“Why in the world is that very tan young woman in cobalt blue, short-shorts with canary yellow, tank-top drilling holes in the sand on this beach with a power drill and long attachment?” I ask myself. The Hilton Resort in Sandestin, Florida is where white sand beaches with clear Gulf of Mexico azure blue water are just beyond all of the tall buildings lining the coastline of this well-appointed resort. Tan stucco, with red tile roofs, and landscaped grounds that are designed to impress, are off in the distance as you enter past the gate houses. The golf course winds its way along the road, with inland lakes and large fountain sprays in each. Across Route 98 there is an interesting artificial village called Baytown, with restaurants, bars and shops, all vying for your attention, located by passing through the uniform attended guard gates and is owned and operated by the resort. It has a Key West feel to it with live music coming from all different areas of this fabricated-village that sits at the edge of a small harbor. The nightlife there is fun and lively. Dueling pianos, thumping hard rock, classic rock, all at a variety of authentic-looking places to make you forget who and where you are. Vacationers and corporate executives share in the excitement of buying expensive drinks and a variety of food, as they run tabs that no one seems to have a limit on. It reminded me of the Holodeck on Star Trek.
Early every morning I would get up and ride my 30-year-old, slightly-rusty, dark green, Free Spirit bicycle with a large wicker basket on the front, past the golf course and tall buildings, park in the bike park in front of the Hilton Hotel, and walk down the narrow boardwalk that led down to the beach. Very few people are there, just a few walkers like me. The water is calm and the air is fresh. Before I head back to my bike, I talked to the very tan, handsome, shirtless, young man as he has started using his power drill in the sand to put Dark French Ultramarine blue umbrellas in a perfect row. He tells me I will be able to use one of them to give me the shade I will need to do a painting later that day. I was ready to set up that afternoon, and I did three different ones last week while I was there.
It was a dark night on the road heading to Grayton Beach when we decided to go to a local bar a few miles from the Sandestin Resort. Small, one story, old, white-washed wood, beach bungalows, line the sand-covered narrow streets. The Red Bar was crowded this Wednesday evening. An Elvis impersonator was performing and the locals were ready to party. Why did I want a cigarette? I don’t smoke, but I asked a young woman standing outside, smoking with some friends, if I could have one of her cigarettes. She smiled at me, and said “Sure.” and then took one out of her purse and gave me a light. I took a long draw on it, only into my mouth, tasting the hot smoke, and quickly blew it back out, continually puffing away until it was down to just the filter. I now had new friends. They offered to buy me a shot of Patron Tequila to go with my smoking. Here I go again. Sometimes I am faced with an image of myself that makes me want to close my eyes, but suddenly I open them wide anyway, and stare right back at me doing things I would never normally do. Elvis has begun sounding more like himself. I, on the other hand, am now someone I have just recently met, and would like to get to know better. Who is that woman, smoking a cigarette, drinking a shot of Patron Tequila, and moving her hips dancing to Elvis in an old Grayton Beach, Florida beach bar? I will never forget her.
I invite you to travel with me to France next June. Click on the masthead at the top for links to the itinerary, or go directly to my website below, I look forward to sharing one of these trips I take with you!