Another nice daytrip

Simplicity copyI like to take Mom and Liberty out for the day every once in awhile. As I stated in a previous post, I think of day trips as mini vacations – a break from the usual routine that is good for the mind and spirit. I had seen the sign for Historic Downtown Sanford on I-4 so many times when driving to Orlando and I had recently commented to a friend that it’s strange how we always visit historic sites when we’re on vacation but we forget to explore the ones that are close to home so I decided it was time for a daytrip.

Mom and I are big fans of  “Main Street USA” and “Preserve America” downtowns; they have received federal or state grant funds to renovate and revitalize their downtown areas. I have even planned vacations around “Main Street USA” destinations – Hendersonville, NC and Thomasville, GA are two examples. We like to park the car and walk the main street, free to pop into the shops and eat lunch at an outdoor cafe where we can people watch (and, of course, Liberty can join us!). Maybe because we live in a town where the oldest house was built in the 1970’s and most of the stores are in shopping malls, we enjoy older buildings and the look of an old-fashioned main street. Although neither of us are “shoppers” anymore – we both feel that we have enough stuff – but we like to window shop and see unusual things that the “Big Box” chain stores don’t carry. In Sanford I went in a used book store called Maya Books & Music. Jam packed shelves, piles of books on the floor and tables, and just that perfect combination of organization and chaos that I can’t resist in a book store. I could have spent hours in there but controlled myself and only bought a particular book I had been wanting to read 🙂

Being able to be near water – whether it be ocean, river, or lake – is always a big attraction for me and downtown Sanford is right on Lake Monroe; a huge lake that feeds into the St. Johns River. There is a really nice pathway called River Walk along the lake and the weather was sunny, windy and cool – perfect for a walk. Liberty met two nice dogs – a little terrier/poodle mix named Charlotte who was decked out in a pink rhinestone-adorned halter and leash, and a friendly old chocolate Lab named Bob.

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Mom on the River Walk at Lake Monroe

After our walk we had delicious fish n’chips (although NOT authentic English style!) at the Breezeway Restaurant where Liberty was greeted by many admirers, as usual, and also met a nice dog who was passing by with his owner. We continued our leisurely walk around the small downtown area and stopped at Matties’s Delectable Desserts and bought a couple of yummy cookies to munch as we strolled.

Didn’t cost much, didn’t take a lot of time or effort. Just another nice daytrip 🙂

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Just hangin’ out lookin’ cute 🙂

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Thanksgiving in Apalachicola

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Mom & Liberty in front of our guest cottage

As regular readers of this blog know, I take my Mom away for Thanksgiving week and another week in late spring. I started doing this the year after my Dad passed in 2006 and these trips have become special times for us. This year Mom, Liberty and I spent the week of Thanksgiving (and my birthday!) in Apalachicola, FL. I had never heard of Apalachicola – called Apalach by the locals – but a few months ago I heard someone talking about it on TV and thought it sounded like my kind of town so I read about it on the Internet. I found a comfortable dog-friendly house right in the heart of town that was perfect for us – The Apalach Guest House, which I rented through local realtor and property manager, Kathy Robinson (www.robinsonrealestate.com)

Apalach is a charming old small town with the Apalachicola river on one side and the bay of the same name on the other. It is a fishing village well-known for oysters and back in the days before trains it was a busy shipping port for all kinds of goods. There is a 17 block historic district with beautiful homes, with some built as far back as the 1840’s. We enjoyed being able to walk just a short block or two from the guest house to the main “downtown” area and we found friendly people everywhere we went, both working in the restaurants and shops and just walking along the streets. Also, lots of dogs everywhere! Early every morning Liberty and I walked along the riverfront and through the deserted downtown.

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Sunrise at the riverfront

One afternoon we toured the historic district and the town on an 8 person golf cart. Since we were the only two passengers (three if you count Liberty), we had our very knowledgeable tour guide, Judi, all to ourselves. Judi is quite an interesting character herself having retired from a 36 year career with the federal government and returning to Apalach, where she has 5 part-time jobs (including being part owner of the tour business and a connected shop) and serves on the library board of directors! If you go to Apalach, I highly recommend a tour with Judi (http://www.enjoyapalachicola.com/vacation-services1/historic-tours). That was Liberty’s first ride in a golf cart and, although a bit apprehensive of the open air experience at first, she quickly acclimated to it and seemed to enjoy herself. I think she realized it was even better than sticking her head out of the car window!

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One of Judi’s favorite homes in the historic district

As vegetarians, it is often challenging for us to find restaurants that serve dishes we can eat but, for such a small town, we did surprisingly well. We enjoyed very good wood-fired oven pizza at Slice of Apalachicola, one of the best veggie quiche I’ve ever had at Cafe Con Leche, and for my birthday Mom treated me to dinner at Up the Stairs (http://www.upthestairs.me/) where we enjoyed a delicious pasta dish and the decadent “Nonnie’s chocolate cake” (made with a recipe from Chef Richard’s grandmother). Funny side note: when we arrived for dinner, there was Judi at the door – it turned out that one of her part-time jobs is as a hostess at Up the Stairs, which is owned by her step-daughter! Small town life!

One afternoon we walked to the Ormon House Historic State Park, adding another one of Florida’s great state parks to the list we have visited. For a paltry $2 we were able to tour the beautifully restored house, which was built in 1838 and overlooks the Apalachicola River, stroll the grounds and enjoy the Chapman Botanical Garden. Also on the grounds is the Three Soldiers Detail, a bronze replica of the Vietnam memorial statue in Washington, DC.

I like Thanksgiving because it is such a uniquely American holiday and I hope all of you, like us, took a few moments to be thankful for all the blessings we Americans have. In fact, it’s good to take time to be thankful everyday!

If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily. ~ Gerald Good

 

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Good spot for a rest!

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More Travels With Liberty

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Arriving at our Gulfport rental

My pup, Liberty, and I recently enjoyed a few days in Gulfport (FL). Liberty is a good traveler – she likes to go in the car, no matter how short or long the trip, and usually adapts to a new place within 24 hours. In the two years since I adopted her she has been to Gulfport twice, Sarasota, Thomasville, GA, St. Simons Island, and VA – plus numerous day trips. This time she didn’t adapt as easily because there were a couple of sounds she didn’t like – nail guns and the sound of lumber being dropped at the house behind us, and the thump of the wall air conditioner as it ended a cycle. I had purchased a Thunder Shirt for her after a particularly severe thunder storm left her shaken but, had not used it yet. Fortunately, I remembered to pack it “just in case”. I used it two times during our vacation and was amazed (and happy) to see that it actually helped to calm her!

Tests that were conducted using the Thunder Shirt showed that it helped in 80% of cases so, it’s definitely worth a try if you have an anxious pup (they make them for kitties, too).

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Yikes. Did you hear that?

This was my sixth visit to Gulfport in the past 7 years. I took my Mom on the other five visits but I like to get away by myself once in a while and this is a place where I feel relaxed and comfortable and it’s only a little more than three hours away in case I needed to get back home quickly. I usually don’t stray far from town but if I want more activity, St. Petersburg is only a 10 minute drive, Tampa another 15. Gulfport is a small, quiet, dog-friendly, walkable town on the Boca Ciega Bay – I think it’s only about 4 square miles. It has an “Old Florida” vibe with most of the homes built between the 1920’s and 1960’s and many of the shady streets paved with red brick in the 1920’s. There is a small beach and park on the bay and the other main thoroughfare in town runs alongside it and offers a very pleasant walk. There is a broad main “commercial” street, shaded by huge old trees, where most of the shops and restaurants are located. Several of the restaurants have outdoor seating where your canine companion is welcome. Liberty is an old hand at going to outdoor restaurants so she sits or lays quietly near my chair – except when the server comes to the table, of course. She knows who has the food and gets very excited when she sees them coming! She knows she’ll get some special treats – small pieces of melon, or home fries or pizza crust – but she doesn’t beg or drool. She has better manners than some people I’ve eaten with!

Every morning we had breakfast at Stella’s – special to me because it shares a name with my dearly departed pup, who also went there many times with me.

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Lunch at Mangia Gourmet

We had lunch at Mangia Gourmet and dinner at Siri’s and  Pia’s Trattoria – I guess we ate our way through Gulfport!

One day I took Liberty to Ft. DeSoto Park, which is on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. My main reason for going there was the off-leash dog beach but I also visited the old fort and took advantage of the walkway that was built along the top of it – spectacular views of Tampa Bay and the Gulf. Liberty had fun on the dog beach – it wasn’t crowded but she got a chance to meet several dogs and run in and out of the gentle waves of the Gulf. She isn’t a swimmer, in fact, prefers not to go in the water past her thighs, but she enjoys splashing about and she seemed to like the freedom of being off her leash. Thankfully, she stayed within 10′-20′ of me and came back every time I called her.After the beach I threw the ball for a while in the dog park and gave her a shower at the doggie cooling station – it was a very hot day! Kudos to Pinellas county – this is a beautiful, clean park! It’s more than 1,300 acres offers miles of people-only beaches, camping and picnic facilities, hiking trails, and kayak, canoe and bike rentals.

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Walkway on top of Ft. DeSoto – what a view!

As always, it was fun to have a change of scenery and routine but, good to get back to my comfy little home. Now I’m researching where I’ll take Mom for our November vacation!

In life, it’s not where you go – it’s who you travel with.

 

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making a new friend at the dog beach

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Feelin’ free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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St. Simons Island

Bon voyageAfter my Dad passed away in 2006 I began taking my Mom away for Thanksgiving. When I was still working we would go away for a long weekend but, since I retired, we go for the whole week. My birthday is November 25th so we celebrate that, too. We have spent Thanksgiving in some very nice places and have shared lots of good times and laughs together. Mom says she replays these happy memories like movies in her head when she is back home in her recliner. Since 2009, we have traveled with my dogs – first Stella, who passed away in April 2014, and now Liberty. I’ve been blessed with two good little travelers!

This year we went to St. Simons Island, GA. I had never been before but had been told by several people that it was a nice place to visit. Mom and I like scenic small towns that have an old-fashioned downtown area so we can leave the car in the driveway and walk everywhere. St. Simons didn’t disappoint. The town is very pretty, with streets shaded by lots of trees including many huge old live oaks. There is a “downtown” area with a waterfront park and pier referred to as “the Village” and the cottage we rented(https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p439968vb) was within easy walking distance of that and the beach. Every person I spoke to – from restaurant servers to shop keepers to fellow dog walkers – was friendly.

Early every morning I took Liberty for her usual walk – about 1-1/2 hours – then had a second cup of coffee and breakfast with Mom. Some days the three of us would walk to the Village, have a leisurely stroll around and stop for lunch and some days we got in the car and ventured out of town. We discovered a small bakery and sampled many of their treats during the week!

If, like me, you’re interested in history there are plenty of historic sites within a short drive. We didn’t visit them all but we did see the St. Simons Island Lighthouse and Maritime Museum,which is close to the Village, we toured Fort King George in Darien and we ate a picnic lunch on the grounds of Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation near Brunswick and then toured the house and outbuildings. The grounds of the former rice plantation (and later dairy farm) are beautiful with many live oak trees ranging from 300- 500 years old and one next to the house that is 800.

We spent a quiet Thanksgiving Day in the cottage, had the veggie lasagna   I brought for dinner, pecan pie from the bakery, and watched “The Godfather” parts 1 and 2. Although we were enjoying a wonderful get away we were also very aware of the tragic events occurring outside our little bubble. We were still watching stories about the radical Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris on 11/13 when the news broke about the shooting at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Just a couple of days after we returned home there was another radical Islamic terrorist attack – this time in San Bernardino, CA. I watched with growing anger, frustration and fear as officials and mainstream media pundits did verbal contortions for days to avoid calling the attack what it really was. My happy little vacation bubble was burst and I was back to reality.

In the prayer I said at Thanksgiving dinner I thanked God for all the blessings in my life and asked Him to protect us from our enemies, both domestic and foreign. I also asked for protection from the misguided and foolish actions of our leaders. I should have also asked for protection from hidden agendas.

God bless us every one.

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Liberty makes herself at home at our St. Simons Island cottage

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions