True confession: I am a beach girl. On all of those “What Kind of ___ are You?” quizzes there is always the question: Do you prefer the beach or the mountains? I have, and will always, check next to “beach.” Nothing against the mountains; I’m sure they’re lovely and that snow and all of the activities that go with them are wonderful, but I’ll take the beach and a body of water any day.

I am blessed in that my parents are beach people too. Since I was 8, our summer vacations have almost always been to Grand Cayman – and I know every inch of that seven-mile, white-sand beach. I became a Caribbean snob and am proud of it.

Then I met the man who is now my fiancé and I learned about the magic that is Gulf Shores. His family is also a beach family. Their beach of choice? Perdido Key. Until Hurricane Ivan, his grandparents and Great Aunt both had condominiums on the key. He spent most of his summers learning every inch of its (much wider than Grand Cayman’s) white sands.

Four years ago, Mike and I started our first holiday tradition: going to Perdido Key for Thanksgiving. We lay on the beach, luxuriate in the hot tub, hit the outlet mall on Sunday on the way home and we also visit Lulu’s (Jimmy Buffett’s sister’s restaurant) at least once (her fried okra is the best I’ve ever had, next to my great-grandmother’s). 

And it seems like we’re not alone. Each Thanksgiving weekend more and more families and couples appear on the beach, eat at Lulu’s for the Iron Bowl and party at the Floribama.

Working at Renaissance Publishing, living in New Orleans and becoming better acquainted with born-and-bred New Orleanians, I’ve learned that there is a tie between the Gulf and this city – beyond the seafood and jobs that the Gulf provides. Ask any born-and-raised New Orleanian where they go when they need a “beach fix,” and they’ll most likely say, “Gulf Shores,” “Perdido Key” or “Orange Beach.” All along the same strip of beautiful coastline.

What makes this relationship between New Orleans and the Gulf special is that there’s no “right” way to enjoy it, no “right” way to create traditions and no “right” way to enjoy the beach – as long as you’re a beach person too. And, if you are, I look forward to sharing a beer with you on the Key soon.