Saturday, June 25, 2011

Life's a Beach!!

We just returned from a week in Orange Beach! Wow! So. Much. FUN!

This is the first vacation I've taken with my extended family as a group. Yep, that meant me, hubs, little man, plus mom and dad, plus my older sister, her husband, and their son, PLUS my younger sister, Grace (who flew in from Oregon), and her boyfriend. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I had been a little worried I'd wrap my fingers around someone's neck before the week was out.

But, really, I shouldn't have fretted over it. We all had a great time, and it was a wonderful, relaxing week.

They key was finding the right condo. Because Grace and her boyfriend were only there for two nights (and my brother-in-law ended up only staying a night or two more), we did just fine with a big, three bedroom, three bath condo. Each family had their own bedroom, and Grace and Ryan sacked out in the den. We stayed at The Enclave, in unit 707 (We booked via, and I couldn't have been more pleased. There was an ample beachfront balcony for mom, an indoor and outdoor pool for the boys, and a gorgeous, inviting stretch of sand just steps from our door.

On Day 1, we traveled in. Hubs, Clay, and I stopped off in Lucedale, Miss., for lunch. (At Tommy's. Two words. DON'T. GO. The place is a dive, service was slow and surly, and the food isn't even very good. We always try to eat local. Sometimes, it's a smashing success. Others, an epic failure. Tommy's was the latter. Stay away.) We rolled into Orange Beach at around 4 p.m. or so, ordered some pizzas, and then hit the beach. Clay loved chasing the waves, playing tag with everyone, and generally getting all his ya-yas out.

The next morning, we made some bloody marys and headed back down to the water. After a day of sand and sun, we had a big, family photo taken on the beach. Our sweet photographer (who shoots a lot of beach weddings there) was so patient with our big group. I can't wait to get the pics back!! We decided to have photos made because, really, we are so rarely all together. Now that Grace lives in the Northwest, we only see her during the holidays, and it's difficult to schedule a portrait then. This way, we were all in the photo, relaxed, and in a gorgeous setting. The photographer took a big group photo of all of us, plus photos of each smaller family, some of us girls with daddy, the grandkids with the grandparents, etc. Lots of great combinations.

Monday was Grace and Ryan's last day at the beach, so the two of them went parasailing with Brian and I. I'd always wanted to try it, and it seemed as good a time as any. I found it incredibly peaceful, almost like hot-air ballooning, but even quieter. We saw all kinds of rays and jellyfish in the water from above. Plus, we got great views of the shoreline. I would do it again in a heartbeat. (Incidentally, we went with the parasailing folks down at Zeke's Landing. It wasn't far from our hotel, and they had great prices.) Then, we got to enjoy the boat ride while Grace and Ryan parasailed, so it was a two-fer! I really enjoyed it.

We'd worked up an appetite by this time, so we headed to FloraBama for lunch. If you've never been, it's this big, ramshackle bar/restaurant right on the Florida/Alabama state line. I had an order of steamed Royal Reds (shrimp) with an order of fries, and hubs had a big, juicy cheeseburger. Grace got the oysters (spicy), and Ryan had a burger as well. YUM!

After a shower and a nap, we had shrimp boil from Lartigue's that night and walked the beach, looking for shells.

After a leisurely breakfast of cinnamon rolls and fruit the next day, we spent the morning at the pool.

My brother-in-law had plans for all of us for lunch that day. We headed to the Tin Top, which was a short drive from our condo, for some of the best seafood I've ever had the privilege of eating. We started with the crab claws, which were served in loads of creamy Tin Top sauce with bread for sopping. OMG. We nearly licked the bowl. We also tried the Oysters Fenton, which come in a rich, buttery, garlicky broth. Dear Lord, have mercy. For our entree, hubs and I split the steamed crab leg and shrimp platter, which was delicious. Needless to say, we didn't have room for dessert. Though eating like we did at the Tin Top was not cheap, it was absolutely worth it. One of the highlight meals of our trip.

That evening, we loaded up the boys and visited Adventure Island. What fun! My sis, her husband, and my sweet nephew played putt putt while hubs, Clay and I hit the arcade. Clay loved playing the Jurassic Park game with hubs, and they looked darling riding the Go-Karts together! We took a spin on the tugboat ride, cashed in our tickets for a few prizes, and had some ice cream before heading home.

More to come . . .

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