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TGIW: A day at the beach

by Libby Sternberg

Summer’s end is now in the rearview mirror. And an end-of-summer ritual for us has become a beach excursion. We travel to Delaware’s Bethany Beach, a small resort community near the Maryland line, in September after the crowds leave and when the rates drop. We know we’re taking a chance on weather, but you do that every time you book a beach vacation, no?

Me at the beach. Not.

Me at the beach. Not.

When I was a young’un, living in Baltimore, Ocean City, Maryland was the place to go. “Danny Ocean” was not a name, it was Balmerese for where you went for vacation.  The summer after I graduated from high school, friends and I rented an apartment in Ocean City for a week in June. What fun! Later, my husband and I stayed at reasonable (okay, cheap) hotels to grab some sun and sand. Even though we live in Pennsylvania now, I still really enjoy seeing Ocean City’s “Rodney” television commercials, where a lifeguard rescues people from summer boredom by taking them Danny Ocean:

One year, however, a friend recommended staying in a townhouse at Bethany, rented out by a friend of hers. We took a chance and had a delightful time. The townhouse was a long walk or a short drive to the beach itself, and it was surrounded by trees, had a nice kitchen and living space, and a deck. Its community had a swimming pool and tennis court.

When we moved to Vermont, it was hard to get to the beach, even to closer Cape Cod. Something always seemed to get in the way. But one year we managed to cram in a vacation with two of our three kids (the other was doing an internship) at the same Bethany townhouse.

Now, all the kids are grown, out of the house, on their own. You know what that means–we are no longer tethered to school schedules! So, we could go “danny ocean”…in September. September when it’s still warm, when the water itself is warmer, when everyone else has gone home. Bliss!

Instead of heading back to the townhouse, we chose another resort community called Sea Colony. For those on the East Coast near the Delaware beaches, I recommend it. It offers either oceanfront high-rises or inland “tennis community” condos across the coastal highway. We choose the latter. I don’t play tennis, but my husband does. Besides, those condos are situated on lovely little ponds, with pleasant decks that beckon you at twilight, glass of wine in hand. They also feature a heated outdoor pool where this non-ocean-swimmer can joyfully paddle in the mornings.

The community is so quiet at this time of year that when we do see others out and about, we think: Don’t they know this is our time? 🙂

We’ve made two discoveries while there I’d like to share with other Bethany beachgoers: McCabe’s Gourmet Market and Catch 54 Restaurant.

McCabes is a little south of Bethany proper on the Coastal Highway, a small market crammed with essentials and delicacies–pastries that could compete with those from any French patisserie, specialty foods, coffees and…frozen prepared dishes. If you’re feeding a condo full of friends or family, try their frozen lasagna.

Catch 54 is a restaurant in nearby Fenwick Island, on the bay side (Assawoman Bay — I’m not making that up). The owners pride themselves on using as much local bounty as they can. The food tasted fresh and flavorful, portions were perfect (not oversized), service spot-on, and the view from the deck–outstanding.  Be warned–don’t bother putting the address in your GPS. Ours led us astray. The eatery is on Route 54, across from Harpoon Hannah’s, another bayside restaurant.

The deck of Catch54 restaurant.

The deck of Catch54 restaurant.

The past few years we’ve gone to Bethany Beach, we’ve been very fortunate with wonderful weather–sunny days, temperatures either hot or warm. Yet every visit, when we leave, the weather seems to change. This year, temps dropped the day before we exited, as if to say, summer’s over, you can go home now.

What a wonderful way to cap off a lovely season! Time to start planning for next year.

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Buy her books so she can afford to go to the beach next year, too.

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