OUTER BANKS —
Life is better at the beach.
A small sign bearing that phrase hangs near my front door and I see it every day as I head downstairs, a reminder of how much I love the beach.
There are other reminders all over my house: glass containers of sand, random seashells and countless photos of crashing waves and sunsets over the ocean.
Many of those mementos came from several trips to the Outer Banks, N.C., where I've vacationed with my husband Steve and his family in the town of Duck.
This September we decided to go it alone, our first vacation by ourselves since our honeymoon seven years ago, and we enjoyed being lazy beach bums without a care in the world.
We rented a great home from Twiddy & Company Realtors off of Route 12, also called Duck Road, that had gorgeous views of Currituck Sound.
You could also see a bit of the ocean from the kitchen window since the home was just a few minutes from the water.
I ran through the home like a little kid when we arrived, looking in every room and getting even more excited when I noticed stacks of books everywhere; a beach vacation isn't complete until you've read several books ... and a few celebrity gossip magazines.
The weather was perfect for relaxing on the beach and the water was a little cold at first, but just right for cooling off, unlike our trip there two years ago, when it rained almost every day.
Steve and I took turns using the boogie board and I had my choice of seashells since the off-season means there aren't many other beach-goers.
One day we counted more dogs than people walking the shore.
We cooked quite a few meals but had two great dinners out.
I decided to go for the full seafood experience at Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar in Kill Devil Hills and ate my way through a platter of steamed shrimp, crab legs, oysters and clams.
Steve is a burger guy and cringed almost every time I cracked open one of the crab legs, which takes a few tries to master but is worth the effort.
We also picked up some barbecue at Duck Deli and the smoked pulled pork sandwich was delicious.
We devoured the hush puppies that come with most meals in many beach towns.
Sadly, the original Duck Donuts location was closed because they had smoke damage from a small fire.
A sign in the window said they expected to reopen the following week.
We did get to sample other treats, like fudge from The Fudgery at Tim Buck II, a great shopping center in Corolla, and wine from Sanctuary Vineyards.
The vineyard is on the other side of the sound in Jarvisburg, planted on former cotton fields owned by the Wright family, which runs a small chain of stores called the Cotton Gin, my favorite shop in all of the Outer Banks.
The Cotton Gin in Tim Buck II is housed in a building that resembles a barn and has all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore.
Many of their items are one of a kind and I always leave there with a bag full of home decor, gifts, cookbooks and this year, two bottles of wine.
We also made the rounds at the Scarborough Faire Shopping Village in Duck and the Waterfront Shops across the street, including another favorite, the Farmer's Daughter.
One of our first and last stops in Duck was Wings, a souvenir store that sells a variety of items with the OBX logo.
Everything in the store is half price during the off-season, so we picked up a few things, including a beach umbrella because the one at our house was missing a piece and was home to at least one scary spider.
We ended the week with a sunset walk along the boardwalk behind the Waterfront Shops, already making plans to hopefully return next year.
We were sad to leave and head back to Sharpsville, where fall had truly arrived in our absence, but we're still talking about the great time we had together.
We haven't unpacked everything, but that's because our cat Cheddar insists sleeping on top of the suitcase.
Monica Pryts covers Slippery Rock and Springfield Township for Allied News and is also a contributing staff writer for Views & Voices, the women's magazine published by The Herald, Sharon. She and her husband Steve live in Sharpsville with their cat, Cheddar. She can be reached at 724-458-5010 or email@example.com
Published Oct. 17, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.
OUTER BANKS —
Life is better at the beach.
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