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Posts tagged ‘Florida’

Be a Tourist in St. Augustine Florida – America’s Oldest City

I felt very fortunate to be able to visit St. Augustine, Florida. This is a city rich in history and culture. The locals here are proud of their status as the Oldest Established City in United States and are welcoming of tourist. Before we made the trip to St. Augustine, we searched the internet for things to do and “Pet Friendly”. We read on several sites that St. Augustine was an extremely dog friendly city, so we took our beloved dog along for the trip. However, we found that this was not necessarily true!

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We drove into the heart of downtown St. Augustine and parked in a public parking garage for the day. We walked through many streets of the downtown area on a self guided tour of our own making. There are many historic signs along the way and even more photo opportunities. The most notable historic part of our travels was Juan Ponce De Leon. His statue is in the heart of St. Augustine. It is a copy of the original statue located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Legend says it was originally cast in bronze from English cannons seized after the English reigned down on San Juan in 1792.

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Architecture

The architecture of the buildings are magnificent and the building materials I found fascinating. Much of the original town was built from Coquina. We saw many of these huge rocks along side the beaches in Central Florida but didn’t understand their significance. We discovered that this coquina is highly sought after in modern day as landscaping displays. But back in 1565 when the Spanish landed and began their occupation, this building materials was plentiful. Coquina (Coe-Queen-a) made great material for forts, especially for heavy cannon use. Due to Coquina’s softness, cannonballs were said to sink into it instead of shatter it or make holes in the walls.  The walls of the Castillo de San Marcos are made of Coquina and the first Saint Augustine Lighthouse was also built of it. It’s truly a cool looking rock comprised of millions of pieces of shell and invertebrates from the sea; all compresses together to create a type of concrete.

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History

St. Augustine received it’s name after a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church. It is said that the land was first sighted on August 28th and also played a part in naming. The Timucuan Indians where inhabiting this land when the Spanish arrived.  They were a people of many chiefs and several tribes spanning across central Florida and stretching upward into Georgia. The Timucuan Indians were politically savvy in that they got along with the Spaniards in many ways and were peaceful. But within a few short years of meeting, their population was reduced from roughly 200,000 to 50,000. The Spaniards brought with them a multitude of European diseases to which the Timucuan Indians had no immunity or resistance. By the 1700’s the tribe had been reduced to less than 1000 and within the first of the 19th century, they were gone all together.

St. Augustine is hailed as the oldest permanently occupied European City in the Americas and this city is so worth a visit. There is a plethora of history here and the landscapes are breathe-taking. We went to spend the day and take in as much as could – but due to having our precious pooch with us, we were only able to stay for about 4-5 hours before we left.

Not Truly Pet Friendly

I believe this city could be family friendly, but I wouldn’t recommend it as pet friendly. We couldn’t take our fur baby into the stores or other establishments on our visit. She wasn’t welcome at public restrooms, visitor centers, shows or museums we may have been interested in. We did find 1 pet friendly public park that she was welcomed to, but there were so many dogs there, it was not the best environment. We had a good time with her, but we could have explored so much more had we left her with a sitter.

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We ate lunch at a quaint cafe downtown that actually brought our dog a bowl of water and was welcoming. (See photos above)

The people passing by on the sidewalk were not as nice though. Rude is a better word…they were not pet friendly. We were asked to “Hold your dog so I can pass” and asked several times if she would bite. All I could assume was that there have been some seriously aggressive dogs brought into this town at some point. As in other historic downtown areas, there was much of the downtown area turned residential and the rudeness we encountered was from these residents.

I would give St Augustine a 2 out of 5 for pet friendly, but I would rate it 4 out of 5 for family friendly and accessibility. Most of the streets are easily walkable and there are ramps at every corner for strollers, wheel chairs and motorized scooters. (Had the residents we encountered been a bit more amicable, I would be inclined to rate 5 out of 5 for family friendly. Having raised 5 kiddos myself, I can tell you that these folks won’t be as nice to your toddlers or pre-teens either.)

Until next time, hang tight…

Chrissy

Exploring Tomoka State Park, FL

Tomoka State Park is located in central Florida on the east coast side. It’s only about a 30 minute drive north from Daytona Beach, 20 minute drive east from Destination Daytona (in Ormond Beach), about an hour and half drive from Orlando, 15 minute drive from Flagler Beach and is located just on the mainland across the Halifax River from Ormond By The Sea.

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Family oriented and pet friendly, this state park’s admission was $5 per vehicle or $2 per bicyclist or pedestrian for an all day stay. There are camping sites within the park and several great fishing holes. We didn’t enter into the camping area, so I can’t tell you much about it, but we saw a great many folks fishing all over the park.

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Gorgeous greenery, seasonal flowers and filled with palm trees of various sorts, this park is inviting and beautiful.  Large turnarounds are situated along the main gravelled (crushed shell) roadways. Well laid trails to hike are scattered about and there’s some wildlife to see. Large turtles call this park home as well as a stray alligator from time to time also. The turtles were particularly intriguing to our dog. They were digging into the soft sandy soil to conceal their eggs, so we didn’t get to see them up close.

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At the far end of the main trail there is a large tribute statue to the Tomoka Indians. It is weathered terribly and large sections of the statue have fallen off. The state of decay was sad to see, but it seems any money spent on the park has gone into the upkeep of the grounds – which were very nice. A restroom facility is located in the same alcove as the statue and there are several camping or cookout sections there as well.

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Visiting the Tomoka State Park was a delight for the day and gets a 5 out of 5 for family friendly and pet friendly. I highly recommend it! Click here to learn more about the park.

Adventuring onward….

Chrissy

The Scent of the Ocean

Each morning I awake and visit my old friend the coffee pot. After creating the juice of joy, I venture outside to smell the day. Immediately my senses are activated as I take that first deep breath of the outdoors. For the last 5 months, that deep breath has been a salty sort.

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The air breathed at the Oceanside is sweet when you come to love it. It grows on you. It is mixed with salt, natural musk, sand, and a hint of marine life. The breeze is constant from the sea. There’s peace, tranquility, and grace.

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To visit a beach is an experience, but to live here is different. There’s a unique oneness that develops as you give your senses over to something larger than yourself. Being no stranger to beach side vacations, I used to think I understood the Sea. Only recently have I truly tuned in though.

Almost everyone I’ve ever known who’s been to the ocean declares, “I want to live here!” Some people even begin to look at real-estate as they dream of one day moving. They have in there minds that living here would be full of relaxation and everyday spent on the beach. Smiling, watching kids play & bury each other in sand, and applying sunscreen over & over again while chilling with a sangria.

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Reality of living here though is much different. We seek out the places few tourist go and avoid the downtown tourist traps like the plaque. It’s not possible to go to the beach everyday. Some days the beaches are closed due to the massive rip currents that tear away at the beach line, other days it is too cold. (Yes, even Florida is somewhat affected by the weather.) On extremely windy days, which come often, it’s painful to walk on the beach as there’s sand in that wind. If you ever get beach side sand blasted, it goes a few degrees beyond exfoliation. But, even with these things being considered, I love it here.

The sun is different here (compared to the Smoky Mountains where I’m from). It hugs your skin from every angle even when you’re fully clothed. It penetrates your bones and brings back life. Sunscreen is a definite must as this sun is unforgiving on the skin. The elevation is very low, so there’s very little pressure bearing down against your joints. The low pressure also helps hearing as it is gentle on the ears. The air is always salty and every breathe is healing and savory sea flavored. The sweet smell of the sea life is present in every breathe. Vision changes here as well. It’s bright most days, but the eyes adjust acutely and vision improves.

Homeownership is a bit more expensive here with the local, county, and state fees/taxes. Home maintenance is a regular neccessity. The salty air eats away at all things man-made. So setting aside a maintenance fund (at least 1\2 your home’s value) will be an absolute requirement unless you are filty rich. In that case, enjoy yourself freely!

I don’t know if they really can, but it seems as though the island birds begin to know and recognise you. We have a dove that feels very at home with us and receive frequent visits from various cranes looking to eat our endless millions of earthworms. They come regularly, with no fear, perching atop cars and freely walk our neighborhood streets.

Time slows to a crawl. Each palm waves in the wind in slow motion and the locals move in the same rhythm. Annuals become perennials, fruit is harvested in the winter, and palmetto bushes bring medicinally juicy berries.

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The sounds of the ocean are loud & ever present. The waves crash in and out creating their own unique song. It is the sole sound of the night. There are no crickets. The toads & frogs are silent. For they cannot compete with the mighty ocean. There are no morning song birds with their gentle morning wake up call. They live on the main land or bayside possibly, but definitely not seaside. The ocean is jealous of all other sounds and pushes them away with its mighty strength & winds.

Life on the Oceanside is beautiful, peaceful, and calming when you understand the Sea – its power, jealousy, and fickleness. It’s unpredictablely majestic and magical…and it smell grows on you over time.

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Nicest & Most Affordable Vacation Rental in Ormond Beach, FL

Through Devine Providence we found the Nicest and most affordable fully furnished vacation rental properties in Ormond Beach, Florida. I wish I could tell you we were active Snowbirds & our trip was leisure, but alas we were traveling for work.IMAG6886.jpg

I knew that we did not want to be in a hotel, even though we enjoy those luxuries, we wanted to feel much more at home and we wanted to bring along our faithful dog. We needed a place to stay for a couple weeks & usually pet friendly hotel rooms are crawling with fleas & generally stink. To be respectful, we did ask for the furniture to be covered in sheets becasue we knew that our dog would shed a great deal and did not want the owner to be required to clean up all that shedding.

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We were blessed to find Miriam at Ormond Vacations! She owns 2 RVs that have been converted into stationary fixed homes in a very nice & well maintained RV park in Destination Daytona. Both of which are extremely clean, completely functional & cozy. For now, I’d like to tell you about unit 178 “The Knot”. This place is a Glamper’s dream! Not only is “The Knot” cozy, it’s also large pet friendly! If you’ve ever tried to  travel with a Golden retriever  or a lab, you know that not all places labeled as pet friendly  truly are.  Not only was our large pooch welcomed, the owner caters to pet lovers. There’s  special towels, bowls, and carpet powder just for your 4 legged friend, along with feeding & water bowls.

*Please keep in mind as you look through the pictures that I’m showing you this place as we “lived” in it. These are candid photos. I have blurred names and brands on some products or blurred paperwork for privacy.

This rental would be considered the size of a small home, but 3 times larger than a hotel room. Upon arrival, parking in the rear, you’ll notice this place stands out among the rest. The owner has paid attention to every detail from the finely manicured yard to the decorative parking spot. The back patio is inviting with a carpeted entrance & if you’re searching for privacy, you’ve found it here.

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Upon entry to the rear of the home you’ll find the mud room equipped with a full size washer & dryer. From this point there’s an entry into the bedroom or access to the living room area.

The living room is quaint with a comfy recliner, 2 end tables, a couch, & coffee table. The flat screen TV is mounted on the wall for convenience. This room leads to the dining room or outside to the screened in porch. For now let’s go outside 😉  PhotoGrid_1481815026988.png

The large screened-in porch has plenty of seating with a sweetheart bench, 4 patio chairs & a lounger. It’s quaintly decorated & there’s a table & television there as well. This table is where I did a lot of work on the lap top while watching the sun come up in the east. Sunsets are gorgeous here also! If you get too warm out there, you can turn on the oscillating fan to create a breeze.

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Going back in, enter the dining room on your right by going up 2 steps. The dining room area was one of my husband’s favorite spots. It’s largely spacious & beautifully decorated with a nautical ambiance. A cozy and comfortable loveseat is situated on one wall with a coffee table across from a larger television perched in the bay window area. In the kitchen area there’s a large table with 4 chairs across the way from the full size refrigerator. There’s no stove for cooking, but there’s a double eye burner, a larger toaster oven, toaster, large microwave, electric skillet, coffee pot and all the utensils, accessories, pots, pans, strainers, etc needed to cook a full meal!

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Leaving the kitchen, enter a hallway with tons of storage space with built in closets & drawers – which are across from the restroom.

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On the other end of the hallway, you’ll enter the bedroom. Large, yet cozy with a queen size comfortable bed. The bedroom has even more storage & is decorated mystically also.

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Long story short, this RV converted home is spacious, beautiful, well insulated, and priced much lower than any other vacation rental in the area. The owner is responsive, accommodating, and a valuable source of local information to make your stay the best possible! She genuinely cares that her vacationers have a wonderful stay & maintains one of the cleanest places around!

“The Knot” is also biker friendly, smoker friendly and as mentioned before – large dog friendly. It has cable TV service ready for your entertainment and Wi-Fi is available from CampLink.

I would recommend “The Knot” and Ormond Vacations to anyone looking for a vacation rental in central Florida, Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Flaggler Beach, or maybe even Orlando if the drive doesn’t bother you  This location is about a 1 hour drive to Orlando, 1 hour drive to St. Augustine, 1.5 hours drive to Disney, and only minutes from Daytona. If you’re interested in Bike Week or the Daytona 500, this is your best price!

More information  is available here.  By the way, incase you’re wondering, I have received no compensation from the owner of this lovely property. I just simply had to share this super awesome value for travelers on a budget and re-enforce that traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice luxuries!

 

Bucket List Bonanza!!

Item # 87 on my bucket list was to fly. I’d never ridden on an airplane before, and honestly didn’t think I would ever get the chance to. I crossed this, and several other items off my bucket list in less than a week. In early March of 2011 I was blessed to go on a paid trip to Orlando Florida. I rode on a small plane, connected in Atlanta, and got on a 757 to Orlando (or Kissimmee).

After arriving in FL, my friend & I rented a car & off we went to cross more items off the list! Item #90 was crossed off in a few hours. I saw a live horse race at the Tampa Bay Downs!!!

Next, we went to Clearwater Beach and I got to see the magnificence of God’s grace in the most beautiful sun set on the gulf coast! That was item #4 on my bucket list.

We were just getting started and I was already amazed! We left the beach and circled back to Derby Lanes, which was item # 36 on my bucket list – to see a live dog race. I made only a bet or two. I never knew it was so cheap go gamble, LOL. $2.40 and I was done 🙂 After admiring such beautiful dogs, we headed toward the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Item #47 on my bucket list was to visit a casino and gamble a tad. I really just wanted to see what the excitement was all about, but didn’t really care to play…until I saw the slot machines. I HAD to play then, that was item #48 on my list.  All things considered, it was a good visit and I only spent $20. I guess, I loved watching the others play and their excitement more than playing myself.

Finally, to wrap the day up, we went to the Hilton and checked in. That night, I crossed item #20 off my list – to send the night in a hotel. Remember, my life was very sheltered before & the things that were such fabulous experiences for me, many peoples experience daily.

Two days later, Item # 95 was accomplished – to dance in public. I have no idea how foolish I looked, but I had so much fun 🙂

On our third day, Item #51 was complete – go to Disney!!! We park hopped 4 parks in one day and It was phenomenal! At Epcot, I crossed item #9 off my list – eat authentic German good.  Man, it was delicious!! I also got to see a live concert. The Guess Who were playing at Epcot and this crossed item # 32 off my bucket list – see a live concert.</p

I also crossed item #91 off my list while at Disney – ride a monorail. Now, that's was special…

I honestly never thought I’d get to mark any of those items off, but I thank God that I did. The experiences were all I wanted, but I gained so much more in the memories.

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