Travel Check – Visit NOLA, Memphis, and Arkansas

Although I am a tad late in posting this travel list check, I want to say that this was the best trip we took last year. I think that can be attributed to the fact that we spent a lot of time with family I hadn’t seen in decades. These people are valued family members on my dad’s side of the family that moved away many years ago. Needless to say, quite some time passed before seeing my grandfather, uncle, his wife and kids, my aunts, cousins, and even some new family members.

Our first pit stop on the map brought us to “middle-of-nowhere” north Florida to see my dad and pick up my brother. We then proceeded to pack up ourselves, the baby, my younger brother, and headed out of the state way too early the next morning.

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Travel List Check / Asheville, NC / Savannah, GA

We took an impromptu road trip to the mountains for the Fourth of July weekend. This trip was a trial run with and a minute break from reality. As unorganized as it was, we still ended up feeling refreshed as we do with any trip. We made a stop in Savannah before we reached our destination in North Carolina.

In Savannah, we explored the beautiful Southern charm of this quaint city. We wandered throughout Forsyth Park and around all the surrounding architecture. Accidentally, we found a Mellow Mushroom so we stopped for some psychadelic pizza. We have a sub-bucket list for all the locations and have now visited five of them together (St. Augustine, Fleming Island, Savannah, Clearwater, and Brandon; He has been to many more.) I’ll say this one is my favorite so far. I excidently marveled at the hydrangeas and Spanish moss dripping throughout the city. We also stood beneath the stained glass halls of St. John’s Cathedral and took a stroll along the breezy River Street brick road.

After we left Savannah, we crashed for the night in Charlotte to recharge for our trip to Asheville the next morning. We ended up in one of the skyscrapers next to the NASCAR hall of Fame so that was kind of cool.

I squealed as we drove up and down through the winding mountains. I watched the baby’s ears pop as ours did. The mountains are an exciting sight when all you’re used to is flat land and beaches in Florida. Most of our time was spent in and out of shops on Lexington Avenue. In the artsy city, we met amazing people of which it seemed we’d fit right in with. We also had the best food we’ve ever had in our life at a Himalayan restaurant. I still dream of this food and have been drinking chai tea since. If and when we go back, that’ll be our first stop.

We wrapped up our trip at the bottom of a cold waterfall. We hiked down to Hooker Falls. There were people in the water and splashing in the blistering sun. I went in knee deep and it was incredible considering how hot it was. I was the only one who felt this way apparently though. The second my baby’s foot hit the water, she started screaming. Otherwise, we all had quite the time.

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Travel List Check | Visit Washington, D.C. and New York City

People want to tell me that I’m crazy. When they hear our adventure plans, they say, “IN A WEEKEND?!”, and I proudly say yes. Some say I’m a dreamer and it is true. I’ve come to terms that I am an idealist lost in a world full of realists. It’s just how I am but I found out that it influences my every decision – such as traveling to NYC and DC from Florida in two days. And guess what? Here I am to tell the tale and the incredible views I saw spending one day in each place.

And I can say with some time and dedication, you can accomplish anything. We didn’t even really plan it financially or any other way. In fact, the night before we weren’t sure we were even going and a week before, our destination was New Orleans.

Our system was simple. I’d sleep all day so I could drive all night until I got tired. Then I’d switch with my husband. We drove from 9 PM one night until 2 PM the next afternoon. On the way home, he drove for six hours while I slept, then I drove for four hours while he slept, and then him again after four hours, and then my last driving shift was six hours. It was a total of twenty hours but I went to a big place I had never been, shared it with my best friend and love in the entire world, and witnesses some surreal sites.

Our first day was spent in Washington D.C. We went to the Smithsonian, visited all of the monuments, and stood in front of the White House. It was just incredible to see the Lincoln Memorial. They’re just so big and mighty. All of them were incredible but just to stand there meant so much to me. It was pretty nifty being in the same location of the president of the United States also. I was able to touch the Washington monument. Oh and there was an added bonus of ducks everywhere. There were babies and then yards full of huge ducks. Everywhere.

Our second day was spent in New York City, which was one of my biggest travel dreams. I was squealing when I first laid eyes upon the skyline. It was my first time in such a big city. We pretty much ventured around the city in a massive tourist scavenger hunt. I made a list of major sights to see and we Google mapped via our phone for hours. The only regret we had was not bringing our bicycles. We visited Central Park, the Rockefeller Center, Saks at 5th Avenue, Times Square, Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden (where I rode my first subway!), the Statue of Liberty from a distance, and the 9/11 Memorial.

Each place has a different memory and a story that I could go on for hours but quite frankly I don’t have the time right now and I’ve been dying to get these photos up.

I can tell you that while looking at my phone at the fence in Times Square, I heard a voice behind me, and realized it was Elvis practically begging me to take a selfie since I had my phone. I asked him if it costed money because of the time I got tricked in the Florida Keys by taking a picture with some guy’s parrot. He didn’t answer my question and just kept insisting. Stupid me went ahead and did it, then he said he works off of tips and accepts all bills higher than a dollar. I ended up paying FIVE DOLLARS for a selfie with an Elvis impersonator in Times Square. It wasn’t even a good selfie.

Oh, ten minutes later it happened again with a Monk who walked up to me and gave me a ‘peace’ paper and a bracelet. When I tried to ask how much it cost, he said it was for me. Silly me, assumed once again people were just trying to be nice in New York, I took it. Then he made me sign a paper and one of the boxes was a donation box. That’s when I told him I didn’t even have any money. He took the bracelet back and kept INSISTING. Even when I said no. He kept saying, “change”. Over. And. Over. And. Over. I ended up paying a dollar for this stupid piece of paper. I learned my lesson but yeah, I have to stop being SO NICE.

The most powerful moment was witnessing the 9/11 Memorial. I teared up a bit and I didn’t directly lose anyone. My husband and I were discussing where we were when it happened, I visualized the photos and news reels, and the live feeds. It was heartbreakingly powerful. It was Ms. Lyon’s fourth grade class when everyone started gasping and we didn’t quite understand yet. That day forever changed history and here I was, bracing my hand across the just rained on engraved names who lost their lives. I just couldn’t handle it.

It was an amazing experience and so worth the long drive, the tiring days, and the weird sleep schedules. We plan on doing this every month now, just to different states (that we can swing anyway- nothing on the west coast yet!)

I fell in love with new cities this past weekend and I can’t wait to tread across new grounds.

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Travel list check | Go to Tennessee

Over the weekend, we traveled to the beautiful state of Tennessee for an important wedding. We decided to explore a bit before the ceremony. I had only been to Tennessee one time and since I was a young girl, I don’t think I fully appreciated it at the time. The beauty of this state truly blows my mind compared to Florida. When you’re used to sun, flat land, and the beaches, the mountains always comes as a shock. It is surreal.

Our first stop was to Lookout Mountain to explore Rock City Gardens. We squeezed through wet, mossy rocks, and marveled over the nature around us. Then we stopped at a spot where you could overlook seven states (KY, TN, AL, GA, VA, SC, and NC.) This place really had a lot of cool views to offer. We even saw chipmunks running around carelessly!

Then we headed an hour and a half away to Fall Creek Falls state park. We hiked to the bottom of the waterfall. It was such an amazing sight to see. My favorite were the adorable, green moss on the rocks, the natural formations above us, and just so much to look around and be thankful for.

 

Then we went to the wedding and watched two very important people in our lives get married. We spent the rest of our night with them, laughing, dancing, and sipping on sweet tea. The next morning, we woke up and went to explore Burgess Falls. I had even more fun here than I did at Fall Creek Falls. It was an even more strenuous hike but it was amazing nonetheless. At one point, we were climbing straight down on rocks and were practically rock-climbing, and I mean real-life rock-climbing, not just purple and yellow rocks in a gym. Once we made it to the bottom though, it was incredible. The mist and spray of the waterfall blew your clothes and hair like a big air conditioner. It was reward for actually making it to the bottom.

 

After we left the falls, we took a two-hour drive to Nashville to explore the music city. Before we even got there, I found a guitar pick on the ground. It was just one of those little things that made me smile. We went to Antique Archaeology which is one of the locations on American Pickers. We also had amazing barbecue in the heart of Nashville. It was a pretty lively city! On every corner was a honky-tonk and someone in cowboy boots yelling something or singing. There was music in every nook, corner, and cranny. I saw men playing their guitars and some playing violins in doorways to take shelter from rain. It was touching instead of sad.

The trip was amazing and now we’re planning our next trip. I can’t wait to see where on the map we land next!

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Bucket list check | 241. Visit a Temple

Through some good friends of ours, we found the Wat Mongkolratanaram Buddhist Temple of Tampa. They would always rave about how great the Sunday Market is and it was on the list, so we had to see for ourselves. We decided to make a lovely brunch for ourselves on a Sunday of perfect weather. The sun was out but it wasn’t hot; the breeze was carefully whispering by.

We accidentally slept in so we had to wait through some lines. It is definitely recommended to go slightly early to beat the long lines of the authentic Thai food. We got an egg roll, guiteow (pork noodle soup), and a potato puff. I also got a Thai fruit juice with floating coconuts. The best part is the extremely cheap prices of the food. For under $15, we ate and got full from food we had never tasted before.

We took our food to a lovely ledge near the water and shared our meal. My husband showed me how to eat soup with a spoon because obviously it was not an easy task for me, so eventually he caved and brought me a fork, haha.

After finishing our meal, we wandered to the temple which is guarded by two grand sculptures of dragons. Additionally, there were gold statues beautifully placed throughout the temple grounds.

We then slipped off our shoes and walked into the temple. Slews of reds and golds dazzled your eyes upon entering. There was a man explaining the history and the practices that go on. There were people getting ready for meditation on the floor. It was just a peaceful experience taking in all of this culture and putting it in my pocket.

Lastly, we walked around the other side of their market where they sell fruit and vegetable trees. I want to return and buy a pomegranate tree and a desert flower tree. They even had citronella trees and many orchids. I was in a purple flower daze.

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Travel Bucket list check | Christmas Anniversary Trip Pt. 5: Back to the Everglades

Part 5/5:

December 28, 2014

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Our last day on vacation was spent back in the Everglades.

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We headed to a big spot on the main stretch home to go on an airboat tour to see more alligators in the Everglades.

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We experienced the beauty of the wetlands from a different perspective and saw more alligators up close.

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We floated over Sawgrass and listened to our tour guide give educational speeches about the Florida Everglades and the environment we were submersed in.

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We saw all kinds of alligators and turtles sun bathing and birds flying so picturesquely as it was a beautiful day.

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She took us around the bend to show the generational products of a pair of gators and we saw an entire row of babies!

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They were so tiny and there were about six of them!!! This was the most exciting moment of my life at that very time.

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We went back to see a gator show hosted by a rangers and even pet a few pythons. We got to hold a baby alligator named Snappy and the guy who was aiding in holding them was so kind to us; he was another memorable person in this journey.

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Then later, one of the rangers walked by holding a baby alligator and a baby crocodile to compare differences.

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It was neat because he said you would probably never see either animal that close to each other any other instance.

After we walked around a few museums of reptiles and whatnot, we decided we would go pick up some lunch. We stopped at a small Native American restaurant named “Osceola’s” and had a bite to eat.

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The culture of the restaurant was great and the staff was so very friendly. We finished up quickly and ended up two miles down the road at a restaurant called “Miccosukee” in order to get some gator bites.

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It was my last goal of the Everglades and I really wanted to get some for us to try. We stopped in and got a small appetizer of the gator bites to go. It tasted so good, like chicken, but much chewier, and great with tartar sauce mixed with something else.

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Finally it was time to hit the long road home. Almost the entire road out of the Everglades, for about an hour, was full of alligators. There were so many of them just chilling on the side banks by the road. It was crazy. I could have counted more than I did beforehand actually taking a tour in the Everglades.

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We got home and we did what we wanted to do the whole time. There’s nothing like the love of your pet and thanks to our kind-hearted neighbors, this trip was possible. We were glad to be home but up until this morning I really want to go on another trip so we’ll see where the wind takes us next. We had a wonderful time enjoying each other’s company, exploring new places, trying new things, and just enjoying another year spent married to each other.

Stay tuned for my anniversary piece for him, my 2015 piece, and my next Spontaneously Yours, Sunday post and thank you for reading! I would recommend most of what I wrote about today, so take it upon yourself to visit some of these places as they are so full of creativity and nice adventures.

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Travel Bucket list check | Christmas Anniversary Trip Pt. 4: Key West

Part 4/5:

Saturday: December 27, 2014
Happy anniversary to us!

On the way to Key West from Key Largo, we saw a key deer! That was a nice starter for our trip considering all the panthers I was trying to see in the Everglades because of the “panther crossing: next 5 miles” signs. Also in one of the Keys, the island of Islamorada more specifically, we saw a giant mermaid. I squealed and squealed but we didn’t have time to stop on the way there. (We did manage to get the photo on the way back, even in the dark!)

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Our day spent in Key West was most definitely the best day and we had the most fun. I kid you, if I were to choose one of these locations to go back to, it would be Key West, Florida. It was gorgeous and I say this with the utmost emphasis. Our first stop was exploring the sculpture garden near the marina. There are some interesting things that go on here. I wanted to create the hashtag #crazyinKeyWest about eight times if I even used hashtags. Hubby, being the clown that he is, made some photo ops interesting, and even put his shoe on a statue with a missing shoe. (Fortunately, they were wearing the same shoes.)

Then we walked a few blocks down to see visit the Key West Butterfly Conservatory. There were butterflies fluttering everywhere, just gracefully floating in and out of people’s hair. I couldn’t believe it when I heard hubby yelling my name from where I was standing trying to take a photograph of everything, just to look over and find him standing there with a butterfly that landed on him. They weren’t exactly moving slow enough to land on anyone so it was a lovely graceful surprise. He carried it around on his belly until a leaf fell and scared it away.

A butterfly came close to landing on me while we walked along the path paved with luscious plants, plates of nectar and fruit, gazebos, and waterfalls with flamingos and small chicks. There were butterflies of all variations zooming in and out of trees, in the faces of the eyes gazing at them, and one even almost flew right in my face. I had to jump back because it startled me as I was snapping a close-up photograph. My favorite of the butterflies whizzing by were the morpho menelaus, or as I liked to call them, “the blue butterfly”. They were so beautiful but no one ever tells you how hard it is to take a photo of a butterfly.

Once we left, we were given small souvenirs and I was delighted with joy. They were just stickers but it was my favorite of the butterflies and I have something unique to put in my scrapbook! We hurried back toward the marina to catch the second departure of the snorkeling trip. We didn’t realize Key Largo and Key West were so far apart, so we missed our morning snorkel trip by minutes. We would have been on time if it hadn’t been for the parking.

We boarded a catamaran boat to head seven or so miles out to sea to the only living reef in North America and the third largest in the world at that. I again marveled at the color of the water. The further south you go, the more blue the water gets. It looked like ice blue Kool Aid. It was breathtaking. The ocean is my home so you can only imagine my heart beating out of my chest with admiration. The trip there was about an hour and we enjoyed complimentary drinks and listened to tropical music on the sun deck with each other.

Once we arrived, we loaded our equipment, and ascended down the “stairs to the sea” into the cold water of the ocean. The initial shock was “whoa, this is too cold and the waves are fierce. Are you thirsty? I bet you’re thirsty, drink all the saltwater you can!!!” That part wasn’t fun but once I got acclimated it was fine. Hubby headed back to the boat a little earlier than I did but I got my fill and went back, too. We both swam over to the large reefs and just floated trying to take in everything but water.

I saw large blue fish, the famous Dory fish, and other smaller schools just floating around me. I saw the coral swaying back and forth softly with every wave that went by and I even got pictures with my underwater camera. I have to get those developed but those will be added to the post once they do get developed.

The hour trip back was full of complimentary wine, beer, and margaritas. Somehow I managed to have more margaritas than I planned on and caught too many rays thus equaling a combined effort to leave me very loopy and quite possibly very drunk for the walk back to the car to change and prepare for our next adventure of the day.

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The whole walk to the Ernest Hemingway house and Museum, we found many chickens. As there are scattered dogs in Miami, there are chickens everywhere in Key West.

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I clumsily wandered through the wonderful author’s estate, gazing at his belongings, seeing his old literature, and reading cases full of his writings and scattered photographs of him. My favorite was staggering around his beautiful yard petting all the Hemingway cats that have taken up permanent residence there.

They even had their own Hemingway house! I loved this part because we used to have a Hemingway, or poly-dactyl six-toed cat, named Hemingway. We pet them and it was the happiest moment of the day.

By the time we finished, we went to the Southernmost point tip of the continental United States to watch the sunset. Cuba is only 90 miles from this point and it is all water from there. It is definitely a spot to stop at. It was absolutely beautiful and we sat there holding each other on our anniversary day. I even managed to steal a few sunset kisses. The sunset in Key West is seriously a staple to be at; it is so spectacular that so many people gather across the ridge of the islands just to watch.

When it finally got dark and we managed to escape the tourist lines, we decided to grab a bite to eat. It was time for the anniversary dinner finally and we were starving. We ran all the way from there to Duval street to get to Sloppy Joe’s and encountered some crazy things while doing so. I saw Darth Vader and another key incident which I will write about some other time, but refer back to #crazyinkeywest I mentioned earlier. It will fall there in that category. By the time we made it, it was so packed and we were way too hungry to wait so we walked back to the car and I told hubby to find a place and surprise me.

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He started driving and the secret was kept until we made it there. The reservation he made could not have been any better. He picked a place called “Tavern N’Town”. It was a very high-class restaurant attached to a nice hotel. When we arrived, we were seated at an adorable table-for-two revealing wine glasses for our choosing, and we were given fresh bread and butter to hold us over until our delectable main course came. I went with a bubbly champagne from Napa Valley and my love went with a Stone IPA. For our meal, hubby went with a full Tavern pizza which was made for a king, and I went with scallops and shrimp with yams, and vegetables. Both were so very delicious and I had never tasted anything like it before. As we kindly urged that we were stuffed and had no room for desserts, we waited for our check for a few minutes longer.

When our server, Maryna, came back, instead of giving us a bill, she handed us a plate decorated so beautifully with “happy anniversary” written in chocolate syrup with strawberries and more syrup, with a slice of key lime pie. We were so thankful for her and her service as it was so thoughtful and so amazing, that we wanted to take a picture of her to note an amazing person and never forget this experience. Her kind doings along with having key lime pie in Key West finished the night on such a wonderful note.

 

 

We headed back to the campsite and again the woman at the counter was so kind to just finish our business over the phone and leave our papers in the mailbox, so we could finish our paperwork there. This time we didn’t feel like setting up the tent again, so we put the seats down in our car and made up a lot of blankets and just slept in the back of our car. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too uncomfortable and still felt like camping, haha.

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Bucket list check | Christmas Anniversary Trip Pt. 3: Miami

Part 3/5:

Friday: December 26, 2014
If I had to narrow down the worst day of the trip, it would be most of our day in Miami. The aforementioned “small hiccup” happened to be a spot in my car where the exhaust pipe was practically burning a hole in my trunk space. The tail pipe/muffler had been off for a few days until we could figure out how to get it back on. It didn’t seem like there was anything going on until we noticed all of our belongings packed in the back were warmer than usual. Then we noticed that the plastic platform that goes over the carpet was warped and melted in one area. With my anxiety as bad as it was, I feared the absolute worst case scenario so we had to move everything into our passenger seats, wait another hour to get signal again, and get to a place within minutes so we don’t miss the cut-off time of a part we need to get ordered. Not to mention, we didn’t exactly plan for any expensive contingencies for parts, labor, tools, blah blah blah. We had just enough to do our trip and that was it.

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Despite the negative energy of the beginning, I couldn’t stop giggling coming into Miami because I kept playing songs from Pitbull (“Mr. 305”) himself, and LMFAO’s “I’m in Miami, b—-“. Its those little things, people!

We made the cut-off time, got our part, and then got to a place who dealt with mufflers and brakes all in an area we weren’t familiar with, stressed to no end, and it was raining the entire time. This was after hours of trying to get the part fixed ourselves, with tools, but the bolts were just too rusty to do anything. The surprise we got there was also no bueno but we had no choice. We didn’t know the exhaust pointed upward and without that part, there was no way to redistribute the heat to the end of the car.

After our eight hour delay, we managed to save the day and still have fun. Our moods were slightly dampened along with the rain, but the issue was solved and we could carry on. Not everything goes the way you plan for it and maybe it sprinkles the dust of a stress fairy but it is humbling and it makes you slow down. I was grateful we were even in Miami having our vacation, celebrating another year together, so I tried not to let it stop us much.

All the while, I got a strong taste of the Miami culture. There were stray dogs everywhere, people were interesting, and traffic was awful. On our way to the graffiti art of Wynwood, we came across a woman parking in a turning lane in the middle of the road to go into a place of business across the street. We also witnessed children on the main road in a buggy-type thing, and yet more dogs. I enjoyed being around the Spanish culture in each of the shops we had to stop at for our car, as they were friendly, and of course I’m married to a Hispanic so it is familiar.

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We headed down to the Wynwood Walls of Miami where walls among walls of urban graffiti art are colorfully displayed. Almost all of the buildings in this downtown area have colorful walls for about four blocks on all different side-streets and back-streets. There is also a collective garden area with a pathway you can follow to access a gallery of such. This is a must-see if you’re ever in the area. The artists who poured their sweat and spray paint into these walls are on a whole new level of talented. We walked around for an hour admiring the colors and creativity of the walls, doors, and even people just out and about taking photographs. I witnessed people preparing for dance numbers, people posing in intense upside-down positions, posing in extreme yoga poses, and so on. We stopped for some caffeine for hubby and I got some tea, then we left after seeing all the walls had to offer.

We ended up in the white sand of South Beach in Miami Beach. Living on a beach in central Florida makes me acclimated to the culture and crowds but one thing that is different is how blue the water is. I thought our beach water was gorgeous until I ended up in Miami. The water is a blue-green almost baby turquoise and the sand is not as fluffy, but still just as white as ours back home. I couldn’t stop adding to the depth of the saltwater with my drool and happy tears when I dipped my toes in the water, it was that beautiful. The city is so much bigger than ours and you can see the city skyline as you’re coming over the bridge to the beach. It is quite mesmerizing.

After strolling the beach at sunset and drawing in the sand a little bit, we headed back to the restaurants and bars near where we left our car. That was after the insult to injury event occurred before we even made it back. I almost lost my phone for good so naturally, hubby takes off sprinting where we were last sitting by the beach, and thankfully found it. If it hadn’t of been dark, it might not have been there.

We came to “Tequila Chica’s” and ordered a couple of drinks. We didn’t have time to settle for food before our parking expired, so hubby got a beer and I got a monster sex on the beach. I actually didn’t mean to get one that big as I was most definitely drunk trying to finish it within 25 minutes. It was so good but there is a blank spacing of events leaving Miami and heading into the Keys for our campsite.

We finally made it to Key Largo on what seemed like a lifetime of a drive. It was too dark to really tell what the campsite looked like but there were no mosquitoes, clean and updated bathrooms with hot showers, and a laundry facility. Our tent site was provided with a concrete platform, an electric station, and the staff was so friendly and lenient, especially if we had to get in late.

We grilled some chicken dogs as quietly as possible since we were using someone else’s grill and it was almost “quiet time” in the park. We had no other choice since we couldn’t find any of the other grills. Our “no-igniter-fluid” needed coals wouldn’t light without it so a couple of kids brought us some fluid they found. It was so kind of them.

The same thing goes for the people who set up their tent next to ours. They arrived late too and offered so many things to us to help us better, such as lights and even moved their entire tent set-up over one for us to be in the “right spot”. It was a father with his boy and mother in the Boy Scouts so it was just refreshing to experience some kind folk.

 

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Travel Bucket list check | Christmas Anniversary Trip Pt. 2: Florida Everglades

Part 2/5: * Email Only: Follow link for awesome photos. *

Travel list:
Florida > Everglades > Check!

Thursday: December 25, 2014

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Merry Christmas! After sending my fifty “Merry Christmas” texts, we packed up and shipped out again. This time our destination dropped us in the Everglades, the famous National Florida Everglades. We actually had a lot more fun that one would have thought in a million or so acres of swamp flooded with alligators. Oh did we see alligators, all right.

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We stopped at the Shark Valley entrance of the park and rented a bike for an excursion to Shark Valley Tower. This is a must-do activity for anyone traveling to the Everglades. Overall, it was a 15-mile bike ride with a large observation tower half-way. On the way there, you are pretty much just with your party. Hubby and I ditched the crowd and went at our own pace. Of course that means stopping every two feet to take a picture of something because you know that’s how I am.

Scattered along our path were thirty-one alligators. 31!!! We saw so many and surprisingly they are not mean creatures. Of course they could eat your face off if you bother them, but if you don’t approach them, they really don’t want anything to do with you. We were feet between these giant reptiles and most didn’t even flinch. The alligator will just eat, sleep, and reproduce.

The best part of seeing alligators was seeing baby alligators. We saw one sunbathing but quickly fled into the water when we got nearer as they are lower on the food chain and are taught to be very protective until they grow full-size.

Once we arrived to the tower, we parked our bikes and went up a concrete spiraled pathway to overlook miles and miles of the Everglades. I made about one-hundred Lion King references by continuously repeating

“Everything the light touches is our Kingdom.”

I’m not joking. I couldn’t stop saying it, especially from our view once we reached the top. We marveled at the breath-taking views but then eventually had to go back down and finish the last leg of the bike ride. We packed a bag of chips and some waters in the bicycle baskets provided for our way back. When we arrived at the bike parking lot, we come to find our “closed” bag of chips, that were in fact buried under a hoodie, were staining the black asphalt of the road. The bag was completely ripped open and scattered. Turns out crows can see through articles of clothing and really like kettle-cooked salt and vinegar chips. Hubby began crushing every single chip on the ground so the crumbs were now sawdust because since we can’t have any, well neither can they!

Jerk birds.

There were nice birds though. The graceful and majestic great blue herons, snowy egrets, and the hairy white ibis. Watching them walk around and fly away in the wind was no sight you can reproduce unless you’re right there.

The other nature and wildlife besides the gators and birds were a sight to see indeed also. I saw a few turtles, some snakes, and this absolutely beautiful flower. This is the yellow thistle, cirsium horridulum. I had to shield some of the sunlight away so the lavender color of this wildflower could truly be absorbed from what I saw with my own eyes.

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Our trek back was intensified greatly. We rode our bikes on a very windy day so getting there was no problem but biking opposite of the wind was a resistance like you would not believe. Plus we were then on the other side of the loop where the area could be compared to one-hundred thousand bristles of a brush, instead of marshy wetlands, thus not as many alligators as the first 7 miles. I did however see skeletons of some snakes and I saw one live snake.

We finally made it (felt like we weren’t going to because of the wind and hunger) but we felt so accomplished. After we put a little something in our belly, we headed to our campsite. Mind you, this area is completely shielded from cell reception so if you need to use your cell phone, good luck! It was the closest to real camping we had ever done. Just me, my husband, and the wilderness. It was bliss minus a slight hiccup in which we needed to research something about my car and had no service.

The campsite, the Flamingo, was about an hour into the park. You couldn’t just leave if you needed to go to the store. There was a small store and restaurant in the park a mile away but being that it was Christmas day, if you needed anything to start a fire around 6:00 PM, you were out of luck. We ate lukewarm raviolis but it was quite all right. The campsite was nothing special but I liked how far away we were from everyone else. We were on the edge so we were practically right up against the wilderness.

It took us a minute to even find our campsite because the visitor center closed thirty minutes prior to our arrival so we had no way to ask. We couldn’t look it up on our phones and we couldn’t call anyone. A very loud, kind visitor also needed help so she definitely banged on the door and got someone who gave us both answers. He wasn’t very happy, I’ll just say that. When we found it, we encountered an “are you for real? moment”.

The man running that side of the campground told us to circle the loop quickly then come back to tell him what site he wanted.

Upon coming back, he immediately asked us if we had a reservation with a large smile and we kind of looked at him as if he were joking. He replied with,

“I see so many people coming in and out of here in a day.”

However, we were just there five seconds ago and it was about to close, so there were only two or so cars coming in. He then said,

“I’m sorry. I should have remembered you by the beautiful woman you have with you.”

Meaning me! By the time we set our tent up and figured out we literally had nothing to do at 6:00 PM, we almost decided to go to sleep. We were exhausted, we had no wifi or cell reception, there was going to be no fire, it was dark, and well you can see where I’m going with this. We ended up hanging my half-dead tablet on the roof of the tent and started watching the only movie I have on there. Perks of Being a Wallflower it was that night. It eventually died maybe 25-minutes into the movie, so we got creative. I remembered I had my book and fetched flashlight meanwhile hubby played Pokemon on his DS, that would soon also die.

Eventually we fell asleep together to the sound of crickets which is one of my favorite things about camping. Then we woke up to the sound of crows, as if they were throwing a raging party at 6:00 AM, which is one of my least favorite things about camping. I had to pee since the night before but didn’t want to go to the bathroom alone (he was sleeping at this point). I felt like my bladder was going to burst by the time I woke up, so we finally went to the bathrooms because we had to shower anyway.

The mosquitoes are no joke in the Everglades. They are huge, vicious, and everywhere. Each one I smacked had blood caked into their abdomens thus leaking onto my ivory skin. hordes of mosquitoes in the shower, hordes of mosquitoes in the car, in the tent — everywhere! No lie, I had to drape a towel over my arms and keep moving outside the bathroom, waiting for hubby to finish in the shower so I could, since he had our toiletries bag. I didn’t think I would be there when he got out, as they were eating me alive. After racing through my cold shower, we packed up and headed to our next destination.

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Travel Bucket list check | Christmas Anniversary Trip Pt. 1: Fort Myers. Post-Vacation is always so depressing.

Part 1/5:

Since by the time I finished this post, I ended up with almost 5,000 words, I am going to break this post up into five parts for each day we were gone.

I didn’t expect it to hit me like an oncoming train. The shock of going back to normalcy started to set in after receiving so many slobbery kisses and furry cuddles from my pets. That was really the only thing we missed the entire time being home, and of course a comfortable bed to sleep in, but it wasn’t the top of my concerns.

The trip my husband and I took for our fourth wedding anniversary and Christmas was paradise. We had so much fun and I already miss it. I have so much to write about, so let’s hope I can make it that far without drifting off into a daydream.

Wednesday: December 24, 2014
The first evening we spent our time in Fort Myers, Florida. We broke our drive up into two-hour segments for each day so it wasn’t a seven hour straight shot. The first night was the only night we stayed in a hotel but it was such a nice hotel. The Hilton Garden Inn was scripted with cute garden quotes and there were photographs of flowers planted on every wall. We spent a low-key day just relaxing and spending time together on Christmas Eve. The room was very comfortable and the staff was friendly. The second we walked in, we were introduced to complimentary cookies, citrus water, and chai tea. After our first set of driving and motionless sitting in the car, this was a nice treat to start our evening to. We were exhausted so we pretty much only watched TV and ate our microwave dinner. I’m not kidding when I say we had like eight corn dogs, not each, but still. Then we fell asleep together and prepared for another day.

 

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Bucket list check | St. Augustine Adventures

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Prepare for three checks off of the bucket list, one check off of the travel list.

St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest city in the United States of America. The culture and history dates back to the 1500s and it slam full of Spanish culture which hits close to home for my husband. He used to go as a small child and I had never been, so we figure it would be a nice way to bring November into the year. Little did we know that the weather would be perfect for a beautiful fall adventure in a new city.

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