The ocean is only a part of the joy of visiting a beach town. I proved that last week when visiting Orange Beach for five days after foot surgery.
I had to keep my foot dry in an environment that is all about water. However, I had fun in spite of having to wear a waterproof band-aid, socks, and beach shoes when walking on the beach – call it the grunge beach look.
Here are fun things to do with friends instead of taking a dip in the ocean:
• Doing nothing. Sitting or lying in a hotel room and relaxing is enjoyable.
• Exploring restaurants. The most delightful place we discovered was Cosmos, which was on Canal Road and only one street off of the main strip. It is named after the owners’ pet dog and includes a couple of dog-themed gift shops. I ate black-and-blue shrimp, which included blackened shrimp, apple wood bacon, lettuce, and a wrapping of a homemade garlic-herb tortilla.
• Eating a hearty breakfast. I usually eat a quick breakfast, so the ample continental breakfast was a treat. One morning I ate biscuits with sausage gravy. Another morning, I ate a flaky cinnamon bun; and the other two mornings I ate eggs and bacon.
• Visiting old haunts. Many years ago, I attended for many years an annual conference at The Grand Hotel at Point Clear, which is only half an hour from Orange Beach. While on vacation, my friends and I drove there, parked, and walked around the grounds, which are uniquely Southern with their Spanish moss, live oaks, antique aura, gracious staff, and attractive buildings.
• Visiting more old haunts. My two sons once lived briefly in Lower Alabama, and one of them who now lives in Florida drove to meet me at Stacey Pharmacy and Olde Tyme Soda Fountain in Foley. I tasted a few of the concoctions that we loved back when he had lived there. I went back the next day with my friends and drank a delicious cherry ice cream soda topped with whipped cream
• Going shopping. We found a shop just outside The Grand Hotel that sold gifts made of recycled beach items. Everything was cleverly and artistically made. Also, the Tanger Outlet shops was only minutes from Orange Beach.
• Walking the dry ground of the beach. I stayed away from the waves’ edge while my friends let them wash over their bare feet. No matter. I still loved the beach, especially at night. We had brought flashlights and looked for ghost crabs and shells.
• Meeting new people. Since we were confined to our hotel room because of the sporadic rain, I leaned on the balcony rail and talked with our next-door neighbor who was also leaning on her rail. We shared information about where we were from and which restaurants we liked best.
Looking at the view. We were lucky enough to have a balcony overlooking the beach, and we simply enjoyed looking at the waves, the umbrellas, the people walking on the beach, the wooden chairs, the sky, the kites, and the paragliders that came out as soon as the rain stopped and looked like colorful bubbles floating in the air.
• Listening to the sounds. There is nothing like pausing and listening to the relentless but gentle sounds of waves hitting the shore. The sound is mysteriously comforting but exciting, forceful but benign, and noisy but calming.
Beach life is built around the ocean, but swimming in it is not necessary to enjoying a beach vacation.