Paul and Rachel are originally from Indiana but snowbird each year in Orange Beach for a few months. Last year we were one our way home from a visit with our grandchildren In Alabama and they invited us to stop for the night and visit. We had a great time catching up and talking about future cruises we could take together. According to Wikipedia, “Snowbirds are typically retirees who wish to avoid the snow and cold temperatures of northern winter, but maintain ties with family and friends by staying there the rest of the year”.
This year Rachel let us know that they would be snowbirding again in Orange Beach and invited us to come on over and spend some time. The morning we left was damp, cold, overcast, and rainy and, at times, rain fell so hard it was hard to see the other cars on the highway. I was not complaining though as it was the same weekend the north was experiencing a blizzard.
We arrived late in the afternoon and settled in for a lovely meal of salad, lasagna, and garlic bread and wine and conversation right up to bed time.
Saturday morning was cold, bright and beautiful. I stood on the balcony and could see waves of crystal clear blue-green water slowly rolling slowly toward the Confectioner sugar sand on the beach as the sun rose high in the sky. The scene was just beautiful.
We were in for a busy day. After a light breakfast, we headed off to an event called the ‘Snowbird Fest’ at the Event Center at the Wharf in Orange Beach. The hall was filled with vendors highlighting their wares, representatives from several restaurants were on hand serving up samples of local favorites, and on center stage were entertainers who looked very much like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Walking around was fun as we stopped here and there sampling a little of this and a little of that.
One booth we stopped at, the Oyster House was serving up samples of cheese grits and blackened baby shrimp. The shrimp was absolutely delicious. We all made a note to stop at the Oyster House for lunch especially as we picked up coupons for several items on the menu. We stopped at another booth that had samples of a favorite local drink called the Bushwacker. I understand from Rachel that several local restaurants serve variations of this drink and residents have their favorites. The one we drank was delicious.
We left the event center and were treated to a drive through the area with Paul and Rachel pointing out places of interest including the first house they rented. We drove down a long road that eventually narrows to a spit of land. As we drove Rachel pointed out that as the road narrows you can see Mobile Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. We ended our drive down this long road at Fort Morgan. We did not stop but turned around and drove back to town.
On our way to the restaurant we came across a large number of pelicans just relaxing next to the road.
Then it was on to the Oyster House for lunch. What did I eat? Shrimp of course. The shrimp was so incredibly tender and the coating light and delicious. What I thought was most interesting was the way the restaurant serves cocktail sauce. There are tiny plastic containers on each table with a little dab of horseradish. Each person can make their own cocktail sauce by adding as much or as little ketchup as they like. I thought that was very cool!
We headed back to the condo for a great afternoon of conversation, enjoying a swim in the indoor pool and watching the sunset from the 8th floor balcony. During our conversation, Rachel explained that the local residents and snowbirds enjoyed a very friendly relationship. During the season several events are held for the snowbirds and the snowbirds hold several fund raising events to benefit the local communities.
Sunday morning Rachel explained that we were in for a treat as we were going to attend a very different church at the Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar put on by the Worship on the Water religious organization. The establishment is on the Florida-Alabama line, hence the name. When we arrived I was blown away at the exterior of the church.
The wooden building is weathered and bleached by the sun, has several levels and is right on the beach. What fun! From the moment we walked towards the back of the building I had to laugh. We entered the church through the entrance to the oyster bar. As I was walking toward the opening for the church there was a bar on my left, a gentlemen making omelets to order and letting patrons know that, “A complimentary Mimosa comes with every omelet”, and another bar to my right where people were stopping for a drink before the services started.
I do not know how many people the church can hold but by the time services started every seat was taken. The music was provided by a country western band that was very good. The message for the service was ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. Along with uplifting church music being played, several Elvis songs were played too. Many of the hymns came from a book called the Honky Tonk Hymnal. At one point one of the band members donned an Elvis mask as the band played ‘Don’t Be Cruel”. I thought that was very funny.
Pastor Dan Stone delivered an uplifting talk on relationships that included Psalm 103:7-8, 1 Corinthians 13:11 and Psalm 103:9-12. He talked extemporaneously and passionately about this topic and I left the tent feeling very good about attending this unusual service.
After church we returned to the condo. Paul and Rachel wanted a bit of a rest. While they were resting, Randy and I headed to the beach. It was a beautiful sunny day but oh so cold. I put on my heaviest coat, scarf and gloves grabbed my camera and off we went.
There were quite a few people walking up and down the beach. There were a few people digging in the sand and some fishing. That was all nice to see but what I really loved was watching the seagulls, terns and sandpipers skittering in and out of the surf.
I was fascinated that the birds were standing on one leg with the other tucked up under their bodies. I was also fascinated at how close they would allow us to get and even then would only walk away not fly away. I would walk too close and they would turn and walk in the opposite direction. If I turned, they would turn too only in the opposite direction. Very funny!
After a while we returned to the condo and prepared to go to a late lunch, early dinner that we call ‘linner’. Rachel thought that was a very funny name and wrote it down. I have no idea how Randy and I came up with that name but apparently others have too. It really is a small world.
We ate at a very nice restaurant called Cosmos Restaurant & Bar. What a good choice. The walls were brightly colored with eye catching artwork displayed on all the walls. Each of us ordered something different from their appetizer menu and then shared with each other. I ordered the Firecracker Shrimp. The shrimp was lightly dusted bay shrimp fried and tossed in a spicy remoulade sauce. I could not believe my eyes when the dish came to the table. I was expecting a small portion of shrimp but the bowl was full. I shared with everyone at the table. The shrimp was spicy with just enough heat and absolutely delicious!
We returned to the condo for a wonderful evening of rest, great conversation and a promise to return next year.
As Rachel would say, “Absolutely” we will return next year.