Riverside Hotel

Hello, everyone!

20161023_004107My name is Skyy, and I am today’s guest blogger on the Secret Life of a Vagabond. Mommy usually writes stories about her travels. Some in which I don’t get to go on, how rude. But today’s post is about one of my adventures. After she had written the piece about going to Silver Springs (not to mention I was on that adventure), I told her straight out, that I should be allowed to write about my adventures, since she insisted on taking me on some of them.

Well, I finally got a chance to get my paws typing.

In October, Daddy went to something called a reunion. I am not sure about what it is, just that they got dressed up and went out. Mommy tried to explain what it is, but I have never been to obedience school either (I was home schooled), so I had no idea.

Usually, my travels are to my grandparents’ house or sometimes to another relative’s house. I like going to granny and grandpa house. So I was a little nervous in the middle of the day when my bag was packed. We usually leave in the morning to go up to my grandparents. I have my suitcase, but I couldn’t understand why she was also packing only one leash, and not my rope, or why she was packing only chew toys and not my balls too.

But I didn’t have much time to wonder, because after a quick drive. We pulled up to the place I have never been. While a very friendly man unloaded our suitcases, Daddy went inside a building and mommy, and I went exploring. We walked around towards a large river that smells weird. We have a river outside, but this one smelled salty, and there were these huge objects floating on them. One blew a whistle at us, and I started to shake. Mommy petted me and told me it was a boat, and it couldn’t hurt me. But I am not too sure. It was huge!

We went back across the street after I left my calling card. I am not a rude dog, and I wanted to introduce myself to the other dogs in the neighborhood. We waited outside for Daddy. Usually, I don’t like sitting too long, but with everything going on, I was enjoying just watching. A couple of times I jumped off mommy’s lap to sniff something, but other than that I stayed on her lap.


We went back to the building and through a couple of rooms into what was called the Lobby. I wasn’t allowed up on the coaches thought, which I found strange. How was I going to sit? After a couple of minutes, we went into a strange box, that was tiny with lots mirrors. The doors closed and I felt it started to move, and I started to whine. Mommy kept telling me it was okay, but I wasn’t too sure. It turns out we have to go into this room every time I have to go pee.

When the doors opened, we were in another place. How was this possible? We walked down a long hall until we got to a doorway. We opened the door to the room. The room was nice, except two things. One I am a Westie, and as a Westie, I like to crawl into tight spaces, and there were no tight dark spaces. Two, there was nowhere to hid my toys. But other than that, the bed was very comfortable. I love sitting on the chair to look out, in the courtyard.

When there was a knock at the door, I went to great it. That is my job at home, so I figured I should do it here too. The door opened, and after checking to make sure the person who was behind it was nice, and make sure he greeted me properly, I decided I needed to explore more. So, I slipped out.

While wandering the hallways (and ignoring my parents), I met two other people who were very friendly. The tile was cold, but had some of the most amazing smells. This place as a lot of people and other dogs go by. I enjoyed poking my head into other rooms and see what they were like. I even got to greet these nice women who were clean them. They were super nice. I was thinking I was going to like it here. Mommy finally got me and told me I couldn’t go out without my leash on, well that sucks. I am allowed to wander around without a leash at home.

A while later, my parents headed out, and I got a chance to sniff around. There wasn’t much to smell, but I did find a couple of places to explore.  I jumped on the bed and curled up.  I was tired and decided to take a nap.


Mommy and Daddy returned, and we went for a walk. This place had these huge building that touched the sky, and there were people everywhere.  Cars zoomed past, and people on these weird look two wheel things rode by. I got a chance to talk to a couple of the dogs there, turns out this is normal. But that is okay because I love meeting new people and exploring new places.

The next day, we spent most of the day walking around exploring the area. I meet another Westie, and we had a conversation about the area. He was younger. There was an art show going on down there, so most of the time mommy was going in and out of tents and dad would sit there and sign. There was a lot to do and see. I was so tired that night; I don’t remember going to bed.

I liked where we stayed. The people there were friendly, the room was clean, and in the morning I went around saying hi to everyone.

The bed was very comfortable, and I enjoyed the chair too. The only thing is, there were no proper places to hide my treats and toys, but I would come back here again.

20161022_004336Skyy is a West Highland Terrier, who lives in South Florida. She loves chasing balls, tearing wrapping paper, sunbathing and exploring new areas. She often travels with her owns.  When she is not traveling, or being a terror, you can usually find her sleeping on the bed.

20161022_175013The Riverside Hotel is located downtown Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Las Olas Blvd across the street from the New River. This historic hotel offers fine dining, cocktail hours and is walking distance from most of Ft. Lauderdale attractions. It is pet-friendly, with it pet suite in the older part of the hotel. There is a pet fee per night, and you must sign a waiver. Dogs must be on a leash at all time while in the hotel. There is a small patch of grass near the river that dogs can do their business. They do need notice because there are only a certain number of rooms, available. We decided to try it out because this would have been Skyy first stay at a hotel and we wanted to make sure she was comfortable. Before we left, we had made arrangements just encase she misbehaves or is uncomfortable. It turns out she likes staying in luxury hotels.

Before you take your dog on a his/her first overnight experience in a strange place, I would recommend trying a hotel locally. New places, especially ones that you are planning on leaving them for a while, can be very frightening to any animal. On this trip, we also brought her bed and her blanket, just so she has the familiar sent of home.

If you are planning on staying, please contact the Riverside Hotel first to make sure that they can accommodate you.


Something Old and Something New

Silver springs.jpgIt has always amazed me how much a place changes over time. Even animated objects seem to grow and mature as the season changes, much like a child. Some of them change for the better while others change for the worse.

It is a reminder, in some ways, that even rocks never say the same.

Back in fourth grade, when my parents believed I was old enough to start to travel and remember what I saw. We took a road trip to visit Florida. And even though our last stop was the Disney, my parents wanted me to see the real Florida before I started to study it.

So they loaded my Dad’s station wagon with suitcases and camping equipment (this would also be the last time we camped, turns out we like hotel much better) and headed North. Part camping trip, and part we are off to see the world, we spent two weeks exploring Florida.

One place that stuck in my memory from that long ago trip was Silver Springs. Part amusement park, part zoological park, and part ecological park. Visitors could test their courage on rides, meet Florida’s wildlife, or look at the springs from a glass bottom boat. This was the place I tried to steal a snake.

scapbook final.jpgSo on an overcast day, while visit my parents, we decided to visit this place again. This time, with my furchild, Skyy along. It turns out the Silver Springs no longer has it rides, but still stays open as a state park. Dogs are allowed, in the park, except on the glass bottom boat, which was fine with us because Skyy doesn’t do too well in moving vehicles.

The sign, the fountain and the bridge have stayed the same. I can remember walking across it as a child, excited about the activities on the day ahead.  Once we paid the fees, we wander around the park. For the most part, the gardens were kept nature, with Florida wildflowers and cypress trees. Most of the rides and attractions are long gone, but there are hints of the past. I remember the white house in the distance, what it was used for, I couldn’t tell you.  It was an old antebellum looking place, maybe used for some sort of show, or a chance to see how Floridians lived before the railroad came down.

DSCN4053.JPGWe walked around the path and talking about what we remember of the place. Skyy had fun sniffing every flower, tree, and squirrel she came across. A couple of times, I had to stop her so I could remove all the souvenir from her fur.

Hint: If you bring your dog, bring a brush, especially if they have long fur, because they will pick up a lot of tag- alongs.

DSCN4075.JPGShe was also very interested in the water, every place we stopped on the path her little nose when over the railing to look down at the water.

We finished up by having a quick snack at the snack bar and allowing Skyy to have some water.

She was exhausted by the time we got back to the car and slept the whole hour drive back to my parents’ place.

It should have been sad to see what had become of a place I had loved and had such great memories. But in some ways Silver Springs change was inevitable. It had been a fun and exciting in its youth and adulthood, but now it had hit retirement age, stepped back and became slower pace. 

It had become another reminder of Florida’s Gold Age of Tourist.

But even the rock change in time.

See more of the pictures from Silver Springs
The Road Less Traveled
Everything Changes


Another State of Mellow

  20161011_204623              Most people have this hard to get out of their head idea, that when traveling, you need to go to the exciting big cities. Big cities are where all the new and interesting things to see and do is. There is somewhat of a belief that when traveling that the small towns and hamlets should get overlooked because nothing exciting goes on there. I had a friend that once told me she stayed away from the small town because, in her opinion, everything they have to offer can be found in where she lives.

    I have learned in my journeys that there are hidden gems around this country and world that only exist in the small towns.  The locals know it, but they want to keep it a secret, because let’s face it, why share a good thing.

    Well, I found one! And no longer will it be a secret. In the town of Fruitland Park, Florida, in an everyday strip mall, is probably one of the best ice cream shops I have ever been. And this is a person who has been to Jacksons and Serendipity.

  20161011_205928  Mystic Ice Cream Shop claim to fame is adult ice cream. Ice cream with alcohol in it. My mother was the one that found this place, and when we were up visiting her, she insisted that we go there. Didn’t take much to twist our arms, I mean, who doesn’t want to eat ice cream with liquor in it.

    On a Tuesday night, after diving Devil Dens, we got in the car and drove into one of the small towns that littered Florida.

    The shop itself reminded you of someone’s basement back in the 60s and 70s, with a vast collection of lava lamps, black lighted posters and bongs (yes, bongs). Inside you are usually greeted by the owner and creator of the ice cream, or one of the town locals who loves the place. There are two menus; one is for the kids, and the other is for the adults. Make sure you bring your ID because she does carded. And even though you can order regular food, the ice cream is what they are known for.

 20161011_204525   Around the room are various couches, chairs, and tables. Once we got our ice cream, we claimed one of the couches and sat there and talk, enjoying our amazing ice cream. I got up and wandered around the room, looking at all the different knickknacks and other stuff that was all over the room shop. One could spend hours looking at everything. There were bookcases, end tables, and coffee tables stacked with books, movie figurines, and other such cool things, the brings back memories of my youth (and my parents). The place was more museum of American Icon and less restaurant feel to it.

    Each day of the week they have entertainment, we made the mistake of coming in during Karaoke Night. A bunch of older people singing off-turn to a bunch of songs I have never heard about isn’t what I would call entertainment.

  20161011_204548  The ice cream was fantastic. I had gone with a traditional Mudslide, and all I can say is wow. It wasn’t much to look at, being stuff inside a Styrofoam cup with a pretzel stick, but the taste was out the world. Between the alcohol and the ice cream, I was in a different state of mellow than I had ever been (now the room decorations were starting to make sense).

    They give you a lot, so if you aren’t looking to get drunk off of ice cream, then sharing isn’t going to be in issue.    

    I don’t remember much that night after the ice cream, but I was in such a mellow state that I could care less either.

    20161011_205946The next time, you are in Central Florida and looking for something new and exciting, skip Orlando or Tampa and head towards, Fruitland Park. 

And if I got anything wrong, again I was in mellow state when I wrote the notes for this blog.

Mystic, the Adult Frozen Dessert
Live to Eat

Into the Den of the Devil

We pulled up a little after nine. After losing our GPS signal about three times, drive out to the middle of nowhere, then driving for another half hour on a dirt road, Cortana (nickname for the GPS because OJ is a Halo Fan) happily chirped that we had arrived at our destination. A little sign pointed towards a trailer and another building. There was a field, a couple of benches. We were definitely in BFE.

“You need to stop reading stuff on Pinterest,” OJ said, looking around at the field.

“Come on, this is an adventure,” I said, climbing out of the car.

dscn4006“It was an adventure getting here,” he said, grabbing our scuba diving bags. “Let me get this straight; we are going cave diving in the middle of nowhere in Florida.

“Probably snorkeling, my ears have been popping all morning long.”

A couple of months, my best friend tagged me on something on Facebook “Hey Heath, our next adventure.”  A little research later, and I found out that this video was shot only an hour away from my parents’ place in central Florida. Most of the reviews were positive talking about how easily of a dive was (all you need is a basic Open Water Certification) or if you weren’t certified, you can just put on a mask and snorkel around.

I was a little leery since it’s been a couple of years since my last dive. But all the dive sites said it was an easy dive. I told OJ about it, but after the drive out there, he wasn’t convinced.

Devil Den, located in Williston, is one of the many water caverns that littered the underground of Florida. There is a big reason why you never hear of basements in Florida. Dig 6 feet, and you hit the water.

dscn3995The Den got its name because on cold mornings the early settlers could see steam rising from the hole. The air must have been cold because the water is about 72 Celsius. 

After a couple of owners later it was rebranded as being a scuba diving school and a place to go swim in a cave without having to have all the training.

In the registration office, after asked a ton of questions, and my ears still popping, we decided to try snorkeling. The lady behind the counter was nice enough to transfer the fees over if we decided to change our minds.

She told us that the deepest the cave is about 55 feet (most of my dives have been over 60 feet) and good luck find that area. I did manage to find it, but to tell you the truth; it wasn’t that exciting. The cave is about 120 feet in diameter and mushroom shaped. There are a couple of tunnels out of the cave through the underwater cavern system that makes up Florida core, but either they are too small for a human or have been barred off. Completely safe for those who never dive a cave and wanted to try.

“It’s about the size of a large swimming pool and other being a little dark down there; most people find it an easy dive or snorkel.  But don’t worry we, have the camera all around the cave so that you wouldn’t get lost.

After paying the fee (I believe it was $15 per person plus extra for whatever you need to rent) and filling out a ton of paperwork, we struggled into our rental wetsuits and went into the cave.

You take a boardwalk and a flight of stair down into the cavern. At the bottom of the stairs is an underwater platform. One person down the stairs at a time, because they are very narrow and slippery.  

DCIM100GOPROShe wasn’t kidding about being like a pool. The cave was maybe a couple of hundred feet wide with blue cold water.

When we first got down there, there was a school group of about 15 young boys that were learning about rocks. Two teachers were down there instructing them on what they needed to find. Once they had their list, the kids paired up and started to snorkel around. Once in a while, I would hear them call out to the teacher that they found whatever they were looking for. Other than that, it was quiet. OJ and I headed into the water to explore.

The lady at the front desk was kidding when she said it was like a big pool with a bunch of rocks in it. Crystal clear and very refreshing. The water was alive with the life. In my exploring I found a couple of frogs that were enjoying one of the rocks, cave fish swim around, darting behind rocks and the stairs. I brought the GoPro, but there wasn’t much light.

One of the teachers loaned us a light so we could explore the darker areas of the caves. About 15 minutes into our exploring, the school children left (he told us to keep the light since he will be back with the next group in a half an hour) and we had the place to ourselves.

At one point, I floated under the hole, and all you could see was the greenery and the sky. The cave was silent except for the sound of trickling water.

OJ floated up next to me. “Got to admit this was a good find, even if we couldn’t dive it.” He said.

“See sometimes being addicted to Pinterest pays off.”

“I can’t get over how refreshing the water feels.”

We continue to explore in silent just enjoy the cave, the rocks, the water and the fish. As we started to get out, a group of guys was making their way into the cave. One shouted down in broken English, “How is it?”

“Amazing,” I said.

dscn4002We climbed out and stripped out of our wetsuits. OJ sat on the porch of the building eating a Snickers, and I walked the trail that leads you to the whole. Covered by green and plants, it was hard to see. A little platform allows you to peer into the hole. Some of the people down there waved back at me, before diving into the water.

We climbed back into the car, hoping that Cortana could find our way back to my parents’ place. Not bad for something that Aimee posted on Facebook.

“The next time we are scuba diving it, you are just going to have to be drugged up for it,” OJ said pulling out onto the dirt road.

Yes, we are going to return, and bring the best friend along. Worse case, if I have another ear infection, she is certified too.

More pictures from the trip

Information about Devil Den

About Willison, Florida



Southern Hospitality with a Northern Beach Party

20161009_173115Florida has always teetered between being a northern beach resort and an old southern town. It is true when they say, that in Florida the more south you go, the more northern it gets. Maybe because Florida doesn’t follow any southern standards or northern rules, but seems to make them up as they go. But whatever it is, it works because Florida has a one of a kind tourist destination that can even satisfy even the most seasonal travel curiosity.

It was bound to happen, someone would think to take what everyone loves about the beach in Florida and bring it inland. And in 1924, it did happen when Jay Eaton, a New Jersey resident, traveled to Florida looking for a place of land to buy. His hope was to build the next Coney Island. After years of many owners, more memories made, and a unique history involving a swim marathon, a pool table and a love affair between the lake and the residents, Eaton Beach Sandbar and Grill came to be.

Sitting on Lake Weir, in Weirsdale, Eaton Beach, puts the southern small town and northern beach living into a three-story fun in the sun shindig.

My parents were the first to discover it, through friends. My dad couldn’t stop talking about it. So we had to check it out. The first time wasn’t with my parents, but on an overcast day People were there, and the place was still partying.  The food is delicious; there always seems to be a party, and not many places in Florida can you have Shrimp n’ Grits and then go jet skiing.

20161009_173053On the top level is the restaurant where it serves Southern Low Country food mixed in with a hint of Florida Spanish Community. Think gumbo, jambalaya, fried catfish, anything served with grits and add the seasoning that makes Latin food amazing and you get what head chief David Del Rio has christened “Florisiana.”   Del Rio explains it as a mixed of Louisiana French food (the Southern Low Country Food) and Florida Latin comfort food. The food is tasty, but does have a little bit of a kick to it.  If you are wondering about the drink selection, this restaurant’s goal is to make you feel like you are sitting on a beach, so needless to say, they have a vast array of sugar boat drinks with umbrellas

On a trip, last year, both OJ and I splurged on drinks served in coconuts. Nothing feels like watching the sunset and sipping rum and coconut flavored alcohol from a coconut cup carved to look like a pirate.

The second level is another restaurant, known as the Steam Shack. Serving steam and boiled seafood, sandwiches and snacks, this part of Eaton Beach turned itself into a northern seafood shack. You order the food at the counter, find a seat, and they bring it to you. And you watch the sea plane aviators and boaters out on the lake.

There is usually either live music or Jimmy Buffet song playing in the background, tell you how he lost his flip flop and now is enjoying life with a margarita.

The last level, you are on the beach. Eaton sandy beaches offer the vacation sun and sand without the fear of sharks or sea lice. Here you can rent kayaks, Paddleboards, pontoons, and other watercrafts, or just sit on the beach and watch the seaplanes come in.

Eaton Beach Sandbar and Grill offers a unique mixture of Southern hospitality with a Northern Beach party. In some ways, it is what Florida is.

All It’s Cracked Up to Be 20161009_173129.jpg


Ghost Touring and the Dud

History is a funny, messy story. It’s not always clear or straightforward, but it’s interesting. Part of  the reason why I love to traveling is I love history. Ask my friends; they had to watch me geek out over a pile of dirt in Hilton Head. I am a history buff. I love watching British documentaries about history, love Horrible History, and growing up I read the romance novels for the history. Okay, some of them were less history and more ripping off the bodice.

    So here is a hint for all you history buffs out there when traveling to a new city, take the ghost tour. Even if you don’t believe in things going bump in the night, or not too sure, the ghost tours give you a  history of the city, that the local tour guides stay away from during the day.

    I have been on some great ones. In Key West, we took one that not only did we get to doom everyone who “Boo” us, but we found out just how fascinating Key West really was. Our tour guy would bring us to a spot, tell us the history and legend, and then kept repeating that he wasn’t making this up. It turns out Key West’s past is very, very, very colorful…Like an acid trip meets a rainbow kind of color.

    Savanna, we did a haunted bar crawl as part of a bachelorette party. We were pirates; our tour guy was a flaming Confederate soldier, need I say anything else. The more he drank, the better the stories got. Sighting became flaming heads of doom and hearing noise became full blown conversations.  As he led us down different alleyways, basements and through the buildings, we got a taste that this Southern city wasn’t as proper as it should have been.

    But sometime in the ghost touring business, you hit the dud.

  dscn3901  And we hit one in Mount Dora. As much as I love this city (see last week’s post), this one just fell short of any expectations that we had. Mount Dora has a very colorful past, especially around the time of prohibition, since it was a favor of some very famous gangsters and movie stars. So, with all this booze, sex and jazz in the air, crime is going to happen, people are going to get killed and ghost are going to come into being. On an October evening, we were ready to hear all the juicy details of sex, drugs, and jazz.

    Trying to get a hold of the guy who runs the ghost tours was impossible. After a couple of calls and a trip to the Chamber of Commerce, we finally got a number.

HINT: In my opinion a good ghost tour will be sponsored by the Chamber. Look for that, when selecting your ghost tour.

    At 7:00 PM we meet at the Lakeside Inn. The walking tour (which turned out to be a half a mile up the road and back) started at sundown because according to our guide is when the spirits make themselves known. Dressed as in Victorian clothing, he explained the manifestation of ghost in old Victorian English speak, which was hard for a bunch of American from Florida to figure out.

    The first story he told was about two lovers dying of a broken heart, which would have been great, but nothing about them being a ghost. No sightings, no strange noises, nothing falling off. They just died. Kind of a letdown.

    Usually, while we are walking, the tour guy is giving us a dark history of the area. He did none of that, just drank.

    Our first stop was one of the stores, where we got a little bit of the history (finally!). It turns out that this building was once a hotel of modern means (the 1920s version of a Motel 6) and a couple got into a fight and the women jumped off the railing, followed by her husband.  Again, no sightings or a kind of haunts. This was the second crime of passion, but no ghost. Was there something in the area that allowed the unrest spirits not want to stay?


    So our next journey was down an alley, where he showed us one of the speakeasies. The man who was said to haunt this place was a bootlegger who used to mix in a little bit of poison into his moonshine. He made the mistake of killing the wrong person (a mother), and her sons killed him as revenge. He then pointed down the alley and said on a clear, moonless night you could see the ghost of the bootlegger coming down the lane, and into the speakeasy to deliver his booze. Finally, we have a ghost!

dscn3929Next journey was to the Donnelly House to hear about the tragic (if not somewhat funny death) of one of the Donnellys. Turns out one of them accidently mistaken a puppet for her son and died of a heart attack. There is strange light coming out of the house, but then again it could be partying Masons.

We went back onto a street with a strange feature. It was a box about the same sizes as a human; that was completely tiled over. I am not sure if he made this one up, but according to him, there is a body of women who fell to her death in there. He dared each of us to lay on it.dscn3927

The last stop was the hanging tree, and I still have no idea what he was talking about. But according to him on moonless nights, the tree opens up, and there is a pathway to hell.dscn3948

Then we returned to the Inn where he quizzed us on what we learn.

I hate giving bad reviews, but this one had really no saving grace. The guy’s stories made no sense, nor can I say they were believable.

I encourage you to visit Mount Dora, but do not take the ghost tour. Instead, save your money and take the Segway tour, at least that looked like they were learning about this history, with a few ghosts thrown in.


My Mount Dora Pictures
Can’t Watch This

I Climbed A Mountain … In Florida?

lantern-press-mount-dora-florida-climbing-mount-doraWhen you think of Florida, scaling  a mountain doesn’t come to mind. But a journey inward towards center Florida will yield the one and only mountain in the state which even the most out of shape person can climb.

An elevation of 2,208 feet above sea level, Mount Dora barely makes it at what is considered a mountain. And no, a hike to the top will not yield all inspiring views of Florida. But it’s still worth checking out.

The city of Mount Dora was founded in the early part of the 1800s, and with the abundance of natural fresh water lakes and crystal clear springs, it became a famous playground for the rich and notorious. During the Prohibition Area (1920 -1933), bootlegging, moonshining, and speakeasy were all the ragged, and most of the older building has a not so clean history to them. A favorite playground and resting stop for Al Capone and others, this little city had a wild side that is hidden. For those who didn’t want to journey all the way to West Palm Beach, and through the swamps, found a great couple week of vacation there.

The city sits on the Lake Dora, and a journey here was a trip to a century ago.

dscn3803I have been to this city a couple of times; my parents had originally thought of moving here after retirement (and before they discovered The Villages) because of its quaint feel and old homes. There are tons of Bed and breakfast here, but to truly get the feel of Edwardian vacationing, the Lakeside Inn is where you want to stay. Built in 1883, this hotel has placed hosted too many famous and notorious people throughout the years that it has been open.

Most of the time, we just wander around the town, checking out the local business. There is a feel of an era gone by, with many of these shops in the old building (some of them hunted). We were planning on staying later to check out a ghost walk (I will have more on it later), so it made for a nice day trip.

After a quick stop a KaDee Kay, a gourmet kitchen store for those of you who love kitchen gadgets, we head to a local favorite, Maggie’s Attic.

29582788873_5c73eacf4c_oThis little shop, which is down an alley, is probably one of the best wine and beer stores I have ever been. Locally owned, it is an excellent place to stop and have a sip of wine before continuing with the shopping. The inside reminds you of someone basements, with its dark woods, leather couch and fantastic selections of wines and beers.

Another favorite of mine is Under the Cherry Blossom, a handicraft store that sells local artist. Look up, and you will see hundreds of pink tissue papers glued to the ceiling, to give the illusion of being under a cherry tree.

In one of the old hotels, local artist Amy Seller sells her paintings. She is usually there and loves to talk about her artwork.

dscn3811Another point of interest is the Chamber of Commerce, which is in the old train stations. Along with brochures about nearby attractions and what’s going on. They are relics of the past, including a train schedule (trains coming from New York once a week). Next to the Chamber is a small park. While we were visiting, there were hundreds of plastic flamingos around the park in celebration of Breast Cancer Month. Each Flamingo had a name of someone who had breast cancer for the community.

30097657912_1715f70d6c_oAn old Victorian House sits on Donnelly Street. Once upon a time, it belonged to the Donnelly’s (one of the big shot families of Mount Dora), but now it serves as a Masonic Lodge. Unless you are a Mason, the chances of you going in there are slim.

30097647852_aa0d3888f8_oWe usually eat at The Goblin Market, off of Dora Drive, down one of the many alleys in Mount Dora. This restaurant is one of those hidden gems that you don’t know where it is you will miss it. Hidden in an old house, this restaurant has been around for about 20 years and own by the same couple who started. The inside looks like a cross between Harry Potter and Edger Allen Poe and is usually decorated for the holidays. We were there; the house had been decorated for Halloween. Before dinner head upstairs to the lounge and enjoy a cocktail as you ponder over many forgotten lore.

At night, the bars and restaurants have live music, and people are wondering around. After the ghost tour, we headed back to Maggie Attic for one last glass of wine before heading home.

Mount Dora is one of these hidden gems that not many Floridians know about. But if you are searching for the real Florida or a history buff, this is one of the places you need to check out.

Flickr Photo Album of Mount Dora

Nothin’ But A Good Time 


Craziness, an Election and then More Craziness

f2ca8b75f3ea313e4c20ada0ed2a500eEveryone has one month that no matter what, it’s just crazy. Most people would say it is December. The holidays are just crazy, and there is never enough time. Maybe that is why it gets started earlier each year. Some would say around August at the beginning of the school year.

Me it has always been October. I have no idea why. I think it must do with the moon being in alignment with the consolations, but no matter how much I prepare for it, the month always catches me off guard and throws me for a lope.

This year I was determined not to allow it to get to me. I had it all planned. October was going to be a blog Ghost Tours month. I had already written and scheduled the posts leading up to that month so I can write about some of the ghost tours I had been on earlier

I had decorated the house a week early for Halloween. We weren’t planning on doing a Halloween party because the windows were still being redone and nothing was going to get in the way of having a nice, relaxing October.

I was going to have October beat!

Then the best friend called with the surprising news; she was coming to town for a funeral. Great, so there goes my first weekend. Not that I don’t love Aimee, but Aimee is usually a hurricane of actives that blows in from the island of Hawaii and well when we get together it isn’t pretty. Fun, yes, but I am usually exhausted and realizing I am getting too old for this. Luckily for Florida, she was only there until Tuesday, so not too much damage couldn’t be done. 

But the post had already been planned and ready to go, so I am safe.

Until Hurricane Matthew announced his arrival on October 6th, a day before I was leaving on vacation. Hurricanes are funny things, either it is the end of civilization for the next several weeks, or nothing happens. Lucky for me, nothing happened. Other than two days off from work (someone got to start their vacation early) and on the eve of this hurricane, our blinds got installed, it was a lackluster hurricane.

We didn’t have to unplug anything, so I was able to write a post and schedule it.  And off we went (we drove up while the tail end of Matthew was happening to mid-Florida). The vacation went great and came back. I had written a couple of things and couldn’t wait until I get a chance to post them…

The week after vacation followed by the city’s first Concert in the Park, the Obon festival (I go every year) and a Sunday I decided reading was more important than writing (I was tired to say the less).

Work started to pick up as we prep for the Halloween Costume Contest (we take it very seriously at Coconut Creek) and OJ decision to go to his high school reunion (Downtown Ft. Lauderdale here we come).

High School Reunion week was good. We stayed at a hotel that was about 30 minutes from our home. My dog made friends with the whole housekeeping crew, and I found out how boring it is to go to when you didn’t go to that school. I got a couple of great ideas for another post, but by the time we got back on Sunday, I was tired. So, no posting.

Not to mention I have a side job (I work at a farmer’s market by my house) and that Sunday was dec-10-post-2one of them. Lucky for me, one of the vendors makes coffee, so I was good.

Election fever hit. I was kind of caught up in the drama that was sweeping the nation and forgot to blog. Bad excuse, but it sounded right when I was thinking to myself, who has time to blog when there is a major election going on.

Halloween weekend found me with one event for the city, one party that we threw together, finally cleaning the house (I haven’t touched it in a whole month). And on Halloween day, my supervisor’s wife decided to have the baby; he would be MIA for the next two weeks.

By the way, my department won the costume contest (I’ll post a link to the video) and I realized that the City of Coconut Creek has one of our biggest events two and half weeks away and boss man was on maternity leave.

So, after two weeks of trying to figure out the whole permitting, contracting, supervising, stuff… let me say weekends weren’t looking so hot for blogging.

Then on November 8th, we voted. For those who don’t know it, my workplace is also a polling place, so for some reason we had to be on high alert. They were talking about bring in armor guards and everything (just kidding – the only fight we witness between a Hillary supporter and a Trump support was where the closest Starbuck was).

So, halfway through November, I had realized I haven’t blogged once. I am the worst blogger there is. I went from almost every week to this. Shame on me!

But it takes me a good month to get over October. Plus, between having to prep the city for a big special event, with the boss man out, trying not to call the boss man to worry him more, having to deal with that Thanksgiving will be at my house because the boyfriend is working that night, and everything else, the blog was not happening.

So now that December has started, I am determined I am going to get myself caught up. I am going to get more readers and next year; October will not leave me gasping for breath….

I hope.


Planning, not as Scary as you think

I have been planning this post awhile in my head. During my internet surfing and reading others blog, I have noticed how little posts are about planning for a vacation. Yes, they are those out there talking about what to pack, how to pack, what to bring, how to bring it, and where to go. It seems an alarming number of them do not talk about how to plan!

So either you have to cross over to the blogs about planners or you are left to wonder “How does one plan for a trip.” I think some bloggers have shy away from the subject because either they don’t want to come off too anal or they don’t know how to. Basically, they throw everything in a suitcase and go.

So I figured I should take the plunge and write a post about how to plan for a trip.

Before I do so, there are a couple of things you should know. One I do this for a living, I am a professional special events planner for the city I work for. Okay, technically I am the Special Events Assistant, so my job is basically making sure all our events have all their contracts, permits, checks, payments and inspections organized and ready. I make the Event Planner look organized. And I am good at my job.

I have two trips coming up. One is a quick weekend getaway, and the other is a visit to my parents for a week.  Not what I call jetting off to far off places, but there is some amount of planning.

The last thing I need to tell you is about the planner I used. I started using a Midori Travelers Notebook (or at least my version of it), and I really like the system. It’s not very complicated to use, and easily alter to fit your needs. But more on it later.

So here we go.

Step 1: Have an Idea, not a Plan

dscn3650Before you click away, hear me out. Weather, political climate, and family can change your travel plans so have an idea and use lots and lots of Post-It® Notes.

Everything that looks like interesting, any restaurants I want to try, or experience I want to do, I write down on a Post-It® Notes and stick them to my Midori Travelers Notebook.

I designated two per day and stick the Post-It® Notes on it. If I have reservations, I add a pocket for that day so I can stick the hard copy in it.

I use the Post-It® Notes because it allows me to move them around as I pleased. This helps with planning activities or just having an idea on what I want to do that day.

We found out during the trip to Vero Beach that any water related activity would be out of the question (OJ hand was in a cast). So have back-up plans on things to do was great. We didn’t waste time figuring out what to do. We just went and did it.

I also write on the post-it, the name, address, phone number, and time of operations. All the information is at my figuring tips.

Reservations get jotted down on the pages. Sometimes you just can’t go with the flow.

Step 2:  Read up and talk to the locals—do the research

Blogs are an amazing source of information for us travelers. Because you get a chance to find something out about the area that most travel books don’t tell you about.

Before I go on any trip, I do the research. I check out the local bloggers, and if possible, I talk to people who have lived there or are living there. The local dive bars, hang outs, and things off the beaten path are hidden gems that can make your travels something to write home about.

A couple of blogs lead me to a very good café for Sunday Brunch up in Vero. Another one recommended McGee Gardens (and of course mention bring bug spray).

Step 3: Know what time of year

Why anyone would travel to Florida during the summer months is beyond me. Yes, it is cheaper (except for Disney), but we are smack in the middle of hurricane season, which means for the most part, it rains a lot. A friend of mine traveled down here with her family and spent the whole time in the hotel because it was raining.

When she later told me that, I had to ask why in the world would anyone travel here during the summer. It was cheap. There is a reason it was cheap…most travelers know to stay far away from the tropics when it is summer.

If a place is cheap during a certain part of the year, then make sure you do your research to find out why. Alaska is expensive in the summer time, but dirt cheap in the winter for a reason.

Also, there might be something going on, that you are not aware of.

A pastor friend decided it would be a great idea to travel down to Key West with his young family the last week of October. They got the shock of their life, when they realized they were smack in the middle of Fantasy Fest.

Step 4: Start checking the prices

About a year before, I start doing the research on the prices for airfare and hotel, just so I have an idea. That way I have an idea how much the trip is going to cost.

Also talk to people who fly there a lot. My best friend lives out in Hawaii and she has flown from Hawaii to Florida for only $600 round trip. So I know that when I plan to visit her, to look for that price.

Step 5: Plan the budget

dscn3654You need the money to go. I like to get as much as I can pay for ahead of time (at least the flight and hotel room). I create a budget for my travels and figure out how much things are going to cost. The budget is put in my Midori- and I use Frixion Erasable Pens so that I can add and subtract.

It also gives me a chance to look for deals.  Groupon and Living Social usually have some great coupons, for local attractions. Just make sure you read the fine print and check out the website to see if it is a good deal.

Step 6: Book what you can and what you need

Plane tickets and hotel are always good to book in advanced. Usually, I tried to book everything on a Tuesday; somehow I find this is when everything is the cheapest.

I also signed up for almost every Airline and travel sight, because I am all about racking up the points. I also have their app stored on my phone. The apps are a good way to stay up to date on travel plans.

The last thing you want to do is get there and find out that there is no hotel or that you needed reservations ahead of time to do a particular activity.

Step 7: Print out everything and organized it

I don’t know why people do this, save everything on their phone and not have a hard copy of their reservation. I don’t know how many times while traveling, I have seen friends and strangers try to get something off their phone, when the phone is dead. It’s not pretty!

The next step is to print everything out and organize it. Again the Midori becomes handed. I make pockets or paper clip all the hard copies to their day.  Easy to find, easy to get to, easy to use.

I also have all those Post-It® Notes ideas that I talked to in Step 1 there. So if something falls through, I am on to the next thing.

Step 8: Make a Packing List

This doesn’t go into the Midori, but in my daily planner. For some reason in the middle of work I will remember that I need something and it’s a good place to jot it down.

I also do some research about where I am going and what I will need. My first snowboarding trip, I spent a lot of time watching YouTube video and reading blogs about how to dress for snowboarding. I was glad I did. Other than forgetting my butt pads the first day, I was nice and warm while sliding down the mountains.

I used to travel with the packing list, but I was finding out that I really didn’t use it.

Step 9: Make a To-do list

In my everyday planner, I make a to-do list. Things like getting the passport out of the safety box, putting together my medicine traveling kit, and cleaning the house.

I don’t want to realize on the day before a trip that I forgot to get my passport out of the safety deposit box.  I try to knock out as much as possible, like any supplies shopping or travel documents.

The trip up to my parents, we are planning at least one scuba diving and one snorkeling trip. So in my planner is written, locate scuba licenses, buy Benadryl, and pack scuba/snorkeling gear.

The goal is always to have everything I can do ahead of time done a day before the trip, so I am not stressing out the day of the trip. I was so ahead of the game for Alaska, that I went to have my nails done.

Step 10: Grab the Midori and go

So there you have it, how to plan for a trip. Hopefully, this will help you be less stressful when it comes to planning your get away.

href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/the-happy-wanderer/”>The Happy Wanderer

My Little Problem


I have a problem, and I didn’t realize it was a problem until it was pointed out by my best friend. There is a reason why she is my best friend; she drives me up the wall, the only person I will probably get arrested with, and pointer of my problems. 

It was during a snowboarding trip in Whistler, BC that she finally decided to have an intervention with me. The conversation went something like this. We were getting in the car after a long day of snowboarding and snowmobiling (where I almost ran over our guide).

Me: Can you hand me the parking pass.

Aimee: Why

Me: for my travel journal

Aimee: you want to keep the parking pass for your travel journal?

Me: Yes

Aimee: Heather, you seriously have a problem.

Me: No I don’t

Aimee: Yes, you do. Hi, my name is Heather, and I am a traveling journal hoarder. I will save everything including a sticker I found on the ground for my travel journal.

Me: In my defense, it was a cool free sticker

Aimee: You have a problem.

Me: No I don’t

Aimee: yes you do.

In this argument continue to we got back to the Inn.

Okay, I will admit I do have a problem because I have spent some (a lot) money, time, and energy in creating a rocking traveling journal. And you would think after all this time; my friends will be used to my weird habit of sticking every business card, hand drawn map, parking pass, tour sticker and other things into my travel journal.

But I have, probably, in my opinion, one of the coolest travel journals.

So how did this habit/problem come about? 

When I was sixteen, I went to Europe for the first time. My grandmother (who was taking my cousin and me) gave us both a travel journal. My cousin didn’t write much in it, but me, any chance I got I wrote into it. When I got back, I made my first scrapbook based on that travel journal.

I would write everything down and then transfer everything I had collected along the way into a scrapbook. But the problem was it took too much time and by the time I was getting started, I was on to the next adventure.

Plus, hauling everything home and trying to figure out what went where wasn’t working for me.

Next step came after a trip to Alaska when I discovered that I had somehow hauled about 10 pounds of stuff and only used half of it. It was around that time I discovered Pinterest and found a whole group of people who were just as addicted to travel journals as I was.  There were so many, with awesome travel journals.

I tried the Smash book, and even though the concept was great. I would put too much stuff in it, and end up having the exploding book (usually on the trip).  Plus, as much as I love the Smash books, they were on the way out when I discovered them. So it became harder and harder to find new ones. Plus, after a couple of trips, I now have a collection of Smash book and scrapbooks.

Next was the use of the Composition Book. It was cheap, but it took a while to set up, and the papers had a tendency to crinkle.  Plus, it didn’t look nice afterward, something that a fifth grader would do. It was on another trip to Colorado that I discovered, I didn’t like my planning part with my actual travel part.  Plans have a way of changing, so this book didn’t allow for the evolution of the traveling.

So it was back to the drawing boards for me.

In October 2014, I discovered Hobonichi Planners and Tomoe River Paper – and it was like the heavens opened up, and the angels started to sing.

For the last couple of years, my planner has come from the Land of the Rising Sun (Japan). This is my planner, work diary, home life scrapbook and everything in between. The paper is amazing and thin, there are a very few things that bleed through, making this idea. Plus the layout allows you to use it how you see fit.  And I thought I could use it for travel journal as well.

But there were two drawbacks. One, my whole work life is in that planner, and if it gets stolen, I am screwed. Two, my whole work life is in that planner, which means I am dragging my work on vacation.

I tried to move to the moleskins but it exploded in the middle of the plane. Nothing like having everything going all over the place as a way to introduce you to everyone who has the misfortune of sitting near you.

So what to do, I want a rocking travel journal, but I need something that I can actually use and will not explode on me.

dscn3674It was one day while I was flipping through my Hobonichi that inspiration hit. I really like Tomoe River Paper, it’s lightweight, and in the two years of using it my Hobonichi, it hasn’t exploded. I bet Hobonichi had to do a blank notebook.

I am glad I didn’t take that bet, turns out they do not have a blank Hobonichi notebook, but a little more digging on the internet and I came across this Esty listening that had blank Tomoe River Paper notebooks (in the same size as my Hobonichi).

And to my amazement, it worked great. The only thing was I need something I could plan my trips in and something to keep all that I have discovered in it.

So another search on Pinterest and tons and tons of YouTube video led me to the Midori Traveler’s Notebook. If you are not familiar with it, this is a kind of throw together, everything is customizable, notebook/planner/dairy, that is based on taking out and putting in different notebooks. There are tons of handmade ones out there. I chose a cool handmade one, mostly because I didn’t want to invest too much into it. The real one comes in leather; mine is made of cloth. It also has a bunch of inserts (or you can make them yourself).

dscn3650And the rest is history.

I still travel with two books now. One is the Midori, or at least my version of it. This one contains all my travel information, reservations, credit card, money, and a small notebook for jotting down things. It works as my planner and carry all. I put stuff that I pick up through the day in it, including an area where I can place all those stickers I get on tours.

And my travel journal, full of all my memories, stays back at the hotel, waiting for the end of the day and a glass of wine, where I will tell it all about my journey. Each evening I transfer all my discoveries to its page.

In another post, I will talk about how to make a rocking traveling journal.

I have listed all the information from this post down below

Instagram photos of my travel journal and midori

Pinterest link

Smash Book

Hobonichi Techo

Where I bought My Travel Journal

Midori Travelers Notebook

Where I bought my Midori Travelers Notebook

Happy Travels!

Ready, Set, Done