Please, forgive me, but I have finally taken the aptly named “March Break” this year, to get away from the snow and sleet still kicking around our fair capital of Ottawa. In three days a momentous anniversary will be here – the day that marks a year since I returned from Down Under to the homeland. I definitely am not soon to forget that when I landed on a blustery evening, March 26th, bone-tired but eager to surprise my mom at her hotel in Toronto – that there was snow. Yes, snow. I had been caged on one flight for 15 hours on what is aptly called an airbus, waited at LAX for 5 hours with nothing to do, then finally arrived in the large Toronto terminal to be greeted by snow. I was not happy. The snow, might I add, also lasted beyond April 5th, the date at which we removed the snow tires from the car. After a day of supply teaching on April 9th, a snow storm decided to enrobe the Ottawa Valley in its frosty glow. Maybe some people were happy. I sure wasn’t.
But I digress. I decided to go to Florida for a week with my friend, since he offered a great deal. Good friend, driving (saves money), stay with family (saves more money), and very laid-back plans (how I like it). How could I not go? If you know anyone who teaches Core French, they will tell you March Break is essential.The way I see it, people approach Florida in more or less the same way. The Orange State might as well be another Sunshine State, since that’s what draws spring breakers, young families, and octogenarians alike. I am not going to regale deeply moving or unique adventures, since, though unregrettably, this was not the purpose of this trip. Moreover, I figured since this is the first week of vacation in a year (in which I did something worthy of note), I should at least provide a few anecdotes. Firstly, I had no idea that on the drive down I would pass Glasgow, Glencoe, mexico, along with a number of far- reaching places. Who said you couldn’t attain the exotic in your own backyard? I love language in general, the history of a place, and therefore it was interesting to note all the towns or counties which shared names of far flung places. I guess you can only get so creative. I also never knew that Pennsylvania had so many ‘burgs: Mechanisburg, Blacksburg, Saxonburg… (If you want the whole list: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100830100752AApGvAh) We attacked the drive over 1.5 days (since we left at 4 after work friday ) which, though it gave us Sunday to recupe, was not that fun. The hotel we picked on Saturday had no ventilation, an air conditioner that blew only HOT air, and a dirty bathroom. Bleh. Skip the International Palms center in Orlando on your next trip. My friends aunt and uncle rented a house in a gated community called Windsor Hills. They sure picked a good spot! The clubhouse was very inviting, and their house was lovely. There was also a smaller pool in the back yard which we used on evenings after returning from our outings. Now, a run-down of some things we did, and possibly not in order (I apologize).
8160 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL
Okay, okay, so it’s a chain – but a chain we don’t have here in Canada. We came here on the first actual day of our time in Kissimmee. I loved the decor which reminded me of a tiki bar in the Bahamas (spot on!), and the food was sumptuous, for a chain. We ordered empenadas, sangria, and split the Key west fish tacos and coconut shrimp tacos. The layers of flavour in mine were unbelievable. We tried going back on our last night, but the wait was 45 minutes, and we ended up driving home sullenly to order pizza from the house. 😦
148 Marina Plaza, Dunedin, FL 34698, United States
We stopped at this waterfront gem to make ourselves feel special after a day in Honeymoon Island. I must say, we had a few drinks on the beach, so by the time we got there, I think everything tasted that much better. For starters we ordered fresh oysters. It had been so long since I’d had them! Amazing. I had a lobster linguini which was so good, I finished it in the car before I got home (classy). We also both had a shrimp gumbo as a side and this also went down very easily. My bill was a little steep, but I chalk it up to experience.
Little New Orleans Kitchen and Oyster Bar
9741 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837
Okay, so in my Tripadvisor review, I said that to judge this place means knowing what you’re coming for. I read recently in a travel book that the author describes himself as a foodie-tourist, or something of the sort. I would quite safely put myself in the realm of traveling foodie as well. I am trying to open my mind to new cuisines, and want to wrap my head around things I might not have been willing to try in my past. This place was not the most sanitary, persay, and the lack of people joining us in our eating hour felt a bit odd to me, but once the food came, no worries! It was finger-lickin’-good … and that’s exactly what we did. I had two firsts that day – frogs legs and crawfish. We split 3 ‘appetizers’, if you can call it that. A huge plate of crawfish, during which time I learned how to open them up. This was over garlic butter, of course. We had fried frogs legs, as well as a plate of boiled shrimp, catfish, and fries. It was so amazing that my friend, who’d been having appetite problems all week, actually voiced a desire for more food. Yes, that good. Go check it out if you’re in town and love seafood!
I will mention during our 6 days that Ken and I took our first airboat ride. The boat was 30 minutes late, but thankfully, a captain who arrived from his last shift was kind enough to take us out on his boat so we wouldn’t have to wait anymore. This was none other than Capt’ Bill of Orlando Airboat Tours (http://www.orlandoairboattours.com/). 90 minutes cost us 65$US and it was plenty for me. We saw live gators, coots, moorehens, and all manner of other wildlife. We had been craving a day on a boat and this was just what we needed. It turned my friend into a Red Lobster (he’s a poor ginger), so we got a great view and nice tan. I’d definitely go again!
Honeymoon Island turned out to be a solid choice, a small piece of land north of Caladesi and Clearwater Beach where a lot of tourists love to go. We had a nice strip of beach almost to ourselves to lounge and relax. It’s fairly rocky, which I learned all too well once I went in for a swim. I meant to kick water at my friend and instead lost a fair chunk of skin off my foot as it grazed a rock. I look at it now and it’s healing, but you have to be careful here!
We also tackled Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure which, given that most people who don’t live under a rock know about, means I won’t say too much. I will say it is worth the investment in fast passes. I will also add if you are trying to go on a budget, look into deals wherever you can: my friend and I were shopping at Buena Vista outlets and saw a sign… 99$ park pass! P2P! ” We found out if we did a 1.5 hour info session on timeshares we could save 100$. The way I see it, it got us up early, free breakfast, and a deal on tickets. We did it and had a glorious day at both parks. I loved the HP worlds – but my friend rather disappointed at my lack of tremulous outbursts or infinite glee. I like to experience something and imagine it is only for myself (a selfish thing, I know), but its rather hard to do that when you’re surrounded by thousands of other people. The detail and care they put in is remarkable, but perhaps one day I’ll go when there are less crowds. The rollercoasters were most excellent!
Finally, we spent a couple days at Daytona Beach, and hanging out by the pool in the area near the house. I could post more photos, but this is probably enough information into the trip which so many others have done. I just finished reading a book called The Turk Who Loved Apples by Matt Gross, and he had a lot to say that really spoke to me. Oddly enough, one section was about coming home, another about the distinction between being a traveler vs. tourist – what is it, anyway? I will share these thoughts in a later post. I know that I was a tourist on this trip, but I don’t care. I still managed to have a number of firsts, and do things that not everyone may do on their trip. Your adventure is whatever you make it. For now, I should probably get to bed, since French class won’t teach itself!
On a sidenote – the author M.G. mentions Bruce Chatwin as a favourite author of his for travel-themed books. I was looking to order in Patagonia and the Sidelines. Have you read his books? Any suggestions?
When in doubt, do it. Find the ways to make it happen!