Outside, the waves crashed onto the shore, caressed by a gentle Gulf breeze. I, however, was inside my impeccably designed beach house—specifically, the en suite white-tiled bathroom next to my spacious bedroom—gazing dreamily at a chandelier made of hundreds of beige seashells hanging over the porcelain soaking tub. Perhaps it was time for a midday soak, I thought, adjusting the middle-age-appropriate tunic that I was wearing over my capri pants. “This is my me time,” I whispered into my glass of chilled white wine. “My mature, independent woman time. And I deserve this, dammit.”
Then, just as I was about to belt out the chorus of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” into my hairbrush, I heard loud arguing, followed by the sound of a bag of Fritos ripping open and the theme song to Rick and Morty. My Nancy Meyers movie fantasy (à la The Holiday and Something’s Gotta Give) came to a crashing halt. It’s hard to be a Fancy Beach House Lady when your husband, teenage sons, and senior-citizen parents insist on joining you.
I decided to book our multigenerational stay at the Texas coast this spring after my vaxxed mom and dad told me they were headed our way from Nevada. My mom loves the water, and she hadn’t seen it, or us, in over a year. Their long-anticipated Caribbean cruise was canceled when it was discovered that norovirus and a reputation for peeing in the pool weren’t the worst things you could catch on board. I also wanted to make up for the last time all of us had gone to the Texas coast together. That time, we stayed at the Navy Lodge in Corpus Christi because my military veteran dad got a good rate. If you’ve ever wanted to experience the amenities and poshness of a nuclear submarine, stay at a Navy Lodge. The front desk clerk handed over a two-by-two-inch bar of soap and said, “Make it last.” This time, we needed a place that befit both our joy of finally being reunited and our love of premium bath products.
On the advice of friends, I found a gorgeous rental in the “seaside village” of Cinnamon Shore, in Port Aransas, just a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Austin. The price per night for most of the offerings was more than I’d usually pay for a vacation stay, but after the pandemic year we’d had, I decided to splurge for four nights at a nearly brand-new, three-story house, just footsteps from the Gulf.
For fifteen years, visitors have flocked to the original Cinnamon Shore resort, an upscale, pastel-colored vacation community on one thousand acres of beachfront in Port Aransas. It’s similar in design and concept to the WaterColor resort in Seaside, Florida, even down to the T-shirts in the gift shop. We opted to stay at the in-the-works Cinnamon Shore South, a new $1.3 billion, three-hundred-acre expansion that’s located about a mile from the main office. Until the South’s dining district, pools, and other amenities are open, guests are welcome to use the North’s three private pools, restaurant, and a grocery store. We didn’t mind the trips between the properties at all, mostly because my two teenage sons were more than happy to blast inappropriate songs in our rented resort golf cart while they zoomed along the sand, their grandparents holding on for dear life.
Like all Cinnamon Shore properties, the house we stayed in was beautifully, and professionally, decorated. I was relieved that my kids are no longer in the “must touch shiny objects” phase or we would have easily lost our rental deposit on a few shattered objets d’art. The glass kitchen cabinet full of Rae Dunn beach-themed mugs or the mounted pieces of coral, for example. (Keep that in mind if you’re traveling with curious toddler fingers—you’ll want to put things on higher shelves.) The interior design was like a spa visit for my senses after looking at the same walls of my house for months. The aesthetic was so relaxing, in fact, with the multiple decks, comfortable couches, and ocean view, that I continued to slip into my movie fantasies. And they continued to be thwarted.
Like when I was in the spacious kitchen trying to cook dinner on the shiny yellow Italian-made Bertazzoni gas range. Meryl Streep would have sassily shut the oven door with her hip while laughing with Rita Wilson about their many man problems. “Nobody understands how hard it is to be a famous chef and author and mansion owner!” I wanted to gayly announce with a cocktail in hand. What I actually said was, “How the hell does this thing make heat? Why isn’t there a ‘popcorn’ button?” And it wasn’t just me confused in the kitchen; none of us were sophisticated enough to know how to turn on the oven. We spent a few hungry hours arguing, watching YouTube instructional videos, arguing again, and then finally calling the front office to send over a person to help us. He arrived and easily lit the professional-grade pilot light, and we then proceeded to heat up the $10 Costco mac and cheese meal we brought with us for dinner. We probably could have used candles to do the job. (Two seconds after the resort man left, my mom found the oven instructions in a drawer.)
These doses of reality only reminded me that no matter where you go, you’re who you are. Try as we might, we just aren’t the Kennedy family at our Cape Cod compound. But that realness also worked in our favor. With 360 new homes going up at Cinnamon Shore South, ongoing construction surrounded us during our stay, but we didn’t care. That’s because while my husband, my mom, and I drank wine and built a puzzle, and my kids hung out upstairs in their private bunk-bed quarters, my dad happily sat in one of the comfy deck chairs and watched the cement truck do its thing. “I’m going to go over and talk to those guys,” he told us. “I have a few questions about their process!” Meryl definitely wouldn’t have turned those lemons into construction-chat lemonade.
The best feature of the house, and Cinnamon Shore, is the proximity to the beach. Our house was literally steps from the water via a wooden pathway. My mom was thrilled. Every morning at 7 a.m., the resort placed six bright-orange chaise deck chairs and umbrellas in the sand, with our name on a little chalkboard, so there was no need to rush and snag them before someone else. That said, she was still out there at 7 a.m. while I “slept through the best part of the day” like I’ve been doing since I was a teenager. Because our visit was in the spring, the beach was windy, and not that warm, but that meant it was also uncrowded and really peaceful. We sat by the water for hours, catching up on everything we’d missed over the past year of not being together. We drank some strange agave wine my husband bought at H-E-B. And we went for walks along the shore. Mostly, we let our shoulders fall away from our ears for a few days. (Note: the resort has reported record bookings for this summer, so if you’re looking for a similar experience, you might want to consider coming in the fall; Port A hosts both the Texas SandFest and a music festival in October.)
We were happy to keep to ourselves and play our nightly games of Dysfunctional Family Feud (that’s actually a game we play), but there are ample opportunities for community and meeting other families at Cinnamon Shore, if you’re up for it. Things such as yoga, kids activities, concerts, sandcastle lessons, surf lessons, and movies on the lawn. It doesn’t bill itself as the original “New Urbanism” Texas coastal concept for nothing. The resort is helpful about arranging other extras too, sometimes for a fee. Like the night we had s’mores on the beach after a staffer built a fire in the sand and brought us all the supplies we needed. As I stood there looking at my family, I was happy and relieved that we were once again together, and that we had this wonderful place to enjoy.
“This reminds me of that time my husband and I visited that monastery turned bakery in the south of France,” I whispered while gazing into the flames. “We’ve never been to the south of France,” my husband whispered back before adding, “Watch out, Diane Keaton. Your marshmallow’s burning.”