Sunday, August 10, 2008

Port A recap

Home again, home again, jiggety jig. We are back from our third annual trip to Port Aransas, a.k.a. "Port A" in the Texan parlance. (Or, maybe it's just my parlance; I think they call Port Arthur "Port A," too. But I digress.)

Port Aransas, for the non-Texans amongst us, is a small town on Mustang Island, on the Gulf Coast about four hours away from Austin. The beach at Mustang Island (which is effectively on North Padre Island) is...well, it's nicer than some Texas beaches, like around the Houston/Galveston area. It's not as pretty as South Padre, which has more of that white sand-palm tree beach look about it; however, it has the big advantage (when one has children in the car) of being two hours closer to Austin, and also of being generally cheaper and not as touristy.

Port A, I think, is of two minds. It appears to want to embrace the beach tourism dollahs, and yet still keep its "sleepy fishing village" ethos. Generally, it's still a pretty charming place, and the growth, while evident, appears to be moving very slowly.

This is the third summer we've driven down there with some of our best buddies, including this family and this family, and for the first time, this family. So, that made a grand total of eight adults, four older kiddos (7-10) and four younger girls - all age four - in two three-bedroom condos. (And, I am so terribly sad that I was just too perpetually tipsy this trip to drag out my camera. A gang of four-year-old girls is a sight to behold. )

We stayed at the Sandpiper again this year, which is an older but well-maintained condo property south of Port A on the Mustang Island beachfront. I like this place for many reasons. The rooms are clean and pleasant, and apparently completely soundproof, which is an important factor when you have children who shriek as loud as our children do when they are together. Most importantly, however, all of the rooms have large balconies that directly face the beach.

Aaah. Internets, there is something just so indescribably glorious about sitting on a beach-facing balcony on a clear August night, punctuated by the odd early Perseid meteor, with a few excellent friends and a vast (and frankly shocking) amount of alcohol at one's disposal. I just love it.

We got there first, and The Man declared his intent to grab the condo with the biggest television so he could watch the Olympics. This we did, and were pleasantly surprised to see that this room was also by far the nicest condo we had ever seen. It was tastefully and expensively furnished, and had actual art on the walls that was not seashell-based. The master bedroom (which we grabbed somewhat shamefacedly, but, y'know, still GRABBED) was huge, with a super-nice and comfy pillowtop mattress. And the blockout shades - OH, my friends, these blockout shades? The electric kind, inside the windows? That MAKE THE ROOM PITCH BLACK AT NOON? I am just a little jonesing to have them installed in my house like RIGHT NOW.

My alcohol imbibing over 72 hours included, um...let's (good and bad,) wine (red and white,) Bloody Marys, margaritas, sidecars, and pina coladas. Oh, and there was that misbegotten and short-lived whim of trying a Bud Light mixed with Clamato. It was so awful that I think I would have liked it better if it had had actual, literal ass chunks mixed up in there.

In the few precious seconds in between drinking, we ate well. The first night, the Bookharts brought red beans-n-rice, which is a big pile of awesome in the MagsMan household. The next night, I had several servings of some delightful Baked Ziti a la Noxious. Finally, the last night, Mrs. Po bought us all some absolutely massive and incredibly fresh shrimp*, which was thusly wrapped in bacon, brushed with garlic butter and cajun seasoning, and grilled.

I need to just stop and interject that there are NO WORDS to describe how good these shrimp were.


Man, what a fun trip, for every member of my family. I am so very relaxed. (And yes, tired, and fat, and mildly hung over.) I would like to go on record as saying that, as long as my winter home in Bora Bora is still in the planning stages, I hope that we do this every year.

*If you're going there, you MUST go to Oceans of Seafood, the best, and most violently pink, seafood market on the island. They specialize in tourists standing there looking confused, and will tell you exactly what you need and exactly how much. And $14.99 a pound for the biggest, freshest, most beautiful srimps in the place beats the holy HELL out of Central Market.


Po said...

Port A was a blast. I loved the relaxed atmosphere... everyone just doing what they wanted when they wanted. There is a timeless quality to it all, though at the same time the nature of the place makes it all about time--- sunrise, cold morning dip, safe beach time, the searing heat of noon, lunch, non-safe beach time, nap, dinner prep in late afternoon, first drink at five (or ninth drink at five, but no one's counting) beach in shadow of condo, shoreline stroll, pool dip, kids plugged in to the video babysitter while adults try to have old-style uninterrupted socializing, kids and Lee fall asleep, game, chatting, nighttime shore and meteor watching, chatting, one by one the crowd grows thinner, last 3 survivors wisely decide to call it quits for a few hours...

Lee said...

Hey, some of us try to live a healthy lifestyle by getting to bed early!

pete in nb said...

I enjoyed reading your account of your Port A trip, and noting that it is "annual".

In 1985 I joined a little party band in New Braunfels called The Grapes of Wrath. That year at the 1985 Wurstfest, a guy saw us play, and hired us to play at the Dunes Condos in Port A at their Spring Party. Our pay was lodging for our families, two weekends per year.

Amazingly, we never got fired, and it became an annual event to go to Port A twice each year, for 20 years!!!

It was a great shock when my band leader, in 2006, told us the deal was over. My children had grown up thinking we owned a condo in Port A. Even I was thinking we owned a condo in Port A. How sad to realize, I got NOTHING in Port A.

I love it so much down there. Every thing you described is right on. I hope they can preserve their "village" atmosphere.