Emerald Beach, Navarre and Pensacola Beach

Holidays are always a great time for a little R&R. With Christmas behind us and New Year's Eve looming, we wanted to take out the Unity and find a quiet spot to reflect on this past year and begin planning for the next. We could, of course, camp at any number of good campgrounds around Georgia, but having been raised by the ocean, real rest means finding a beach. Thankfully, we had considered the holiday rush months ago and made reservations a Emerald Beach RV Resort in Navarre, Florida. So, with reservation in hand, we headed out to relax, eat seafood, and watch the Gulf waters.

We knew we would be in that area for several days, so we wanted to find a few side-trips to attractions or for shopping. We learned about the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola and decided to make that a day-long excursion. It did not disappoint. Though I am not well versed on aviation, the museum offers a broad range of historic aircraft and stories about their service. My Dad and brother both served in the Coast Guard so I was quite happy to learn more about that branch of the service in an exhibit dedicated to Coast Guard aircraft. In addition to the stationary exhibits there were also experiential exhibits. Want to feel like a fighter pilot? You can take a turn captaining your own jet in a simulator mounted on hydraulics, and an IMAX theater offers three flight experiences in full immersion visuals. In all, we strolled through three floors and two buildings amazed at the size and diversity of the collection. 

Returning from Pensacola late in the day, we wanted to find a place nearby for seafood. A docent at the museum suggested a restaurant just a few blocks away from the museum, but it was so crowded we couldn't get in. So, we defaulted to a local tourist area and found a good spot called Peg Leg Pete's in Pensacola Beach not too far from the Gulf Islands National Seashore. We arrived in time for happy hour and feasted on fresh scallops and grouper. Full and happy, we drove through a vast area of vacation rental homes and made few notes. Each summer, everyone chips in to rent a large beach house for a week. These seemed well suited for large families and having access to the restaurants, amusements for the grand kids, lots of shopping and beautiful beaches, well, it sounded like a contender for the next family vacation destination. As evening descended, we detoured through the National Seashore to enjoy the sun setting on the Gulf. The gates close at dusk, so we didn't tarry long, nonetheless the detour perfectly capped off a relaxing and enjoyable day.

The weather was a bit frosty the next morning, though it warmed up quickly. We headed back to the National Seashore to enjoy the beach. It was sunny and breezy on the beach, but quite comfortable to sit and read. We made lunch in the Unity and took a long walk, collecting shells and stepping carefully around the multitude of jellyfish washed up by the night's storm. The afternoon brought warmer temperatures so we stayed to soak up the sun.

Soon, it was back to the RV Park for a glass of wine on our deck overlooking the bay. Though chilly, we stayed to watch the stars emerge and the sky turn to velvet, then bundled up to join our neighbors for conversation around the community fireplace and a stroll on the fishing pier in the moonlight. 

The next morning began with a bit of rain and fog that made the sunrise surreal. The fog hung over the water and shrouded the little fishing pier. Then the sun broke through the mist surrounding the pier creating a spectacular photo, if not a little eerie. Across the bay, the mist around the base of the high rise buildings made them seem to float over the water and later, near sunset, the clouds lifted just enough to allow a streak of orange and yellow to link the high rises to the opposite shore. A great time of year for photographers! That is not our forte, but we did make an attempt to document the scene.

A rainy day kept us off the beach so we went for lunch at a local place called Johnny Huston's. The atmosphere was quirky and fun with a 50's feel, soda fountain bar stools and all. They menu was diverse, but the burgers were a nice departure from our seafood diet! The fries come with a dipping sauce that had a great "bite", so I asked the waitress if it was a secret sauce. She laughed and told me it was jalapeno ranch with ketchup- Secret no more! 

With the rain moving in and threatening to stall, we decided to pack up and head home a day early. Before hitting the road, we stopped for breakfast at a local favorite called "Alphys". They are known for their catfish dinners, but they do a fine job with breakfast too. Fortified by a hearty breakfast we bid adieu to the Gulf and picked up the trail for Macon.

New Year's Eve was spent at home with a bottle of champagne and great music reviewing our photos and planning our next trip - by then we will be on sabbatical. No schedules to detain us or call us back to work, so I think we will head for the Keys - a good place to slow down the pace of life!