My son and I discover serendipity on spring break in the South

My son, Scott (age 22) and I just spent Spring Break together in Destin, Florida and New Orleans, Louisiana. We chose Destin because my son has several friends, Stephen and Jake, who are recent college graduates, commissioned naval officers and stationed in the Destin area. Once our travel plans were underway, I remembered I had snowbird friends, Lynn and Phil from Wyoming who were wintering in Destin.

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My friends, Lynn and Phil from Wyoming who winter in Destin every year.

When I contacted my friends, our visit coincided with their last week in Destin.  Finally, a female college friend,(not girl friend of either Scott or Stephen), Christina, flew from Idaho to Destin for the week. I found her good humor and positive conversation a pleasant addition to the young men. As you can see, our merry band of friends of all ages provided for a positive mix of activities and conversations. St. Patrick’s Day was the Thursday of spring break and while none of us is Irish, my son and I did experience a wee bit of the luck of Irish by the cohesive way all the pieces all came together without any planning.  This coming together in a positive, spontaneous manner is also sometimes labeled “serendipity”.   The Princes of Serendip is the story of three princes who travelled together and shared many great unplanned experiences.  Thus, the word serendipity.  Our spring break was full of many of these moments.

 

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Destin is graced with beautiful white sand and blue water.

I paid for Scott and I to rent a small condo near the beach and a rental car. We could have stayed free with our respective friends but then we would have spent no time together. This way we got the best of both worlds shared family time and visits with friends. Having friends in the area significantly improved both my son’s and my vacations. In another example of serendipity, our condo was not only a block from the beach but walking distance to both Scott and my friends houses.

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Entrance to the Destin Beach, across the street from our condo.

 

Destin is known for it’s white, soft sandy beaches and bright blue water. The first day at the beach, I heard a little girl exclaim as she ran on the beach, “Look, Mom, it’s covered with baking powder!” The geologist in our group explained to me that the pure shiny white crystals is because the sand is almost entirely quartz ground up during the ice age.

This was spring break for thousands of college students from Southern schools. Some of the beaches and rolling waves were packed with writhing, undulating bodies enjoying the sun and water spaces  designated  by Greek and/or school flags. There was enough partying  for anyone’s taste with extra law enforcement patrolling the beach and roads. My friend Lynn pointed out the college kids travel in packs of at least 10 or 12. You can spot them by their sun burned limbs, dazed glazes covered by dark shades and  unruly hair. Unfortunately,  we saw ambulances and revival units on several occasions, signifying the good times had taken a dark turn.

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Destin Harbor view at end of day

Because Destin is not as warm as some other Florida destinations, we were able to find places on the beach to spend time out of the college mosh pit. I walked a couple miles every morning on practically empty beaches. On those occasions, I was treated to beautiful  birds, seagulls, seashells on the shoreline and dolphins out at sea. We had several great sea food meals in restaurants fronting the oceans, watching glorious sunsets and boats sailing in the harbor.

 

On Friday morning my son and I left Destin for New Orleans, a four hour drive on Interstate Highway 10. We were treated to torrential rains, making driving difficult. We knew Highway 10 was closed on the Louisiana/Texas border. We weren’t sure what we would find otherwise in New Orleans. As we drove into the city, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. We spent a glorious afternoon walking the French Quarter. There was live jazz on every corner, sprinkled with street entertainers performing magic, drumming, writing poems and verse on demand, painters, and mimes. We wandered the French Quarter Farmer’s Market complete with real alligator parts for sale. We ate beignets and café au lait on benches watching the harbor.

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Sitting outside sipping café au lait is part of the French Quarter mystique.
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Beignets are a New Orleans pastry

A beignet is the French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux pastry and no visit to the French Quarter is completed without getting covered with powdered sugar from this local delicacy. Just as we were heading back to our lodging the rain started again, perfect timing or kismet.

 

I had decided to spend the extra funds to stay in the French Quarter.

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Jean Lafitte House in the French Quarter, renovated condos provide a great place to stay and walk.

Our original plans had included Stephen joining us. I rented a two bedroom two bath condo which could sleep six. Since Christina had to fly out Saturday, Stephen said he couldn’t come along. I tried downsizing but I had literally gotten the last room in the inn. On Friday, demonstrating the spontaneity and exuberance of youth, Stephen and Christina decided to drive to New Orleans when Stephen got off work. They picked up the unsuspecting Jake in Pensacola. Lucky we had the large condo because everyone had a place to crash.

 

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New Orleans Cityscape from our condo balcony

 

We stayed at Jean Lafitte House on the eastern edge of the French Quarter. Jean Lafitte, the notorious pirate and patriot of the Caribbean, is the inn’s namesake.  Originally built in 1831 as a single house by Lafitte’s fierce captain, Rene Beluche, the inn is a series of restored  condos on the edge of the quarter. Parking is offered for a small extra fee.  The living areas have been elegantly furnished.  Lafitte House provides a relaxing place to stay before and after exploring the rambunctious streets of the Quarter. The inn’s host, Jason, was full of information about local places to eat and where to find great music.  The beauty of the inn is, it is within walking distance of everything in the quarter. While the building is old, the bathrooms have been remodeled, the beds were superb and the thick walls were quiet even in a thunderstorm. The younger members of my group spent most of the night trolling Bourbon Street wrapped in plastic bags because of the rain. But I was cozy using the free WiFi to watch Netflix. Because of the mixed nature of the group, the younger members started calling themselves, The Gumbo Squad.  Gumbo is a stew that originated in southern Louisiana during the 18th century.

On Saturday, we all went to breakfast and had another serendipitous moment when we found a neighborhood breakfast place called Burnt.  We were able to get in almost immediately, enjoyed great Southern food and watched the crowd build up outside waiting to get to get tables.  After brunch, we went our separate ways. Scott and I finished walking the Quarter, just beating the rain. Christina flew out of Pensacola on the red-eye to the University of Idaho and Scott and I drove back to the Fort Walton airport for an early morning flight on Sunday.

On our way home, we were   routed by American Airlines from Fort Walton, to Charlotte, North Carolina to Phoenix, Arizona and finally to Boise. Over our spring break given the bazar flight route we visited seven states or more than 10 percent of the continental US (Utah, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Arizona).  We had many spontaneous,  special occasions. Like the three princes of Serendip, Scott and my spring break was full of  exceptional friends, good karma and serendipitous experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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