Three days on Florida’s Emerald Coast
“We can stop at Louisville for the night,” said Andrew as we set off but was flagging already after driving for two hours, when we reached Chattanooga, as he had just done a full day of work. Heart caths and other interventions must take its toll on him. But he pushed on and then Annika started to look for a room in Louisville, Kentucky online. Not a room to be had, no matter how hard and how many hotels she looked at, so we decided to push on to the next town on the way to Destin and even after calling over twenty -- “ we are sold out” calls, we finally got lucky and got a room in Pratville, Alabama. We just drove in at almost midnight, into an Inn called Red Roof and an Indian guy at the desk said we were lucky there was one cancellation, which we grabbed. Apparently there was a fishing competition on and that why all the hotels were busy. I think we got lucky ‘cause he saw we were Indian.
Next morning as we left the room, an Indian couple was busy cleaning the rooms. They looked Gujarati and Andy said they probably owned the place, yet were simple enough to do all the menial work. That’s why Gujaratis are so successful in the US. They run most of the motels and petrol stations and are very hard working. I had seen the same in Nairobi. After a solid breakfast, which was part of the room rent, of Biscuit and gravy, ( I shamelessly went for seconds as it’s a delightful Southern offering), I topped up on good coffee and we set off for Destin in Florida.
Amazing how the kids both drive using google maps and there is no need to roll down the windows and ask for directions like we do in India. “ Bhai saab! Koun sa rastha Panjim ko jaatha?!” The sun was out and the weather was glorious and living in a developed country, is such a soothing experience, with no crowds, fantastic roads and polite people. I probably would like to live here 6 months of the year and get away from the crap one has to face in India, with bossy relatives, poor infrastructure and cheats around every corner.
We reached Destin which is known for its Gulf of Mexico beaches and the Destin Harbour Boardwalk. We were hungry and sea food was on our minds. Annika always checks food stops on Yelp, as we prefer going to places with the best reviews and not necessarily the most expensive. Stinky’s Fish Camp with five stars, was where we went to first. I got my fried shrimp and Andrew as usual preferred his grilled. What we call prawns and really large ones at that, are called shrimp here.
We took a table outside and watched the fish and crabs in the emerald water below the board walk, much to Alainas excitement. However a black cloud rolled in and we had to beat a hasty retreat indoors, after being drenched by large rain drops. The size of just appetizers in the USA, are enough for a meal for me, with left over. And nothing is really pricey in comparison to India. I love the fact, that I can refill my massive glasses of coke zero, as many times as I like here and all for a dollar and a half if not at a posh place.
We were stuffed to the gills and after using the public toilets which are spotlessly clean, we stood watching a pair of massive Blue Herons nesting in a cypress above the car. Jumping into the car, we headed for the public beach as most of the beach has expensive private villas, which have their own private beach.
Snuggled against the Gulf of Mexico in northwest Florida, Destin is rightfully famed for its sugar-white sands and emerald-hued waters.The beaches of Florida's emerald coast were quite an experience for me, used to the golden sands of Goa. The sands under our bare feet were once Appalachian quartz, washed from rivers and tumbled by the tides to fine white powder over thousands of years. I was amazed thinking they had been washed down from the Smoky Mountains where we had come from. The white sands and sunlight combine to give these Gulf waters their emerald green vibrance. No matter what else you experience on your trip, the calming, pristine beaches of Destin, or Fort Walton Beach, or Okaloosa Island, form a picturesque backdrop for your selfies and photos.
For lunch we went to Dewey’s Destin Foodhouse which over looked the sea and served the most amazing Firecracker shrimp which I thoroughly enjoyed. Aiden was excited to bend out of the window and throw a piece of his cracker to the sea gulls wheeling around.
And due to its plentiful and always hungry underwater population ( read fish), Destin is widely known as the "world’s luckiest fishing village." It was so strange for me a city slicker to see people walk around with fishing tackle and fish off the beach, with shrimp bait.
Our resort called SanDestin, was stunningly situated, overlooking luxurious yachts of the rich and famous. A lovely large room with two huge beds was our home for three days. I was shocked at the price of the rooms, but the kids say they believe in comfort when travelling. I love travelling with my kids as they are so respectful and loving and are so happy to have me with them. I for one wallow in their love and enjoy their babies and feel so grateful to see they have turned into responsible Dads besides being successful in their careers.
For Dinner we went to the resorts Board walk and checked out all the shops and stuff for sale. Alaina gravitated towards buying shells and was gifted an expensive mother of pearl necklace by her Dad, because she did well in her final exams.
We went at the best time to visit Destin--- in May when the water is warm, the sun is shining and the temperatures are comfortable (expect highs in the mid-70s and 80s). If you visit any earlier, you risk cooler weather and chilly water and that’s no fun. I for one cant handle the hot sun during the day, so lay in the tent away from the sun and lazed.
Destin is called Florida’s Emerald Coast,and it gets its name from its beautiful, clear green water. Beaches here have extremely fine, soft sand, so if you’re a beach-walker or your kids enjoy building sand castles, this could be a great destination for you.
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