Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Long Live the Fishmongers!

Raging waves, body-blocking wind, and sheer beauty: that's what I've come to know as the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Stuart and I stayed in the village of Salvo, on Hatteras Island, with my cousin Lindsay and her husband James, for a few days last week.

Lindsay and James, good teachers that they are, were off on Spring Break, and rented a house there. The house is called the Starry Night, and it's a fabulous two story beachhouse, high on stilts, overlooking about 50 yards of wind-swept dunes and the Atlantic. We had a lovely time in the livingroom with its panoramic windows, cooking great seafood meals, watching NCAA basketball and movies, sunsets and moonrises, and just hanging out. Scout, our lab, bounded down the beach with pure joy. (She was raised on Folly Island in S.C., and knows a good beach when she sees one.) Scout also very much enjoyed time with her dog cousin, a precocious beagle named Sally.

One of the days, we took the ferry over to Ocracoke, where we explored the island via car and foot, ate a delicious lunch at Howard's Pub, did some lighthouse and harbor viewing, toured the graveyard of the British soldiers lost at sea nearby, and had ice cream... despite the chill in the air. It was a gorgeous day: achingly blue skies, a relatively calm sea (for the Outer Banks), and miles of sun-gilded sand.

For me, a South Carolinian raised on the relatively languid, humid and white beaches of that fair state, the Outer Banks was a whole new experience. This time of year, at least, it's not a sit-on-the-sand type of place, but instead a series of islands to explore, cast out like rough-edged jewels from the mainland... the rugged pearls of an island princess. You could spend hours walking its beaches, fishing, riding bikes (all should you dare to bear the dangerous wind), searching for shipwrecks in the foam. Like us, you could explore lighthouses, the monsterous dunes of Jockey's Ridge, the eeriely quiet woods of Roanoke Island, where the Lost Colony was. All this visit has done is whet my appetite, and I know I shall return.

Interesting to note: you can drive on the beaches here, which I never would've guessed! (And I'm very aware of the need-to-fish argument.) It's just a little disconcerting to see big ol' trucks in this seemingly pristine place. I wonder what it's like in the summertime? Also... the wild ponies of Ocracoke aren't so... well, wild. They're in huge pens... which we all found a little amusing. (Again, completely aware of the not-wanting-them-to-be-hit-by-cars theory.)

Also interesting: there are cactus-like plants on the island there! If you see one, beware: they're like sand spurs on steroids--little green pods with two-inch long spikes.

Our thanks to Lindsay and James, friends extraordinaire, for being our hosts. We needed a little break from our reality lately! May the Fishmongers (our newly anointed Outer Banks band... not sure who will sing) ever reign!