Darien, Georgia = Shrimp!

78C46EAC-F927-4B7C-8782-C952E3DE43ABWelcome to Darien, Georgia! We traveled through North Carolina, South Carolina, into Georgia today. The day started cloudy and then the rains came, and that was with us for the first half of our journey. By the time we finished today’s 425 miles, and pulled into tonight’s Quality Inn, we’d made a stop at Georgia Peach World to buy some Peach products, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the high 70s! As I said yesterday, we’ll follow the sun. While Darien is like so many other towns along I-95, this is not our first visit here. Let me tell you about the first time we stopped in Darien.

Shortly after I retired from WABC at the end of January, 2016, we came up with the idea to head down and see a couple of the Met’s SpringTraining games in Florida. We figured it would be a good way to get away from the cold for a couple of weeks, and along the way, I could use my Disney Retiree Benefits (there will definitely be more about those in future posts). So without any particular plan, we left Long Island, and ended up stopping after dark, somewhere in Virginia. When we woke with snow blowing under the door, into the room the next morning, we decided that we’d stop earlier the next day.

A Comfort Inn in Darien, Georgia, stopping long before dark, was our destination for day two of our journey. As we usually did, we made a couple of drinks, and sat down to try and figure out where to have dinner. We’d passed a Ruby Tuesday as we got off I-95, plus there were a lot of fast food choices between the highway and our hotel, so it looked like we had lots to pick from.

We were in the middle of our research, when I got a Facebook message with a recommendation for us. I’d worked with WABC Account Executive Abe Goren for years, till he retired a couple of years before I did. We’d had hours of conversations over the years, and how could I not love a friend who in my 60s, still called me “kid”. Abe said he’d seen on Facebook that we were in Darien, and if we wanted a great fried shrimp dinner, we needed to go to B & J’s Steaks and Seafood. We found it on the map, and took Abe’s advice.

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We followed the directions and found ourselves in an industrial area, where everything was closed for the day. Then, up ahead, we saw a low building surrounded by cars. Yep, this was the place. It was small, the parking lot was crowded, and we had a substantial wait for a table. Turned out, it was well worth it. We had the most incredible fried shrimp dinner we have ever had. Fresh, perfectly cooked, incredible portions, at a great price! It was a real down home place, and one we promised ourselves we’d be back at again!

So, last year, when we again headed to Florida, guess where we spent night two? Yep, in Darien, Georgia, so we could once again eat at B&J’s Steak and Seafood, and have the most memorable plate full of shrimp!! I thanked Abe once again for the recommendation, and he told me that their fried chicken was as good as their shrimp. So guess what…day two of this year’s trip to Florida, and we’re once again staying in Darien! We decided to go early tonight as it’s a Saturday. There were people all over the place, we put our name in at 4:45 and they called us at 6:26. They were busy!

The parking lot was full, as were the benches!

Was it worth it? Oh yea! Take a look, and see what you think!

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Oh, and by the way…guess where we’re stopping in early March on the way back north. Perhaps we’ll be able to order the fried chicken this time!

Thanks again, Abe!!!

 

Tuesday February 28, 2017

Happy Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Happy Carnevale!!!

Welcome to day one in Disney World. As I write this, it is 12:24 in the AM of March 1st. We just finished up in the Scat Cat Jazz Club in Port Orleans, French Quarter (our resort) and are ready to crash. This evening, we traveled the world by drinking and eating our way through Epcot before returning to our resort for the night. Not going to write much tonight, but will share our day in pictures!!

 

Shortly after entering Florida, what do we enter but Nassau County!  Hey, we drove this far to be back in Nassau County????

Welcome to Walt Disney World and to Port Orleans, The French Quarter!  The funny thing is that when we leave here, we travel to the real French Quarter and New Orleans!

This evening it was off to EPCOT we go!  We walked a total of 3.8 miles, so I know we saw a lot of stuff.  I know we drank and ate around the world.  Did we have fun?  Yes we did!!

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Fat Tuesday was called Carnevale in my house, and it was the day to eat everything in sight before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.  That always meant a fabulous Italian dinner, and we found ourselves in Italy and Tutto Italia, and that served nicely!!

Of course, why stop there, so we found ourselves in the Rose and Crown in England, for some nice cold beers and a taste of Fish and Chips!

After hoofing it back to the car, and driving back to our resort, a night cap was in order!

Two rounds of Long Island Ice Teas (come on…we had to) and a few muchies  at the Scat Cat Club completed day one at WDW!

Sorry, but it’s past my bed time!  See you tomorrow when we head to Animal Kingdom and then meet up with my cousins Jeanne and Walt!!

See you tomorrow!!!

 

Final Florida Recap

Okay…this is our last look at our Florida trip…kind of like our road trip by the numbers. You may find some of this interesting, but honestly we are doing this as much for us, as you, so that we remember some of this information when we next venture out on the open road.

Miles Driven:

imageThe one way distance from our home on Long Island to Walt Disney World is 1,126 miles. During our 11 days on the road we drove a total of 2439 miles, so did a little less than 200 additional miles during our trip. Some of those miles were spent driving to and from restaurants on our way up and down, and some were used in Walt Disney World. We drove to Epcot, the Magic Kingdom (2 days), and our spring training game at ESPN World. Yes, we know that WDW has a great transportation system, but a number of years ago we waited forever with tired kids for a bus at one of the water parks, and frankly, it’s just easier to do it on our own. Also, since one of Frank’s retirement perks is free parking, all we waste is time!

Days to Florida:

“Lets Drive RightThrough!” Ah, no, thank you! Yes, you can indeed get to Florida in less than 24 hours by driving straight through, but this was supposed to be a fun trip, so we left on day one, and arrived on day three. We did the same thing on the way back. Our daily mileage averaged around 400 more or less. We didn’t set alarm clocks, we left when we left (usually sometime around 9AM), but always tried to stop between 4:30 and 5:30. A long time ago, when Susie was pregnant with our oldest Billy, we drove to the midwest, and her doctor told her to stop every hour or so and get out of the car and walk around. Since then, that has been our MO on the road. One of us will drive an hour and/or 100 miles, we will stop, hit the bathroom, and then the other will take over.

Gas:

Gas prices have really dropped lately, and that makes a road trip even more affordable. As we said in an earlier post, the Sonata got great mileage (we regularly saw numbers in the low to mid 30 miles per gallon), so we stopped for gas about once a day. The lowest price we saw was on the New Jersey Turnpike on the way down, where it was $1.57 a gallon for regular. As soon as we crossed the bridge and entered Delaware, gas prices jumped 30 cents or more a gallon. The next cheapest state was Georgia, where it was in the $1.80 range. Around Disney World the prices were high (of course), but Frank just read on the internet of gas stations close to the Orlando Airport that change $5 and change a gallon to screw those folks looking to return their rental car full! Even with Frank’s Cleaning product purchase, we didn’t come close to that!! We only spent $146.98 for the total trip for gas, and we just drove down to Ocean City on that last tank we got on the New Jersey Turnpike on the way home!

Motels:

imageSo, its been a number of years since we’ve taken a trip like this, and frankly, before we left, how much nightly accommodations were going to cost us was something we had no idea about. There are also a lot of new chains out there. Sleep Inn, Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, etc., so the landscape has changed since the last time we did this. One great new tool is to join hotel’s chains “frequent flyers” programs, and then load their app on your phone. Many different named chains operate under the same corporate flag, so having a couple of these apps on your phone really gives you a lot of choices. We spent 4 nights on the road, and our hotel costs ran from a low of $69.49, to a high of $94.75 . A lesson we quickly learned, however, was that the extra $20 we spent on our more expensive nights made a huge difference. Save the $20, get old 1970s motel type accommodations. Spend the $20 and get nice, clean, modern rooms, and even a full free breakfast. Our opinion, save $20 somewhere else and enjoy the night…your next day depends on it! We spent a total of $329.13 for our on-the-road accommodations. Even with Frank’s 50% Disney Discount, our 5 days in WDW cost us $753.75….but we loved it!! Our total was $1082.88 for the entire 11 days.

Food:

imageWe’ve already talked about what we did for our lunches, and truly think that having the cooler and food in the car with us, is by far the best solution for lunches on a road trip. It saves you money, it saves you time, and keeps the journey focused on moving forward. Occasionally, we’d take advantage of the hotel’s breakfast offerings, but most days we opted to just hit the road and start driving. We did in an Applebees and a Dave’s Famous BBQ, but the two best meals we had on the road were in local, non-chain restaurants. On our way down, in Darien Georgia, we had a wonderful fried shrimp dinner (a pound of shrimp each) for $73.49 at B&J’s Steak and Seafood (thanks Abe Gorin for the tip!). Then on the way back up, in Ridgeland, South Carolina, we had an incredible southern meal at Jasper’s Back Porch. We sat on the back porch, overlooking a lake, and had a soup to nuts meal for $85.78. We had a couple of very nice, and pricey dinners in Disney World (like Wolfgang Pucks at Disney Springs that cost us $205 including Frank’s discount), but our on-the-road meals ran between $60 and $85.

Wolfgang Puck's at Disney Springs

Wolfgang Puck’s at Disney Springs

Walt Disney World:

imageOkay, so Frank gets a discount on hotels, food, and merchandise thanks to his Disney Retiree status, but even with that, it is not a cheap place. Every night, we imageended our day at our resort’s Jazz Club (the Scat Cat’s Club), and spent around $100 for drinks and appetizers (the appetizers was our dinner several nights!), but we loved ending the day this way, and after a couple of days, became “regulars” to Laura the waitress. Breakfasts were about $20-$25 per day, but we figured if we were going to walk our asses off, we needed some sustenance! These 5 days were really our only breakfast expenses. Lunches, drinks (at Epcot’s World Showcase) cost us too, as did purchases we made (sweatshirts, little things for the Grandkids, etc), but that was the price of admission if you will. Not something we’re gonna do every day or every year. We figure we spent around $390 for Misc items, and those ran from a car wash for the Sonata to laundry we did at the WDW resort.

imageKeeping Track of it All:

We are only able to report most of these figures, because of a great app Susie has on her phone, called Trip Wallet. It was a very easy way to keep track of the $$$ we spent on everything from gas, to hotels, to food. It cost around $1.99 at the Apple Store, and will get a lot more use going forward. Much better than a pad and a pen, and as it was on her phone, she always had it with her.

 

What it Cost us to Drive Round Trip to Florida:

Our gas for the trip cost $146.98, our 4 hotel nights on the road cost $329.13, and for 4 road night dinners we spent $296.10. Lunches we had in the car, made up from stuff we brought from home, so maybe $30. The only other expense related to driving our own car, was $9 we spent for a car wash on the way home because the car was covered with Florida tree pollen. So, our grand total was $811.21. We went up on the Jet Blue site, and we’re sure you could get a round trip flight cheaper, but just doing a dummy booking from JFK to Orlando for 2 people for 7 days in Florida came out to about $895. We did the same thing at the Hertz site, and their cheapest car for week came to about $307. As we said, you could probably get both cheaper, but that’s probably in the neighborhood of what we would have spent, so flying and renting would come to about $1200. We spent almost $400 less than that, and had a great road trip on top of some savings. A win/win situation we think!

So that’s it, our last look at our 11 days on the road that included 5 days at Walt Disney World, two Spring Training Mets’ games, and a visit with Frank’s cousin Jeanne and her husband Walt in Bare Foot Bay, Florida. See you on the road again, or on our next adventure real soon!

5 Days in Walt Disney World

imageSo here we are.  After 11 PM on our 5th and last night this go around in Florida’s Walt Disney World.  So, let’s look back and analyze our trip.

First, where we stayed. This time around, it was Port Orleans, the French Quarter.  This is what Disney calls a “Moderate” resort, and one of the smallest.  The theme is the French Quarter of New Orleans, and we think they do a very good job with the building style and landscaping of making you believe you are in Louisiana, and not Florida.  We have a corner king bedroom, which faces the Sassagoula River (Disney made of course), and the room is very comfortable, quiet, and in a great location. This is what is called a Disney Springs Resort because you can take a boat to Disney Springs (more on that in a bit), and is the sister resort to Port Orleans, Riverside, which is just a bit farther up river, but much bigger. The resort has a lovely pool, a very nice fast food restaurant, gift shop and other amenities.  Because of our Disney Retiree benefits, our room is costing us about $150 a night, which is a great rate.  We start every morning at the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory (the fast food place) and have a nice breakfast for two for about $20.  We have ended each of our 5 nights here imageat the Scat Cat’s Club, the “jazz” venue in the resort.  There, for the last 4 nights, we have sat at the same table, had the same great waitress (thank you Laura for truly making us feel at home) had a variety of great drinks and “bar snacks” that we have used as dinner.  The Mardi Gras Fritters are especially not to be missed if you like pimento cheese and pepper jelly!  They also make a very good  Long Island Iced Tea, our drink of choice the last two days!  From Saturday through Tuesday, they have live music, and that has been a nice way to end the evening. I heard the bartender tonight tell someone that Port Orleans, the French Quarter, has the highest return visitor rate of any resort…from our experience, I can believe that.

imageSo, night one, we took the boat ride to Disney Springs.  This used to be called Downtown Disney, and on many of our visits has been many different things, but now it seems mostly to be a shopping and dining venue.  We managed to get a 6:15 reservation at Wolfgang Pucks, and considered ourselves lucky because dinner reservations go very fast.  Note for next visit…make those dining reservations as far out as you can, as the closer you get to your vacation, the less is to be had!  We had a couple of drinks at the House of Blues before dinner, and then a wonderful dinner at Wolfgang’s with a great waitress, great service, wonderful ambiance, and superb food.  It was a great night, but for the fact that we walked our asses off getting from the boat to the restaurant and back!  More of that later.

imageOn Sunday, we headed to Epcot with the plan to drink our way through the World Showcase.  Let’s just say, we may be too old for that kind of a plan!  We had a huge (too huge) lunch at the German Pavilion, including a gallon of beer for Frank! Other drinks we had at Mexico, China, and Japan.  Epcot is one of the few places in WDW that booze flows, but the World Showcase also had a lot of wonderful ethnic food stalls that we will definitely try next time. As to rides, we had a Fast Pass for Test Track and got knocked around a bit, and went through Spaceship Earth twice….mostly because the first time we went through, our cart got stuck in German and we didn’t understand anything that was happening.  Talk about a waste of a Fast Pass!

Oh, speaking about Fast Pass… great invention. Using the My Disney Experience web site, or the Walt Disney World iPhone app, we were able to schedule 3 rides each day that  we basically got right in without waiting on line.  You get an hour window, show up anytime during that hour, and get ushered into the ride.  I mean 5 minutes from start to being on the ride…when the standby time may be 50 minutes!  Great system.  Once you use your 3 pre-programmed Fast Passes, you can go to kiosks in the parks and get more!

As children of the 50s, our  favorite park by far is the Magic Kingdom.  We are old enough to remember when that was all there was…even here in Florida!  We love it, and both of us would list the Carousel of Progress and Haunted Mansion as our favorite rides. In two days at the Magic Kingdom, we saw all our favorites, including our top two, plus Pirates of the Caribbean, the Tiki Birds, It’s a Small World, the WED People Movers, Peter Pan’s Ride, and many others.  Always fun to just walk around that park as so much is so familiar!  We really liked something new to us, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, a neat 3D movie with some great effects, and taking in so much that is Disney Familiar!  Another new attraction to us was,  Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor where animation interacts with a live studio audience.  Well done and very clever!  What can we say…we are not roller coaster folks (well Frank ain’t), and we know what we like!

imageOn Tuesday, we didn’t go to any parks, but something totally new for us.  We went to ESPN World’s Champion Stadium, and watched out first ever Spring Training game!  The Mets took on the Atlanta Braves, and although our beloved Mets lost, we got to see Matt Harvey pitch 3 innings, and experience Spring Training Baseball for the first time!  Something different, and a lot of fun!

Now, as to food, we kept it simple.  Our mornings were at our resort fast food venue.  Nothing fancy, but a lot of choices and a good way to start the day.  Our day in Epcot we ate at the Beirgarden in Germany.  A very nice German buffet , with all the usual choices, but this was our third time there, and we think our last.  There just was too much good looking small plate kind of food we saw, that we’d like to sample next time.  In addition to our Saturday meal at Wolfgang Puck’s, we had one other reservation meal, and that was last night at Boatwright’s Dining Hall at our sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside. While not as elegant as Wofgang Puck’s, we had perhaps the best meal of our trip there!  From soup to dessert, every course was excellent, and we enjoyed every part of it.  With the exception of those 3 meals, everything else was either eaten on the fly in the parks, was a “Slaw Dog” at the ball game, or our nighttime snacks with drinks and music at the Scat Cat’s Club!

Oh, and we mentioned walking before…well, here are the totals for the last five days.  Saturday (at Disney Springs) 4.08 miles, Sunday (Epcot) 4.67 miles, Monday (Magic Kingdom #1) 4.69 miles, Tuesday (baseball) only 2.7 miles, and the top of the heap, today (Magic Kingdom #2) 5.86 miles.  So just know, if your are going to do Disney World under your own power, you are going to walk!

imageSo that’s it, five wonderful nights in Walt Disney World.  It may not be for everyone, but we loved it.  We didn’t run constantly, chase all over the parks  for rides, get there early and stay late, or do anything we didn’t want to do.  In fact, every evening, we made sure we were back at our resort between 5 and 6,  and enjoyed at least an hour or so on a bench on the beautiful green just outside our room, with a drink, and our books relaxing. It was our perfect trip, and I think that’s what everyone’s got to learn on vacation. Have the vacation YOU want, because when it’s all done and said, you are the only person who needs to be happy!!

Our first full day at WDW….Epcot

So, our first night in Walt Disney World was wonderful.   We love the Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, we have a great room, and we had an incredible first dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Dining Room at Disney Springs.  A peaceful boat ride to and from dinner, and a night cap in the resort jazz club listening to some New Orleans Saxaphone player, and it was the perfect day.

We slept great last night,  got up this morning and discovered the room has a wonderful shower, and then it was off to breakfast…all in preparation for our first Disney Park of the trip…Epcot!

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A number of years ago, when we were at Disney with the kids, we had a horrible experience waiting for the bus at Typhoon Lagoon to take us back to Fort Wilderness, and we vowed to never rely on the buses again.  So we drove over, Frank showed his retiree pass for free parking, and in we went.  We had one Fast Pass for this morning on the Test Track ride, and as it was our first time using Fast Pass with the Magic Band digital bracelets, we were amazed how easy and quickly we were on the ride.  Then the ride started…oh boy did it start!  Up and around a test track in an automated car up to speeds to 70 miles an hour, over bumps, around curves, up and down hills, until finally you stop…on a dime!!  Great way to start the day!

Then, it was off to World Showcase where we had a lunch reservation at Biergarten Restaurant in Germany!  Let us back up a bit, a give a little background before we continue.  A number of years ago, we were in Disney with our friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf and Pat’s brother Jamie.  It was our first time in years at Epcot, we were in the World Showcase, it was St. Patrick’s Day (and we were the only non-Irish of the group), and we hatched the plan to have a drink at every country in the World Showcase to celebrate St. Patrick, and a tradition was born!

imageSo after the Test Track ride, we journeyed over the bridge, into the Epcot World Showcase, and ran smack into Mexico!  As the saying goes, “When in Rome”, and since the first venue we came to was a little margarita stand, the first order of the day was a pair of flavorful, fruity margaritas!  It was after noon, we were in Mexico, and the challenge had begun!  Drink one in our World Showcase quest!

imageAfter a quick boat ride in the Mexico Pavilion with Donald Duck and friends, a brief visit to some of the shops of the pavilion, it was time to move on to our next country,  China!  By this time, it was well after noon, lunch crowds were starting to gather, so our drink line was a little longer.  Never the less, we stood the test of line time, and achieved our goal!  Two Mango Peach coolers with vodka were our “Chinese” drinks of choice!  Not sure what made these drinks Chinese, but we bought them at the same stand folks were getting egg rolls, and rice, and the like, so Chinese they were! Country number two, drink number two of the day.

The hour of our lunch reservation was fast approaching, so off we headed to Germany and the Beer Garden!  We’ve been there before, and they have a great buffet, with lots of German specialities, a German floor show, and did we mention, lots and lots of good German food?  The great German food, and Frank’s drink choice were our downfall however.  When in a German Beer Garden, what does one have to drink?  Well, the answer for Frank was beer…a really, really big glass of beer!  Sue, being the smarter of the two, also stayed in the German mode, but had a human sized glass of reisling, rather than a huge glass of beer!  As the old commercial went, “I can’t believe I ate (and drank) the whole thing”!

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So, with the gallon of beer as drink number 3 (it probably should imagehave been 3,4,5,6,7,8,9, & 10), and due to the influence of a lot of sausage, sauerkraut, not to mention spaetzle, we realized we were probably about at the end of our liquid refreshment for the day, but fear not!  As we walked around the rest of the World Showcase, what should we spot but the country of Japan, and an interesting little drink called a Plum Wine Slushy, served in a tall stem glass.  How could we resist!

So,  the count ends at a lowly 4, but we vow to return again someday, make better plans, and try again!  Tomorrow it’s off to the Magic Kingdom where we already have Fast Passes to ride Haunted Mansion, the Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean!  Sleep well…we know we will!