Monday, February 23, 2015

A Vacation in Winter ~ Our Trip to Florida Part II

Perhaps nothing will bring out the differences in people than traveling together.  I happen to strongly believe that you truly never know a person until you take a trip together.  Before my husband and I married, we took a road trip during December to Utah together.  I wasn't sure we would get married after that trip. Our differences always show up when we travel.  After over twenty years of marriage, we now travel together quite well because we have learned to include those parts of travel that we both enjoy into the trips we take.

Jim is the planner when it comes to travel.  He wants a plan.  He likes to follow the plan.
I'd just soon show up in a place that looks interesting and explore.

I like to camp.
Jim loves to stay in fancy hotels.
Ok, he was right all along on this.  Fancy hotels are nice.

Jim is a destination traveler.  He wants to take the fastest route with his GPS leading the way.
I like to explore by reading maps to lead me off the beaten track.

Jim loves staying in big cities.
I want to visit the country.

You get the idea.  We are different.  That is a good thing.  We try to do together what both of us enjoy individually.  When we went to Florida, Jim only scheduled the first two days.  He left the rest up to me.  I didn't get my homework completely done.  I did go to AAA and picked tour books and maps (gotta have maps) and sat down with Jim to make a list of things we might like to do while in the Orlando area.  We forgot to bring the tour books, the list, the maps.  How did I go on vacation and forget to take a map?

So, here is what we did on the three days that I was in charge of a plan:

Jim doesn't especially care for beaches.
I love beaches.

Clearwater Beach

I specified that we visit at least one beach.  I had hoped to visit both sides of the peninsula that is Florida.  I didn't care which side we visited first, but I was thrilled when it was suggested by my husband that we visit the Gulf of Mexico side of state.  Jim's daughter has spent a lot of time in Clearwater, Florida because of her triathlon experiences.  She highly recommended we visit the beach at Clearwater.  

Using the GPS, because we had no map, we headed towards our destination in our rental car on our third day in Florida.  I must say that I was a bit of nervous wreak on the highways of Florida.  Jim did an excellent job of getting us where we were going, and I tried not to backseat drive because honestly, I was just grateful not to be driving.  He drove us right to the place that was recommended for lunch.  The local favorite, grouper, is wasted on me.  I'm just not a fan of it, but at least we had the experience.  After lunch, we headed to the beach.  On our way, I stopped into the local chamber of commerce for a map.  They had no maps of Florida.  What?

The beach was awesome!  I'll be honest with you, dear readers, when I think of Florida, I just think of beach life.  That is why I wanted to go to Florida.  I wanted some beach time.

When I had my head injury in 2011, the physiatrist I went to told me I just needed to go find a beach somewhere and dig my toes in the sand for about six weeks.  He said, "Nothing would be better for you than digging your toes in the sand and keeping them there until your injury heals."  Of course few of us have the luxury of extended toe in the sand time, so when I get a bit of it, I make the most of it.

Walking barefootin the sand is the perfect exfoliator for winter weary, dry heels, and and it also soothed my aching instep.  I love walking on the seashore.  The water was cold, but oh so refreshing.

Even if the weather is a bit cool, you just can beat lounging on the beach.

Mount Dora

On our fourth day in Florida, it was really quite cool, and we didn't really know what to do.  (We'd forgotten that list and the tourist guide.)  We remembered that we might like to go to Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando.  Jim kept calling it Ebola Park.  We made our way downtown on those terrible highways that I hated, parked the car by the park, and wondered what to do next.  Jim suggested we go to botanical garden that he thought was close by.  I love botanical gardens, so we thought we'd check out the exact location on our iPhones while we warmed up at a coffee shop.  A Starbucks was just a block away, so off we went.  Jim found us a table where a couple was sitting.  They asked us to join them.  Soon Jim was telling them stories of being a principal and about working at the Apple Store.  We had a great conversation with the young man.  He is a realtor in Orlando, and talked to us about the real estate market in Florida.  Just as the couple was leaving, the woman told us we should really visit Mount Dora.  She said it was not that far away, and she said we would love it.

We took her up on her suggestion and off we went to see Mount Dora.  All we knew was that it was a "quaint little town with lots of antique shops."  The drive to our destination was great.  We saw orange groves, and wonderful country homes along our route. When we drove into town, I was somewhat reminded of Baker City, Oregon, because it seemed like we were going back in time.  The homes, the streets, the shops, were all reminiscent of the 1950's or 1960's.  We explored many of the shops and walked down to Lake Dora which is just a few blocks form the shopping area.  We got to Lake Dora too late to schedule a boat ride around the lake during the day.  We could have taken a sunset tour, but we wanted to eat and get back to Orlando before it got too late in the evening.

After shopping and walking around town,  it was suddenly late afternoon.   We decided we'd better find a place to eat.  As we wondered around checking out restaurants, I saw an intriguing spot at the end of the street.  A beautiful historic inn painted with bright yellow paint didn't need the double "Welcome" signs in front to convince me that this was a spot I wanted to know more about.

We passed a smaller yellow building that was a gift shop as we headed towards the larger building featuring a large veranda.  I saw the sign in front, The Lakeside Inn, and knew I had found a treasure. Listed on National Register of Historic Places, this inn opened in 1883.  Jim and I walked up the front steps and into the main lobby of the inn.

By the time we got here, we were running out of options for an early dinner.  It was Friday night of Valentine's Day Weekend.  Places that weren't booked did not appeal to us.  "Do you think we can possibly get a reservation for dinner here tonight," I ask Jim.  "I doubt it," he says.  "It's my treat.  I'm buying you an early Valentine's dinner here tonight," I said as I walked towards the tavern that I could see off to my left.  I basically begged that we could have a reservation for 5:00.  It was 4:30.  The young man knew that they would be busy that night because there was a large group staying in the inn.  So far most of the group was still having drinks on the veranda.  They hadn't thought about dinner yet.  I got us a table for two for 5:00.  

Jim settled himself into a rocker on the veranda to wait for dinner while I went off to take some photos.

As I said, there was a large group staying at the inn.  They belonged to an old cars club.  Their arrival only added to ambiance.

Don't you just love this place?

When 5:00 arrived, we went into Tremain's Tavern, located inside the inn, for our dinner.  We both had their blackened red snapper.  The dinner was absolutely fabulous.  We enjoyed the food and the experience so much.  I wished we were not tied to our room in Orlando so we could have stayed here at least one night.  Sadly, all good things must come to an end, so we left our idyllic Florida inn and headed back to the resort where we were staying.  

Jim asked if I would like to watch the sunset from shores of lake before we left the area.  It was Valentine's Day Weekend after all.  We found the perfect spot.  Armed with my camera, I was excited to practice taking sunset shots.

I love the light just before the sun sets.  This scene is so peaceful.

 We found our perfect romantic spot to end the day.

Flocks of birds set out for the horizon at setting of the sun.  This one seems alone on his journey.

Walking back to the car, the light fading, I observed these birds still on their perches.  They also seem to wish to linger in this spot just a bit longer.    

This day we had begun our journey with no real destination in mind.  This day could not have been more perfectly planned if we had tried to do so.  It was a serendipitous kind of day.  We met strangers who told us where Starbucks was.  There we met strangers who led us to Mount Dora.  There, we happened on this wonderful inn where we ate a fabulous meal on a night when reservations were hard to come by.  

As a couple, we have too few days that end with us watching the sun set in western sky.  But this day, we took the time to end the day with a romantic stroll along the shore of a lovely lake.  Who could have planned a better Valentine's Day Weekend experience?  

Cast in a golden glow, this day ended perfectly.