a simple moment.
We've been Island hopping.
By the way there's a darling little house for sale on my street if anyone's interested - and on a totally unrelated note, I am still looking for a house to buy on the ocean.
We started driving at the butt crack of dawn and our first stop was nine hours later in a tiny town called Chincoteaque, which of course you have to visit if you are going to believe me when I say it is heaven on earth. Ponies running wild on the beach. Enough said? Chincoteaque loosely translates as "beautiful land across the water", and let me just say, it lives up to it's name. But then, what do you expect from a place where the natural resources are oysters, clams, crabs, and fish. and did I mention wild ponies running on the beach? well, we loved this place immediately. I had an especially strong affinity. I adore small towns. on the ocean. with wild ponies.
We were relaxed there.
We never wanted to leave.
We walked a lot and watched the ponies and unfolded maps a lot and we asked for directions a lot. And asked over and over how do you pronounce Chincoteaque again? We hiked to the swoonyist light house, ever. We asked where the bathroom was a lot and our hearts soared and did cartwheels, a lot.
Mostly, it was about taking in all the beauty that surrounded us daily. It contents me. Yep, it's a word. We had no agenda and felt no pressure to be thematic and organized.
We had full autonomy in determining the appropriate number of meals per day that included fresh seafood.
I was the ruling authority on whether or not we broke camp or stayed hunkered down for a spell.
I could affect a Southern twang at will, and for no apparent reason, ya'll.
I'm telling you, we learned that it's best to just roll with it. Freedom is truly the cat's meow.
Even though we were amongst three million others doing the exact same thing.
... and we happened to hit it just right, adding in a Fall color spurt and sun shiney days with just a touch of crisp, making this particular pilgrimage more like an actual pilgrimage rather than sightseeing with an epiphany, which is what I really mean when I say pilgrimage but want to make it sound more important.
But of course it's worth it. How could it not be? The grit. The romance. The horses on the loose.
And my heaven, that ocean.
I stood in front of it for a good 25 minutes, every single day, just staring, unable to move any further for the sheer awe and reverence of it all. The ocean had it's day and I drank it all in... so to speak.
From there we hopped onto the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Virginia, and let me tell you, it didn't suck. Twenty three miles of this. See below picture and try not to weep.
Alright let me first start by saying "Outer Banks I love you. You are very sweet and natural. you have a great personality, don't ever change.
Let me then say "Ocracoke, you are still beautiful, and we have a lot of history but I think we should take a break. you know, we should see others. I'm thinking Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket, maybe even Sanibel?" It's been a long time. we've grown apart, I have changed. It's not you, it's me. Sorry. I hope we can still be friends.
I did enjoy the Ferry ride though and your sunset was not to be missed.
After the ferry ride it was dark. and scary. I secretly prayed we would not get lost.
We landed in the lovely town of Beaufort, barely hanging on to the Southern end of the Outer Banks. It's small. and quaint. it was chock full of all the necessary things; wild horses grazing, dolphins swimming in a creek, and a sunken Pirate ship. The restaurants were top notch as were the shops, galleries, historic sites and the N.C. Maritime Museum. We took a stroll on the boardwalk, visited an old fort and an aquarium with sea turtles. We explored neighborhoods rich in well-preserved 18th and 19th century houses and English-style perennial gardens.We stayed in the cutest B&B. It was perfect.
We unwittingly planned our trip during peak Autumn thrill. Every other tree shone with floaty crepe paper ribbons of gold, red, salmon and orange. So bright, yet not quite ready to fall.
Also this beach was nice. I don't know what it is about being near the ocean but it always brings my heart to its knees, at some point or another, with nostalgia as thick as honey.
We went to the sea turtle hospital. I adopted an injured loggerhead. Her name is May.
We burrowed into a world that is mostly foreign from our own, while we let the coastal air shimmy over us like a noon-time samba. It was amazing how effortlessly we adapted to all of the new and the different. For seven days there was fresh seafood. and hush puppies. I did not gloss up my lips. I did not even fluff my hair. (As if it fluffs!!! ha!)
It felt so good to do whatever we dang well pleased.
We felt the usual vacation tug-of-war between doing nothing at all and feeling like we should at least be doing something.
In the end, "doing something" won us over.
We can sometimes have a well-honed lazy streak on vacations. But this time, we fanned out with the fancy-pants palms and slipped right beneath the Crystal-coast skin, where the air smells different and alarm clocks are frowned upon. I couldn't help but get a little introspective about our life and my dreams for it. Just felt like the right thing to do. Then, just when I started to feel like I might start turning blue at the very edges, it was time to pack it up.
We crept out of town before daylight, wide-awake on account of the in-between feeling of leaving one happy place to return to one you like even more. It wasn't even 7 pee em when the wide yawns of Ohio farmlands met us. We had the entire day to find our groove.
I couldn't stop smiling as we rolled back into town, where we were greeted with unseasonably cold air and 2 fluffy puppies cranked up on we missed you kisses.
The evening steadied back into its usual pace and we hunkered in even tighter.
I knew that the only thing better than an island hopping vacation, is coming back home when it's over. As expected, our trip was pure therapy. It was easy like Sunday morning, and within hours I was back to my real life and my normal routine. I started again where I ended nearly a week ago. Apparently life doesn't pause, or stop, when I'm away. Only now as I write this, have I had a few quiet moments alone to digest those past seven days.
In this moment . . . A simple moment. Capturing moments from the week.
Moments I want to pause, savor and remember.
Shrimp with Creamy Orange-Chipotle Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast, 5 ingredients, 15 minute recipes
¾ pound peeled and deveined large shrimp, preferably wild
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup half-and-half
1 large chipotle chili, canned in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more if you want to use it as garnish
Hot cooked thin spaghetti or linguine
Boil water and cook your pasta. Toss shrimp with ground cumin and salt. Add about 2 teaspoons of canola oil in a medium-sized nonstick skillet, turn heat to medium-high, and sauté the shrimp 4 minutes or until shrimp are done, stirring frequently. Transfer shrimp to a serving plate and keep warm. In the meantime place the half-and-half, chili and orange rind in a blender and process until smooth.
To make the sauce, reduce heat to medium in the skillet, add half-and-half mixture to pan and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add shrimp to sauce, then remove mixture from heat and toss with the hot cooked spaghetti. Serves 2.