Hurricane-Proof Beach Houses

I’ve mentioned a few times that one of my goals is to buy a beach house.

There are fewer places where I’m happier, than on a beach. (From the number of posts on the subject, I think that’s pretty clear!) And while I frequent the New York beaches each summer, it’s a long haul for me to get to any of them. My dream is to be able to spend most summer weekends at my own place, in a nearby beach town.

I’m not envisioning anything fancy. Just someplace bright, airy, and relatively quiet.

I do know the risks that come with owning a beach house, though. Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast’s seaside towns hard. Lots of areas are still recovering—including LBI, where I recently vacationed.

Knowing that, I’ve been poking around the web to see what can be done to help beachfront homes survive hurricanes. In the process, I stumbled upon two very different, but gorgeous, houses built to withstand natural disasters.

This seaside cottageВ sits on Hunting Island, off the coast of Maine.В The stones on the exterior walls came from the island. I love the juxtaposition of the rocks and weathered wood…

rustic exterior

…and how the home is just a few steps from the water!

rustic porch

That proximity to the ocean puts the house in a FEMA flood zone, which meant it had to built to code. Design firm, the Knickerbocker Group, oversaw the project: making sure vents could handle rushing floodwaters, ensuring that all wood was rot-proof, installingВ electrical wiring at least three feet off the floor. And that metal rod running along the roof, inside the living room? That’s to keep it from blowing off during a bad storm.

rustic living room

Scary to even think of that. Though I imagine falling asleep on most nights, listening to the sound of waves, makes the risk worth it.

rustic bedroom
On the other end of the design spectrum, is this Tsunami House, fromВ Design Northwest Architects,В on Washington’s Camano Island, in the Puget Sound.

tsunami_house_02

It, too, was built to FEMA code. The lower level is an expansive patio and seating area…

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…but since it would likely be underwater in the event of a hurricane, the main living space is nine feet above ground.

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The structure was built to withstand 85 mph winds and earthquakes.

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At first, I was really wowed by the Tsunami House. But after seeing the stone cottage, I feel like that’s more my style: simple and rustic yet elegant. Either way,В it’s inspiring—and encouraging—to see what can be done within strict flood zone codes.

Which house do you prefer?

(Images of the stone house via Houzz;В images of the Tsunami House by Design Northwest Architects, found via Weather.com)

NYC by Night, On a Scarf

Last year, I posted a stunning photo of NYC by night:

NYC by night

It was taken by NASA in March 2013. The picture astounded me. I was amazed at how clearly you can see the gridded streets that make up the city, along with the bridges that connect the boroughs.

Today I stumbled upon an NYC-based design company who was just as inspired by that image:В Slow FactoryВ creates silk scarves from NASA’s aerial city photos—including the one above:

TRUAX_SLOWFACTORY_SHOT1-320_re

They also have scarves printed with images ofВ Paris, the USA and London (below) by night.

london by night

Just stunning.

(Top image by NASA, bottom by Slow Factory; found via SwissMiss)

New Yorker Beach Covers

Though I haven’t taken any other summer trips since LBI, I’ve made a point to hit the beach at least one day eachВ weekend. Like I’ve been saying—the sun and surf are so refreshing after a week spent in an air-conditioned midtown office building!

Sure, NYC-area beaches don’t have the cleanest sand or prettiest water. And yeah, they can get crowded. But I do love seeing my fellow New Yorkers, from all walks of life, basking in the sun and splashing in the water.

That’s why I love this week’s New Yorker cover, byВ Mark Ulriksen,В celebratingВ summer on Coney Island: It’s a vibrant and accurate depiction of New Yorkers taking advantage of their beach within the city. (Funny, I’ve been to Long Beach, Rockaway, Robert Moses and Jones, but not Coney Island, this year.)

MARK ULRIKSEN’S “CONEY ISLAND”

The magazine also has a gallery of past covers that featured the beach. I loved this one, from 2009, of a couple wading in the moonlight:

banyai couple

And I really got a kick out of these two, from the 1930s:

1937_08_14_Hokinson_Beach

1939_07_08_Taylor_Beach

It’s amazing how little a day at the beach has changed since then. The styles and technology are different, but packing a picnic and/or eating hot dogs and battling crowds are still part of the experience!

(Images via the New Yorker)

So Ready for a Chill Weekend

rockaway surfers

Happy Friday! As usual, I’m thrilled it’s the weekend—because that means I’ll be at the beach. (Rockaway, this time.) Even though it’s a schlep to get to any of them from Washington Heights, it’s so worth it. Nothing comparesВ to a day at the beach in the summertime.

Until next week, some of my favorite travel links from around the web:

More amazing aerial summer photos.

Awesome: NYC music references, mapped.

Rainbow-hued balconies in Sweden.

Extreme Slip’N Slide! At Lake Powell, Utah.

10 words and phrases travel writers should avoid. I totally agree, but admit that I’m guilty of using most of them, at some point!

How to make your home feel like a beach house. After coming back from my beach house week, I’ve wanted to overhaul my apartment and make it feel more like a seaside place.

I want this tree tent.

Dogfish Head just opened an inn!

…this isn’t travel-related, but it’s good to keep in mind: Your happiness makes your friends and familyВ happier.

Have a good one!

A Week on Long Beach Island

In early June, a group of friends and I rented a house on Long Beach Island.

True to its name, Long Beach Island is a lengthy, skinny barrier island off the coast of mainland New Jersey. The ocean is on one side, the bay on the other.

LBI, as it’s lovingly referred to, is a favorite summer escape for those of us who grew up in or around NYC. It’s just two hours, by car, from the city. When I was a kid, I lived for our annual vacation there: long days at the beach, riding my favorite carousel horse at the little amusement park, eating pancakes at Uncle Will’s, a breakfast place. I was excited to return to the island as an adult.

OurВ rentalВ was in Surf City, a block from the bay, three from the beach.

vacation rental

It had five nice bedrooms…

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…plus an outdoor hot tub, grill, beach cruisers, kayaks and tiki bar!

tiki bar

Many previous renters raved about the tiki bar in their reviews.В To be honest, I was wondering what the big deal was. But once we settled in, the appeal was clear. The tiki bar was the perfect place to hang out, any time of day…

peter and mal

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karen

…especially when cool beers or frozen drinks were involved.

pina colada

Since it was early June, it was still off-season. Many shops and restaurants were closed, or only open Friday through Sunday.

I didn’t mind, though. Because that meant the beaches were dead.

walkway to beach

When you’re accustomed to packed NYC beaches, it’s a luxury to have a stretch of sand allВ to yourself.

setting up on the beach

Some days were a bit cool and cloudy for sunbathing. That’s when everyone broke out the paddleball and frisbee.

frisbee 2

frisbee 4

I didn’t partake in the games, in case you were wondering—I have zero hand-eye coordination!

I was jealous of the people who owned beachfront homes. How nice it must be to hear the sound of waves from your bedroom.

beachfront homes 1

One day…

beachfront homes 2

LBI is 18-miles long. One cloudy day, Evan and I drove to the southern tip. A year and a half ago, Hurricane Sandy hit the island hard. Surf City, the neighborhood where we stayed, looked like it escaped pretty unscathed. But we drove byВ areas that were still rebuilding. Any house that was under construction, whether a new or existing structure, was being built several feet into the air, on pilings.

Holgate, a community on the south end, was still recovering. We passed many homes that looked abandoned on their pilings, with the beach washed out and their wiring dangling below.

Evan and IВ drove until Long Beach Boulevard ended, then got out and walked onto the beach.

southern part of lbi

We couldn’t go to the very tip of the island, due to rare nesting birds. So Evan hunted for seashells.

On the way back to the house, we stopped for clam chowder. (The soup is so popular on LBI that the island hosts an annual Chowderfest!) I thought this looked like a ton of soup, but we gobbled it up, bread bowl and all, in minutes.

clam chowder in bread bowl

Our group mostly cooked at home. Each couple took a night and prepared a meal for everyone else. I’m lucky to have friends who are good cooks! Every dinner was so delicious that I didn’t snap a picture of a single one. Sometimes being in the moment with good eats and good friends trumps documenting every second.

Of the restaurants we did try, Mud City Crab House was, by far, my favorite.

mud city crab house

The seafood joint isВ actually located off the island, in Manahawkin, but was so awesome that we ate there twice. Their snow crab legs were amazing—and reasonably priced.

snow crab

I was also thrilled that they served blue crabs—my absolute summer favorite! I ordered those for dinner when we returned on another night.

We had to check out of our house on Saturday morning. Before we left the island, we stopped byВ Uncle Will’s, my favorite breakfast spot from when I was a kid.

uncle will's

The place was just as cute as I remembered, with pig-themed paintings on the wall. The ceramic Uncle Wills still held court over the restaurant, and were seated at tables where little kids were dining.

uncle wills

No joke—I was tempted to ask for Will to sit at my table! Just like when I was a kid.

The pancakes were also great.

uncle wills pancakes

Since we got back, my familyВ andВ I have been talking about saving up and pooling our funds to buyВ a beach house, in a few years. That’s the thing about NYC. It’s great to be able to find anything you need, any hour of the day. But the fast pace and crowds also make you crave more of this, especially in the summer:

lbi beach

Amazing Aerial Beach Photos

On any given day, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than on a beach.

That’s why Gray Malin‘s A La Plage photo series makes me so happy.В Malin shot each photo while cruising over beaches in doorless helicopters.

The result: Incredible aerial photos of happy people in gorgeous, sunny settings. LikeВ Australia’s Manly Beach

Manly Beach, by Gray Malin

to Brazil

Brazil's Blue Beach, by Gray Malin

…to St. Tropez

St. Tropez Tahiti Club, by Gray Malin

…and even Coney Island!

Coney Island, by Gray Malin

Just stunning.

I’ll be keeping up with Malin’s photos—and his cool blog—long after summer ends.

(Images by Gray Malin; found via weather.com)

NYC’s Dollar Vans

NYC's dollar vans: Chinatown route

For many New Yorkers, especially those of us who live in the farther reaches of the city, or in or near immigrant communities, dollar vans are a common sight.

They’re part of a thriving economy of largely unlicensed vans that shuttle people along busyВ routes underserved by public transportation: between NYC’s four Chinatowns, the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, way out in eastern Queens.

Andrew Reiss spent a year researching, riding and mapping NYC’s dollar van routes. His findings are presented in an awesome, interactive map and video project for the New Yorker.

I haven’t personally ridden an NYC dollar van. (Though I did take its national cousin, the so-called “Chinatown bus” from Boston to NYC, before it was regulated.)

Yet, the vans appeal to me in so many ways. They remind me of my travels in South and Central America, where flagging down crowded vans was the typical way to get around. I like how the vans foster a community among riders, and help out those who aren’t near a bus or subway. And I appreciate them as an integral part of NYC life.

Check out the whole project here.

(Image via the New Yorker)