Orange Beach, AL Part III
Orange Beach, AL - Events of Wednesday, September 19 to Sunday, September 23, 2018
After going to Pensacola to watch the Blue Angels practice on Tuesday, we decided to relax on the beach for a while on Wednesday. The weather in Lower Alabama was hotter than usual the whole time we were there so we went to the beach mid-morning before the sun got too high.
When we got there, there were numerous schools of 2-inch long fish swimming close to shore. If you walked into the school, they wouldn't panic and swim away. They would just separate to get out of your way then rejoin after you passed through and continue circling counterclockwise.
Lydia watched the fish for a short time, but she was a little wary of them and preferred to be out a bit farther from shore away from the fish.
The villa we rented had sand toys available so we took a few with us. Lydia decided she wanted to build a sand castle, and Poppy was happy to help.
The sand castle idea only lasted a few minutes until Lydia decided burying her legs in the sand would be more fun. Again, Poppy joined in.
Going to the beach is fun, but leaving the beach - not so much. You're hot and tired, and you have to trudge back up the beach for what seems to be a mile while toting wet towels, a cooler, chairs, beach toys, and whatever else you took along. On top of all that, there is sand sticking everywhere...and we do mean everywhere.
After a stop at the villa to change, we all piled back into the car and headed to a late lunch at Big Daddy's Grill in Fairhope. We took along a cooler so we could stop on the way for a couple of pounds of shrimp from Aquila Seafood in Bon Secour for dinner the following evening. We always like to check out the fishing boats docked adjacent to Aquila.
We decided to sit out on the deck at Big Daddy's even though it was pretty hot and there wasn't much breeze because we like the view overlooking the Fish River. We both had Philly cheese steaks, Lora had catfish, J. Michael had fried fish, and Lydia had her usual toasted cheese.
The prices were the same as the last time we were there in the fall of 2016, but we thought the portions were a little smaller. Nevertheless, the food was delish, and we still got enough to eat.
We made our way back to the villa by way of the Walmart in Fairhope. Paul's water shoes disintegrated when we went to the beach that morning and he was hoping to find a new pair. The selection was sparse since it was so late in the season, but Paul and Lydia did have fun trying on elephant Halloween costumes.
We booked a dolphin cruise for 11:00 Thursday morning. We left a little early to stop for breakfast at Cafe Beignet in Orange Beach.
Cafe Beignet is open daily from 6:30 am until noonish. They serve plain beignets, beignets filled with vanilla pudding topped with chocolate syrup, and they also have a few assorted muffins and pastries. There is also a selection of various types of coffee, tea, milk and orange juice. We started off with an order of 12 plain beignets ($10.95). They were so good we added another order of 3 ($3.75). We all made it through breakfast without getting an excessive amount of powdered sugar on our clothes.
After breakfast, we headed a couple of miles to the east to the Alabama side of the Florida-Alabama line where the dock for the dolphin cruise is located. There are a number of boats that do cruises; but we chose Blue Dolphin Cruises because their prices are reasonable, their boat has an air conditioned cabin with rest room (at least one cruise we saw was on a pontoon boat with a completely open deck so you would have to bake in the sun the entire time), and Blue Dolphin had a departure time that suited our preferences.
The cruise started off heading west around Ono Island. Ono Island is an exclusive, gated community, and there are a number of celebrities who own homes there. They told us the home in the next photo belongs to retired NASCAR driver, Jeff Gordon.
There are a number of bays and inlets in the area, and there are lots of dolphins in those bays and inlets because food is abundant. The boat captains use their radios to help one another with dolphin sightings so it wasn't long after we got to the western end of Ono Island until we spotted a pod of several dolphins. They are naturally curious and frequently come right up to the boat to check it out. We saw quite a few dolphins, but it was hard to get good photos because they only surface briefly to breathe. It was also hard get the camera aimed in time with everyone crowded up the the railing.
We caught up to a small boat operated by the Fish and Wildlife Commission that was using a net to document the number, size, and species of aquatic life that was in the bay. The boat was being followed by several dolphins. They like to follow fishing boats to feed on fish and shrimp that spill out from the top and sides of the net.
Dolphins weren't the only thing we saw on the cruise. There were lots of seagulls, and lots of pelicans like the two sitting on the channel marker in the next photo.
The cruise lasted about 90 minutes, which was just long enough because we were all getting hungry. The Ole River Grill is located right by the dock so we walked over for a late lunch.
Because the Ole River Grill has a waterfront location, the prices are maybe a dollar or two higher than we would otherwise expect. Even though we got there well after the lunch rush, the service wasn't great; but at least the food was good.
We headed back to the villa for a swim in the pool, after which Margery prepared a delicious dinner using the shrimp we got the day before at Aquila Seafood. She sauteed it with butter, a little garlic, some Old Bay seasoning, and white wine. The shrimp were yummy dipped in melted butter.
On Friday, we went out after breakfast to stop at a couple of souvenir shops along the beach then headed back Fairhope for lunch at Panini Pete's. Back at the villa, Lora and J. Michael did a little packing and organizing in preparation for their departure the next morning. We snacked our way through dinner.
We booked an extra day at the beginning of our week so we could be at the villa when Lora. J. Michael, and Lydia arrived; and we also booked an extra day at the end so all of us wouldn't be scrambling to depart at the same time. After seeing Lora, J. Michael, and Lydia off on Saturday morning, we relaxed for a while then headed back to The Gulf for a late lunch.
This time, we both had burgers ($8), and we shared an order of fries ($4). Everything was yummy! After we ate, we sat around and nursed our Cokes so we could enjoy the atmosphere and the Gulf breezes.
We did a little packing when we got back to the villa then relaxed with some TV in the evening. We were on the road around 6:00 on Sunday morning. Traffic was light most of the way across I-10, but was building by the time we got to I-75. It wasn't anywhere near as heavy as it is when heading south after Christmas, and we made good time. We stopped at Sonic for some boneless chicken wings for dinner on our way through Wauchula.
We really enjoyed our time with Lora, J. Michael, and Lydia. It was great being back in Lower Alabama again and being able to share one of our favorite locations with them. And the rental villa was fantastic! The villa was very clean and comfortable, and the owner was very helpful and accommodating.
We'll be relaxing and getting back into our usual routines at the Co-op so it may be a while before we have another update. Stay tuned.