I knew then it was not exactly a shabby Plan B! But now, back home, I can officially report that it was fabulous.
From food to friends to fun, our week away went without a hitch until an ornery ATM machine on our last night gave my friend a case of agita and me a near coronary. (I’m a BIT more neurotic than she is.) Luckily all ended up fine. (I still can’t find my house keys, but presumably they’ll turn up ... somewhere. I think the cat hid them.)
Here are a few highlights:
While my beach-deprived friend’s major goal was some serious beach-combing and swimming in the ocean, she’s always game for adventure, and we found it (well...our version of adventure). Despite some rainy weather, we got two full days at beachside and spent a good chunk of time searching for shells and laughing at the tiny sand crabs scurrying across the beach as we walked.
|This little guy was about three-quarters of an inch long, side to side.|
|The shell in the foreground is called a "lion's paw." |
Hopefully you can make it out.
We spent a day on Roanoke Island on the Outer Banks and learned about the Lost Colony of Roanoke. (Since I'm an HEA person, my version of the mystery is that they went to live --happily, of course--with the natives.)
We caught the first day of Virginia Beach’s Neptune Festival and strolled the vendor fair where we discovered woodworking expert Larry Ringgold and his remarkable driftwood sculptures.
|"Cat's Meow" by Larry Ringgold. The image doesn't do it justice.|
We blabbed until after midnight, slept in and ate when we felt like it (a major departure for my normally regimented work-time schedule). We had a blast.
Here are my favorites from the week.
Wild Horses of Corolla
Since reading about these horses, brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers, I've wanted to see them. We booked the last two seats from one of the tour companies, climbed aboard the 12-person beach-going Jeep and held on as we bounced our way down the beach.
Luckily, it wasn't long before we spotted a "harem" (a stallion with three of his lady friends) hanging out by the water. At first they just stood there like a bunch of storefront mannequins. Then the stallion lifted his head and his ears went on alert. We followed his gaze down the beach and spotted another group of mustangs ambling in our direction. The tour guide warned of possible friction between two stallions, but luckily all were friendly. After sniffing around each other a bit, they went their separate ways.
|I call this the "parlay" shot. :-)|
Another interesting part of the tour: two areas of development right in the dunes. I mean modern houses built among dunes themselves, with no paved roadways, no street names, just houses plopped in the middle of dunes. Underground wiring provides all the comforts of home, but four-wheel drive or ATV is a necessity for living there...not to mention an exceptional sense of direction. (All I could think was how would Amazon even deliver!)
My eagle-eyed friend spotted dolphins frolicking not far off the Virginia Beach shoreline on our last day for a perfect ending. We watched about six or seven swim up and down, with some flips and leaps, for about 30 minutes. Later that day, two dolphin-watching boats cruised by and I had to wonder if they were able to spot any!
Sunset cruise along the Albermarle Sound
We got a surprise treat on our second day, courtesy of a friend from my job who has a home with her husband near where we were staying. We were going to meet up at her office, but she said, "Leah, come on by for some dinner and a cruise." (How lucky were we??) It was lovely and special. Many thanks to our gracious, generous hosts!
They gave us a list of recommendations of things to do and see, including some good restaurants. (My ears perked up, of course.)
A big part of vacation for me is getting to try different foods. At home, normally TPM/hubby and I are pretty routine—due to both time and budget constraints. But you have to live it up a little on vacation, don’t you? Here are my top three picks for best food of the week:
Pocahontas Pancake and Waffle House, Virginia Beach
I had a garden veggie omelet with asparagus, tomatoes and roasted mushrooms and a croissant, and my friend got a sampler platter. Naturally we shared. We agreed--the Belgian waffle was the best either of us has ever had. Huge portions, every bite delicious.
Hungry Pelican Deli, Manteo, OBX
I had something called a “wheatberry veggie.” I just remember my taste buds registering fresh, fresh, fresh with a delicious, savory dressing. I’m certain I ate every morsel and even lugged home a peanut butter-topped brownie for dessert later that evening.
Slice Pizza, Kill Devil Hills, OBX
I had a slice of veggie. I can’t recall the toppings exactly (I was too busy inhaling the darn thing), but I do remember a perfect crust and fabulous flavor. Yum... one of the best slices I’ve ever had, including even in Brooklyn! I told the guy working there they should expand...like to my neighborhood! :-)
(Sorry, seafood lovers. I don't like seafood so can't give you any ratings or recommendations. My friend, however, indulged in shrimp and she crab soup and I forget what else, and there was plenty to be found.)
It was a lot of fun trying different foods and seeing new places, but the best part of the week by far was spending time with my vacation buddy.
She and I have been BFFs for a loooong time. We met in sixth grade, quickly became inseparable through middle school and the first year of high school. Then her father was transferred and the family moved about seven hours away. That's nothing today, but back then, it might as well have been across country. There was no such thing as email or texting. Even long-distance phone calls cost money...more than we had. So we lost touch for a few years during our late teens/college years, but when we reconnected (thanks to her diligent investigative work when she returned to our hometown area!), it was as if a day hadn’t passed.
Since then, we’ve been there for each other for both joys and sorrows and everything in between. We’ve watched our families grow and form families of their own. And now, as we head into our senior-ish years, what a joy it was to spend a whole week together to catch up, share in such neat experiences and laugh at ourselves, together.
I miss her already. Luckily, we've started planning next year’s beach destination vacation.
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. One of these days she’s going to tackle a “buddy” story to memorialize this lifetime of friendship. Learn more about her work at leahstjames.com, or visit her on Facebook where she occasionally posts about the writing life.