Back from Vacation

Well, not really vacation…more like a bunch of visits.

If you’re wondering why this blog has been so quiet lately, it’s because I was away on what I thought might be a vacation. It turned out to be a bunch of visits to friends and family in Florida, which is actually a very different thing.

I brought my laptop with me on the trip, but none of the places I stayed had a wireless Internet connection for me. I wasn’t interested in dialing up and I didn’t have an Ethernet cable with me (almost brought one, though) to connect to a friend’s DSL router. In fact, the first time I got on the ‘Net was while waiting for our delayed plane out of Jacksonville, FL. They have free wireless Internet there — a great thing that every major airport should have — and I sucked down a week’s worth of e-mail before climbing on board the plane.

Marco Island BeachOur trip to Florida started in Fort Myers. We can’t fly direct from Phoenix to that airport so we flew Continental and stopped over in Houston. We arrived late at night, rented a car (can you believe they gave me a PT Cruiser?), and drove to our first host’s house on Marco Island, about 60 miles south. Will is Mike’s former partner (now retired) and Annette is his wife, who was also the bookkeeper for the company. He sold the company a few years back and the buyer bought out Mike’s share. Will and Annette bought a home on Marco Island, right on one of the many canals there. We got to stay in one of their guest rooms.

Stan's Idle House RestaurantWe wound up staying there for four nights, which I think is the most number of nights we’d ever stayed at someone’s house. It was very comfortable. Each day, we’d do something different — breakfast at the country club followed by a walk on the beach and a visit to Stan’s Idle Hour Restaurant, a boat ride to a lunch spot, a walk around the Naples historic and shopping areas (nearly indistinguishable, although several blocks apart). I took photos, but not many.

On Wednesday, we headed out early for a long drive to my Mom’s house in the St. Augustine area. Imagine Florida — a long peninsula of land. Marco Island is near the bottom, on the west side. St. Augustine is on the top, on the east side. I don’t know how many miles we covered, but it was a long drive.

Along the way, we stopped at my Dad’s house. He lives in Ft. Pierce, which is a little less than halfway up the peninsula, on the east side. About halfway to my Mom’s place. We had a short visit with him and his wife that included lunch out at a marina and homemade cream puffs for dessert. They have four cats and it’s a lucky thing that we went out for lunch. Mike is allergic to cats and he had some breathing trouble for a while after we left.

We hit traffic on I-95 just 20 miles short of my Mom’s place, but managed to get there just after 7 PM. A leg of lamb dinner awaited us.

We camped out in the guest bedroom my Mom had designed into the house for my grandmother. We call it Grandma’s room. It’s not a big room, but it’s at the end of a private hallway with its own bathroom and has its own private entrance to the pool area. Although my grandmother stayed there a few times, she never moved in. She’s gone now and her room is the most coveted of the guest rooms.

Flagler CollegeOn Thanksgiving morning, Mike and I took a walk around St. Augustine, which I believe is the oldest city in the U.S. Lots of great architecture. This photo shows Flagler College.

Thanksgiving was nice at my Mom’s house. She had another couple over to join us, so there was just six of us. And a ton of food. Turkey, stuffing (you might call it dressing), mashed potatoes, yams, mushrooms, artichoke, turnips, broccoli (from her garden, picked moments before cooking), peas and carrots, cranberries, gravy, and rolls. For desert, there were pies and bread pudding. When her friends left at around 7 PM, another few friends arrived. Dessert lasted about 2 hours, which is how dessert should last in a perfect world.

On Friday, we packed up and went to Orlando. I’d bought my Mom and Stepdad tickets to see Cirque du Soleil at Downtown Disney. Since the show was at 9 PM, I also got a pair of hotel rooms at the nearby Buena Vista Palace. We had an excellent (and terribly expensive!) dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s before the show. The show was great. This is the fifth Cirque du Soleil show I’ve seen and I’ve never been disappointed. This was the first for my parents, and they were delighted.

Blue Spring State ParkThe next day was my Stepdad’s 70th birthday. We’d done all our celebrating the night before, so there wasn’t anything special planned. On our way back from Orlando to St. Augustine, we stopped at Blue Spring State Park to see the manatees that hang out there. Although we could clearly see them lounging in the water, we didn’t get any close views (or photos). But we did have a nice walk in the jungle-like forest around the spring.

Our return flight to Phoenix (by way of Houston) was from Jacksonville. We got home just after sunset.

And that’s my week, in a nutshell.

What do you think?