It begins at 4ish in the morning, when I land at the airport in Houston, Texas.
I hang around the airport for a couple hours, eating bags of Lays from vending machines. It’s too early for any of the eateries in a domestic terminal to be open, and it’s the only available snack I’m not allergic to. I’m starving and in desperate need of coffee, but potato chips will have to do for now.
Eventually my parents pull up to the already muggy passenger pick-up area. I head over to meet them, and proceed to surprise the heck out of my younger siblings.
They’ve just begun a 10 hour road trip to a beach in Florida and had no idea they would be stopping at the airport to pick me up on the way! It’s a birthday surprise for my youngest sister, who has been begging me to visit for months. Little did she know!
After my parents and I brag about how we’ve planned this for four months and exclaim over how proud we are of pulling it off, and my siblings have had time to produce a sufficient amount of shocked expressions, we’re on our way.
Before reaching Florida, we must drive through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. I sleep through most of of the drive, despite gulping from the 20 oz thermos of coffee my parents have passed to me in the backseat.
In Louisiana, there’s a rest stop where they serve “free coffee and smiles”- we sip our free coffee
and walk a short loop around some alligator statues to stretch our legs.
I open my eyes again crossing “the largest swamp in America” (whichever state that’s in…) and crossing the Mississippi river, then remain unconscious until we near our destination…
The rental condo my sister had found for us to stay in was a mere half mile from the ocean, with stunning views of the coast. From our deck we could see for what seemed like miles… Every morning we woke up to the sound of seagulls mingling with the distant rhythm of waves, and a gorgeous sunrise. In a word, it was paradise.
Every day began either at the pool or in the ocean, and we dipped in both at least once, usually twice each day. I preferred the ocean, as the Puget Sound back home isn’t as great for swimming and it was fun to have the opportunity to play in salt water. The water here was so blue and so clear, the sand pale and soft, contrasting with the crashing waves… And is there anything so awe-inspiring and mystical as the endless, open sky?
We left the shores near our condo every day for a while to check out neighboring cities. Our first little adventure was the boardwalk at Destin. It reminded me a little bit of Sentosa in Singapore– a little bit touristy but quirky enough to be interesting. There was a pirate ship, a zip line and a lot of places to get cocktails…
The next town we hit up was Seaside, a white-walled little oasis off another beautiful white sand beach. While exploring we found a juice bar and all got fresh, fun juices- mine had cilantro and pineapple! After having several mimosas on the beach over the course of the week I felt this was much needed.
In Rosemary Beach, the architecture took a turn for the more elaborate. My mother said it reminded her of Leavenworth, WA- a bit European.
It was definitely a more well-off area- we weren’t able to actually go on the beach because we didn’t have a key code to get past the gate…. still, we wandered a bit and ended up being able to get coffee, at a real coffee shop called Amavida, a luxury in Florida. Good coffee is hard to find in the south. Maybe it’s because I’m used to Seattle, and hot coffee doesn’t sell as well in a more humid climate… Most of what’s in stores is just Community coffee (basically a cheap, Folgers-esque coffee) or similar. Even the Whole Foods only sold their line of Allegro coffee and like two other options, compared to the 20-30 other brands you’d find at any grocer in Seattle, often from local roasteries.
My point being that the americano I had from Amavida was life-giving.
Our last big stop before we drove back to Texas at the end of the week was a long fishing pier where dolphins were said to hang out. And they did! We saw a handful of them swimming around interrupting the fisherman who were trying to make catches. There was a giant sea turtle roaming around which we caught a glimpse of, too, but the dolphins stole the show.
Our final night ended with a firework show along this beach, after sampling alligator meat at a taco place for dinner. A weird way to spend an evening but super enjoyable.
All in all, a relaxing week of adventure, sand-coated bikinis, cocktails on the beach and salty hair moments with my family. What more could you ask for?