1. In Panama City Beach (hereby referred to as PCB) the sands are soft and almost snow-white, complemented by a crystal-clear, emerald green and blue sea. These beaches could be straight from a postcard – they are truly beautiful, rivaling any in the Caribbean. Across the Atlantic in England, there are both sandy and pebbled beaches. The sandy beaches consist of yellow grainy textured sand, and the pebbled beaches are basically an expanse of large stones. Great for skimming on the water, painful beyond measure for a barefoot walk or for laying out on a beach towel. Given a choice, I’ll take the sandy bottom any day.
2. A summer’s day on the beach in PCB will typically be hot and sticky – jumping in the ocean is a great way to cool off and beat the heat. You can sit under an umbrella for shade, and head back to some air-conditioning if the temperatures are sizzling. In England, you can still sit under the umbrella, but it will be to shelter you from the elements. (namely wind, rain or hail) Think it’s tough to keep your beach towel spread out on the beach in PCB? Try doing it in near gale-force winds. A wind-break is a necessary item to pack along with your flip flops, sweaters, and perhaps even a jacket or two.
3. There’s nothing like a postcard to make the folks back home jealous and to illustrate the fabulous time you are having on your beach getaway. A PCB postcard will typically show a stunning view of the beach, perhaps some palm trees swaying in the breeze, and a glorious sunset on the horizon. An English beach postcard is a very different story. There are normally a couple of larger ladies wearing knickerbockers or a very questionable one-piece, sitting in their stripy deckchairs and eating either fish and chips in newspaper or a stick of rock. The ladies will be smiling but you can tell they are freezing cold and wishing they were warm at home instead. What are knickerbockers and sticks of rock you may ask? I could explain, but I don’t have nearly enough space to explain the complexities of our “common” language!
4. Vacationers to PCB will, for the most part, enjoy comfortable and spacious accommodations with gorgeous views of the sparkling Gulf of Mexico. Hotels or condominiums offer all the comforts of home including cable TV, DVD, washer & dryer, sometimes a full kitchen, and usually a private balcony. Head east about 4000 miles and you will probably find yourself in a B&B (that’s Bed and Breakfast) sharing a bathroom with ten other people and having to check before taking a bath in case the water isn’t hot enough. Of course that is mildly exaggerated, but believe me…..many B&B’s still offer shared bathrooms and they will nearly all run out of hot water at some point! The B&B is a traditional English guest house and is basically a room in someone’s home complete with a greasy fry-up in the morning. The décor usually looks like time stood still somewhere around 1936, and the amenities are basically just a tea kettle, a bed, and a lamp for reading. Plus, if you’re really lucky, you may get a TV with a whopping 4 channels to choose from.
5. One of the absolute best things about a PCB vacation is the fabulous array of cuisine to tempt your palate, and the sensational variety of restaurants that are available. Here’s what a typical menu for the day could look like:
Breakfast: Fresh seasonal fruit, grits, eggs any way you want ’em, pancakes and coffee.
Lunch: Grilled grouper sandwich, fresh tuna dip and a colorful salad.
Dinner: Fresh seafood platter with shrimp, lobster, clams, oysters, fish and crab. Key lime pie for desert. Hungry yet?
Here’s what might be served up in Tea-and-Crumpetville Beach:
Breakfast: A traditional fry-up. Eggs, bacon, sausages, fried toast, tomatoes, baked beans and blood pudding. Yes, I really did say baked beans and blood pudding. Plus a cup of hot tea with milk to kick start the day.
Lunch: Steak and kidney pie, chips (that’s French fries) mushy peas and gravy. If the kidney puts you off, perhaps try some fish & chips wrapped in newspaper. It really does make it taste better.
Dinner: Bangers (sausages) with either mash or jacket (baked) potato. Probably mushy peas again. And a big old bowl of spotted dick and custard for dessert. Yum.
Now I’m not suggesting for one minute that an English beach vacation is something to be avoided at all costs. Quite the contrary. It’s actually a divine experience, made all the better by the quirky traditions and unpredictable weather. I believe England is one of the world’s finest destinations and I know that any visitor would absolutely love it, blood pudding and all. Panama City Beach is, in my opinion, another of the world’s greatest vacation destinations and has its own unique qualities that set it apart from the rest. If you’re lucky enough to get to travel across the Atlantic – you’re going to love it. For those vacationing stateside and heading to Panama City Beach – you are in for a sunny, sandy, southern treat. Just leave the jackets and wind-breaks at home and think twice before ordering grits.