I have just recently returned to Athens after a week long girls' trip to Fernandina Beach in Florida. Going to the beach has long been a family tradition, even for those of us in the group who are natives of the beach. In my family, we love spending time together in the sun and sand, eating together, telling stories, and laughing, a lot.
For beach natives, it is often difficult to actually get to the seashore, even though it's right there in front of you. Somehow everyday life gets in the way of simply lounging on a chaise with an umbrella drink and a good book.
My mom and my cousin had been planning this girl's vacay for quite a while in honor of my aunt's 60th and my sister's 24th birthdays, both of them being vivacious Virgo women. In true Hamrick family fashion, we all arrived to the beach house later than expected with an astonishing amount of cargo. With my cousin expecting her first child in December, and myself getting married in December, this beach birthday vacation quickly turned into a wedding planning and baby planning bonanza!
The Perfect Beach House
When my sister and I pulled up to the cottage (and me being the architectural history nerd that I am), I was blown away by our beach bungalow.
It was so quaint and full of character. The owner, a fellow historic preservationist, had made a few well planned and necessary changes to this iconic house type but had retained many of the original materials.
I love a four star hotel as much as the next girl, but there is something very charming and comfortable about staying in a private cottage. You can be as loud as you want (which we were), spend the entire day in your pjs without judgement (we also did), and eat and drink at anytime of day without extra charge (or judgement).
Getting together with a group of Southern women is anything but boring, especially when that group is a bunch of estrogen driven, high spirited, competitive, dramatic, and related women. Picture an episode from "Designing Women" or perhaps "Real Housewives of Blah Blah Blah." Ordinarily, I wouldn't characterize the women in my family as loud people, however, when a group of us get together, octaves rise dramatically throughout conversation as each speaker is challenged for the rights to have the last word. I'm sure a Southern woman isn't the only person who insists on personal opinion being heard above all. Picture the Monday night football fan, the activist at a political rally, or the groupie at a music fest, but the volume mixed with southern drawl, elevated pitch, all combined with the overuse of hand gestures could be highly entertaining (or confusing) to those unfamiliar with the southern woman's manner of conversation.
While on this sojourn, we did manage to explore the area and had a great time visiting downtown Fernandina discovering some cute shops, terrific restaurants, beautiful homes and historic downtown buildings. My favorite activity and the most memorable were the hours we spent sharing stories around a shabby chic farm table in the center of the cottage. We were somewhat productive, and we did manage to make progress on plans for our bride-to-be and our mother-to-be, but at times we definitely strayed from the goals at hand. Researching music to play during my wedding ceremony turned into a nostalgic karaoke featuring my mother and aunt singing everything from Aretha to Stevie Nicks until the wee hours of the morning. Planning the first grandchild's nursery turned into listening to hilarious stories of our moms' first weeks with us as babies (I think the term they used for this period was "hell week"), with my grandmother and great grandmother being central to the drama retold to us (over and over, by the way, and I'm still unsure as to which one of our mom's had the "worst" labor and delivery).
As stressful as it can be to live in close quarters with a group of women, this trip wouldn't have been nearly as colorful nor as fun if we had stayed in a traditional hotel. I find that when I step inside an old house, whether just for a quick tour or for an overnight stay, I am overwhelmed with the sense of tradition, a feeling of times gone by, of families, and of stories... stories meant to be shared and passed down again and again. Needless to say, this week has been added to my portfolio.