Driving by the Seat of Our Pants (Florida Road Trip Part I)

Road Trip
Last month, while the Little Ninja was away at camp and the Teenager was looking after spending time with his grandparents, G and I decided to escape for a week-long road trip. The only plan was to drive down to the Panhandle of Florida, then south along the Gulf coast as far as Naples, across Alligator Alley, and then back up the Atlantic coast and home to Savannah. We wanted to explore some of the lesser known areas of Florida, and we were also hoping to find someplace that might appeal to us enough to persuade us to move. Because to be honest, while Savannah is a beautiful and charming city, the beach (Tybee) leaves a lot to be desired, and the boating is not what we would like it to be. The severe fluctuation of the tides prevents you from being able to get to the few restaurants that are accessible by boat (unless you can get there and leave during high tide). And because of the strong tides, the water is always murky…call me crazy but I prefer to be able to actually see my arms and legs when I’m swimming, not to mention see what might be swimming around me! (Can you say SHARK WEEK?)

Our first stop in Florida was Destin. I had wanted to stay somewhere smaller, like Santa Rosa Beach, but we couldn’t find a hotel room. For some reason, I thought Florida in mid-July would be empty. Silly me. G booked us into the Sandestin Resort, thinking it was a hotel close to some restaurants and bars. In fact, it was a huge development, and we were in a condo in The Village at Baytowne Wharf. Seriously, it was a town unto itself! We had a superb dinner at Bistro Bijoux –  my almond crusted grouper was out of this world – and then strolled around a bit.  We walked out on a long dock behind a row of  shops and restaurants and admired the boats and yachts in the moonlight.

Bistro Bijoux

Sandestin Resort

The Village at Sandestin Resort

Dock

The next day, we drove around Destin. Most of the beaches are hidden behind the big hotels and condo buildings, and the traffic was horrendous. We had lunch at a great seafood place overlooking the marina – Boshamps. G loved the peaceful feeling of looking out over the water, at all the boats going by. But the condos that stood between us and the Gulf forced me to cross Destin off the list.

Boshamps

Shrimp Basket

After lunch we headed east. We drove through Seaside, the storybook coastal village where The Truman Show (Jim Carrey movie) was filmed. We stopped to look at a house on the beach that had an Open House sign out front. It was two story, very modern, with a pool and separate living spaces so you could rent out part of it if you wanted. It was interesting until we saw the price: $5,000,000!!

Next stop was Rosemary Beach. Now that is the kind of place I was looking for. Very quaint, with narrow little streets and people on bikes everywhere. There’s a community “green,” a little patch of lawn near the beach where they show movies at night. Cute little shops. They were decorating the town hall for a wedding. G and I got a milk shake in a little ice cream parlor and talked to the young man behind the counter about how it was to live there. A lot of people have second homes in Rosemary Beach, so part of the year it is full of life and the rest of the time it is empty. Maybe not the best place to live full time.

Rosemary Beach

The Green at Rosemary Beach

We got as far as Apalachicola before stopping for the night.  Talk about small town Florida! The place basically has one street with a handful of shops. We stayed at the historic Gibson Inn, right in the middle of “town.”  Dinner was great (the chef spent some time in Napa) – fresh swordfish with a roasted pepper salsa.  He gave us all he had left, since he was out of oysters. Apalachicola is known for its oysters, and we were pretty disappointed not to get some. After we ate, we took a walk. The intracoastal is a block away from the main street. There was absolutely no sign of life after 9:00PM, and the streets were very dark. Kind of creepy, actually. Another one crossed off the list!

Fresh Swordfish @ The Gibson Inn

Fresh Swordfish @The Gibson Inn

 

So much for the Panhandle… stay tuned for Florida Road Trip Part II.

 

Sharks! 

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Nation. One Team.

U.S. Men's Soccer Team

On Saturday, we drove down to Jacksonville to watch the last friendly game before the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team heads to Brazil for the World Cup. It was my first professional soccer game, and I was very excited.
Before going to Everbank Stadium, G suggested we get a bite to eat. I looked for someplace interesting on my iPhone and found a wood fire pizza place called Pele’s that had great reviews. Pélé is a Brazilian soccer player considered by many to be the best player of all time, with 541 league goals and over a thousand total goals scored during his career. He is hailed as a national hero for both his accomplishments in the sport of soccer as well as his support of policies to improve the social conditions of the poor people in his country.

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I know, the restaurant’s name probably refers to the volcano goddess instead of the soccer player, but still, it was a good call. The restaurant is in an artsy part of town surrounded by interesting shops. Everything on the menu looked so good, it was hard for us to decide what to get. We settled on an order of Tuscan Fries (yummy), three different pizzas and a Fried Green Tomato Sandwich. Everything was outstanding.

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With happy, full tummies we drove the 15 minutes to the stadium. Well, it should have taken 15 minutes…. with the soccer traffic it took more like 40 minutes. As we passed the exit for the West side of the stadium, G asked where our seats were. Hell if I knew. I pulled up a map of the stadium and what do you know, our seats were on the West side. It took another 15 minutes to get to the East side exit. But it was just as well that we missed our exit, because just as we made the turn in front of the stadium, the bus carrying the U.S. Team arrived!

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We didn’t know where to park, so we floundered around a bit, made a u-turn, and lo and behold the bus carrying the Nigerian Team passed by us, along with its police escort. Exciting stuff! We followed the advice of the policeman directing traffic and turned down Tallyrand St and managed to get a great parking spot.
As we made our way to the stadium, we got caught up in a colorful crowd of chanting and singing fans. Everyone was taking pictures and filming the raucous throng, and it was so much fun to be a part of it. The excitement was as thick as the humidity in the air around us!

We had incredible seats, five rows up and virtually in the middle. And to top it off, we were on the shady side! The crowd was pumped up and G even got goose bumps when everyone sang the national anthem.

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The game was great – both teams played well and there were no altercations. G even convinced a couple of people he was Jürgen Klinsmann’s brother. He kind of looks like him, and he is German. Of course, if he was related to him, I doubt we would have been sitting where we were…we would be up in the VIP cushy box seats! The guys obviously didn’t think of that.

My only complaint was the couple in front of us stood up for most of it. When G suggested to the guy that he sit down, he turned around with his red, white, and blue guitar shaped sunglasses and said

This is soccer! Nobody sits down!

I’m looking forward to some good soccer games in the upcoming weeks… I hope our boys play well.
Go Team!! :-)

 

Categories: Fun Stuff | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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