This Spring Break, I was invited to spend a few days with a friend in her house at the North Carolina coast. I jumped at the chance – politely, in a typically British ‘Oh I wouldn’t want to impose’ sort of way, of course. But still, a beach holiday for the cost of a tank of petrol? No question.
We arranged for her to pick me up at 10:30am on Saturday. We got off to a good start when 11:30 came round and she still hadn’t appeared. I almost called her to see if she had left without me – she’s wonderfully away-with-the-fairies in an Alice Tinker sort of way – but thankfully, as my fingers poised to text her, a message from her flashed to let me know she was on the way.
The journey was long – longer, since we stopped several times to ‘go potty’, and also for me to buy some cowgirl boots at a massive western wear store. But the destination was worth the journey.
My first reaction when we arrived at Atlantic Beach was, ‘Where’s the beach?’ My friend’s house is beautiful – a porch with adirondack chairs and shells in flower pots and a swinging seat in the garden. Walk across the street and there’s a dock, a bench to sit on while you dip your toes in the water, but still: no beach. That evening I found the beach, though, and that was also worth the wait.
Atlantic Beach is not like a seaside town in England. Having lived two wonderful years on the North Norfolk coast in a sleepy town where the Salvation Army sing at sunset in the summer months, and where the shopkeepers give you strawberries for free because they know you like them, I have a fondness for small coastal towns. I was spoiled by my English seaside home; perhaps nothing will ever really compare. And Atlantic Beach doesn’t compare. But that has more to do with how different it is, not because it isn’t also wonderful.
There may not be narrow, cobbled streets like my beloved seaside town; here, the roads are wide and long and dotted with towering signs and wide-fronted stores. There’s no small, quaint fudge shops and greengrocers by the front, or the smell of fish and chips and vinegar, or the sound of seagulls squawking for those fish and chips and vinegar. But there is a lot to enjoy. There is more sand, more sea, more sunshine. The people are friendly, there’s no shortage of shrimp on offer, and the houses are bigger than any North Norfolk has to offer.
Atlantic Beach is different. It’s not the seaside I loved and remember. But it’s still everything a work-weary, beach-loving girl like me wanted. I just wish I never had to leave…