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     Volume 8 Issue 93 | November 6, 2009 |

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At the Emerald Beach

Azizul Jalil

Playing in the white sand- Walton Beach, Florida.

I have been to many sea beaches around the world, but never have I witnessed sea water of the colour of green. The green, I believe, comes from the presence of copper and other minerals at the bottom of the sea. The 24 mile -- long, gleaming powder-soft, milky-white sand beach is known as the Emerald Beach. It is located on the Gulf of Mexico. Up above was the bluest of blue sky in the early September sun. During the days we were there, the sky appeared to be a giant blue dome covering the pastel-green sea, which seemed to go beyond the horizon in a vast semi- circle. Thinking persons can easily indulge here in soul searching or surrender to sun-drenched solitude.

Our journey at the end of this summer began in Washington on a Friday noon. We later in the day met with our son Asif, his wife and two little boys at the Atlanta airport. Our intention was to spend the three- day long Labour Day weekend with our grandchildren. We then flew together to Mobile, Alabama. There is an airport near Fort Walton Beach, North Florida but the holiday travelers had already filled all the flights. Despite the high unemployment rate and the reported recession in the American economy, during our holiday at Walton Beach, we did not see any sign of recession.

We had to rent a car from Mobile to our destination in Florida, a two and one half hour drive. We started at 8 pm-it was already dark but with most of the journey providing a night-time view of distant lights near the sea coast and of the ships and townships on the way, it was quite enjoyable. Rena, our daughter-in-law, ably drove the large SUV in an unfamiliar territory. Directions were provided by our son with the help of the built-in GPS of his hand-held I phone. It was a fine example of the latest technology at the service of man! We were concerned about a flat tire or worse, but did reach the seafront Holiday Inn Resort, tired but safe.

One could watch the splendid sight of the beach, the green ocean and the blue sky the whole day long, except that in the afternoon it was prudent for a while to beat the heat from the sun and go sit near the hotel pool under the palm trees. A pool side café provided snacks and drinks. Early morning, we would go and reserve four beach chairs and two umbrellas, put these together and we had our own small family shelter right at the edge of the sea from morning till sunset. While our next generation enjoyed swimming in the sea and the pool, we spent the day playing with our grandchildren in the sand with miniature buckets and shovels -- shell seeking and sandcastle building.

Fort Walton's economy is mainly about tourism and the military. There are two major air force bases nearby and forty or more hotels-all lined on the beach over miles. It has a population of about nineteen- thousand. The town has a small port. It was a confederate military camp during the American Civil War during the early 1860 s. That may be the reason why it is named Fort Walton. The weather is mild except in the month of August, when it is quite hot and humid. I can imagine it to be very busy with visitors from all over USA throughout the year. Walton is one of the most beautiful places and not that big. It is not yet widely known-at least we had not heard about it in all these years in America.

One evening, we visited the port area at the nearby town of Dustin, which was hosting a popular musical group from New York performing Beetle songs as part of the Labour Day celebrations. It was full of local people and tourists and the atmosphere was festive. The occasional showers did not dampen the spirits of the crowd. The concert, spectacular fireworks reflecting colourful designs on the waters, various amusements, including a train ride for kids and the snack stalls kept everyone in a jolly mood.

Since we were dining out in the evenings and on occasions for lunch as well, we discovered a few places to our liking and which were particularly suitable for families with young people. In one such Chinese buffet place, we were impressed by the infinitely large number of tasty main dishes and desserts and fruits that were available at a reasonable and fixed price. A notice on the wall of the buffet area quietly appealed to the customers: “Eat as much as you like but please do not waste food.” It was a necessary, appropriate and correct advice! Similarly, but without such a notice, we found an American buffet lunch place with heaping tables full of wholesome food and other eatables. Since here also you could eat as much as you like, we were not clear about the economics of running such enterprises. There were other nice restaurants but for large families with children, these were the places to go to.

We enjoyed our stay at the Emerald Beach and would certainly recommend our friends to keep it near the top of their list of fine places to visit next year.

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