Monday, August 14, 2017

A Week in the Life: Beach Edition. {Days 1-3}

Hey there everyone!!  I am so excited to share Part 1 of our beach vacation with you today!  We had an absolute blast-even with a few hiccups along the way!  ;)

Just a heads up that this post is kind of long!  So sorry!  I wanted to be able to document as much of the trip as we could, kind of "a day in the life" style.  They will be so fun for my family to read back through over the years and remember all the details.

A little backstory...

We started our annual beach trips in 2013, when my youngest (Mason) was 3 and my oldest (Matthew) was 5.  I didn't grow up going to the beach every summer but I did spend every Spring Break in college there (whoop whoop!) and Craig and I went to Destin with family friends several times while we were dating as well.  We love the beach, the ocean, the sound of the waves...all of it. We are both extremely laid back people too so sitting in a chair in the sand staring at the water just works well for our personalities.  ;)

  When Mason was 3, potty-trained, and coming out of the stage where he absolutely had to nap, we made our first trip to Florida.  We stayed at a cute condo in Fort Walton (just a few minutes from Destin) and our next door neighbors/close friends came too!  We had the best week and that pretty much sealed the deal for us.  

We were officially beach people.

The boys' first time on the beach in 2013, minutes after we arrived in Fort Walton.

Mason was a trooper the whole week and would usually make it through the day without napping (because God forbid he miss any of the action!) but would then fall asleep on me while we were out to dinner.  Always before the food arrived too.  ;) #goodtimes

Since then we have stayed in Destin, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores but for the past few years have been committed to the OB and GS area.  For one, it's an hour closer than Destin and after driving for so long, that hour is everything.  Two, it's a little less crowded.  The traffic isn't nearly as bad driving down the strip as it is in Destin.

However, nothing can top the gorgeous water in Destin!


Seeing these pics make me miss Destin now...

Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are right next to each other so half the time I don't even know which official city I'm in.  But this year we stayed in Gulf Shores at Crystal Shores West.

We've never found a condo where we knew we just had to stay there again next year.  There's always been at least one major thing wrong.  One year we stayed on the 11th floor in a very busy building and one of the elevators was broken the entire week.  I'm pretty sure the building had at least 15 floors.  And we all shared one elevator.  #nightmare

Last year, our condo had no storage in the kitchen for our groceries, no storage in the boys' room and the TV signal was HORRENDOUS.  It was the last week of the Olympics.  So at night, we all wanted to sit in the living room watching beach volleyball and gymnastics but the screen would freeze up every few seconds.  It went on all week long and I was so disappointed.  I may be at the beach but I still need a TV that works.  

And solid Wi-Fi.  ;)

I had a good feeling about the condo I picked this year but I'll get to that in just a minute.

On Thursday of last week, we loaded up the car for our 5th year in a row and headed to Craig's parents' house in Alexandria, LA.  It takes about 5 hours to get there and it's on our way to the beach so we always stop and spend the night with them.


Craig is the best at loading everything up so that it all fits.  I tried REALLY hard not to overpack this year...so much so that I almost underpacked.  Eek.

By the way, I found these little backseat organizer things on Amazon for pretty cheap and they worked great!


They held the boys flip flops so there was no searching for shoes at each rest stop, chargers, ipads, snacks, DVDs, plastic bags for any surprise vomiting incidents (there were none, thank goodness!), wet wipes etc.

Finally loaded and ready to roll!



Before we got to Alexandria though, we made a pit stop in Natchitoches, LA which is our college town.  (Craig went to LSU and then transferred to NSU where we met.)

We were stopping to drop off some clothes at the Field House for a former football coach of Craig's, whose house burnt down a couple of months ago and they lost everything.  Coach Black heroically charged back into that burning house to save his mom and niece.  It's a pretty incredible story if you want to read it.  Find it here.


While Craig visited with his coaches for a few minutes, Mason and I checked out the field while Matthew stayed in the car playing on the iPad.  He gets car sick (just like his mama!) so all he can do is sleep or stare out the window on long drives.  So he took the opportunity to play while the car was parked.



We got to Alexandria about an hour later, ate BJ's pizza (a must every time we visit!) and visited with Craig's parents and his best friend who still lives down the street.  They all stayed up late but I climbed into bed early so we were ready for the drive the next day.  (Approximately 6 more hours...)

I don't mind driving so I drove for most of the way on Friday.  I should say I don't mind driving unless it's at night or it's raining.  And if it's raining at night, I'll just stay home.  ;)

So when it started to POUR while I was driving somewhere in Mississippi, I was kind of a wreck...and hoping we didn't HAVE a wreck.  Traffic was slower because of the rain but my windshield wipers were going fast...and just as traffic started to speed up to around 55, my driver's side wiper FLEW OFF!!!  Gone.  Just like that.  #peaceout

Y'all.  Picture it.

Fifty-five miles an hour on the interstate, pounding rain, cars all around me and nothing to clear the rain off the windshield in front of me.  I could not see a thing.  The rain was pouring so hard and my little right side wiper was just still going to town but wasn't helping me see at all.  There were cars all around me and I was in the left or center lane...I had to get over---while trying not to cry. Craig helped me get over into the right lane and I took the next exit I saw which was less than a minute from where we were.  

And guess what was right there when we exited off??  A Home Depot, Meineke and some other Auto Parts store.  All right there, immediately off the exit ramp.  I mean...take your pick!  I don't know how to say it without it sounding cheesy but I really did feel like that was a God moment.  My windshield wipers had been working overtime for at least 10 miles before one flew off.  But it flew off within seconds of the perfect exit ramp that we needed at that moment.  Crazy.  I love when God shows himself in little moments like that.  And we were all SO thankful!



Craig went in, bought a new blade, attached it within minutes and we were back on the road!  #nottodaysatan

Thankfully, the rest of the drive was uneventful and we pulled into Gulf Shores around 5.  We had directions to the condo but I wasn't paying much attention to them because I knew the area.  So when I saw the sign for Crystal Shores I turned into the parking lot and we unloaded the car.  We were all loaded down with bags and/or pushing a cart loaded with #allthethings.  We got on the elevator, went to the third floor, found our condo and tried the key.

Weird.  The key didn't work and there was a keypad.  So why a key??  Hmmmm....

And then I realized what I'd done.  My little "aha moment".  We were at the wrong building.  I leaned over the railing and saw Crystal Shores WEST (our building) right next door to Crystal Shores TOWERS (where we were).  

Ugh.

We climbed back into the elevator with all of our stuff and crossed through some hedges the path over into the next building's parking lot and tried again.  This time our key worked.  ;)

When we walked into our condo, I knew we had a good one.  It was so much wider than any others we've had before and it was just a good layout.  The bedrooms were nice, there was good storage in the kitchen and in the bedrooms and everything was just clean and comfortable.  







That recliner was heaven.






We are all about comfort and practicality.  And this one had both.

My only disappointment was that even though it was on the third "official" floor...there were 3 levels of parking garage you had to go down before you hit the ground floor.  So really, we were on the 6th floor and my dream of avoiding elevators when we could was dashed.  But the elevators in this place were quick and worked well all week so there were really no problems.

After we unpacked, I did what I always do and hit up Walmart to do the grocery shopping for the week while Craig and the boys went down to the beach.  I had every intention of doing the curbside pick up like I do here but for some reason, it was saying it wasn't available in that area on my app.  And then, when I pulled into the parking lot there was a giant orange sign saying Pick Up here.  #ofcourse

I went back and looked from my computer later on and sure enough, there it was.  I don't know what went wrong the first time I checked but for the record, you can absolutely do curbside pickup in Gulf Shores.  (PS-If you've never tried Walmart's curbside pickup, DO IT!!!  It saves me SO much time and it saves everything you've ordered into your "favorites" so when you go to shop online you can find all your essentials quickly and just tap them into your cart.  If you've never tried it before, you can use my referral link HERE for $10 off your first order!)

When I got back, we unloaded the groceries and made a couple of frozen pizzas for dinner.  We were all kind of tired but the boys wanted to go crab hunting before bed.  So Craig took them down to the beach while I showered, then climbed into bed and watched the episode of Big Brother I'd missed from the night before on my laptop.

Day One was in the books.

Saturday, Day 2, was met with the sound of thunder and rain.  One thing about the beach, is that a little thunderstorm is normal and usually passes quickly so it was nothing to get upset about.  We took our time waking up and eating breakfast.



Someone had written We (heart) Grandma in the sand the night before.  We were wishing it said either Mimi or Nana so we could have taken credit for it and scored some points with our own "grandmas".  (By the way, you don't want to know what giant shape was drawn in the sand on our last day....!!)



The storm was clearing out but it was cool to see it raining down the way.


I enjoyed a banana nut muffin with my favorite fuzzy blanket I brought from home while watching the rain.  After awhile, it let up enough so Craig and the boys went down to set up our canopy and claim a good spot for the day.

I held the door open for them while they filed out and snapped a few pictures of the view from that side of the condo.  We had water views on both sides!




The sun started to peek through so I got myself ready too and headed down to join the boys for a lazy day.


I set up my chair right by the water (it was still cloudy enough to where it wasn't crazy hot) and I started on my book for the week!  I talked more about the book in last week's Friday Favorites post (here) but it is my 17th or 18th Susan Elizabeth Phillips book and it was an awesome beach read! 


It was at this point that I realized the boys never put on their swimsuits that morning!  I guess they thought they were going to come back up to the condo after they got everything set up but they never did.  So they swam in their clothes that first morning.  No biggie.






After awhile, they needed a change of scenery (I don't know WHY!!) so I took them to the pool for a little bit before we headed upstairs to get some lunch.



I ate on the balcony with my book while the boys holed up in their dark and cool room with their ipads and TV.  They needed to rest a little if we were going to make it the rest of the day and night.  After awhile, Craig texted me from the beach that he ran into an old friend so I made him a couple of sandwiches, had the boys change into actual swimsuits and we headed back out.




Just looking at this next picture reminds me of what I was doing the whole week.  One eye on the boys...one eye on the lookout for sharks.  ;)  #stupidsharkweek 

 

And as a shameless plug, my skinny stainless steel tumbler was perfect all week for my beach drinks!  (Available in many colors with tons of personalization combos.  Check them out in my Etsy shop here!)  Ok, shameless plug over. ;)






We headed back upstairs with all our junk (the Beachcomber made this SO MUCH EASIER) around 6 and were ready to go out for dinner by 7:15.  


This was the dressiest I got all week.  ;)


Top (was sold out last time I checked but you can find it here) / Shorts / Earrings / Similar Bracelet  / Similar Bracelet (Mine is from Stitch Fix) / Similar flip flops

We drove around for awhile looking for something to call out to us.  We decided on Doc's Seafood Shack because there was no line out the door but the parking lot was full.  And we thought it looked cute.  Plus they claimed to have "The Best Fried Shrimp in the Entire Civilized World".  So there's that too.  ;)


I looked over and saw the boys with the ipad and Craig on his phone and he gave me this "It is what it is" look.  (And I had mine out as well in all fairness.)  It took a little bit to get our food and we were on vacation so I say go ahead!  We'd been together nonstop for 72 hours by this point so there wasn't a ton of stuff to sit and chat about.  Sometimes it's a welcome distraction, that iPad.  ;)

About the food.  I am not a huge seafood lover.  A liker, yes.  But not a lover.  I like shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops (love scallops), etc but I hate fish.  I mean,  just give me all the tacos, salsa, guac and enchiladas.  But when in Rome and all that...

I ordered the crab cakes and they were enormous.  I ate one out of 3.  It was good but not the best I've ever had.  The best I've ever had was actually at a small restaurant in Orchard Park, NY back when Craig was with the Bills.  For the life of me, I can't remember the name though!  (Any Buffalo people out there??)

Craig loved his food (he got some kind of fried shrimp and fried fish platter) and I have to admit, the fried shrimp was pretty amazing!  We definitely recommend this place. (There is a location in Gulf Shores and one in Orange Beach as well.)


After dinner we noticed a putt-putt place right next door so we got in line for a quick game.




Of course, Craig won.  But I was close!  And for the record, this place was pretty decked out in some weird stuff that made it interesting but it wasn't the best kept course.

We finally made our way back to the condo and everyone was ready for a good night's sleep. We had an almost full moon every night that made the water look gorgeous. 

 (See all the crab hunters with their flashlights??)

Tomorrow I'll be back with Days 4 & 5 which includes several of our favorite spots! The Hangout, The Track, and Waterville, plus a new restaurant we tried for the first time.  I know it sounds like another marathon post (so sorry this one was so long!!!) but I'll try to keep it shorter.  

You are a saint if you made it all the way to the end and I love you for it.  ;)

See you tomorrow!  Happy Monday!!

{Update:}

Days 4-5
Days 6-7


Linking up with Heather and Johannah for Hello Monday!


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12 comments

  1. Oh my goodness! So much to say about one post! The backseat organizers, the rain, Craig in the rain, the wrong condo, THE YUMMY FOOD, the pretty water...such a good post!! I loved reading all about your trip!

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    1. Thanks, friend!! Those backseat organizers were so helpful!!

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  2. Love a good vacay recap, cant wait to read the rest! I LOATHE driving in the rain. Like I go full on panic mode (turn off the music and say a prayer!) so major props to you for making it to the exit!

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  3. This looks like such a fun first few days! I love that the boys each got their own bed for the trip! I remember always sharing a queen bed with my sister while we were on vacation and it was a constant battle of who was touching who, kicking each other, and complaining! haha

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    1. That is one of the things I look for when I'm searching for which condo to book! My boys can share a king bed fine but a queen or full and it is nothing but trouble! haha. I make sure to book a condo with either twin beds or bunk beds. Last year our (terrible) condo had bunk beds AND a full size bed in one room which was pretty much the only good thing about it. ;)

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  4. I love me a good beach read so will have to check this one out! Wait until you get older....you will REALLY hate night time and rainy weather driving. And yes....if its raining AND night time....You will find me at home! LOL

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  5. Girl! The first three days sound like a huge success!! Except the wiper incident. Just reading about that made me sweat!

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  6. that view is heaven. for some reason, our vacations are always GO GO GO and we never relax. I need to rethink that lol.

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  7. We LOVE Destin! The water. Just beautiful. Our first trip with ours on was back in 2013 too and took both boys this summer. We're planning on an annual trip too and can't wait till they get a little bigger to make it more "vacation-y". Ryan used to play minor league ball in Alexandria so I used to visit there a lot during his summer season! So funny! And didn't know Craig went to NSU...I played soccer at SMU and we played both LSU and NSU while I was in college.
    Looks like such a fun trip so far...this is so our kind of trip also! Not much relaxing with the boys yet, but one day :)

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  8. WE love Destin! It's about 6 hours from us!! It's BEAUTIFUL!
    I have to admit... I totally laughed out loud when I read that about your windshield wiper! I would have freaked out!
    You look like y'all did a perfect amount of relaxing and "going"! Now you make me want to go to the beach! HA

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  9. Totally grabbing those backseat organizers!! I love reading vaca recaps! We are in the middle of trying to find a good spot in FL for our 10yr next year (we're taking the kids with) I've been looking at Destin and St. Pete's - and this post just got me so excited! (even though it's a year away hahaha)

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