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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Comin' Home! Florida-Georgia-Virginia-West Virginia ROAD TRIP!

We disembarked from Royal Caribbean's Freedom of Seas into a Freezing Cold Florida! Bundled back into my winter coat, I waited for Dan to get the car with my teeth chattering! Granted, Florida was NOT freezing cold by 10-degree-below-zero snowdrift WV standards, but at 40 degrees in the sun, it felt mighty crispy after a week in the tropics, and at night it got down as low as 28 degrees! Brrrrrrrrrr! (And bad for the oranges!)

The first thing we did (with our teeth chattering) was check into our wonderful (smoking) guest room at the Hilton Cocoa Beach on our Hilton Honors points (it Does pay to be loyal, trust me...) & put on sweaters! Thanks to their great concierge, we wound up at Rusty's Seafood & Oyster Bar  on Glen Cheek Drive on the waterfront (hard by all the fishing charters, which we would have done, had we had another day to spare...) for lunch, and it was SO good that we wound up there again for dinner! Their seared ahi tuna was basically luscious, tender slices of sashimi, the tender oysters wrapped in crispy, crunchy bacon were Fabulous (and it is Damned hard to get those right w/out overcooking the scallops into rubber), their butterflied coconut shrimp were crunchy, tender, and delicious, & their oysters on the half-shell were Great! We basically went through their appetizer menu for both our meals so we could sample everything! AND they had a cute outdoor bar & porch with heaters, where one could drink one's wine & smoke (just like a grown up!) and not freeze one's numbnuts off! YAY! (As you may be apparent, Chef Dan & I travel, like Napoleon's army, on our stomachs!) After dinner, we took our waitresses' advice and went to a local's bar where the staff hangs out & we could smoke & drink some more- Just Like Grown-Ups! And we'll never tell you where it is unless you take us back there again!

Because we had a wonderful Inn-&-Puppy-&-Kitty Sitter (St. Terry of the Bluefields), we were able to dawdle a bit on the way home and extend our holiday with a bit of a Road Trip... and since I'm married to Hard Drivin' Dan, who can do those cross-your-legs-&-drive marathons without batting an eye, it was Grand!
Leaving Cocoa Beach, we left the highway to peek at the lovely green bayous & watch folks fishing...

Then we drove along the coast to New Smyrnah Beach, and motored slowly down the beach itself, having Drunch (that late meal between lunch and dinner) on the beach overlooking the ocean! It is SO incredibly cool that you can still drive on the beach in New Smyrnah and stop for a bite on the sea! The drivers are SO polite! You pay a big, fat $5 to drive along the ocean, everyone obeys the rules, drives slowly and carefully, and no one litters! It is SO great!!!! 

Back on the road again, we found a rather amazing gallery of wood carving on the Florida highway...

...and then a boneyard for old aircraft that we just HAD to check out, Dan being an old Aircraft Guy...
We spent the night in St. Augustine, Florida because, unlike Dan, I'd never been there, & it looked So cool- and it was wonderful! Another place we didn't get to spend enough time in, and to which we MUST return! There are SO many great historic things to see there and so many terrific-lookingg restaurants to try & cool things to do!! We spent the night at the Monterey Inn on the Matanazas Bay waterfront (balcony outside our room pictured), because they were Nice, gave us a great rate when we pulled in late & tired, & because from there we could walk everywhere! We wandered up and down the cobblestone streets, reading the historic markers and finding some great, fun music bars to duck into. We wound up having a dinner of crab BLTs (crab & bacon being a pretty excellent combination) & doing a great "Beer Sampler" at A1A Ale Works, and then spending the evening in the few (happily smoker-friendly) clubs that had great music and SRO crowds until closing. The sad fact was that I wanted an appropriately Spanish wine-&-tapas dinner, but all the cute (non-smoking) restaurants and wine & tapas bars were empty and shuttered by 9pm. :-(  Only the smoking bars remained opened late, SRO and jumping, until closing time- so that's where we went, relaxed, enjoyed ourselves, & spent our money! CBOs, tourism folks, & Government wonks: are you getting it yet? Or are you still going to continue the hypocritical, puritanical, judgemental, & nonsensical anti-smoking stupidity to distract us form the REAL issues destroying our country, while preaching & pretending it's "great" for business, tousism, and the economy- much less anyone's "health"?
Cretinous stupidity makes us NUTS!

In the morning, while strolling the Old Town streets looking for a place to have breakfast, we first sampled the local Florida tropical Fruit Wines at  Vino Del Grotto, and got our 5 Servings of Fruit for the day in the form of Banana, Watermelon, Blueberry, Grapefruit, & Guava wines! And they were SO yummy (summer in a bottle!) that we Had to buy some to take home! They even treated us to samples of their "smoothies"! :-) Then we feasted on great, fresh-from-the-oven empanadas (meat-filled Spanish pastries), coffee, & homemade cookies at the Spanish Bakery (which has an adorable outside garden), took pix @ the Fort, and then Dan buckled down to some Serious driving!
We stopped in St Mary's, Georgia for lunch (more oysters! And I actually got to shuck 'em myself- see pix!), because it looked historic and interesting. We toured their local eco-museum as well as the Excellent US Navy Submarine Museum, and learned that there's a ferry from St. Mary's to Cumberland Island where they have wild horses, but the ferry only goes 2X/day and we didn't have time to stay, so we HAVE to go back! I have GOT to go to the island to see the horses! On the way back to the highway we found- be still my beating heart!- a Goodwill, and HAD to kill another hour, getting Dan a perfectly-fitting Pierrre Cardin tux & me a classic black & white satin ball gown! For $9! And No, I'm not kidding! Mr. & Mrs. Thrift Shop have a "thing" for Goodwill & the Sallies, especially when we find them in what we perceive to be "high rent" districts! Boo-Boo also got herself a fab pair of pale blue suede mules, an angora dolman-sleeved sweater dress, & a black cashmere cable knit sweater for $5!

We got as far as a bit north of Charlotte, North Carolina by the time Dan was too pooped drive any more, and checked into a Days Inn. Nothing fabulous, & no "points", but it was clean and safe, the coffee & their version of a Continental Breakfast was adequate, and, most importantly, the Price Was Right! Yes, we love to live in the lap of luxury & dine on ersters & sip fine wines, but there's a time & a place for a Days Inn, & when Nothing hits the spot like fresh, hot hash browns @ Huddle House! :-)

We hit snow when we hit Virginia, and by the time we got to Wytheville, VA we were ready for a rest! We literally stumbled into a great new (for us) find: the 1776 Restaurant, a beautifully restored, historic ca. 1776 log cabin offering lovely food and featuring VA wines! How lucky can 'ya get?!

And then we were home! (Happily sated, I fell asleep in our nice, warm Jeep & don't remember Dan's 1 1/2 hour drive on narrow, winding Route 52!) Back to the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre & the Pocahontas chugging by in the snow, St. Terry & his doggies, Lucky & Stella, curled up with Kitty, Pittie, and Lab! And some good Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum by the fireplace! And guests to get ready for!
And refreshed, relaxed and re-energized- I hope! LOL

Tune in again next week- same bat-time, same bat-channel!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dan & Elisse's Excellent Cruise Adventure! Glamour on the high seas!

Cruising is nothing if not about "glamour", and so these pix from our Royal Caribbean cruise on Freedom of Seas are all about livin' the high life!
As I wrote previously, cruising is truly the farthest you can get from reality and still be on Planet Earth, and, frankly, that's what made is SO great, and why, G-d willing, we will do it again! It is great, mindless fun- "no wockin' furries" on an epic scale! And with all the great cruise bargains now on offer (we got ours from, I truly think it's the best idea for a last-minute holiday that will get, if only temporarily, you as far as possible from the cold & stress of the "Real World". It's also a super idea for folks who might not be able to handle the physical challenges of a trip otherwise; our fellow cruisers included families with small children & infants, as well as those in wheelchairs & with walkers, & the ship's staff provided them with excellent service, both on the ship & in port.
While we hated signing for every, piddly little thing, at least I can now look at the 100s of pitzeleh receipts and remember, with pleasure, all our Beefeaters & Tanguerays in "Oive or Twist" and our charming Ukrainian waitress who we looked forward to seeing each evening; the dancing and live music (both the great jazz band and the Hungarian 70's Cover band...); our Frangelicos at the Murder Mystery Dinner in Porttofino's; our "Love Connections" and Elderflower Lemonades at the pool, and our "Blue Mondays" & "Wacky Wednesdays" in the hot tub; our Rusty Nails & Macanudo cigars in the Connoisser Club, and the excellent XYZin & French Rothschild wines we sipped at dinner... I revelled in our luxurious spa treatments (and that Dan actually ASKED me to book him the "Men's Package" the day we boarded, along with my various facials, wraps, mani-pedi, & salon 'dos! (And I Loved the way they did my hair! The stylist teased it a bit (something I'd Never do!), and gave me "height" & a very elegant, almost 1960's Streisand look!) I found all the silly receipts for Dan's shoe shines before our Formal Nights, and so remember how great we looked for each other when we went out- to the comedy show, to see the Three Las Vegas Tenors, to go dancing, and have silly fun in the arcade riding motorcycles & shooting guns... I found the receipts, too, for all our shore adventures, and the little gifts we bought each other: Dan surprised me with a silver Star of David ring in Mexico that is literally the biggest Shield of David ring I've ever seen! We bought matching tee shirts & caps (something we'd always sworn we'd NEVER do!), and we got our drinks at the Casino in those corny souvenir glasses so we could take them home and drink Appleton's Jamaican rum out of them by the Elkhorn Inn's fireplace...
I call this excersize "learning to enjoy your receipts"!
As you have probably realized by now, this blog also serves as our scrapbook- a way for me to relive and repeatedly enjoy the things we do that give us pleasure. As I'm 50 & Dan is 63, I firmly believe that we- all of us- need to do as many "wild & crazy", fun things as we can- while we still can!
 I hope reading about our trip gives you pleasure, too, and that it encourages you to do some "wild & crazy" stuff of your own!

And then it was over- all too soon- and we disembarked into a Freeeeeeezing cold Florida!

The next- and last- installment of this Trip Blog will be about out "road-trip" drive home to West Virginia through Florida, Georgia, and Virginia...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Elisse & Dan's Excellent Cruise Adventure: 2 old adrenaline-junkies!

Two old adrenaine-junkies, having fun...

We had a LOT of fun on our Royal Caribbean cruise on "Freedom of the Seas" that we booked with These photos are proof of it, & everytime I look at them I'm filled with happiness. The best part was that Dan (63) & I (50) got to PLAY: ride SeaDoos (which we'd both wanted to do for Ages) and snorkel among the coral reefs off Labadee, Haiti; ATV in the jungles of Cozumel to the Mayan ruins & get supremely muddy (at least Elisse did!); and ride horseback in the ocean in Jamaica! Living proof that two old "Boomers'"can still get out there and kick booty! But I was the ONLY woman riding her own SeaDoo- what's up with that??? 
Our only regrets were that the excursons were too short & went by SO fast, & that we didn't get to spend more time in port, as we would have Loved to have had more adventures & eat have dinner in both Jamaica & Mexico; we badly wanted to rent scooters and take the horse-and-carriage ride around Cozumel... But we did get to have a yummy lunch of jerk conch & ginger beer with good company in Jamaica, drink anjejo tequila in Mexico ("Tequila- it's not just for breakfast any more!"), see iguanas up close & personal, and learn about the Mayan fertility rites (& waters) of Cozumel! We even wound up with matching shirts & caps- something we swore we'd NEVER do!
And Absolutely Yes, we will do it again! And soon, G-d Willing!

Next installment: Cruise Ship Glamour, and driving home to WV via St. Augustine, FL...