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.

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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.

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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.

Footsteps

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

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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

Float

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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?

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    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.

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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.

Imperfection

A Lasting Reminder of Florida Golden Age of Tourist

I moved to South Florida at the end of the golden era of the tourist industry. Back then Parrot Jungle was located in Ft. Lauderdale, Six Flags over Atlantis was a water park in Hollywood, and there was an Ocean World right off the 17th Street Causeway. I can still remember touching to dolphins in a shallow pool that would make any PEDA member pissed. We weren’t very animal friendly back then. 

  In the mid-80s, these traps disappeared as families were more interested in spending time on the beach, shopping, and a more real Florida. So I was kind of surprised to find in Florida one of those long lost tourist destination reimaged.

       dscn3709  In the 1960s The McKee Jungle Gardens opened up. Spreading over 48 acres, it offered the traveler a glimpse of paradise that Florida was trying to sell. In reality, Florida was still a big swamp back then. With its imported tropical plants, birds, and monkey. It was a place of wonder, delight and a detraction of the real Florida. Sadly, like so many of these sites, it went belly up in the 80S.  Most of its acres were sold off and turned into golf courses. But 18 acres were saved and turned into the McKee Botanical Gardens.

While doing some research on what to do in Vero Beach, I came across a local blogger take on this place. She talked about a beautiful garden and something to kill a couple of hours. So I jotted it down in my notes, so if laying by the pool was busted, I had a backup.

           dscn3727     Turns out, laying by the pool did bust, OJ had surgery on his hand, and he was in the cast. So the pool was out of the questions. So after brunch at a great little café in Vero Beach, we headed over to the gardens to check it out.

After paying the $10.00 charge to get it, we wondered the twisting path around the property. It was the tail end of the lilies being in bloom. The ponds around the property were alive with purple, blue and yellow lilies.

There were a couple of unique things to check out. One was a large grill that would be any barbecuer dreams. We weren’t sure why they had a grill, but it is worth checking out.

Another attraction is the sleeping tree, which is a type of tree that grows sideways instead of up and down.

dscn3769 The gardens also had an art displayed done by Patrick Dougherty called The Royals. He is an artist that twists branches into three dimensional shapes. These were three heads like statues that you can walk around and through.

Along the path are reminders of the past. There were the runes of the aviary that once held a collection of exotic birds, a couple of waterfalls that used to be part of a larger exhibit, and the historical markers talking about what was there.

In its own way the gardens, play homage to the past, admitting it once was a cheesy tourist trap, while being a beautiful gathering of native Florida flora and fauna. Florida’s originally named Pascua Florida, meaning Flowering Easter. There are certain times of the year that Florida lives up to its name.

Wandering around the gardens took about a couple of hours, and I would suggest a bottle of water and some bug spray. The gardens are very well kept, in a natural way, so make sure you have a pair of good walking shoes.

I did realize something, I miss these long ago tourist traps of my youth, and I wonder what my today self would have thought of these places. 

                If you are up in Vero Beach, it is worth checking out.

Check out my pictures

Vero Beach Flicr

Realize

Writing, Writing, Writing, Keep those Postcards crossing!

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Sometimes you come across something that you are not sure is a hobby, a thing to pass the time or an obsession. And right now I am trying to figure out this one.

Cruising on Pinterest one day, I came across a pin, that read something like…send and receive postcards from around the world.

Sounds like fun, so sign me up.

PostCrossing.com is a service that hooks up people from around the world who want to learn a little about where other people live and received a postcard.  The service is free, and all they ask of you is to send a postcard.

Thinking that residing in a touristy area, it would be easy to come across a postcard. It turns out it is not as easy as I would have thought. It took about two days of going to every CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens in the area to finally find the prize.

11304702063_d412975294Okay, I will admit I finally gave up and headed to Flamingo Gardens, (more about that place later) and bought some from the gift shop. But hey, it had a smiling alligator on it. My next step was trying to figure out how to mail it. It turns out American Forever stamps do not work for international mail, but thankfully the helpful postal work (who had to return my first attempt) told me to buy forever international stamps. So during my lunch break at work, I bought ones that have the moon on it. Not the most decorative ones, but it worked. And my postcard finally got sent out on Jul 17, 2016, and was received by a girl in Russia on August 28 (that was two attempts later).

I got my first postcard on August 24th, and it was a beautiful one from Japan.

There were a couple of things I learned along the way with this. One, have fun writing and decorating the postcard. Two, buy in bulk, that way you are not running around trying to find postcards. Three, forever international stamps are the way to go.

The neat thing about this service is that you can track your postcards.  So I hear are my statistics since I signed up for this service/hobby/obsession. I have sent 7 postcards to the following countries: China, Russia, Belarus, Canada, Latvia, and 2 to Germany. I have received 4 so far: Hong Kong, Russia, Taiwan, and Japan. So far I have two in transit (I don’t where they are coming from).

Here is how it works, you sign up for it. You receive an address with a registration code on it. You buy a postcard from your local drugstore, grocery store, tourist destination, etc. You write the register code on it, plus whatever messages you want. Mail it. When the person receives the postcard, he or she goes online and register it. Then your information goes into a pot, somebody draws it and send you a postcard.

You can send up to 6 postcards at once, (I usually do). And I love receiving the postcards, because it is nice to get something in the mail that isn’t bills or junk.

In a world where we are just a mouse click away and yet have lost the art of communications, it is a  great way of learning a little more about the world.

Since I have started this, I have a couple of questions about the services (mostly from friends who want to do this with their children).

I don’t speak any other language than English, is this going to be a problem?

Not really, I read on a third grade level of Spanish, and a little bit of Danish, and had no problem communicating. You can make a choice where you only received postcards that are in English, but where is the fun in that. I had one that the greeting was written in Japanese (It’s cool to see your name in another language) and the rest was written in English. Some of the words were a little strange, but I had no trouble understanding what she was telling me.

How much does usually cost you?

The biggest cost is the stamps, which I bought the international forever stamps (about $1.15) and the cost of a postcard. I have a tendency to buy a lot of postcards at once. My last purchase was 12 cards that cost me about $10.00. It’s not a very expensive hobby.

I want my child to learn about other people, is this a safe hobby for them, is it a good hobby for them?

Two of my postcards have been sent to students (Honk Kong and Belarus) both wanting to practice their English. I think this is a very good hobby for kids because not only do they learn a little bit about the world (I had to look up where Belarus was) but also a good way to practice writing a letter. It is very safe, but you can always sign them up for PO box, if you are unsure. A couple of my friends’ kids (ages 8 – 13) have signed up and get really excited about receiving postcards.

What are you going to do with all those postcards? (OJ asked me this one)

I planned to add them to my travel journal when I visit that country.

What types of postcard can you send?

Any kind as long as it’s PG and family friendly. So far I have received a postcard that had a Chinese poem on it, tulips, some beautifully dressed Maiko, and advertisement for a Bus Company (it was written in Taiwanese but the cartoon buses on the in back were cute!). And I have sent anything with a picture of Florida beaches, wildlife, Disney characters and maps on it.

What do you write on the postcard?

wp-1474219086815.jpgUsually I included the date and the weather. And then anything else is depending on the profile. If there is a special interest, then I included it. One of my postcards went to a guy in Germany who likes to collect stamps so I added another stamp for his collection. Sometime I add a hand drawn map or some other graphics.  Another one was interested in beer, so I put a picture of a locally brewed beer with a postcard of the beach, so he can enjoy a beer on the beach. He loved it!

The point is to have fun with it.

I would love to receive a postcard, but I don’t like to write.

That’s okay, my tulip one only said Hi from Russia. But the picture was very pretty and I was just happy it wasn’t a bill.  You can write as little or as much as you want.

That’s about it, I hope you all sign up for postcrossing and as we say keep posting.

Bloggers, Unplugged