Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla Weekend – Pt. 2

Christmas inspirationImage by katiescrapbooklady via FlickrNostalgic Memories

As our weekend began, it dawned on me that the Inlet Inn, which we just started patronizing in 2006, has fit so seamlessly into our tradition.  I do miss the beach house – lots of space, outside shower, beach right outside the door (and over the dunes), the option to cook meals as we wish – but the Inn is very nice and a relaxing escape for us.

My memories took me to the “notable” experiences of our Flotillas.  In 2006, I was sporting a seriously cute pedicure a la my husband to go with the orthopaedic sandal I had to wear as my broken foot continued to heal.  That made navigating through Beaufort a bit of a challenge, but it wasn’t bad.

Two thousand seven was pretty bittersweet.  We were glad to be there, but I’d just found out the week before that I’d miscarried the baby we had conceived, and I was waiting to see if my body would get rid of it naturally; if not, my D&C was scheduled for the Monday right after the Flotilla.  It was hard sharing in my daughter’s excitement, knowing the sibling she wanted was resting dead within me.  That year, though, we discovered a model train exhibit, and my oldest daughter simply loves model trains, having gotten one the year before for Christmas from Santa Claus.

In 2007, we ended up with a room on the third floor.  The Inlet Inn has three floors – the first two have balconies, the third has window seats.  We spent a lot of time sitting in the window seat as a family, sipping decaf coffee flavored with Hershey’s candy cane kisses, and it was that year that something new started that still continues to this day.  Our daughter said, as the three of us sat in the window seat, “I want Kisses.”  So, we gave her kisses – lots of them, but not the chocolate variety.  Every time after that, when she said, “kisses,” we’d give her kisses.  Since a window seat and a smallish window is no way to enjoy the Flotilla, we went up to the Widow’s Walk Lounge to watch the Flotilla.  Imagine our surprise to discover a whole bunch of people up there!  They were sweet folks from Wilmington, and they invited us to join them for their Christmas party – simply pot luck dinner.  We declined because we were still very full from dinner and we didn’t have anything to share.  (I’m a born-and-bred Southern lady; you don’t go empty-handed to a pot-luck meal.)

We made our reservations for 2008 very early and scored a room on the first floor.  The view was good, the balcony was nice and the bittersweetness of the year before was replaced with hope, anticipation and a reason for me to decline the offer of wine or beer at the party.  I remember asking one lady if there were any non-alcoholic drinks available, accompanied with a small rub on my belly.  We went to see the model trains, walked the wonderful downtown area, our daughter talked to Santa and we watched the Flotilla from our balcony, eating homemade macaroons and Toll House cookies as we watched the parade, ending our day with our new acquaintances from Wilmington.

We missed last year’s Flotilla weekend.  It broke my heart having to cancel our reservations, but a new house and a new baby left us strapped for extra spending money.  I made a point, though, of going ahead and booking our reservations for this year’s Flotilla, determined we’d go.  Missing it had left us maudlin with an empty spot in our traditional Advent memories.

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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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