Day 15 – Valencia, Spain 2012 – May 28, Monday

Our last day in Spain, in the city of Valencia, we head out bright and early with hard boiled eggs and a pear in hand (that we brought from our previous hotel). We walk down the street to the bus station and find the one we take down to the “Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias” (City of Arts and Sciences). It is an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex that spans a very large area of town. It was a beautiful sunny day so we walked all over the grounds, admiring the interesting modern architecture, and especially the large shallow pools that surrounded the area. There is even a park with awesome bike trails all around it. Bougainville’s were everywhere and they were in full bloom! They had small billboards along the walkways that had interesting photography art work with thought provoking sayings…all in all it was a worthwhile visit for two people who don’t really enjoy museums and have seen our share of cathedrals and castles during our many travels!

After spending a few hours at the arts and science area, we hopped into a cab and had him take us to the beach for lunch. This beach reminded us a lot of Huntington Beach here in California….lots of sand! They have very large bike lanes, something I wish we had more of! This is where all the best paella places are too! We walked all long “restaurant row” where each place was pretty much offering the same thing…Paella, their specialty. We finally settled on one that had a nice “menu del dia” posted out front on a chalkboard and sat down to our last pitcher of cold sangria. Our paella came in the traditional “2 person” flat skillet, with some mussels, langostinos and shrimp. It was excellent, full of saffron flavor and bright orangy-yellow colored. So yellow, it caused our nails to turn orange just from peeling the shrimp! After our lunch, we walked a bit more to look around before heading to the metro train station for our ride back to our hotel.

At our hotel, Joey took a siesta while I blogged and uploaded pictures. This seemed to be how most of our siestas were spent, ha ha. I finally woke Joey and insisted we get out and hit the streets hard once again for our last bit of souvenir shopping. It’s harder than it seems…trying to find things for our kids that were practical and yet still fun. And of course, we had to get a few things for ourselves, and that was the hardest part! I’m pretty sure I was the hold out until the end, wanting to be sure I saw everything before making my final decision ;).

As the night wore on and we were strolling along the beautiful streets of old town Valencia, we decided we should probably eat again. I know it seems like all we did was eat and drink, and for a lot of this trip, that is exactly what we did (between walking and looking at things), but mostly we ate about two meals a day, with maybe a snack of either fruit, meats, cheeses or even a dessert in between. But this being our last day of our vacation, we decided to spring for one last dinner, in spite of having a heavy paella for lunch. And what did we have? MORE paella!! Again, there were lots of outdoor cafes selling paella in this old town area so we found one that looked charming where an according player was playing. AND, another “menu del dia” for $12 euro, that included THREE appetizers and bread that came before the paella! We hared some fried squid, a salad, and some potatoes with a garlic aioli sauce. THEN came the paella! This dish wasn’t as good as the one at the beach, and if you’re ever in Valencia, I would definitely suggest you head to the beach for your paella, but still…it was decent enough to eat…although we couldn’t finish our plates! They also served us a plate of desserts…fresh fruit with whipped cream, a small piece of cake, and some ice cream with raspberry sauce drizzled all over everything. Oh, and I forgot to mention, this came with a glass of wine. The owner kept coming by with a bottle and filling our glasses, even AFTER we paid the check! Sadly, I was too full to even drink all the wine! We eventually waddled back to our hotel where we packed everything up for our early morning flight home before hitting the sheets around 11pm.

As an addition to this last day’s blog, I will tell you that we woke up the following morning at 3:30am to shower and be over at the metro station (across the street…convenient) for the first 5am train to the airport. We made this in plenty of time, only to find out that our 6:40am flight with TAP Portugal into Lisbon had been cancelled! We had two connecting flights on United that we would have to make too (Lisbon to New York, and then New York to LAX…arriving home at 6:25pm). We knew we would never make these connections if we had to wait until the next 11:40am flight to Lisbon! And just thinking about how much sleep we could have gotten had we KNOWN about the cancellation…well, you can imagine our frustration! There wasn’t even anyone at the TAP Portugal window, just a sign posted that the flight was cancelled and to come back later. So we find a café, order some coffee, and get on the phone (at $1.39 per minute), calling United to have them re-book us. Oh lucky me, I get some girl in India whom I can’t understand who puts me on hold to “verify” this cancellation. Uhh yeah, I’m looking at the sign on the window! I eventually realize she disconnected me so I try another number I had for United. This time I got lucky and got an American agent. He spent some time looking for flight options (expensive time), but he eventually re-booked our flight on Swiss Air into Zurich, and then a direct flight home from Zurich to LAX, arriving at 4:40pm…even earlier that our original flight home! Yeah, coolio, and with an international airline too so that means they feed us and the drinks are free! Lots of glutenous foods being served though :(. But they did pass out Swiss chocolate! So without any further complications, and after watching 3.5 movies (I think I dozed…), we arrived home, on-time, and our sweet Lacy girl was there to pick us up!

First stop….Miguel’s Jr. for a couple of bean and cheese burritos before we start back on our diet, lol!

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Day 13 – Alicante, Spain 2012 – May 26, Saturday

Today we woke up around 9am, just in time to grab our breakfast before the 10am cut off. Afterwards, I stopped by the front desk to schedule my massage at 1pm. We then came back to our hotel room and got changed into our swimsuits so we could go to the spa and use the hydro-massage circuit. This was quite a unique experience! They have various showers where you stand and wait for the water to come spraying out at you. The water changes from warm to cold, pretty invigorating…okay, more like shocking. But the pool area has some nice Jacuzzi jets where you either lay down on them, or go to a station where each one hits a different part of your body. But the fun part was the different spouts! The high pressure water comes out in various shapes; each one feels a little different. You really have to brace yourself or they will knock you over. But they do give you quite a good massage. I was rubbery even before my massage!

When it was time for my regular massage, I went in while Joey went down to the regular pool and waited for me. The massage was very nice, and very relaxing! After my massage, I met Joey down at the pool where we spent most of the day relaxing some more. This is my favorite part of the vacation! We even went down to the beach for a bit; we had to at least get into the ocean for a bit, right? But it was quite chilly and very rocky. It was hard to walk into the water, not so easy on the feet. We then went back up to the pool where we stayed until probably 6pm as it stays hot and light out until quite late. There was also a private party going on down below so we had the added bonus of some real funky disco music to listen to! We eventually headed back to our room where we showered and got ready for our last dinner here at this beautiful place. We arrived for dinner at 8:30pm, the first to arrive, and were given the most beautiful spot in the restaurant. It was a corner spot with glass windows all around overlooking the ocean. VERY pretty! For dinner we had the mushroom soup, a nice salad, and fish and steak….once again, very tasty. Then, we rolled ourselves back to our room for the night…wondering if anything will fit us tomorrow for the last couple days of our trip!

Day 11 & 12 – Alicante, Spain 2012 – May 24 & 25, Thursday & Friday

Thursday, May 24th we woke up and got packed up and ready to leave Sevilla. We had to catch a 12:15pm flight to Valencia. Our flight was delayed about an hour, but it gave me time to catch up on some blogging at the airport. When we arrived in Valencia, we rented a car for our drive down the coast to our hotel stay at the beach in Villajoyosa, just outside of Alicante. The drive was nice enough, it reminded us of California for the most part. When we finally got near the coast, it was kind of hard to find our hotel. Our directions weren’t too clear so we stopped at a tourist office and the lady helped us out with a better map of the area. When we finally arrived at hour hotel, we were a bit surprised by how nice everything was. I mean I knew it was gonna be a nice place, but was pleasantly surprised by just how nice it was. It is a beautiful hotel situated on the bluffs overlooking the Mediterranean with rooms on various levels all the way down to the beach area. We were shown to our room and I immediately walked out to the large balcony to admire the view. Amazing! The water below is such a pretty color of turquoise, especially against the all over tan nude bodies on the beach below as well, lol. As it turns out the beach to the left of us is a “naturist” beach, while the beach to the right is just a “normal” topless beach…if you are so inclined. There were also dogs on the beach once again. One even swam around for us, sooo cute!

So this first day we pretty much just lay low, snuggling up in our hotel provided robes and slippers and just sit in awe of the view before us for the rest of the night. After such an action packed week in Sevilla, I wanted to do nothing else! So Joey went into town to pick us up some snacks and some to-go salads that we ate while sitting out on our balcony, feet kicked up and resting our tired bodies.

Friday, May 25th, we wake up in time to catch a late breakfast at the hotel restaurant. I was expecting the typical European fare of breads, meats, cheese, fruit and coffee…maybe some yogurt. But luckily this breakfast buffet had all that and more! They even had eggs! I have been dying for some eggs since I eat them quite a bit at home so this was a real treat for me. They also had champagne too. What I didn’t know when I booked this room is that the breakfast was free! How cool is that? And to make it even better, the dining room has a wall of windows so you still get to enjoy your morning looking out at the amazing views!

After breakfast we came back and changed into our swimsuits and then took a walk around the hotel grounds, finding all the little bars and lounges tucked away here or there. We also spotted the spa where I am hoping for a massage tomorrow. They have a whole circuit of hydro-therapy type massage things so we’ll probably partake in that as well. It’s pretty interesting… the spa pool which otherwise looks like a regular swimming pool, has all these little private Jacuzzi stations around the outside, as well as a reclining area with jets too. That makes for a pretty warm pool overall, which will be nice since I like my pool water warm. But I’ve never seen anything like that before! Pretty cool! We also walked down to the “non-nude” beach to see how cold the water is. It’s chilly, but not unbearable. The beaches here don’t really have sand; they’re more like small river rocks of varying sizes. Not too easy to walk on! We eventually made our way to the pool because the views from the lounge chairs are stunning! They are positioned right at the edge of the cliff and you pretty much get a full 180 degree view of the coastline. The pool water is a bit chilly too, but then again, I like my pool more like bath water :).

After our day at the pool we stopped at one of the bars at the top of the cliff and had a drink. AND I got to Skype with Claudia again :). We then went back to our room for a shower before going into town for dinner. We could have dinner here at the hotel, and we will tomorrow, but we just thought it would be more fun to see what’s out in the town. It’s not really a tourist town, but rather a small beach town where the locals live so there weren’t a lot of options. We stopped into the market and picked up a few things for the beach tomorrow, and also got some dessert for later. Its fun seeing all the different foods they eat here. As it “should” be, the cereal isle is the smallest, doesn’t even take up a full isle. And there are minimal packaged foods too. They have all kinds of odd seafood as well. We finally ended up deciding on a Chinese food place of all things, but figured what the heck, we’ve had our fill of Spanish food…for now. Still saving our big diet splurge on paella in Valencia since that’s what Valencia is known for…”paella a la valenciana”, which is a seafood paella. Anyway, our Chinese food place was an interesting little oddity, a mix of Asian and Spanish décor… but the food was excellent. The hot n’ sour soup was HOT, spicy hot! But oooh so tasty. Everything else was cooked fresh and done really well. We were the only ones in there other than one local man. Overall, just a pretty funny experience that we both got a kick out of. We then came back to our rooms with stuffed tummy’s so we stripped off our clothes and got back into our hotel robes and slippers and sat on the balcony until it was dark before retiring to our wispy netted bed, ha ha.

Day 8, 9 & 10 – Sevilla, Spain 2012 – May 21, 22 & 23 Monday-Wednesday

I’ve gotten a bit behind on my blogging, so it’s just the facts, only the facts. No time (or memory ) for the details. Sorry :(.

On Monday, May 21st we took a train to Cordoba…a town where there is a big cathedral that fell under the rule of both Muslim’s and Christians over the ages. The Cathedral and former Great Mosque of Córdoba, in ecclesiastical terms the “Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción” (English: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption), and known by the inhabitants of Córdoba as the Mezquita-Catedral, is today a World Heritage site and the cathedral of the Diocese of Córdoba. It is located in the Andalusian city of Córdoba, Spain. It took us just over an hour to get there by train from Sevilla. The interior really reflects both religions, going from the traditional Christian paintings and statues, then transitioning to the more typical Muslim architecture of domes and archways as each conqueror added on to the building…”making it their own”, ha. Saying it was HUGE is an understatement. It’s pretty hard to describe so you’ll just have to look at the pictures. After touring around the cathedral and walking the grounds (and working up a hunger), we stopped for lunch at a pretty little place with an inside courtyard as their restaurant. We ordered a variety of tapas…some shrimp, olives, chorizo, BULL meat, and a salad. We then continued on and walked, and walked, and walked all over this town. We finally took the train back home where we were exhausted! TOO exhausted to go out on the town for dinner so we opted instead to stop at a little market to pick up some snacks and then came back home to our room and had dinner in bed :).

On Tuesday, May 22nd we explored some more of Sevilla, walking through the large park on our way back down to Plaza de Espana to get a closer look at all the tile work. Each providence is represented in tiles so it was fun taking pictures of all the places we’ve been visiting and will be visiting here in Spain….especially the Valencia tiles! Being so pooped from the previous day, it wasn’t long before we needed a stop for some refreshments…Sangria time! We found one little place that had tables under a HUGE tree (lots of HUGE trees here in Sevilla), and kicked back for about an hour resting our feeties….and calves, and shins, and knees. Afterwards, we took a ride in a horse drawn carriage around town, asking him to specifically deliver us back near our hotel so we didn’t have that long walk back. This really helped because I was then finally feeling refreshed enough to go out and have a nice dinner! Our horse was such a trooper too on this hot sunny day! We later ventured out for dinner and decided on a little place that had a Spanish guitar player playing inside. It wasn’t exactly a tapas restaurant, but rather a very nice Italian place! It looked like a little hole in the wall until we walked inside the cave like opening and found that it had a whole other section upstairs. We thought the change in pace in food might be good, and after all, (according to the pictures in their entry), if it was good enough for Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz to eat at, then it was certainly good enough for our lowly selves. We shared a salad of warmed goat cheese with a honey vinaigrette dressing. Oh my, it was heavenly. MUST make this at home! Joey ordered the ravioli in a bolognaise sauce and I had the roasted pork with sherry sauce. Both were excellent. Adding a bottle of wine to share made this a very special dinner.

On Wednesday, May 23rd, we walked back over to the train station for a day trip to Jerez de la Frontera and Cadiz…(Jerez pronounced “haired-ee” and Cadiz pronounced “kah’-dee”….of course in your best Spanish accent!). It took about an hour or so to get to Jerez where we walked and walked into the downtown area. This town was pretty neat, it had a fantastic fish and meat market in the middle of the old town area. They had some of the strangest fish we have ever seen sold at a fish market! Lots of eyeballs, teeth and snouts! Also, outside in the streets, people were selling bags of these tiny little snails like we might see clams being sold…in plastic netted bags, ready to be taken home and thrown in the pot of seasoned boiling water. They also had the larger snails as well. AND, some tiny little slivers of silvery crustaceans about an inch long that if you watched them closely, they jump! I tried to get it on video so hopefully you can see it. No clue WHAT they do with those! We stopped for lunch at an outdoor café (pretty much they’re all outdoors…), we shared another salad and Joey had paella and I had the meatballs. Nice little lunch spot, came with a bottle of wine and dessert! I had the flan and Joey had rice pudding. Off we go again and after finally finding our way over to some bodega’s where they make the famous Spanish Cream Sherry’s, we inquired about doing a tasting and it turns out you are required to take their tour in order to taste. Well…with my now aching feet (they tire earlier and earlier each day), we decided to skip the tour and tasting because I didn’t think I could handle another step. We finally caught a cab back to the train station where we hopped on again to continue on to Cadiz, a pretty little coastal town on the west coast of Spain. Again, we took a cab to the beach area and immediately slipped off our shoes, rolled up my skirt, and walked along the edge of the water, refreshing our feet and ankles in the cool ocean water. This is a pretty small beach (compared to our California beaches), so the walk was short, but the beaches were pretty packed with locals sunning themselves. After rinsing the salty water off, we tiptoed over to a park bench and laid in the sun to let them dry. Okay, well Joey sat while I laid my head in his lap, feet elevated. After almost falling asleep, we finally felt a little refreshed, certain we could go on for another 15 minutes or so and slowly strolled over to a beach side café and sat and had a drink, just watching the people and looking out at the many boats in the bay.

Day 2 – San Sebastian, Spain 2012 – May 15, Tuesday

Somehow Joey and I have still managed to be on separate sleeping patterns! The only difference is now I wake up early instead of him, (around 5:30am!) and Joey sleeps in until 8am! Obviously SOMEONE needed a vacation…a sleep vacation! Even during siesta time, we come in to nap and only Joey manages to actually sleep. Oh well, the early morning hours are a good time for me to recap what we did the day before.

Today (well…yesterday, ha ha) we woke up and went out into the streets again in search of some coffee. It was a sunny but very brisk and cool morning. And yet…people are still out on the shore walking their dogs, swimming in the freezing cold water and jogging up and down the sand. Not me, too, too cold! We stop in one little café and Joey orders two coffees. Ooops, guess you gotta order “coffee with milk” or else you only get espresso! So back he goes to get me my cappuccino and he drinks the two espressos….yikes! We then go back to our little farmers market to get some breakfast, having eyed some egg type dish…kinda quiche looking I guess. It was actually some egg and potato thing. We also bought a very large tomato, and some sort of “ham salad”, which was super thin sliced ham mixed with a few slivers of onions and a couple of olives thrown in. IDK, it just looked like some decent protein to me. It WAS, and very light and tasty too! We also bought some more olives to snack on. THAT was breakfast, ha.

We came back to the room, showered up, and decided today we would walk west on the boardwalk. As long as we were in the sun it was very pleasant, but as soon as you hit a shaddy spot…brrrr. This whole northern region is known for having cooler weather so while it was somewhat expected, I didn’t really bring enough cool weather clothes. Luckily I did bring one jacket!

As we ventured over to this other part of town, it was obvious that more locals probably live over in that area. We started to notice more regular type shops…pharmacies, appliance stores, kitchen gadgets, etc., just things normal people would need. But still…they were mostly all small business owner type shops. We stopped into an ice cream shop and I got the mango frozen yogurt and Joey had dark chocolate…a little over a dollar each. Wow, such intense flavors! Not the watered down, heavy sugary tasting ice cream like we have at home. Why can’t we do gelato cheap like they do here? Why must we pay $4-5 dollars at a mall kiosk for a tiny little scoop of this “specialty” stuff back at home? Pssh. We stopped in another little local market and got Joey some more of the white apricots he likes, and I got a couple of very large loquats. Anyway, after touring around, on foot, we walked back to our hotel in time for siesta and once again, I lay there “resting” while Joey was out like a light!

We then sat here looking out over the ocean for quite some time, sipping on wine, eating chocolates and fruit before finally deciding to go to dinner. We hesitated because the clouds were really coming in and it looked mighty cold out there. But once we were on our way out the door, we realized it wasn’t too bad. There wasn’t much wind and the fish market restaurant that we had wanted to try wasn’t too far away. We were seated outside over looking the marina where some older men were fishing out in front of us. It’s funny, there’s no railings along the marina walkway. My knees go week just getting close to the edge :/ But suddenly as we were sitting there waiting for our food to arrive, we realized one of the men caught a fish so people gathered around to see what he pulled up. It was an octopus!! And the guy who grabbed it off the hook threw it onto the pavement right at peoples feet. It was pretty funny, everyone scattering quickly. Oh man, it was so odd to see this thing squirm around on the ground. You could hear the suction thingies gripping as he attempted to pull it off of the street. Anyway, pretty exciting moment, and I tried to capture some quick video but people kept getting in my way so I have no clue what it shows yet.

Being that it was a bit chilly, and I have been battling a bit of a tummy ache, I really just wanted some soup. Fish soup to be exact. Luckily, they had some and it was heavenly! It was a light bisque style with a couple of mussels in it, a few chunks of nice fish, and a piece of soggy garlicy bread in it. Perfect! Joey gave me his one little mussel because he is a sissy lala ever since he got sick on one in Greece! I also ordered some salmon…yes, just plain ole boring salmon. But the guy next to us had it and it looked good. It was cooked perfectly, and oh so fresh. Seriously, not fishy at all either! Joey ordered “mullet fish”, not having a clue what it was going to be. But anyone who knows Joey, knows he likes his fish served with the head still on it. What he got was two tiny little fishies on his plate. We ordered a half bottle of wine to share, something we wish they served more of in restaurants back home.

It was COLD out in the open on the boardwalk as we walked a bit after dinner. But the sky was amazing! The most beautiful deep blue I have EVER seen, it was absolutely stunning, I hope the pictures do it justice! It was just something about the way the clouds played off the tiny bit of light still filtering through…yet in a dark and ominous sort of way. But there stood the Jesus statue above it all, protecting this little town. Anyway, we walked back to our hotel and called it a night….a good night.

 

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.

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!