Thursday, April 4, 2013

On the Road Again - Exploring Florida

Can't help myself. Traveling is in my DNA.

Last week found me on the road again. This time Hubby and I made our way to Florida. Again. (I know. I know. I just went there a few months ago...but come on. This was for family - my boys - my grandkids. They need me!)
But the way we were looking at it, hopefully we'll both have jobs real soon. And with that comes the looong waiting period before we'll be able to vaca again. So we decided we better get some rambling done before we get tied back down. (Also didn't want to lose any points we've built up from previous trips.)

Our trip got off to a bizarre start...

Dealing with a storm. Normally this time of year we're worried about snow. Not this time. Our flight day was a cool sunny Spring day - not a cloud in the bright blue sky. All was fine until the gate agent announced there'd be a delay. What? The weather was great. Hadn't heard about any pending snow storms.
Apparently, violent thunderstorms over Florida were causing havoc with flights in/out of Orlando. We left a bit later than scheduled. Ah, well. Not too worried since we weren't in a hurry. The pilot explained that because our flight plan had to now take a different route, it'd take longer than usual. Again, not too bad - til he mentioned the turbulence we might have for at least half the flight. Great....not!

Turned out, the flight was pretty smooth. But the usual 2 1/2 hour flight took almost 4 hours. Pilot told us we had to circle the airport til we were allowed to land. Later found out, the airport had actually closed and all incoming flights were on hold til it was deemed safe to land. Reason: Tornado warning! Just our luck.

Cheers erupted when we landed and we practically ran off the plane to baggage claim - then waited for over an hour for luggage. Weren't cheering anymore. Luckily, the rental car process went much smoother and quicker, and soon we were on our way to pick up our oldest son. He suggested we head to St. Augustine for a few days. We'd never been there so we said "let's go!".

We got to the hotel very late with no time for sightseeing so we settled in for a good night sleep. The next two days were filled with incredible sight-seeing and fun:
  • Took a narrated tour of the historic area aboard Ripley's Red Train and learned a lot about the picturesque city's interesting history.
  • Since the Red Train allowed us on/off privileges, we took advantage by dropping off the tour to discover the bustling St. George Street and busy little Aviles Street (the nation's oldest street) on foot. We checked out the visitor center, visited the art galleries and perused the unique little shops.
  • We strolled over to the Castillo de San Marcos, constructed beginning in 1672, which is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. 
  • Our next stop was across the street from the fort - the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum. Filled with authentic pirate artifacts, I found it a bit macabre (many displays were focused on punishment and torture) but also very interesting. 
  • Since we ate a very large breakfast, we skipped lunch and were famished by the time we settled in to eat a delicious pizza at Borillo's Pizza on San Marcos Street.
  • Feeling refreshed we then headed to the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum. Always an interesting place to visit. Lots of amazing, puzzling, head-scratching, interactive displays to ponder.
  • We ended the first day by taking a quick drive by the St. Augustine Lighthouse, built in 1874, a beautiful beacon that guards the oldest port in the nation.
  • The next morning, after checking out of our hotel, we made our way to The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. We roamed the grounds, mingled with handsome peacocks who seemed to have staked a claim in the park, watched real archaeologists at work, and viewed 2 very informative educational presentations about Ponce de Leon and the founding of this area of the country. Drank from the supposed fountain of youth (not very tasty, but hey I wasn't drinking for the far no difference in how I feel or look).
  • After our whirlwind tour of the city, we drove south to the city of Palm Coast for a quick visit with family. My aunt, her son and his wife had just moved there from New York. Couldn't stay long because we had to get our son back to his home outside of Orlando. He had to go to work.
  • Our rental van was soon back on the highway pointed southwest to the Orlando Airport where we dropped off my cousin who had to catch an afternoon plane.
  • Sadly, our next stop was to deposit our son at his home. This is always the difficult part of the journey. Doesn't matter how old they get (he's in his early 30's), it's always hard to say goodbye - especially when they live so far away.
At that point, the first half of our southern journey came to an end and we set sail on the open road for the second half. We pointed the rental van north...

To be continued........................

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