Florida’s “Emerald Coast” – Day 7, Wednesday

Today was our last day in Florida. We woke up to a beautiful morning and went out to the beach to take a few last pictures.  It was so peaceful and calm on the shores, hardly a soul around. Afterwards, we made a lunch of leftovers so we could clean out the fridge and sat out on the balcony enjoying our last moments of a short summer vacation.  Soon, it was time to pack up our things and head out to the airport. We had plenty of time as our flight didn’t leave until later, so we drove over to the pier and stopped for a bit, walking around just taking it all in. We stopping to have some ice cream at a cute little ice cream shop and then eventually we made it back to the airport. We turned in our car and headed in the airport to wait for our flight. I truly loved this part of Florida…and would welcome going back again soon.

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Florida’s “Emerald Coast” – Day 6, Tuesday

“Blue skies…smiling at me….nothing but blue skies…do I see…”  Woke up to a beautiful sky shining in my bedroom window today. The master bedroom is on the 3rd floor and there’s a large window overlooking the beach, it was such a welcomed site to see this morning! The waves have calmed down and the sun was pouring in! I woke up pain free and I came downstairs to find Joey hard at work already. I guess we were out of coffee so he went across the street to get some for us from Circle K.  I knew that place would come in handy on more than one occasion! The other night they even had a lemon for our fish. We also had key lime pie for breakfast! Mmm. So today I spent most of the day just relaxing on the beach reading my book.  Joey came in and out now and then between work calls. People were all about hunting seashells, and this one man found TWO starfish that just washed ashore! Around3:30 Joey was done with work and he came out, bringing me a glass of wine….just about the time I was gonna go get some myself! Nice. So we walked the beach a bit, went in the water, but eventually it was time to get out and get dressed and go find an appetizer. Good thing too because I was fried! We went to Buster’s Oyster Grill just up the road from us where they advertised a dozen oysters for $1.99.  Yep, gotta love a bargain! Joey ordered TWO dozen and I ordered a half dozen of oysters Rockefeller, because I prefer mine cooked!  Everyone seemed to have multiple trays of oysters at their tables, guess it’s a hot spot for bargain prices…only between5pm and6pm.  Afterwards, we stopped at the Winn Dixie (are you still reading it with a southern drawl??) and we got one big fatty rib eye steak to grill back at home.  We also picked up a little pack of tea-light candles…Mango Pineapple. When we got home there was a beautiful sunset and everyone was out sitting at the shore watching the sun go down. Joey said it reminded him of the sunset inGreece.  IDK, I love this place and all but it’s notGreece! Anyway, we grilled our dinner out on the deck and ate outside too. The weather was perfect all day, not even humid! We shared the steak it and it was still too much for me, and we also grilled up some asparagus, had a little basmati rice and a little garlic butter to put over all of it. Bummer though, forgot to pack the herbs but we made do. We pulled out all the little stem-less wine glasses and used them for candle holders. By the time we were done eating it was dark and we could even see stars in the sky. After having so many overcast nights it was a welcomed site. The moon was right over us and it really made the ocean look beautiful, like a painting really the way it glistened over the swells. After dinner we took our glasses of wine and ourAdirondack chairs down to the beach and placed our candles all around us. There wasn’t a ton of wind so we could really smell the mango candles. By this time there was no one around so all we heard was the crashing of the small waves against the shore. Slowly our candles were dying out and it was getting a little chilly so we moved back up to our deck for a while before coming in for the night.  Perfect night….all that was missing was…the JACUZZI!

Florida’s “Emerald Coast” – Day 5, Monday

Today we got up fairly early so we went to the Waffle House for breakfast. There seems to be one every few miles. They are pretty small, maybe 6 booths and maybe 20 seats at the counter. I ordered some grits and eggs and a waffle and Joey ordered the biscuits and gravy and a waffle. I guess he was carb loading, lol. We went back home and decided to take a long drive going east today, going pastPanama City.  The weather was good on the drive, with the sun peeking out between the overcast skies. We came upon “MexicoBeach” and walked down the long pier.  It was soooo windy though, nearly blew me away! The waves were really crashing, even spraying up over the end of the pier. Driving out this way really got us away from the upscale touristy beach area where we’re staying. It just made me think we were in “anytown USA”…nothing really special about most of it. There were lots and lots of tall pine trees, but the kind where the trunks are pretty bare with all the green at the very tops. They’re really quite pretty all grouped together by the hundreds. I however had heartburn!  Must have been from the (coffee, eggs, bacon…I should have known better). Bad! Painful! Felt like it was trapped under my upper rib area. We pulled over into a mini market gas station to get some tums (useless) and there was a small inlet of water where some boats were docked. Looked like a great little place to go fishing. There was even a little oyster bar called….Joey’s Oyster Bar! We walked around a bit, took some pics and then got back on the road.

Most of the trip was dry, (still had the heartburn), but just as we approached this big tall roller coaster looking bridge the rain suddenly started pummeling us.  We were probably a block or two from the bridge and we both looked at each other and say “uh..no!”  There was no way we were gonna cross that bridge with such limited visibility out our windshield! So Joey pulls over and turns around, lol. We drove back home (with my heartburn), it was a pretty uneventful day. We just relaxed and enjoyed the view of the ocean from our living room window. We had planned on getting something to make for dinner since we had decided to stay in for the night.  Did I mention I had heartburn? Yep, still had it, didn’t want to eat ANYTHING! Finally had Joey run to the market and get me something stronger than tums. He also picked up a roasted chicken, thinking it would be milder on my stomach. Well, he enjoyed it, ha.  And he enjoyed his piece of key lime pie too! I sat here in agony. The pills weren’t working! So I thought what the heck, NOT eating isn’t helping, I may as well eat.  So I too had some chicken and key lime pie, lol.  We eventually went to bed praying that I would be pain free by morning.

Florida’s “Emerald Coast” – Day 4, Sunday

Awoke a number of times throughout the night and could hear the wind and rain still coming down. Woke up and it’s STILL coming down, although not quite as heavily. This “tropical storm Lee” is pretty much like any rainy storm in California during the winter (although not as cold), but I’m sure we’re probably not getting the worst of it here in Destin. I think we’re just on the outer edges of it all. We ate our yogurt and granola for breakfast (courtesy of Hampton Inn) and watched the people out on the beach from our windows. It’s funny to see the people who think they are taking a leisurely walk when the rains suddenly come pouring down.  They go running like crazy! They may as well not bother, they are drenched within seconds. The oceans are still churning, but very pretty to watch from the comfort of our air-conditioned house, lol. With the overcast skies you’d think it was chilly outside but as soon as we open our slider, it lets in a very warm breeze.

The rains seemed to stop so we finally got dressed and decided to go out but not before trying out the mango we got the other day…YUM! Perfectly ripe! We then drove over to Pampano Joes just down the road but it was so crowded (has been crowded constantly!), so we drove over to the bay side, over to the Sandestin Resort Baytown Warf. It’s a cute little village area with shops, restaurants and some kids adventure activities. We stopped in to get a frozen drink at Fat Tuesday’s Daiquiri Bar. Tried the Hurricane but opted for the mango one, yummy. They even let you take it to go! We walked down to the end of the boardwalk where kids were feeding the fish, and ooo’d and ahhh’d at the nice big boats in the harbor. Seems we got a little reprieve from the rain just for our outing because it didn’t rain at all for hours, and the sun even peeked its head out for awhile! All the while there is a perfect breeze keeping it from feeling too humid. We passed by the Acme Oyster House but decided to skip it since we’ve already been to the original inNew Orleans. We came to an open air restaurant called Hammer Heads and saw a sign for “Steamed Bucket of Seafood” so we stopped in. After ordering a glass of Pinot Grigio for me and a beer for Joey, we ordered the bucket for one. Can’t imagine who could eat this whole thing by themselves! It had about 10 crab legs, one 1 lb lobster tail, about 2 dozen shrimp, as well as corn on the cob and potatoes. It was perfect for the two of us. So we slurped and sucked out every little morsel we could, loving every minute of it. After we finished eating we walked around the area a little longer before getting back out on the road, determined to go find the place where we saw the sign “Fresh Key Lime Pie” just the day before. First we found a wine shop similar to BevMo so we got a couple of bottles to take back to the house.  We finally found the pie shop, The Donut Hole, and it seems it’s a popular place since there was a line of people waiting to buy pie! So we came home with our pie, caught up on some Big Brother online and had some pie.  Oh my, this is the BEST key lime pie I have ever had. Nice and tart, not too sweet, and the smoothest creamy texture! PS, it’s still not raining! Yeah!

Florida’s “Emerald Coast” – Day 3, Saturday

Today we woke up to daylight pouring into our room bright and early.  I have no idea what time it was because the alarm clock next to me was flashing on and off.  I guess Joey unplugged it to charge something. But the sun was peering through the thick ocean haze causing everything to look strangely orange.  It was pretty, but I turned over and went back to sleep, convinced the sun had just come up and therefore that meant it was waaay to early to get up.  We finally did get up somewhere around 9am! By this time it wasn’t really sunny, but not raining so it was looking good.  However, by the time we sat down and had our coffee out of the way, Joey suggested we take a walk along the beach down to the Whales Tale. It’s about two blocks from our house on the beach. In the five minutes it took me to find a hat and put some clothes on it was pouring down rain, hard rain and wind!  We decided it was best if we just drove up the street in the car. We braved the storm getting inside but once in we saw it was where many people where hanging out avoiding the rain. We ordered a bloody mary and shared a basket of onions rings, popcorn shrimp and fish.  It was a tasty little lunch. By the time we left the rains had stopped (as they often do within minutes), and we took a drive down further into Destin.  Off and on it continued to rain, often times not being able to see through the wind shield very well! We found there were many seafood markets down in this area so we picked one that seemed to have a lot of people in it. (This is key, if it’s empty, it’s probably yucky.  That’s our theory and we’re sticking to it!) This time we bought some grouper for dinner tonight. (Claudia and Susie…this is the fish we had in Exuma!). As we walked out there was a tent set up where they were cooking up a seafood boil that you could also get to go. The server asked us if we wanted to sample a “rock shrimp”, so we did. Twist the head off, crack the tail and peel off the shell.  It’s kinda like a tiny lobster.  I commented to Joey as we left that mine seemed to have a lot of sand it it.  Ooops, I think in my rush to try it I forgot to pull out its sandy poop! Yuck! I was chewing on grainy sand for an hour!

We then came home and the rains seemed to have stopped for awhile, although it’s still very windy.  We took a long walk down the beach (KILLING my sciatica!) towards Pompano Joes.  Hmmm, looks like they have a big seafood boil on Sunday’s with live music, might have to check that out tomorrow! At one point I stepped on something odd…kinda squishy.  I thought it was nothing but I looked back and it was a dead jelly fish! Luckily I didn’t get stung….maybe these ones don’t sting?  I started to notice them everywhere; well it seemed that way to me, I guess there were only a few. There were also these clear looking rocks, but when poked with a stick (of course I did!) they were more like clear gummy bears!  Freaky! So now I had to watch everywhere I stepped because I was a little freaked out after stepping on that slime bucket!  Eww.  There were two weddings on the beach between our house and Pompano Joes…some rough winds for a wedding! Hmm, what we will do for love huh?  We saw one bride with her beautiful dress blowing in the wind.

We ended the evening by watching Horders on TV, lol.  Joey, who rarely watches much TV was fascinated! We cooked our grouper, (amazing fish!) some asparagus and a little rice and just kicked back relaxing for the rest of the evening.  We managed to get down the rest of the chocolate cake too! We went to bed to the howling sounds of the wind outside our bedroom window.  The glass was really rattling! Kinda scary with the ocean right outside our window, but we quickly fell asleep. It’s amazing how much sleep Joey is getting, he never sleeps this much!

Florida’s “Emerald Coast” – Day 2, Friday

After filling up on breakfast at the Hampton Inn (taking some goodies along with us) we hit the road towards Destin.  We drove back through all the little beach towns, stopping here or there.  First we came upon a produce stand…Georgiapeaches, vine-ripe tomatoes and hugeFloridaavocados.  I remembered the avocados from living here as a kid, and how they aren’t AS good as a Haas…but is there ever a BAD avocado? We got some of each to bring to the house with us.

We stopped in one little town calledSeasideand found a cute little market where Joey bought a t-shirt with a farmer’s truck on the back, very fitting for him. They also had a huge exploding banana cream pie but we bought a huge piece of chocolate cake to have for dessert later at night (it will likely last two nights!).  We also bought two nice cold mimosa’s that we were able to take ‘to-go’ which was nice. We strolled around the nice grounds of the town where they have all these little art markets around. They even had a cute little dog watering hole…oh how I wished I had my Isabella here with me! We decided to have lunch here and we went to the best spot where I had the BEST meal EVER! If anyone knows me, they know I love my grits and this dish was shrimp and grits, topped with green beans and capers…soooo creamy, so tasty with all the little capers. We finished our mimosas and also had a glass of Pinot Grigio (the only white wine I really like, ha ha), but it was hot so I wanted something refreshing. Joey ordered a fish sandwich, sorry, he may have liked it just fine but it didn’t compare to my heaven!

We then hit the road again until we came upon an awesome fish market. It was also a nice restaurant but they had a great little market in front where you can buy buckets of shrimp and many other fish as well.  Shrimp is everywhere! Did I mention I love shrimp? The only thing better is crab and lobster in my book. We bought some sushi tuna to take home for dinner later, and some wasabi. After they packed it on ice for us, we were on our way again.

We finally make it to our beach house and wow, the view is amazing.  The place sleeps 10, has 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, as well as a futon on the bottom floor and a pull out sofa in the living room. There’s also a stove on the bottom floor, and a bbq outside on lower deck.  Also, there is a washer/dryer on two of the floors.  The middle level has the main living room/dining room and kitchen, and another balcony deck outside with a table and chairs. We knew this place was gonna be more than we need but we got a great deal so we took it. It sure made us wish our kids and/or friends were here to share it with us though! The décor is adequate, not luxury, definitely beach house-ish, but it is clean and the beds are comfy. The best part is the beach is right out your back door. And Joey really likes that there’s a Circle-K right across the street so he can run over to grab a beer whenever he wants!

So as soon as we get here we put on our suits and head out to the beach. The sand is so soft, when it’s a little wet it reminds me of pie dough, when you mix the butter in with the sugar and flour, lol. And the water…nice and warm.  It’s not calm right now due to the storm front coming in, and at one point we had a little light drizzle of rain but it comes and goes in 2-3 minutes. It doesn’t seem to stop anyone from getting in the water!

So after we spent some time at the beach we went to the Winn Dixie to get a little bit of food. Lots of people going to the Winn Dixie!  And you have to say that with a southern drawl….  Anyway, we came home, made some rice and sliced our tomato and our tuna and had a nice dinner out on our deck.  We sat out there for quite some time, enjoying the nice warm ocean breezes. People were down on the sand with their flashlights out taking walks, it was all very serene.  If only Joey had remembered his head lamp we might have ventured out for a little skinny dipping ourselves…but I guess not this time. It was a perfect night, the only thing missing was….the Jacuzzi!!

 

Florida’s “Emerald Coast” – Day 1, Thursday

Well we departed LAX at 1am and had a 2.5 hour flight toDallas.  I was hoping to get some sleep but no such luck for me. Joey however was out like a light. How is it that men can fall asleep ANYWHERE?! So we arrive in Dallas in desperate need of some sleep and what do we find down in terminal B??  Some nice reclining armless lounge chairs!!  Okay, they weren’t nice, a bit tattered but we didn’t care.  We hit the two that were put together against the wall and we curl up and try to sleep during our two hour layover.  Again, Joey is deep breathing while I am tossing and turning trying to get comfortable.  Of course I couldn’t hear anything but each and every little noise around me, certain that someone is gonna take off with our luggage while we sleep.  And of course my stomach rumbling from hunger…and from the wine I had at Debbie’s before we left LA. I think I finally dozed for 15-20 minutes before our alarm on the phone went off. So we’re finally out of this place and onto Fort Walton Beach airport!  This was a pretty small plane, 2 on one side, 1 on the other. Since we got these flights last minute, we were in the singles with Joey behind me.  But this time I think I got an hours worth of sleep!  Anyway, we arrived in Florida raring to go so we head over to the rental cars and picked up our car and were quickly on our way.

We drove out through small towns, feeling like we were certainly in Florida.  Everything was so green, lots and lots of forests of trees. There are churches everywhere!  We stopped at McDonalds for some coffee and they even had Christian music playing in there! So we pass on through the town of Niceville (perfectly named) and over the bay and onto the small strip of land called Destin.  From there we head for the scenic road that runs along the shoreline. We quickly pass our beach house rental without even knowing it.  Although we aren’t schedule to check in for another day, we decide to double back about 10 minutes to go check it out.  Joey ventures off to the beach side and talks a little to the two ladies who are keeping us from checking in on this day.  They were nice and informed him that the place was nice, the internet works, as does the A/C! Important stuff! We notice that all around there are oyster shells…hmm.

So we are back in the car continuing on to Panama Cityfor the first night. We are amazed along the way how many ‘swamps’ there are on the opposite side of the road, with the beaches to our right. I guess they are called lakes, but they looked pretty swampy to us, with the big forest of trees all around them and the lily pads and other water plants floating around. I could swear we could hear banjos playing. We make a few stops along the way, lots of little beach towns that run from one to the other. We stopped for a ‘snow ball’ once, it was a cute little truck selling snowcones but they were made from real soft snow ice.  Just what we needed in this humidity too, it really cooled us off! We’re thinking its the perfect retirement business along the California shores! The clouds were starting to cover and at one point we got a little tropical rain coming down.  Well, at one point the wind shield wipers were barely making a dent in the down pour. But that quickly stopped.

As we approached Panama Citywe started to see why its a typical spring break place. It reminded us just a bit of Rosarito,Mexico.  Not bad, just an obvious party town. Lots of inexpensive motels and lots of fun looking bars and restaurants. Stores called ‘Purple Haze’ selling tye-dyed shirts…you figure it out 😉 We finally find our hotel, Hampton Inn, that we got using hotel points. (The blessings of Joey’s business travels!)  We come into our room and we have a jacuzzi right in the bedroom! JUSTwhat we needed after 24 hours of essentially no sleep!  We quickly make use of the jacuzzi before going to dinner, determined to use it again AFTER dinner!  Oh my gosh, it felt soooo good! I decided when we remodel our master bedroom, we MUST put one of these in!

We dress for dinner and head off to find some seafood to eat.  We decide NOT to do an online search of reviews, but instead opt for looking for the place with the most cars already there!  We happened upon a touristy looking place because of the sign saying “Dusty’s Oyster Bar”.  Joey LOVES raw oysters.  Although I am an adventurous eater, I haven’t found a liking for raw oysters so I opt for the baked ones instead, still very yummy. We walk in this crazy packed place and realize we have no places with such character (or charcters) in Corona! What a fun place, and Joey was estatic with the $.75 draft beers! We had the oysters, some buffalo wings and a platter of various fish…grouper, little crap claws, shrimp, crab cake, and of course cole slaw. It was good, but my only suggestion to the chef is to back off on the salt! The grouper was amazing, and of course Joey is now determined to find the fishermen at the docks to buy us some of our own to grill at the beach house.  I trust that this will actually happen too.

We finally get back to our hotel and AGAIN do get into the jacuzzi.  Kinda nice being able to have fresh water each and every time. At one point we even emptied out the hot and just put cool water in it, lol. And of course, you’ve probably seen the pictures of Joey by now…him and his bubbles! He is a man who loves his bubble baths!