So it's odd that I've become such a beach lover. Beach connoisseur. Oh, OK ... beach snob.
Yes, I've been spoiled by the beaches of North Caicos Island. I've come to expect white sand that doesn't absorb heat, clear turquoise water, only the gentlest of waves (thanks to the reef) and, most importantly, a minimum of people. On North, if I'm sharing the beach with six people, it's crowded.
I've enjoyed such beaches for more than 20 years, so now when I do visit a beach elsewhere I am usually surprised and, I admit, a but disdainful. Everything's so brown. Man, that sand is hot! How can you stand with a drink when those big waves keep coming? And what's with all these people? Even the Outer Banks, which many adore as being remote and wild, disappointed me.
But beloved beaches, where folks line up on lounge chairs under umbrellas, are the norm in most places, including Europe. Anything for a beach. On our recent trip to Greece and Turkey, we saw the lineups everywhere there was a strip of sand.
We went to the beach once during the trip, by the mouth of the Dalyan River in Turkey. The sand was brown but the water was blue, the deep blue of the Aegean. The sea bottom was smooth and flat, allowing one to wade fairly far out. When we arrived there were few people, but we should have seen what was coming in the row of loungers and umbrellas.
We were surprised to learn that the beach is a nesting area for turtles. I wondered why humans were allowed there at all, but signage informed me that it's the turtles' beach at night, when the eggs are laid and hatch. Spotters note the nesting sites, and wire barriers are placed over the nests so that beachgoers don't disturb them. I was skeptical about the wisdom of this sharing.
As the day went on, the beach filled up. River tours would end at the beach, dumping more and more tourists into the area. They splashed into the water, posed for photos, sizzled in the sub and chattered in unfamiliar languages - we guessed Russian, though the people could have come from anywhere with a Cyrillic alphabet.
This was far removed from my customary beach visit! Yet it offered its own pleasures, primarily people-watching. What the beach day lacked in the visual sweep of sea and sky, it made up for in the parade of human variety. And to my impressed surprise, all those people carefully avoided the turtle nests! Not bad.
I still prefer my empty North Caicos retreats, but the day at the Dalyan River reminded me that even a crowded beach is a special place.