05 December 2010

Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla Weekend - Pt. 1

Welcome to the Crystal Coast sign The Tradition Begins

This article begins a multi-part series on our trip to Beaufort, NC to see the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla.  This is an annual tradition for our family, and this year in particular brought back a wave of memories and quite a bit of nostalgia.

Beaufort (pronounced bo' - fort -- long "o") is a charming port town along the North Carolina coast, pretty much the farthest point north in that section known as the Crystal Coast.  There's a rather large historic district containing numerous old homes, some private residences, some bed and breakfasts; and the historic district culminates at Front Street, which runs parallel to the Intercoastal Waterway and features numerous shops, antique stores and restaurants.  Along Front Street is the Inlet Inn, our choice of accomodations for the weekend, with its balconies overlooking the water and prime viewing space for watching the Flotilla.

As we arrived for our weekend away, I remembered the beginning of what would become this Christmas tradition.  The year was 1996, and my now-husband and I had just started dating not even two months before.  I told him I needed a topper for the 4-foot tall tree in my apartment, and he started telling me about this shop at Atlantic Beach that has a whole room of tree toppers.  I looked at him and said, "Christmas By The Sea?"  He was surprised I knew the shop, and we discovered that our families had been vacationing on the same island for pretty much our entire lives.  We got up early on Saturday and struck out, excited about our day trip.  While we were there, we discovered to our surprise that the Flotilla was going on that night, so we hung around, browsed the shops in Morehead City and Beaufort, and watched the Flotilla in both towns, hauling it the three miles from Morehead to Beaufort, arriving just in time to find a parking spot and stake out our spaces along the boardwalk where we could see the boats.

The next several years, we stayed at his parents' beach house at Emerald Isle, always making the trek between Beaufort and Morehead to catch both Flotillas, enjoying the shops, sometimes picnicking as the weather permitted, and I enjoyed some of my most deeply spiritual moments and meaningful encounters with God while standing on the end of my in-laws' dock overlooking the beach late at night.  Yeah, I still miss those moments of simply God, the ocean, and me.

In 2005, my in-laws sold their beach house.  I was unemployed for most of the year, and by the time I'd gotten a job, we figured it was too late to try to get reservations, so we missed that year.  The following year, I made reservations at the Inlet Inn, excited because, while I loved the beach house, I'd also rather envied those who would sit on their balconies sipping wine while watching the Flotilla from the floors of the bed and breakfast.  We've been pleased with our stay here year after year and already have reservations for next year.

Stay tuned for more posts about our weekend and my reflections on it.  I've also got a video of the Flotilla itself.

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