Sunsets

Well, after a glorious five plus weeks away, we are back in the frozen north.  Although we had a great time down south, for the first couple of weeks, winter followed us!  Visiting Billy and Lori and our Grandkids in Raleigh, North Carolina, Susie and I woke one morning to a temperature of 17 degrees!!  A couple of days later in Charleston, South Carolina, we woke one morning to find the temperature at 37 degrees!  Even later that week, during our stay in Savannah, Georgia, the morning temperature was 47 degrees!  Then came Florida!

img_1150-1We had 3 weeks in a condo right on the Gulf of Mexico in Indian Rocks Beach, a wonderful place we stumbled on last year, that’s located just south of Clearwater.  We looked out the sliding doors of the living room, and there was the Gulf and a beautiful beach!  Unfortunately, for almost the entire first week, we sat on the couch in the living room, looking out at the beach, with the heat on and blankets across our laps!  Oh boy…looks like we made the wrong choice coming the last Saturday in January!

img_1652-1

As I said, we literally stumbled on to Indian Rocks Beach last year during our swing through Florida, and the plan was hatched to return in the winter of 2019.  Unlike a lot of the towns up and down the Gulf Coast of Florida, IRB is made up mostly of homes and small condo buildings, feeling a lot more like a Florida beach town of old, rather than a modern interpretation.  Eventually, Mother Nature shined on us, and we had many lovely days with warm temperatures, and really got to enjoy the beach and pool!

For me, one of the real changes of staying on a Gulf Coast beach, was the fact that what looks like the “Ocean” was to the West, rather than the East!  Growing up on Long Island, and now living at the beach in Ocean City, the “Ocean” has always been generally to the east of us.  Now, here we are, still on the east coast, but on the Gulf Coast of Florida, and the “ocean” is to the west!

One thing that I can not deny though, is that staying on the Gulf Coast, facing to the West, made for some great sunsets!  Be them via our iPhones or our Nikon digital SLR camera, the pictures are memorable!

Take a look at some of our favorites!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We loved our time in Indian Rocks Beach…so much that we’ll be back next February for the whole month!  Let’s hope Mother Nature is nice to us!

Family

So, a vacation is great, but a vacation that you can share with Family is even better!!

Susie and I were very lucky this year to get to spend some time away from the winter of 2019, and get a preview of the Spring/Summer of 2019.  Unfortunately, this year Mother Nature wasn’t that cooperative, and the beginning of our Spring preview was more like Winter Light, but then “summer” arrived, and everything was wonderful.  Even more so since we got to share it with family!

First up was Susie’s cousin Debbie, who formerly lived in Massachusetts, but who since recently retiring has moved to near Orlando, Florida.  She works at Universal Studios, so perhaps a WDW/Universal pass swap is in our future!  Her friend Janice was visiting her from the frozen north of The Baked Bean State, and the two of them journeyed over and spent a nice day with us in Indian Rocks Beach.  The temps were a little cool, but warm enough to spend a couple of hours around our pool, and to have a great dinner under the sky!

Then a couple of days later, my cousin Jeanne and her husband Walt spent a couple of days with us.  Jeanne is the daughter of my Mom’s middle brother Bill, and when we were kids she grew up in Chicago, while I was in New York.  After years apart, we saw them at our wedding in 1979, and then again just a couple of years ago, when we had lunch between their Connecticut home and our Long Island home.  That meeting re-kindled our relationship, and we have stayed in touch since.  They are true snowbirds, having a home in Barefoot Bay, Florida, as well as Connecticut, and after our time here in IRB, we will spend some time with them there before heading back to the Frozen North!!!

 

Finally a visit from our beloved daughter Krissi and her fiancé Michael, who we love like our own son!  The older of our twins, Krissi and Mike were running away for a couple of days from the New York cold!  They are to be married in June of this year, and they are spending a long President’s Day Weekend with us.

What’s better than family???  In my humble opinion, nothing!  Family and/or friends that are like family, is what makes life go round!  I hope you all have relationships like this, and get to enjoy spending time with folks you love!!

Although our time in Indian Rocks Beach is coming to an end, our Florida Adventure continues for another week plus.  Stay tuned!! 

Snowbirds

img_1745

Wikipedia defines Snowbirds as, “”a North American term for a person who migrates from the higher latitudes and colder climates of the northern United States and Canada in the southward direction in winter to warmer locales such as Florida, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, or elsewhere along the Sun Belt of the southern United States, Mexico, and areas of the Caribbean. Many “snowbirds” are from either the Northeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, or Canada.”

So, basically it’s somebody who runs away from winter and desires to have an early preview of Spring or Summer. Is that us????

Well, right after I retired in 2016, we headed to Florida to partake in some Spring Training Baseball, and to use my Disney Retiree benefits at Walt Disney World.  Were we Snowbirds???  Unknown.

Then in 2017 we were part of the Kenny and Chris journey to the West Coast.  We started in Atlantic City, had a stop off in Walt Disney World, and continued to New Orleans and Boser City, Louisiana.   Were we Snowbirds???  Not quite.

Then last year, in February of 2018, we traveled down the Gulf Coast of Florida, journeyed down to Key West, spent time with my cousins in Barefoot Bay, and then spent 5 days in Walt Disney World.  Snowbirds??  Who knows.

But, this year, we had a plan.  We started with our children and grandchildren in Raleigh, North Carolina, they journeyed south through Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, before we entered the Sunshine State, and what we hoped was a preview of Spring/Summer of 2019.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature was not on our side, and although we were heading south, we woke up to temps in the teens, 30s, and then the 40s.  It was not till we were in Florida that the thermometer hit the 50s, but it still wasn’t WARM!  

img_1150-1Our plan this year was 3 weeks in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, which we’d fallen in love with last year.  We rented a condo right on the Gulf of Mexico, and were expecting gorgeous weather and warm temps.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature was laughing her ass off at us! The first week we were here, it was cold and the foggy!  Come on now….we’re in Florida!!!  WTF!!!!  But not to be dismayed, we did other stuff.  We went to Walmart, Publix, and got the stuff we needed for the condo.  We visited Total Wines and More, so at least we could drown our sorrows!  

Then the sun came out and life was good!!  Temps in the 70s, sunny blue skies, and wonderful views of the Gulf of Mexico!!

So, as I write this, we have been in our condo for a week and a half, about halfway through our stay.  Susie’s cousin Debbie and her friend Janice have already visited us, and we had a great afternoon by the pool, and then a wonderful night at Crabby Bills!

Tomorrow, we’re expecting our cousins Jeanne and Walt.  We’ve got lots of plans for things to do with them, and we are looking forward to hours of talking and just having fun together!  

img_1327-1

We went in the pool last night after dinner.

Next week, our daughter Krissi and her fiancé Mike will join us.  Again, lots of fun things planned, as well as enjoying the beach, sun, and warm temperatures!  

So, are we Snowbirds??  Well, we’ve already rented a place a couple of blocks down the beach for ALL of February next year.  I’d say, yes, we are Snowbirds!!  What do you think???

Next year’s condo!!

Where are we?

 

img_1150

In case you’ve been wondering where we are, for the last week, we have been in Indian Rocks Beach on the Gulf Coast of the Sunshine State, in a condo on the beach we’ve rented for 3 weeks.  I know that many of you folks in the north are suffering through some incredible cold, but those of us who ran away from the cold north to Sunny Florida have been suffering too!  I know it’s 19 in Ocean City as I write this and 70 here in Florida, but it’s been a hard week…trust me!

So we arrived last Saturday afternoon at our condo, and even though the temps were not where we’d have liked them to be, it was sunny, and we liked what we saw.

img_1299

This is the complex at 1904 Gulf Blvd and we are in the front building on the left as you look at this picture from the street.  Here are some condo pics.

So, what exactly have we been doing here?  Too cold for the beach or pool, although there were some hearty souls trying to enjoy both this week wherever the sun was shining.  The sun was nice, the blue skies were nice, the view was nice, the temps in the 50s (as a high) and the 20 mph winds were anything but.  No, we stayed inside, and when we were out, we were in the car with the windows up and sometimes with the seat heaters on!  So, where did those car rides take us?

Well, one day they took us to Costco and we bought a couple of things, and we coupled that with a stop at a Total Wines and More!  Another day, the ride took us in search of martini glasses (none in the condo), and we finally found them in a local Bed Bath and Beyond.  We combined those 3 stops most effectively for one of our evening cocktail hours!

img_1685

Some of the rides have taken us nowhere…just exploring!

Another day the ride took us to a local movie theater, where we saw Mary Poppins Returns.  Seems like a lot of theaters here also make you pick your seat when you buy your tickets, and when we bought the tickets on line a couple of hours before we went to the movies, every seat in the place was open!  Easy to choose.  

img_1684

When we got to the theater, we discovered these very comfy chairs…in fact, they were motorized recliners that you activated by touching a button.  A little odd, and we wondered if we’d (all right…Susie wondered if I’d) stay awake during the movie.  Actually we found them very comfortable, and a nice way to watch a movie.  Oh by the way, we loved the movie and how it struck it’s own ground, but really paid homage to the original!  Good job.

So, what else have we been doing??  Well, we’ve seen some wonderful sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico from our balcony windows.  See what you think…

Oh, and we’ve gone out and eaten several times too.  We had a great dinner at Keegan’s Seafood Grill, just a couple of blocks down Gulf Blvd last weekend.  We also had a great breakfast at JD’s Restaurant, along with two Bloody Marys!  

Then last night, we returned to the place we fell in love with last year, Jimmy Guana’s in the Indian Rocks Holiday Inn.  That’s where we stayed last year, and Jimmy’s had been our go-to place, probably because the first night we went there, we sat at one of it’s many bars, and met our friend Lindsey Sterry, who was bartending.  Have you ever met anyone, and minutes after your relationship starts, you feel like they’ve been your friend for years?  Well, that’s the way we were with Lindsey.  Would love to be able to say that we had a wonderful time last night with Lindsey, but the last night she worked was the night before we got into town.  Unfortunately, Lindsey is at home recovering from the first of two surgeries she’s got to have for Stage 4 Sinus Cancer.  She’s already survived brain cancer, and now this!  She’s a sweet, wonderful girl, and it really makes you wonder why something like this happens to people like this, and not the many true SOBs in this world!  The poor girl’s got a long road ahead of her, but she’s a fighter, with many folks who love her pulling for her…including the two of us!  If you want to read the whole story, follow this link!      https://www.gofundme.com/hope-for-lindsey-part-2

 

We had a fun night, with some great food, good drinks, and entertainment.  Our waiter Mark was a good guy, and we will see him again before we leave…just not Lindsey…unfortunately.

img_1288

                                                The bar we first met Lindsey at!

Then today, we got to the beach!!  Sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s, the Florida we’d been looking for!!

Oh by the way, this is our condo’s balcony.

fullsizeoutput_42e3

So the temps are up, and we are going to enjoy every minute of the Florida weather, and our preview of the Spring of 2019, till the end of February when we return to the winter of 2019!  Stay tuned!!!

Road Food

No, I said Road Food, not Road Kill!

So, if you’ve read any of our travel blogs before, you know that our eating MO is to seek out interesting local places, rather than go with national chains or fast food places.  Our two exceptions are Cracker Barrel and Arbys, which are our two travel dining guilty pleasures.  So, let me give you an idea of our last two meals on the road!

Last night was our second and last night in Savannah, and like we often do in bigger areas, we turned to Open Table for help choosing a place to eat.  After going through the listings, and checking out menus, I presented Susie with 4 places I thought sounded like we’d enjoy.  We both picked the same restaurant as our #1 choice, and so we went ahead and made a reservation at Tondee’s Tavern over by the river.

Now, how to get there?  We could have taken the car out of the garage, but then there would be the hassle of finding the place and parking and being concerned about drinking, so for the second night in a row, we used Lyft to get us from our hotel to the restaurant.  We could have used Uber too, but for some reason I have a Lyft deal for the next couple of weeks, where rides are 50% off if the original fare is under $10, so Lyft it was.  Miss Shirley picked us up at the hotel, and took us to dinner.  Along the way we had some delightful conversation about both of our daughters getting married, and before we knew it, we were there.  The fare was $6.10 minus 50% so $3.05 and I added a $3 tip.

img_1267

It was a casual place, just the kind we were looking for, with a great menu.  We each had a beer (Susie Blue Moon, me a Miller Light) and ordered a couple of great dishes.  Susie had fall off the bone ribs and I had a pan grilled flounder stuffed with crab.  You’ll notice, no starch on either of our plates, and they had some great choices!  We continue to be semi-good.

We Lyfted (is that a word) with Timothy back to the Courtyard Hotel (same fare deal) and had a lovely night’s sleep!

This morning we got up after 8:00 and had a leisurely morning, then both showered, and were downstairs waiting at the valet for the car a little before 11 AM.  Our first destination of the day was just an hour away, Darien, Georgia.  We’ve stopped in Darien for at least the last 3 years for one reason and one reason only, a visit to B&J’s Steak and Seafood for a plate of their delectable fried shrimp!!!

Two firsts this year at B&J’s.  #1..this would be our first lunch visit, because we usually stay in Darien and have dinner at B&J’s.  #2…in 5 visits to B&J’s, this is the first time we got to park the car in front of the restaurant and not in some far corner of their lot out back!

As is usual for us, we both started out with a visit to the salad bar, and then each got a shrimp basket.  B&J’s Shrimp Baskets contain 1/2 a pound of the freshest, most delicious fried shrimp we have ever in our lives eaten.  Makes it kind of hard to order fried shrimp anywhere else! Again, we passed on fries, and had cole slaw instead! 

As usual, they were out of this world, and again as usual, we will also be stopping in 5 weeks or so, on our way back north, for another helping!  Tipped by a former work colleague years ago (thanks Abe), we have stopped every year since, and I’ve also got my Cousins Jeanne and Walt stopping there too.  If you head south or north on I-95, I suggest you make it a stop!

So tonight we are in Gainesville, Florida and tomorrow we will check into our condo on the beach for the next 3 weeks.  We only hope it’s as nice as the pictures and descriptions made it out to be.  Stay tuned!

Savannah

Separated by the Savannah River from the state of South Carolina, Savannah is a city steeped in history, and tradition, having been founded by James Oglethorpe in 1733.  It was Oglethorpe’s plan for the city, with 24 park like squares, that is largely what is now Downtown Savannah, which includes the Savannah Historic District, and the Savannah Victorian Historic District.  Although 2 of those squares are gone, the 22 squares and the surrounding tree lined streets and magnificent homes truly represent his vision for the city of Savannah.  

Of course, having recently seen the movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and since I’m in the middle of reading the source book of the same name, written by John Berendt, and have started to listen to some of native son Johnny Mercer’s music, we were as prepared for our visit as we thought possible.

We started this morning at the Savannah Visitor’s Center  and History Museum just across from our hotel.  Inhabiting a historic Central of Georgia Train Shed and surrounded by the Georgia Rail Road Museum and Battlefield Memorial Park, there is a lot of history to be absorbed there, as Savannah was an important city during both the Revolutionary and the Civil War.  

As we always like to do in a new city, we next took an Old Town Trolley tour, and got to see lots of incredible buildings and hear much about the history of this beautiful city.  Our guide Paul provided a lively tour hitting both the highlights and the low lights of the city, and referencing lots that we remembered from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Would love to be able to share with you beautiful pictures, but unfortunately, the weather is a bit brisk in Savannah, and because of that the plastic windows were rolled down on the trolley, making picture taking impossible.  (Do hope you enjoy the picture of the back of our tour guide Paul’s head above) Oh well, perhaps next time.

After the tour, we thought it time for a bit of libation, so it was off to the Savannah Distillery and Ale House for a couple of their Pickled/Spicy Bloody Mary’s and a southern staple, some Fried Green Tomatoes!

Then it was back to our hotel to write this blog, and to spend a little down time figuring out what we’re gonna do next!

dsc_0084

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the temperature has improved, and after a night of rain, the sun and blue skies have again made an appearance.  It’s windy, and in the 60s, but still better than what it is at the beach in New Jersey!

Tomorrow Florida, but first a visit to B&J’s Steak and Seafood in Darien, Georgia and SHRIMP!!!  See you there!

Touring Charleston

Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina, which according to the AAA maps we have with us, is in the South.  Then why oh why did we wake up this morning to a temperature of 37 degrees???  Even now, as we approach the dinner hour, it’s only 48 degrees!  What the heck is going on with Mother Nature!!

Today, after breakfast at the hotel, we started our day at the Charleston Museum, America’s First Museum!

Then we headed across the street to the Charleston Visitor’s Center.  This is housed in what was Charleston’s first train station.   After looking at some of the exhibits, we caught our City Tour from Adventure Sightseeing!

img_1146

Our tour guide was very knowledgable about Charleston and it’s history, and provided us with a very good tour of many of the high points of the city.  Among the highlights was the Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina…..

Commercial areas of the city….

A lot of the beautiful homes that are a part of Charleston…

We also passed the Embassy Suites Hotel which he told us was the site of the original Citadel College until they moved to their new location in 1922.

dsc_0071

Along the way, we passed a horse drawn carriage tour, which would have been a great way to see the city, but frankly they looked a bit cold!  Glad for our bus!

dsc_0054

We returned to the Visitor’s Center, saw some Sea Grass Baskets being made, and watched a movie about Charleston’s past.  

dsc_0074

Having been fully submerged in the history of the city, we decided to cross the street and head back to our hotel and a late afternoon libation and to put our feet up!

dsc_0073

And that’s how we spent our day in the frozen South!