PERDIDO KEY, Fla. - Who says you have to be a college student to take spring break in Florida? I'm here and absolutely loving basking in the 70-degree days in northern Florida. Not only is the weather perfect but Perdido Key is new territory for me. In fact, I had never heard of it until a week before I made reservations.
I got here by plane. Yes, Digby and the car stayed home this time. I won't say that I don't miss him, but must admit that flying is a lot easier than driving with a dog.
Exploring new parts of our great country is one of the most intriguing challenges in travel. While it's nice to return to favorite places, which in my case are Maui and St. Augustine, Fla., it is educational to add new destinations to the travel log, and this one is a beauty.
I was glad that the computer cord reached all the way onto the balcony from the living room of the second-floor condo I have rented for eight days. I didn't want to stay indoors to write on such a perfect day, and from my balcony vantage point people-watching is fascinating.
The beach is sprinkled with yellow umbrellas protecting bathers from the sun. I assume most of the beach frolickers are spring-breakers who delight in emphasizing the fun they are having by squealing and shouting. Tolerance and patience are required to be understanding of the young people in the condo above me at midnight and beyond. In contrast, people in the pool are obviously seniors who are not as anxious to dash in and out of the Gulf of Mexico and probably don't have any wild party plans. They are content just standing in waist-high water in the pool and visiting.
Vacationers who rent condos usually take advantage of kitchen facilities and cook, but a big plus at waterfront locations is to try out the local fish, either in a restaurant or from a fresh market. First-time taste treats here were at the Pointe Restaurant. Cobia, a solid fish much like swordfish or tuna, and triggerfish, a thin white fish with a slightly wild taste, are both locally caught. The bonus at the Pointe on weekends is bluegrass music by Bubba and Them.
So where is this slice of American beauty? Perdido is a key, or island, in north Florida located about 20 miles from Pensacola and three miles from the Alabama line. I have been lost so many times that I am convinced the Spanish were right on target when they named it Perdido. It is a Spanish word for lost. Entrance to the island is by long bridges that span the Gulf of Mexico on either end. It is 10 miles from bridge to bridge.
It was not surprising to see that the island has a good share of condominiums that rise high along the gulf shore, but it is not as overcrowded as other oceanfront resort areas like Miami Beach and Myrtle Beach. Preservation of more than half of the wetlands, dunes, and estuaries that include state park land accounts for an uncharted charm on the narrow strip of sand. Beach houses in rainbow shades of coral, pink, blue, turquoise, and green are striking against the deep-blue gulf waters and the miles of sandy beaches.
Locals say that the blank spaces along the beach were once the location of condos destroyed by Ivan, the 2004 hurricane.
Much of the condo's decor features palm trees with touches of African animals, including the leopard print shower curtain with darling elephant shower rings in this condo. The contents must have been purchased as a package. No ordinary shopper, and I am among the best, could ever find so many accessories in one theme. But the unit is pleasant and cozy, with a kitchen that is well-equipped.
But one more time I have learned that in Florida, rental condos often are not furnished as completely with essential incidentals as they are in Hawaii. On Maui I could always at least expect salt and pepper, coffee filters, enough dish detergent for a few days, a pot holder, and an extra roll of toilet paper. Not here. It's off to the dollar store for basic needs. You would think I would be smart enough to put such things in my luggage.