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!

Share the love for the kids home tour

Florida Living...

The 3rd Annual Benefit for Cooper Street Kids (After-school program in Punta Gorda, FL) took place last weekend. I enjoyed the Home Tour put together by  various clubs and groups of the Punta Gorda Isles Civic Association; all proceeds will benefit the After-school program. The home tour was a resounding success, and was well attended by community members and sponsors.

One of the homes on the tour - Key West style

As I told you before, it appears the supply of things to do in our neck of the woods is suddenly unending. I remember saying to anyone who would listen (mostly my hubby) back when we first moved to Florida: “What were we thinking?”, since at the time the sidewalks in town rolled-up by 9 p.m, earlier during weekdays. This was 20 years ago, and there really was nothing to do. For a city-dweller from Brooklyn, such as myself, this was torture.

Beautiful landscaping seen on tour

My solution? Miami is 3-hours south–it seemed appropriate at the time and still does today, to head out-of-town whenever our small town starts to make me feel claustrophobic. These days destinations vary but still, I am a city girl at heart and I crave arts and culture, great dining experiences and more; so whenever I get the urge to wander, I go looking for my fix.

Loved this table setting

Things have changed. I now marvel at the number of things to do, there are even new restaurants (non-chain) popping up here and there–sometimes there are so many things going on at the same time, it is hard to choose. I love having this dilemma; and yes, there is always Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Naples, FL within reach, you get my point. One of the advantages of our location on the Gulf of Mexico is that all these cities are within an hour to three-hour car ride. Aah…the Florida life!

Dining outdoors never looked so good!

Mamma Mia! A Festa Italiana in Punta Gorda

Festa Italiana

Eat, drink and be Italian was the motto of the day and we certainly obliged!

Strike a pose and smile for the camera!

Last Saturday my girlfriends and I had a a great time when we attended the 2nd Festa Italiana held in downtown Punta Gorda; since then, I have not been able to get that Mambo Italiano song out of my head. Hey Mambo, Mambo Italiano…(repeat) LOL

Grace and Margaret by the riverfront

The Festa took place over the weekend (Saturday-Sunday) and it was well attended. On the day we were there, we enjoyed delicious food (Sausage and peppers subs, chicken parmesan, arepas–yummy!) live music, a juggling pizza performer, and lots of dancing and singing, all under the sunny (but slightly cool) Florida skies, temperatures hovered around 65-70 degrees along the Peace River.

Zeppole? Yes!

Admission to the event was $4, free parking was available in the surrounding areas including the grounds of the courthouse; all told, a very budget friendly event and part of the proceeds were donated to local charities. I even witnessed a couple of people arriving by boat, the marina was pretty busy attending to the needs of its nautical commuters. Something for everyone, no one was left out.

Arepas anyone? Of course!
Homemade tomato sauce display

Bounce houses, slides and rides were there for children to enjoy, the live band played all the traditional and popular Italian songs which had us all singing or humming, and dancing happily. Vendors displayed and sold a variety of products: sauces, handbags, crafts, jewelry, and more; which made for a good shopping experience. Fireworks over the Peace River marked the end of each day.

Hey mambo, mambo Italiano… Mamma mia, please, get this song out of my head!

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!

From here to there…a change of plans

View from Gilchrist Park, Punta Gorda


Verb, -eled, -el·ing or (especially British) -elled, -el·ling

Noun, adjective verb (used without object)

  1. To go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship; take a trip, journey–to travel for pleasure.
  2. To move or go from one place or point to another
  3. To proceed or advance in any way
  4. To go from place to place as a representative of a business firm
  5. To associate or consort: He travels in a wealthy crowd

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about traveling. Not sure why, but suspect it has something to do with the impending holiday season. I cannot believe it; we are five weeks away from Christmas. The days are barreling through, toward the end of the year, at the speed of lightning, scary.

Anyway, I have been talking about traveling in “my mind” and that has set my brain in motion—I am now looking at every place I go to as a “travel” destination; convenient, actually. There is a good chance you will be reading more of these stories, as the year-ends; because I will be moving from one point to another very often.

Let the work begin!

Yesterday morning I got up early, thought I would head out of the house–with the intent of going to the park or the beach; take some pictures of birds, the water, boats—or whatever got my eye’s attention; then come back home to write a blog post or two. Well, that was the plan. Before I could get going, I heard some noise outside the door, peeked through the window to see what the racket was and suddenly—there it was, a change of plans. The County, in its infinite wisdom had decided to replace the aluminum culvert pipes around our neighborhood, with concrete ones, and today was our turn. That is fine, but could they have let me know ahead of time?

We need to move...

Not being one to miss an opportunity, I quickly got my Canon out; took some pictures, and went out to talk to the work crew, let them know I might be talking about them in my blog. The men were a good-natured bunch—all they said was “as long as what I had to say about them was good, it would be okay with them”. My response—“it would be all good—as long as I could get out of my driveway”. No problem there, they graciously moved all the heavy trucks and equipment, and I was on my way—to the spot I originally had in mind.

It is beautiful out here,,, the birds agree!

It was a beautiful day, at Gilchrist Park, sunny and bright. There were people out having lunch and reading books under the pavilion. Others were just sitting around enjoying the weather. I got into easy conversation with a woman who reminded me that there will be music on the park Thursday night. I made a mental note of that and went back home.

In addition, I now have added respect for the job those men do every day. It was nearly 90 degrees outside, while they plugged away at their duties. Tough job, but somebody has to do it, right? Glad it is not me.

Life is good!

On any given day, life throws surprises your way, especially in our neighborhood. One day you step outside to find turtles sunning in your backyard, and yet another day you see a bobcat chasing some other animal. Nevertheless, you take it all in stride; life is what you make it, so you learn to enjoy it!

Art is all around us in SW Florida

This mural greets visitors outside CHEC's parking lot
This weekend, it was difficult to decide what to do, and where to go for entertainment. The SW Florida sun coast was bubbling with all types of art events and festivals from Sarasota to Fort Myers, and places in between.

Since we live in one of those in-between places (Charlotte County, FL) I took the easy way out and opted to attend “Art Sensation ’11”, an annual celebration of local music, art and culture; an event  sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Council of Charlotte County, held at the Charlotte County Event and Conference Center (CHEC).

Naomi Pringle proudly displays a copy of her book, "Ginga Root Tea"

This year’s Art Sensation had an impressive list of participants who boasted many talents: jewelers, painters, historians, and many other artists and performers; but for obvious reasons, this writer gravitated and connected with the writers in the house. I had the opportunity to meet and talk to James Abraham, Roland Edwards, and Naomi Pringle, three of our community’s published authors; who generously shared their knowledge and insights about the publishing world.

Roland Edwards author of "Who do you say I am"

They related writing experiences, talked about upcoming projects and invited me to attend upcoming writing workshops, they made me feel welcome in their literary midst.

James Abraham, the Book-broker and writer

This is only the beginning of “snow bird” season” in SW Florida; so I suspect I will be getting busy checking out venues until the end of the year. I will be on the lookout for things to do and will keep you posted; especially, if they are free!

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