Back to reality.

Vacation. Where does it GO?? You spend weeks and weeks looking forward to it, THEN FINALLY it’s here and – POOF! it’s gone.

We spent all last week in Sandbridge Beach, Virginia, a part of Virginia Beach. We’d never been there before, and when I first suggested the location to my parents, my mother was MORE THAN A LITTLE SKEPTICAL. I had no idea, but apparently Virginia Beach has a reputation as a party town. Color me surprised.

Sandbridge Beach may technically be part of Virginia Beach, but it is another world altogether. Quiet. Residential. Family-oriented. A haven for wildlife. No party animals in sight. My parents rented a HOUSE ON THE BEACH. I had never spent a week living on the beach before, but now I cannot look back. I’ve officially been spoiled for all other accommodation. Being able to roll out of bed onto the sand – MAN there’s simply nothing like it. And when you have to go to the bathroom, rather than pee in the water like everyone else (YES I SAW YOU), you can simply excuse yourself to the house, and whilst you’re at it, help yourself to an ice cold beverage and snack. WOW. Too hot? Chill out in the AC. That’s LIFE.

And b/c our house was ON THE BEACH, it was – by necessity – built up on stilts. If there’s a hurricane or bad tropical storm and the basement floods, you don’t want your downstairs destined for ruin. So pretty much everything was upstairs on the second floor. Smart. Except that the house – b/c it was mostly up on these stilts, would shake. And by shake I mean it would MOVE. I don’t know about where you live, but for me this was a little weird. I am not accustomed to a house that shimmies. Maybe if I lived in California where it’s earthquake central, but not in PHILLY. No way. SO. I was sitting up on the roof deck one day (3 stories up). just lying there on a chaise lounge, reading my book. when all of a sudden, I look down and my legs are ROCKING from side to side. HOLY CRAP! Later we had a pretty severe thunderstorm, and even the toilet water was sloshing from side to side. I kept thinking WHO THE HELL BUILDS THEIR HOUSE ON SAND??? SAND!!! I kept half-waiting to wake up out in the yard.

But enough about THAT. Onto the wildlife! Sandbridge Beach has crabs. Adorable fiddler crabs, which look like this:

Isn’t he a cutie pie? In that “I can pinch the heck out of you but I am JUST so cute” way?? YES! We spent a lot of time this week watching these little guys. All day long, they pop in and out of their holes in the sand, scurrying about, doing their crabbie business. And then POW! John would be on top of one, scooping him/her into a bucket for the girls & I to ogle. At night, we would take our flashlight to the beach for “crab hunting” – really the same thing we did all day, but more fun b/c it was DARK! In addition to this truly fun & fascinating pastime, we also counted pelicans. They would fly in a line over the the houses, or skim just over the surface of the water. Sometimes one or two, but often a DOZEN at a time. If you have not seen a pelican up close and personal, these are some BIG BIRDS. The girls also very much enjoyed collecting buckets of tentacle-less jellyfish. Which look and feel remarkably like breast implants (NOT THAT I REALLY KNOW). By the end of the week, the water was really percolating w/ them. Making swimming more of a contact sport. We would run in and out of the surf, shrieking, dodging all of the purplish blobs. John got stung badly on our last day and has a hideously nasty bruise on his arm from the encounter.

We also dolphin watched. B/c Sandbridge Beach is DOLPHIN PARADISE. These dolphins know a darn good thing when they find it and they simply don’t want to leave. Nope. They just swim up and down the beach all day long. Probably all night long too, but our flashlight was not powerful enough to observe that. These amazing creatures are so close to shore, they’re practically skimming the surfers. John swam out to them one day, but by the time he got out there, they’d gone. He said he could hear them underwater clear as day, chirping and whistling to each other. WATCH OUT! THERE HE IS!!

Speaking of “clear as day” – that is one thing that Virginia Beach and Sandbridge Beach were not this past week. At least part of the time. Several mornings we awoke to a distinctly hazy world filled w/ the smell of burning wood. The Great Dismal Swamp, in fact. Located on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, the swamp fire has been smoking out large parts of Virginia Beach. I cannot imagine how bad it must be near the park.

We went to Virginia Beach one evening. SO WAS IT GIRLS GONE WILD? I can hear you asking. Well, not quite. The beach itself is lovely, wide and clean, and portions are sectioned off for surfers only or for beach volleyball. Along the beach is a long “boardwalk” – really a wide cement sidewalk, lined w/ hotels, restaurants and bars. At night there are venues for loud outdoor music, most of which wasn’t my taste, but seemed to appeal to the crowds. The block adjacent to the beach, “The Strip,” is lined w/ more hotels, restaurants, and lots of (mostly cheesy) stores hocking overpriced t-shirts, YOUR NAME ON A GRAIN OF RICE jewelry, and other beach-themed sundries. All par for the course. Overall, the whole place has a very convivial atmosphere. Tacky, but fun. The ladies LOVED the fact that there were some carnival rides. And I liked the fact that there was a Kohr Bros custard. Just like home.

Saturday we bid adieu to Sandbridge Beach. Over & under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel , past stands selling CHEAP CIGS, FIREWORKS and HAM, and back home to Philly.