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Seaside: Quaint beach spot boasts of ‘simpler time’comment (0)

June 12, 2008

By Linda Holloway

The sheer serenity of gazing toward the spot where the ocean seems to touch the horizon is reason enough to visit Seaside, Fla. Sunsets are considered nature’s amenity as tourists gaze in amazement while the fiery ball slips into the Gulf of Mexico. The sea gulls’ caw seems forlorn because their day is almost done, but visitors to Seaside can explore evening dining options, check out entertainment at the amphitheater, or plan tomorrow’s activities in a town brimming with vacation opportunities.

I believe that Seaside, located on Florida’s northwest coast, is the ideal beach town. In fact, filmmakers left Hollywood in 1996 and headed straight to Seaside to film "The Truman Show." It seems the pastel cottage homes with white picket fences along brick-paved streets could not be duplicated on a studio backlot. Today, you can stroll down Natchez Street to view the Truman House where you will find visitors snapping photos of the movie icon.

For more than 26 years, families have flocked to Seaside, the dream child of award-winning developer Robert S. Davis and wife Daryl. Davis had inherited 80 acres of coastal property from his grandfather but bucked the high-rise condominium trends of the 1980s. Instead, he built Seaside based on memories from beach destinations of his childhood.

Davis teamed up with Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk to design Seaside, which became the foundation of New Urbanism, a design movement that has won a bounty of design awards. To tourists, this means that Seaside has a "sense of place" reminiscent of old Florida. Cottages line cozy narrow streets and footpaths lead to the town’s center. The porches remind me of a simpler time when neighbors gathered for conversation.

In recent years, a variety of lodging options have been added to the mix. Seaside now offers 315 cottages, townhomes and penthouse suites ranging from one to six bedrooms. Guests enjoy a host of amenities including a welcome gift, complimentary access to the Swim and Tennis Club and Fitness Center, and unlimited DVD rentals. The first order of business after unpacking is to rush to the Seaside Bike Shop and secure Seaside’s most common mode of transportation.

The Seaside Interfaith Chapel is a popular place for weddings and tourists are always welcome for services. Along the shoreline are nine beach pavilions, gateways to the beach for each neighborhood. Here, photographers click away trying to capture a Seaside memory.

If there is a honeymoon or anniversary in your future, ask for the Honeymoon Cottages situated directly on the Gulf. We request these cottages for the sound effects — lapping surf pounding the sand.

Our favorite cottage is the "Lady on the Beach." This refuge consists of a gourmet kitchen that would make Chef Emeril Lagasse envious, two comfortable bedrooms with baths, and a living room and dining area. From the front porch, we can rock away the hours after a day at the beach. Here, scents of Carolina jessamine and rosemary swirl around the loblolly pines before squeezing through the screen enclosing the porch. Napping while an afternoon rainstorm peppers the tin roof completes the day. The Spice Cottage is a great one bedroom cottage getaway.

A newly restored inn designed exclusively by Vera Bradley, the internationally known handbag and accessories manufacturer, opened in Seaside in 2007.

Inn by the Sea, Vera Bradley, has nine designer guest rooms and became the first and only Vera Bradley-styled accommodation. Here, you will find an explosion of floral fabric decor. I could easily see "girlfriend getaway" written all over it.

Our grandson Gunnar and his favorite grown-up hero, Uncle Lance, enjoyed their daily bike ride around Seaside.

The Quincy Shop — with its tagline, Art Craft Toys and Games — was a favorite where Gunnar’s piggy bank stash quickly disappeared.

A cold delight from Heavenly Shortcakes & Ice Cream was always on the agenda.

Seaside offers more than 40 shopping and dining options. Choose from a dozen eateries including waterfront dining at Bud & Alley’s where you can celebrate the sunset with the traditional ringing of the bell. Boutique shops offer jewelry, home decor and art.

New this summer, La Vie Est Belle will open in Central Square where pearl jewelry and accessories are custom-designed and handmade on-site to the whims of the buyer.

Perspicacity, the famous open air market, was the first of its kind along Highway 30A and is always abuzz with shoppers. Stop by Pizitz, a home furnishing store that personifies the Seaside style. You will want to visit the new Seaside Beach retail store for your favorite Seaside-branded keepsake.

The town is famous for its artist colony feel. The Seaside Institute’s Artist-in-Residence program, Escape to Create, welcomes applications for 2009. The multidisciplinary residency program is open to musicians, visual artists and writers actively working in their field on a professional level.

Ruskin Place, Seaside’s workshop and artist colony, provides opportunities for people to both live and work in Seaside. The three-story stucco buildings stand in vivid contrast to the town’s cottages. It’s both a creative focus for the Town Center and an environment for artist colonies, creative workshops, unusual retail shops and a venue for outdoor music and art festivals.

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