We're back from our much needed and thoroughly enjoyable respite in Gulf Shores. Going to the beach in coastal Alabama is its own special experience. It's not quaint or fabulous or pristine. It's... well... it's tacky. It's the Redneck Riviera. (I didn't coin this term, and I don't think many of our fellow vacationers would have objected to its use.) It's home to Confederate flag beach towels and lots of very white Southerners with inadequate sunscreen and vivid, splotchy sunburns; thick drawls; gaudy pink bikinis and camouflage caps; bad sunglasses; endless, repetitive, towering, glowing condos; gaggles of Pentecostal teens with long hair and long denim skirts giggling at off-color t-shirts in one of any number of overstuffed knick-knack shops; brassy Bama mamas fussing at their teeny dogs, "On the sand, Cocoa Puff! On... the... sand!"; frizzed hair; bad restaurants; and big, domestic cars. Funny. Obscene. Deeply entertaining. Slightly disgusting.
Gulf Shores is also home to a beautiful state park. The park is a little worse for the wear, having taken a vicious beating from Hurricane Ivan a couple of years back, but it's still beautiful, even if it's now a dead-pine-trees-have-an-austere-grace kind of beauty. And the park has a beach which truly is pristine: sugar-white sand, sea oats, miles of dunes, and the wide open Gulf.
We spent our nights in a cabin in the park. We spent our day on the beach, reading, floating, doing nothing, soaking up that special, wonderful, blissful fatigue that only the beach can provide. And we ventured into town for food and people-watching (making sure, first, to lavishly apply our spray-on sunburn so we would blend in). A little bit of everything. It was perfect.