Here and there and everywhere

Recent visit to Downtown Disney
Recent visit to Downtown Disney

Here and there and everywhere

I have been busy spending time with family and friends the last few months or so, and am having a great time doing so. However, I also have been putting my blogging duties on hold while venturing on a move from Port Charlotte, FL to Kissimmee, Central Florida; quite a task. Before you ask… Kissimmee is part of the Orlando Metro area and, we are in the same county where that famous Mouse lives!

My new mantra is: “Wherever I go, I must find something new to do” while there. Especially, in my favorite destinations in Orlando and Atlanta, with Miami running close behind…

Speaking of which, my original intent as I get back into blogging, was to focus on highlighting places that are not as popular to visitors as the theme parks Orlando is known for, but after living here for the past eight months; I’ve decided I can highlight both the theme parks and the lesser known venues. As I go about discovering my new city I will post my findings, so when you visit you can do as the locals do.

All of these cities have some major entertainment options available and many popular and recognizable “places to go and fun things to do” but my mission is to find some of the not so familiar places to enjoy.

I should point out here that visiting shopping malls is almost always part of the equation. In Orlando alone, I can pass through so many malls while driving around town, that I sometimes lose count. But, I have my favorites: Florida Mall and the Mall at Millennia. And, for the serious shopper, the Premium Outlets on I-Drive are a must; people from all over the world shop there and they bring empty suitcases, talk about  serious shopping.

Same goes for Atlanta, having lived there for about two years I had more time to find shopping outlets so the list there is a bit longer; I always go back to the familiar and favorites Cumberland , Town Center, and Perimeter malls and of course outlet malls abound.

By the way, if you love to eat out the choices are many, all cuisines are well represented; one of the things I love about my new hometown is that I can satisfy my cravings for Latin foods almost anywhere I turn in Orlando and as a good Latina, my preference is for the foods that remind me of home like a good plate of rice and beans with steak, plantains and  a salad. Yummy! There are a few restaurants I like, but I will eat from a food truck too. Good food is good food!

Happy New Year!

Christmas time in New Orleans
Christmas time in New Orleans

I missed the Christmas greetings last week but I have a great excuse, I was traveling around celebrating the holidays with family; especially the little ones, yes all three granddaughters together in one place, Orlando. Grandma’s heaven for sure!

Making a list and checking it twice with NOLA’s Santa! Lauryn and dad (Michael)

I will come back next week to update you on all the excitement of the season and the New Orleans trip. In the meantime, here are a couple of photos I took during my travels.

The Creole Queen Paddle wheeler sailing around the Mississippi River

Happy New Year, stay safe and enjoy the festivities, I’ll be doing the same!


Inspiration…or lack thereof!

English: The USS New Orleans (LPD-18) passes b...
English: The USS New Orleans (LPD-18) passes by downtown New Orleans on the Mississippi River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the last few months I found one excuse after another for not writing on this blog; not sure why this happened but I knew at some point inspiration would reappear and I would get going again or maybe not.

As the holidays approach there are many thoughts going through my head, mostly they have to do with friends and family, those near and far. In my case they are mostly far, even though only within a 3 hours drive or plane ride north or south from where I live.

Here’s an example, typical I think. I’ve never been to New Orleans even though it has been on the bucket list forever. A few weeks ago our daughter calls me up with the news that Airtran was having a sale, and she wanted to take advantage of it by taking a trip to New Orleans and wanted to know if I would join her and her family, I said yes of course. After all it would be her treat. Well, after much discussion I backed out, for no good reason, while she went ahead and booked the flight as originally planned–read cheaper here. Anyway, a week or so later (after the sale, of course) I decided I really wanted to go to New Orleans, mostly because I figured it was on the bucket list, and if not now–when?

So back to inspiration and the reason I am writing this post. Yesterday, Natalie and I spent a couple of hours on the phone going through what today (hindsight) I find was a hilarious quest online to find a place to stay while in New Orleans during our 4-day visit. Remember I said online; my experience with travel sites such as Priceline, Hotwire…etc. is limited, though I am generally aware of how they work. Basically, it is a no brainer you tell them what you are looking for and how much you are willing to pay and they “negotiate” a deal for you. Kind of like going on a blind date, you don’t know what you will get until you pay for it.

I don’t think they (the travel sites) planned on meeting people like my daughters; they will manage to spend enough time and strategy to score big deals online and will walk away if not met with what they want. In this case, a great 4-star hotel on the banks of the Mississippi River was the reward for perseverance and at a great price.

So I think I’ve got my mojo back with this booking experience, thankfully I booked the flight earlier, paid slightly more but that’s okay; I will report back  on my New Orleans trip and will take time to review hotel rooms, surroundings and of course the attractions and the food, there is always the food!

In the meantime, Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll)!

Port Charlotte? Where is that?

A view of the harbor, from Laishley Park

Port Charlotte? Where is that? It does not sound like a place where there will be much to do. That is usually the way the conversation goes when I talk to strangers, right after the standard introductions; almost everyone I meet says the same thing. To which I respond, as if on autopilot, “we are in Florida, on the Gulf Coast of Mexico right between Fort Myers and Sarasota”.  Suddenly, an Aha moment—as Oprah would say–I know where that is, my grandma’s friend has a house down there somewhere. LOL

Funny thing is, there are enough things to do in Port Charlotte and its surroundings; the area boasts some of the best beaches–Boca Grande, Siesta Key, Sanibel, Clearwater, come to mind—that you can find anywhere on the Gulf Coast, all within less than an hour’s drive. Sunsets are beautiful and plentiful; except of course, on those days when the skies open up and let out the thunderstorms and lightning we are so famous for, which earned the Tampa Bay’s area the dubious “Lightning Capital of the U.S.” moniker.

During this time of the year, when the freezing weather up north ensures our population swells with the arrival of “snowbirds” looking to escape the snow and cold, there is so much going on, locals have a difficult time finding a place to eat where the wait is less than an hour.

Sunset at the beach

Arts, film, and music festivals, and gallery exhibits, block parties, plays and everything else you can think of, are in plentiful supply. In addition, there is always fishing and boating, or year-round drum circles at nearby Venice and Sarasota beaches, where every Saturday evening you can let go your inner hippie while enjoying the music–bring your own drums, food and drinks and prepare to welcome the most beautiful sunsets ever!

Life is a beach…winter season in SW Florida

Lifeguards on duty

It dawned on me today, after talking about the weather up north and in other far away (from me, anyway) cold places–Ireland, London, Seattle to name a few, that either I have it pretty good or we always seem to think the grass really is greener on the other side. Truthfully, we all have exactly what we need, when we need it.

I lived in New York for over twenty years and never complained about the weather there as much as I do here in Florida; but that is mostly because NY provided relief from heat when Fall, Winter and Spring arrived. There was the change of seasons to look forward to, the anticipation of shedding one type of clothing for another.

Life is a beach, Manasota Key, FL

During winter, of course, you bulked up with coats, layers of clothes, donned boots, and gloves, and hats and whatever else you needed in order to stay warm–leg warmers? I have not seen or heard of those things in years! And even though I did not like the winter months, especially when it snowed, I still looked forward to some of the things that came with it–ice skating (the children, not me), concerts, plays, etc.

Our side of Florida offers no such season changes, but it does allow for the occasional sweater or light wind breaker now and then, and a common outfit for this time of the year might be shorts, sweatshirts and sandals–a compromise I guess.

Most people assume it is hot down here all the time, not so. In the years we have lived on Florida’s West Coast, we have experienced temperatures as low as 30s and as high as the 100s; good thing the average stays in the 80s and the extremes only last for a couple of days. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes not. When it is cold up north during the winter months, our days are pretty good, cold fronts from the north produce really nice weather; mornings and evenings are nice and cool, sometimes even cold (for us) but daytime temps stay comfortable enough to sometimes warrant a trip to the beach.

Row, row, row...

That was the case this week, it started out with a couple of cold days and by Thursday it felt like Summer. So I took myself and camera to the beach, to verify what I already suspected. Our “snowbirds” (tourists) where there, not an empty parking spot could be found at the first three beaches I stopped at–Stump Pass, Englewood, Blind Pass and finally when I arrived at Manasota Key–I found a parking space, and all I wanted to do was to take some pictures.

Aah, yes, I still remember those days when I thought nothing of diving into 65-70 degree waters, brrr… thank goodness that was a long time ago. But still…what was I thinking?

And now… we dive into a New Year, 2012. Does anyone still remember how we were freaking out as the New millennium, Y2K, approached? It came and went along with 11 more years, yikes!!! Time sure flies…

Lea Michelle sings Auld Lang Syne  Happy New Year to one and all, let’s keep on reading and writing, and let us enjoy life!

More photos from Fishermen’s Village, FL

Northerner in Florida, riding his motorcycle. It is 80 degrees outside today.

My day trip through Fishermen’s Village continues, I had a willing Northerner (New Hampshire) volunteer for this picture, I think it was because he noticed me trying to take his picture–on the sly. LOL

A replica of the Nina and the Pinta were on display
Fishermen's Village stage and outdoor seating
Everything looks so good in there!
That's all from Fishermen's Village... Have a Happy New Year!

Good thing he was gracious and willing; we spent a few minutes congratulating ourselves for choosing to live in Southwest Florida.

Two Grandmas, a baby and…a toddler

Marcia and Lydia

First, a bit of background information. It all started about two months ago when Natalie (our daughter) and her husband Michael had this wonderful idea—they were planning a get-away for a couple of days—and would I mind coming up to the ATL to babysit the girls? You already know my position when it comes to the grandkids, of course I will do it. When, was my response?

As luck will have it, Airtran (my preferred airline) sent a promotional email announcing they were running a special–$35 each way from Sarasota to Atlanta and points in between; you know we jumped on that one. Then, as we were getting ready to buy tickets, it hit me. Wait a grandmamma minute I will be alone with the baby (4 months, breastfed only up to this point) and Little Miss Lauryn, (3 years old) who I will need to take to and pick-up from school—for two days? Am I crazy? What was I thinking!

Here we come!

Second great idea, someone else will need to co-manage this situation with me—enter Tati Lydia (my sister) who lives in Miami, and lucky for her Delta (her preferred airline) was offering the same deal as Airtran. It was a hilarious situation, trust me; coordinating ticket buying, on two airlines and we had to buy them before midnight that day, it was already 9:30 p.m. After enough drama going back and forth, at 11:45 p.m., it was all set; we will be flying to Atlanta on December 8. Mission accomplished.

Oblivious to the Grandmas' drama, LOL

I had already spent time babysitting my grandchildren before, so that was not the problem. My concern this time was the baby, Sydney; who was breastfed exclusively, no formula/bottles had crossed her tiny lips to this point. It became a running joke between Natalie and me during our pre-trip phone conversations. I kept telling her I was not worried about Lauryn—she talks, is potty trained and will certainly let me know when she needs something. No problem there at all—Sydney on the other hand, I envisioned going on a “hunger strike”, no mommy–no food. So please practice giving her formula from a bottle. Two days before we arrived in Atlanta, she finally did; we were very pleased with this development. No hunger strike during our watch, yeah!

So here we were, Tati Lydia and Grandma Marcia, enjoying the girls; relaxing from our usual chores, reveling in the fact we could finally spend some sister time together, catch up on our lives, in person this time (we talk on the phone daily); and Natalie and Michael were on their planned escape to Savannah, well deserved, I might add.

Girls just want to have fun

The trip to school and back, no problem. Lydia stayed home with the baby while I picked-up Lauryn. The funny stuff came later. Before the parents left on Friday, we received detailed instructions, complete with demonstrations on how to do this and how to do that—how the car seat works, prepare the formulas, how many ounces, give her vitamins, tuck the girls at night, how to fill the humidifier with water, read a story…yeah, yeah, yeah… been there done that, we raised you all, did we not? You turned out ok, did you not?

On Saturday, Lydia and I decided to take the girls out to Kanga Zoom (a playground) and then to the Chickin’ store as Lauryn calls it (Chick-fil-A). All was well until it was time to get the baby in the carrier that process took more than five minutes with both of us trying, and then voila she was in—now we just had to figure out how to set her in the car seat and we’d be good to go. Let me tell you, right here and now—those things are a menace to grandparents! We got her in, but when we arrived at Kanga Zoom? Grandma could not remember what buttons to press to release the da** carrier, and Tati Lydia stood outside the car cracking up, with Lauryn as her accomplice, telling me stuff like “maybe Lauryn knows what to do”, oh… shut up, I said; you try it then. She did and it worked, WTH…! By the time we got to the Chickin’ store about two hours later, we were delirious with laughter. Michael told us what to do—we just thought we knew better. LOL

Easy stroller; no complicated instructions needed.

Back in the days when we were raising our girls, we made do with those “umbrella type” strollers that were light as heck, did not require any complicated instructions and were easy enough to carry with one hand. You know what, after all this excitement; we did not attempt whatsoever to take Sydney’s stroller out of the car trunk. Thank goodness, Lauryn can walk! That is it for this Grandma tale, I am sure there will be more to come. LOL

Stroller and plane images courtesy of Google images.

From Ponce De Leon to Beach Complex Park

Pelicans at the PRWC park

Last Wednesday, I took the camera out and headed to unplanned places, some days are just like that. Living in Southwest Florida, 1 and a half-hours south of Tampa, 3 hours west of Orlando, and 3 hours north of Miami, gives me great latitude to explore all things Floridian, pretty much at will. However, on a beautiful, sunny, breezy day such as it was on this day, I did not have to travel very far at all, thirty minutes at most.

Mangroves in the park

I let my instincts guide me south to Punta Gorda, as I enjoyed the landscape while driving along US 41, Tamiami Trail as it is known. I quickly decided on a visit to Ponce De Leon Park. First stop, the Peace River Wildlife Center (PRWC), at the park’s entrance. I took my time strolling along; taking pictures of the rescued animals that inhabit the center; which according to its website, was “founded in 1978; dedicated to the rescue, care, protection and preservation of native small wildlife. Since its beginnings, the wildlife center has treated over one hundred thousand birds and small animals, offering a high level of skilled care by trained and permitted wildlife rehabilitation specialists with years of experience in treating native fauna disease and trauma”.

The center and the park for that matter are hidden gems in Charlotte Harbor. Its location almost makes one forget of its existence, but if you are in the mood to explore nature, see native birds and enjoy some quiet, you cannot go wrong by paying a visit; just make sure to bring enough bug repellent since a walk through the nature trail is sure to bring out some uninvited guests. It is totally worth the trip.

What a great way to end this day!

On the way back home I made a detour into the Port Charlotte Beach Complex, as it was soon time for the sunset and I wanted to snap a couple of shots. One of the benefits of living on the Gulf Coast—water is everywhere we go. Be it the ocean, rivers, lots of canal property, pools and more. So catching a sunset from anywhere is not difficult—for whatever reason we always seem to head toward the water.
Another benefit, you can have all of this for less than the price of a movie ticket. All I spent during this day trip was $0.80 cents for parking, the cost of adding two new batteries to my Canon, and less than a gallon of gas; you can not get it any better than that!
That was my unplanned day trip near home. I am sure there are gems such as this one hiding in your own backyards; the economy being what it is today, it pays to go out of the way to find places near home that can provide inexpensive entertainment, while providing family and guests with fun activities to do this holiday season.

Go ahead, explore!


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