A weekend on the Emerald Coast.
12.05.2011 - 15.05.2011
Do you remember summer road trips from your childhood? Trips that meant long languid days in the summer sunshine unencumbered by things like iPods or Wii or 678 satellite TV channels.
I remember when vacation didn’t involve TSA or carry-on luggage but meant a hard sided suitcase tossed in the back of the family Buick and a brown paper bag of peanut butter sandwiches on the vinyl seat between my parents as we drove down to Florida with the windows rolled down. I remember when there was no fancy SUV with a 3rd row seat, dual DVD players, and noise cancelling headsets, but instead I slid around, hot and sweaty in the back seat playing I Spy with my brothers and would fight with them over who had to sit on the hump in the middle. Back then, the idea of an all inclusive resort with lagoon swimming pools and waterslides was incomprehensible because we woke up in the morning to open up a mini-box of corn flakes, pour in some powdered milk, and eat breakfast with a plastic spoon in our hotel room just before running outside to splash and scream in delight in the 14 x 22 concrete pool. Those were the days when vacation dinner didn’t include words like sushi, hibachi, sliders, or tapas but was eaten in an old wooden building with a tin roof at the end of a pier and included words like fried, basket, and hushpuppies.
Summer vacations back then were pure and precious. They were uncomplicated and unpretentious. Like a fresh slice of key lime pie, they were sweet and simple.
That’s what visiting Seaside, FL is like.
Sure, there is some cash flowing, but it still manages to maintain a quaint goodness, an elegant simplicity, and a casual comfort.
We spent a long weekend in Seaside proper and loved every minute of it. It was like returning to the summer vacations of our childhood.
There were no high rises; no 30 story condos; no multiplexes; no 20 screen theaters; no bungee jumping; no helicopter rides; no 17 acre swimming pools; and no amusement park style restaurants with giant plastic mushrooms, fake waterfalls, or singing elephants.
Instead, it was a weekend filled with pastel cottages, sticky ice cream cones, hands greasy from fried shrimp baskets, long walks on the sugary white sand, and the simplicity of sitting on the balcony and watching the world slowly twirl in the summer haze before us.
Seaside is a planned community beside the gulf filled with adorable cottages in pastel colors or brilliant sunwashed white looking like something from a picture book. At its center is a town which consists of a quaint little post office, a green park with a small amphitheater, and a few strips of adorable shops and cafes. The colors are soft. The sounds are happy. The smells are of beach burgers and french fries.
In Seaside, “dressing up for dinner” means you take your swimsuit off before you put on your cotton sundress and flip flops. In Seaside, you get everywhere by walking or riding an old 3 speed with a basket on front. In Seaside, shopping means strolling through the sidewalk art at Ruskin Place or picking up a basket of shells from Perscipacity’s colorful outdoor market. In Seaside, lunch is found by walking up to the counter at an old, silver Airstream trailer and ordering a beach dog with mustard and onions.
The sun shines bright in Seaside, reflecting off the white buildings that are scattered about in the sand, warming their faces, fading their crisp blue shutters to a sun worn shade that reminds you of hazy August days. The air is warm and smells of magnolia blossoms and salt. The sand is as soft as sifted flour....warm at the surface, but cool as you dig your bares toes deep. The ocean swells with pride, in ever changing shades of emerald and blue.
Time seems to stand still and things feel slower here.
Mornings are spent grabbing a hot coffee and fresh doughnut at Modica Market and walking through the park. Afternoons are long and lazy, spent with your toes in the white sand of the gulf coast watching the surf pound as kids fly kites and impromptu volleyball games spring up in front of the chair rental stand. Five o’clock means it’s time to head to the Southern Café and get the $5 oysters on the halfshell, clean and crisp on a bed of ice washed down with a cold mojito. Evenings bring seafood baskets, glorious sunsets, and children laughing on the park lawn.
It was a slow and sleepy weekend, spent in blissful summer splendor, a gentle reminder that vacation doesn’t always mean jetting off to some exotic locale. Sometimes, the best pleasures to be found are the simple ones.