would happily do it again.
I was also admiring Ben and Erin’s book, “Make Something Good Today.” I had gotten this book from the library, but I had to return it before I was done as someone else had requested it. Dan took that book to the register saying he was buying it as a gift for me. He then walked the sketch book back to the lady at the podium and asked her to sign it for me. My heart was bursting with love for this man.
We also stopped by The General Store, the second store owned by Ben and Erin. Some of the Home Town show is filmed here. We took a few pictures and looked around. I had one more activity on my wish list, and there was about an hour left to do it.
We went back to the Lauren Rogers Art Museum. The museum is free and is an especially beautiful building on the inside. I wanted to walk three of its galleries, including the Native American Basket collection donated by Catherine Marshall Gardiner. We had just enough time, and we closed down the museum with a staff member happily taking several more pictures of us.
The town is oh, so charming, and I very much enjoyed our day in Laurel, visiting the areas we’ve so often seen on our television. Everyone – from the museum staff – to the store staff – to the workers at the restaurant – to even someone sitting in a car, waiting to pick up a restaurant worker – was friendly and talkative and offered a genuine smile. I think they know something special is happening in their town.
That something special isn’t just about economic growth. It’s about craftsmanship. It’s about being resourceful, and doing the best with what you’ve got. It’s about creating and doing good. It’s about helping others. It’s about hope and optimism. And, yes, it’s even about love.
Soon enough, our day in Laurel came to an end. Those we met seemed very happy we were there, so welcoming. Everyone had a smile to give along with a “Have a nice day, y’all.” And, yes, everyone inside was wearing a mask, but even so, I could tell they were smiling. I was smiling, too, and I still am.