Our Florida Vacation

We called 2017 the “Year of Repositioning” and many of you followed our journey from Las Vegas to Florida and the fits and starts along the way.

2018 is the “Year of Adjusting,” and I’ve really been struggling lately, actually even before the one-year anniversary of arriving in Florida. The first 7 months were spent in an apartment in North Orlando while we house hunted and then built our home in a beach city we’d never lived in before. So the adjustment period started all over again, although we might have been further along in our adjustment if we hadn’t had to split our time. But, then, this is our third time in Florida and I always get homesick. Hence, the upcoming birthday trip to SoCal, a short cruise to Mexico, and a couple of days at Disneyland Resort. I can’t wait to touch down once again!

Just for kicks, I looked at some pics of our Las Vegas home and the surrounding area and am so thankful we’re out of the desert – the best thing about living there was that feeling of home and being only 4 hours from Disneyland/SoCal childhood. I miss that! Sometimes I can’t believe I’m so far away now. How did this happen? 🙂

Anyway, here are two pics that show the contrast of living in Las Vegas and living in Florida – no wonder I struggle to adjust – it’s a huge change!

The back of our Vegas house – solar screens are popular as a way to block out some of that hot desert sun. We also had blackout drapes on the back side of the house for that intense afternoon sun.

This morning’s view from my screened Lanai where I sip my coffee every morning – glorious!

Two different worlds for sure!

Saturday, we shopped for the trip in the morning and then had our lunch at La Fiesta, which is so authentically Mexican, we’re there practically every week. At least the weeks we’re not at Disney. The Margaritas are amazing!! Growing up in Southern California surrounded by Mexican culture, margaritas and tacos are a taste of home.

Tequila, take me home!

Halfway through eating lunch. 🙂

We were shopping at Target the other day and we picked up some food items like tortillas, black beans, rice, tortilla chips and salsa and the clerk said, “Are you having a Mexican Fiesta?” I just looked at her and said, “Every night is a Mexican Fiesta for us.” The thing is nobody would say that to you in California or the West Coast or the entire SW. In this day of the Food Network and food education, I’m a bit shocked even somebody in Florida said it.

No doubt we’re having a blast in Florida, enjoying frequent trips to Disney and the beach – what a welcome change from the desert. Our house is wonderful, the golf community is gorgeous – both a dream come true. But it’s not home. And, as always, it’s starting to feel like we’re on another extended Florida vacation.

 

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“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip (Pre-Trip Report) Updated

So excited, I’m jumping up and down! We’ve been going back and forth with how to celebrate my birthday in SoCal. Longing for home, we’ve booked and unbooked hotels near the beach, near Disneyland, and then finally booked a cruise. But I started to miss Disneyland. So, here are the latest plans:

Wednesday:

MCO to LAX, check into Anaheim Hilton. Dinner at Napa Rose

Thursday:

Drive to Huntington Beach, breakfast at Norm’s, then drive up PCH to Long Beach where we will board Carnival cruise ship at the new terminal – can’t wait to try the new terminal! Cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada, round trip.

Friday:

Day at Sea – Sea Day Brunch, Chef’s Table birthday dinner

Saturday:

Ensenada – booked a wine and lunch excursion in the vineyards. Were so wowed by the vineyards in Ensenada several years ago. Who knew Ensenada had such a wine culture? You usually think of Tequila when you think of Mexico.

Sunday:

Return to Long Beach. Drive to Disneyland – get park hopper – do Disneyland in the morning, check into Anaheim Hilton for afternoon rest, and then back to DCA for the evening – Dinner at Carthay Circle (martinis and amazing biscuits, here we come!)

Monday:

LAX to MCO

I’m so stoked about getting to do Disneyland, the beach, and a cruise for my birthday! In the meantime, we’ve got a little overnight trip planned for Epcot and the MK as a pet sitter test run. She seems really great and was recommended by our visit but it’s always good to do a short trip close to home before flying across the country and going out to sea. Just in case anything needs to be ironed out.

 

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip (Pre-Trip Report)

You might recall we’d booked the Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland Resort for my birthday in July. It’s a semi-milestone year for me and feeling homesick, I really want to get back to SoCal. On a side note, Valerie, our Vegas petsitter, originally from Long Beach, and her husband moved to Long Island, NY two years ago and she’s having the same homesickness. “I didn’t know it would be this hard,” she said. I knew it was hard, but I didn’t know I would miss “home” so much so early this time around.

Anyhoo, what to do, what to do to make the most of this trip to get that feeling of home? We have booked and unbooked and rebooked so many different things. Including Paradise Pier. Some of you may remember the time we stayed there about 10 years ago (the “Big Kahuna Family”) with all of our trials and said we’d never stay there again. For one thing, it’s an awfully long walk to the parks and you can no longer cut through the GC to get to DCA due to security reasons. Bummer!

And we love to cruise. And, as I mentioned in yesterday’s Flower & Garden post, we’re missing Mexico!

Really thinking hard about spending the whole trip hiking around the parks and getting to/from them, especially with this latest hip flare-up at Epcot. It’s too bad the GC is so outrageously expensive these days – that’s the resort we truly love. So we changed it up. Here are the new plans:

Wednesday:

MCO to LAX, check into Queen Mary area hotel (not staying at the Queen Mary again – yikes!) Have dinner/drinks at our favorite restaurants/bars on the Queen Mary.

Thursday:

Board Carnival cruise ship at the new Long Beach terminal – can’t wait to try the new terminal! Cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada, round trip.

Friday:

Day at Sea – Sea Day Brunch

Saturday:

Ensenada – booked a wine and lunch excursion in the vineyards. Were so wowed by the vineyards in Ensenada several years ago. Who knew Ensenada had such a wine culture? You usually think of Tequila when you think of Mexico.

Sunday:

Return to Long Beach. Drive to Huntington Beach, grab a burger at In N out, catch up with my beach cities and check into hotel in Anaheim. Birthday dinner at Napa Rose that night.

Monday:

LAX to MCO

Valerie said she flew back to LA to visit family and it made being back in Long Island harder! I’m hoping that hitting the highlights in SoCal will satisfy that need and that returning to our beautiful home in the Orlando area will show me how great life is here.

Some of the fun we had at Hussong’s the last time we were in Ensenada:

First Light in Florida

The best reason for living in Florida is waking up before the sun is up, sipping my first cup of coffee out on the Lanai, soaking in the quiet, the pond tranquility, the fascinating, moving clouds, and the many hues displayed in the morning sky. Absolutely breathtaking! It’s like having a mini vacay before daylight.

Being an early riser these days, I often do this alone, but sometimes, like yesterday and this morning before work, Rich joined me. I’ve been snapping pics from my iPhone but I’ve dug out the regular camera and may be taking some photos using it next.

Once the sun was bright enough to blind us, we drove off to the beach and enjoyed a morning walk on the beach and then Rich got our “Margaritaville” beach chairs, and we sat on the beach, enjoying the smell, feel, and sounds of the ocean. Heaven!

Oh yes, and then we opened up the “Director’s Cut” from the latest Coppola shipment, celebrating the California birthday plans Rich has made for me.

 

Port Canaveral

Waking up on a Saturday morning with so many options can be daunting.

After mulling over a few possibilities last Saturday, we chose to drive to Port Canaveral to see the cruise ships and to test out the drive for a future cruise. It’s always fun to see the DCL busses whizzing by. It was a nice familiar sight after living in our new beach town for a month now. We love it, but it is an adjustment to living in an unfamiliar place.

We also had lunch at our usual, Gulls Seafood Deck and Tiki Bar, although we noticed several other restaurants along that row for a future visit. My lunch was so sparse, I was starving afterwards (a few grilled shrimp and nothing else), so we shared an amazing chocolate cake. Basically, I had a margarita and a piece of chocolate cake for lunch – lol! We managed to take a shot of it after a bite or two. 🙂

Rich and his Summer Breeze

Chocolate Chip Cake (minus a bite or two)

After lunch, we walked along the water to see how close we could get to the ships. There were 4 ships in port that day: Disney Fantasy, Norwegian Epic, Carnival Magic, and Carnival Sunshine.

Norwegian Epic, Disney Dream, and one of the Carnival ships in photo

Aunt Catfish’s on the River ala Art Smith

We took some time out from packing up the resort to scout out some of the neighboring beach cities and when we spotted Aunt Catfish’s on the River in Port Orange, we knew we had to stop there for lunch.

We asked to be seated on the porch (inside they were serving a brunch buffet) but we were able to order off the regular menu. Looking for something reasonably healthy, I was dismayed to notice that everything cane with a hush puppy and their “famous” cinnamon roll.

I don’t usually eat cinnamon rolls unless they’ve come highly recommended and I had determined I would ignore it when it came with my sautéed shrimp and cucumber/tomato salad. But as soon as I saw it I knew I would have to taste it.

OMG (I also try to avoid that, too, but trust me – it was definitely OMG-worthy)!! The most amazing cinnamon roll ever!! We’ve since learned you can get boxes in different sizes to go and that spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E!

The hush puppy was special, too, with a crusty outside and soft flavorful with a hint of sweetness inside – they can sometimes be a bit bland. Best hush puppy ever and I go back to Biloxi, Mississippi in the 1980s for my first hush puppy.

Rich had the Catfish with grits lunch and we both had a Bloody Mary, creating our own brunch. We’ll definitely be back – perhaps after church? I’m already thinking about the Fried Green Tomato BLT.

This is the old Florida experience Chef Art Smith is going for at Homecomin’ at Disney Springs, which is a favorite of ours, but at about a third of the cost and a whole lot closer to home, we might just stick to the real deal.