Wintertime at the Beach

By Bob Tagert

Wintertime at the Beach

For those of us who grew up in this area, summers always meant a trip to the Atlantic Ocean. Back in the mid-sixties we all went to Ocean City, Maryland. The ocean was always something you could depend on. It never changed and was always consistent…always waiting for your return. Ocean City in those days was about 60 blocks long and then nothing but dunes and surfers. There were no lifeguards beyond 60th Street, only endless sands and dunes supporting the growth of grass and other foliage. It was where you could escape from it all…and we did.

“If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain

And the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne

If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape

You’re the love that I’ve looked for, come with me and escape”…

Now, 55 years later, my body isn’t interested in volleyball on the beach or throwing a football or practicing lacrosse catches. Today I can understand my parent’s rationale of beach going…it is for the kids but it is wonderful just being here.

As the years passed, the coast became more and more developed. High rises shot up to the clouds and there were more and more people. Although roads were widened, the crowds kept getting larger. On busy summer weekends, traffic can be a test of your patience.

One remedy for this is to visit the beach in the colder months and that is just what we did last month. We set our sights on Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Rehoboth is a year round town and has a number of residents. Although some attractions and businesses close in the winter, there are still a number of good restaurants and business open year round. We stayed at the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel right on the boardwalk in the heart of town. Our fourth floor accommodations were beautiful with a great view of the beach and the full moon and sunrises. We checked in and then made our way to the Purple Parrot…always a busy and fun place.

As we expected, the place was packed. It turned out we picked a great weekend as the temperatures were in the 60’s and reached 70 degrees on Saturday. Another nice thing about Rehoboth in the winter is that they eliminate the parking meters so all parking is free. The Purple Parrot is easy to spot. All you need do is look for the color purple. This Friday night the place was packed and the energy level very high. The people are very friendly, the cocktails are generous and the beer is cold. It happened to be karaoke night so I threw my hat in the ring.

After a few songs, we made our way back to the Plaza for a dip in their huge jacuzzi. It is a relaxing way to end the day. After eight o’clock no one under 18 is allowed in the area. It was such a mild night that we decided to hit the hot tub on the roof and enjoy the full moon. This also, we had all to ourselves.

The next morning I was up to wait for the sunrise. As the darkness began to turn to light, I saw those same waves that I had seen 50 years ago. Nothing had changed. I watched as the sun rose higher and the temperatures began to rise. By now there were numerous people strolling on the boardwalk and some began to make their way to the beach dragging beach chairs behind. It was going to be a beautiful day.

As we returned to the lobby that morning we were greeted by Emro, the Plaza’s celebrity Sun Conure Parrot. Emro is a hand raised parrot that came from a local bird farm where they rescue and hand raise babies. Hand raised birds are more human friendly which fits right into the Victorian theme at the Plaza.

When the hotel opened in May of 1991, the owners concerned themselves with providing a level of service that matched the award-winning Victorian design and decor. In 1992, the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel received the prestigious Four Diamond Award from the American Automobile Association, which signifies to the traveling public that the staff of the hotel and restaurant provide a level of service that exceeds a guest’s expectations. The hotel has won this award consecutively each year through 2019. The hotel and restaurant celebrates 30 years of business in 2020.

This is an exceptional hotel. Think of the Grand Hotel in the movie “Somewhere in Time” and you will get the idea. Although located right on the beach, great care is taken to ensure the proper experience. The hotel is decorated throughout in period furniture, furnishings and feel. The hallways have plush carpets appointed with button and tufted chairs and beautiful antiques. This is first and foremost a place for adults although families do vacation here. For a certain amount of serenity, the fourth floor is reserved for adults only and is accessible only for those with key cards for the elevators fourth floor. Access to the roof is only through the fourth floor.

As one would expect, the rooms are exceptional with large comfortable beds and a sitting room with a balcony that looks out over the boardwalk, across the dunes to the ocean. Along the boardwalk the hotel provides two top tables as well as comfortable couches and chairs surrounding gas fires on the center table. At the north end there is a hot tub pool which is part of the huge grotto spa located in the atrium of the hotel.

For breakfast on Saturday morning we decided to visit one of Lani’s favorite places at the beach…The Starboard in Dewey Beach. Coming to The Starboard brought back good memories of when I used to play rugby against the owner, Dickey Heidenberger. This was back in the 80’s in D.C. where Dickey owned a few restaurants with one being the Bottomline, which was also the party bar for Dickey’s team. Heidenberger has always made his restaurants a part of the community and The Starboard is exactly that. This restaurant has two bars and the largest Bloody Mary smorgasbord that I have ever seen. We found two seats at the bar to enjoy our breakfast of eggs benedict and choice of tater tots or hash browns. I got the tater tots, a treat from when I was a kid, while Lani opted for the hash browns which were also very good. Our breakfast was super as well as the Bloody Mary’s and Todd, our bartender, was fun, engaging and a pleasure to talk to. Stop in and say hi.

The Plaza is located within two blocks of the heart of town and in easy walk for food, entertainment, shopping or just enjoying a walk. There are restaurants and shops located on the side streets of Rehoboth as well. One of our favorites is the Blue Moon on Baltimore Avenue but it was closed for the season. On Wilmington Avenue you can find Henlopen City Oyster House…a very popular place with the locals. And….for those of you who have been frequenting Rehoboth over the years, you gotta stop in the Summer House during your stay.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the ocean never changes. Sure, storms move in, beaches are reclaimed by pumping sand from the ocean to replenish the beach, but unlike us…not much has changed over the past 50 years. The waves still lap at the shores welcoming us back and those same waves wave goodbye to us when it is time to leave…always knowing that I will return.

If you really want to pamper yourself or have a rocking good time, head for Rehoboth Beach this winter. It is a scenic two and one-half hour drive from Alexandria and the break will do you good.

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