Thursday, October 14, 2010

Seaside Getaway

The last couple of weeks have been hectic, and by last Friday I was feeling more than just a little burned out. I was glad to finally have a long holiday weekend where nothing much was going on so I could recharge and decompress.

Last weekend, the weather was stunningly beautiful, so my husband and I took a drive to Seaside, FL for a short day trip on Saturday.

Seaside is an idyllic planned community of sea cottages and cute little shops and restaurants alongside the Gulf of Mexico just beyond Sandestin in Northwest Florida. Seaside is about a 45-minute drive away from my neighborhood, and we're lucky that we can just hop in the car and be there in no time.

We are quite proud of Seaside here in the Panhandle because it served as the fictional town of Seahaven in 1998's "The Truman Show" starring Jim Carrey.

Only Seaside is real. It exists, and, yes, it really looks like Seahaven. We enjoy popping over there every once in a while because it's just so darn nice. It's almost like being on another planet.

The beach is the main attraction, of course, and during our visit on this warm Columbus Day weekend, there were plenty of beachgoers enjoying the surf and sand. (And, as you can see, there's no trace of oil on the beaches from the BP spill - our gorgeous sugar-white sand is still sugar-white, and the waters of the Emerald Coast are still emerald green!)

You would think that I would be at the beach all the time, living so close to it. So many people pay big bucks to come down here to enjoy what's just a short car drive for me. But the truth is, I haven't been to the beach in years. Well, I guess what I should say is that I haven't been to the beach for the purpose of hanging out in the sand and going in the water for years. When I go to the beach, it's usually just to snap a few photos. If it's the off-season, it's nice to walk along the water's edge for a bit. Honestly, though, the traditional hot-weather "going to the beach" experience is just too much of a sweaty, messy hassle for me anymore. I was probably spoiled growing up with these gorgeous beaches in my backyard. When I was a kid, we were out on the Hobie or visiting the beaches a lot. As an adult, though, I can rarely be found at the beach or on the water.

Anyway, a couple of my favorite independent shops in Seaside are Sundog Books and Central Square Records, both housed in the same building. Sundog Books is a cute little book shop with a lot of local flair. They have mainstream books there, but they also have gorgeous coffee table books about Seaside and coastal living, regional cookbooks, and other souvenirs. And upstairs at Central Square Records is a hip little space filled with new and vintage CDs and records (large, grooved vinyl things that are played on an ancient machine called a "turntable"). Both stores have a cool, coffeehouse vibe about them. A sweet black dog even wanders around the bookstore - I don't know the dog's name, so I just call him Sundog.

The Modica Market is another favorite. It's a neat little grocery store with a deli and a bakery and lots of gourmet items. We picked up a yummy jar of spicy-sweet peach salsa and a slice of orange Sunshine Cake during our previous visit. And Modica Market was also featured in "The Truman Show" - Truman's buddy was stocking a vending machine there in one scene.

Our little trip to Seaside was a nice getaway for the day. Clear blue skies, beach breezes, and the gentle swooshes of the waves certainly soothe the soul. It's easy to forget your worries when you're in a place like Seaside. It seems inconceivable that any problems could exist here, but I'm sure they do.

If you ever have the opportunity to come out this way, I highly recommend it. (Just please mind the lifeguards and our beach safety flag system!)