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The character of South Alabama is largely determined by its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico: even the landlocked eastern three-quarters, cut off from the Gulf by the panhandle of Florida, is a region of gently-rising, sandy land drained by many winding, slow-moving streams. The area was not considered very good for agriculture, and so remained sparsely settled until late in the 19th century, by which time much of the native pine forest had been cut down. But the soil proved to be ideal for raising peanuts, and today the largest town in the region, Dothan, bills itself as the Peanut Capital of the World.

But it's the other corner of the region that is the best known: the area of Mobile Bay and the Gulf beaches. The city of Mobile was the first capital of French Louisiana, after its founding in 1702, and it shares much in common with the present state of Louisiana...including Mardi Gras. Mobile's first Mardi Gras "krewe" (a formally organized carnival club) dates to 1830--27 years before the first comparable organization in New Orleans.

Mobile shares much more in common with New Orleans, from its architecture (French, Spanish, and American) to its cuisine (heavily dependent on seafood) to its climate (hot and rainy in summer, but gloriously mild throughout most of the winter).



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