Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 5: Wild Night in Orlando and Frenchy’s on Dunedin Causeway

We punched the address of the Residence Inn in our GPS and as soon as we turned right onto 535, I knew where we were. This was the route we took when we lived in Windermere. And something about that really freaked me out. So when we checked into the Residence Inn, I was already having a bad feeling about this choice. Maybe we’ve stayed in to many Residence Inns on our cross-country moves, but they now remind me of what all of that entails. What had happened to my Margaritaville vacation?

To compound all of that, we had nothing with us – no meds, no toothbrush, no sleepwear, nothing for our cold. It suddenly seemed like a bad idea. But Rich was exhausted and he quickly got into bed. That’s when I became wide awake. I tried to sleep in the bed. I tried to sleep on the couch. But something about all of this discomfort was keeping me awake. Eventually, around 2 a.m. Rich awoke, too, and we decided to hid the road. He said he’d slept enough to feel able to drive us back to Clearwater Beach.

It was a very quiet drive and really quite beautiful when we approached Tampa all lit up night. It was a very familiar feeling after living there for a few years. What a relief to return to our beach cottage, though. Disney property is fabulous and we would have been much better off if we’d stayed on-property if we could have found something available. But we did keep our Elite status for next year so maybe it was worth staying over, especially since that’s what allowed Rich to rest up enough to drive us. I really don’t think I could have.

We arrived back at the cottage at 4 a.m. and slept until 8 a.m. Then we had coffee and cereal. We showered and dressed. I really didn’t think we’d get up and go anywhere again this day. But we decided to drive to the Dunedin Causeway and have lunch at the Frenchy’s Outpost there. We put our name in and the wait was short. It was a beautiful day and people were sitting inside and outside enjoying lunch on a weekday.

We chose to sit inside – it was just too bright outside and we liked the atmosphere inside. Rich ordered some kind of frosty drink in a bucket – lol! I ordered my usual Margarita. It was clam basket for Rich and my usual shrimp basket – what’s Florida without that?

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Then we drove onto the Causeway. First, we parked on the shady side, got out and took pics and video of the Causeway and then sat there enjoying the beautiful water. Then we switched to the sunny side and stayed in the car and watched the activity on the Gulf. It was just too bright and sunny out and we were still a bit tired from the night’s adventures.

Eventually, we headed back to the cottage and took a nap. We awoke around sunset, took some photos from the dock, returned to the cottage, ate the leftovers from Pearly’s Beach Eats, sipped wine, talked, and went to bed early.

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Thanksgiving in Margaritaville: Day 4, Part 2: Disney Springs and Wilderness Lodge

At around 2 pm we left the island via 60 on to 275 to 4 to Orlando. We were anxious to get our first look at Disney Springs. Honestly, we weren’t that impressed from all the videos we’d watched. It just seemed like a lot of chain restaurants from elsewhere stuck in a new outdoor mall on Disney property. But in person, well, we kept saying “Wow!” Surprisingly we were impressed.

The garage parking wasn’t as bad as we feared, but we were disappointed that the Marketplace area parking was now valet only at $20 a pop. But the Christmas decorations and music really added to the atmosphere. Finally, “Downtown Disney World” had a vibe similar to Downtown Disneyland.

We crossed over the new bridge and bought a McQueen ornament at the Christmas store and walked around the new Springs area. Tempted to try some of the new snack options but had. 5:40 ressie at Artist Point.

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We retrieved the rental car, drove past the MK gates, and on to Wilderness Lodge. We parked with the regular people (no Tables in Wonderland/no Valet) – lol. We admired the Christmas trees and music and outside grounds and had to stop for a glass of something at the Trout Pass Bar.

We so wanted a cocktail but ended up getting a glass of Cab because it was getting close to our dinner ressie and was conscious of having to drive all the way back to Clearwater Beach that night. We had a blast talking and laughing with the CMs and other guests. What a moment! It was all very exciting! We both had big grins on our faces.

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It was soon time for our reservation and we were seated along the side at a table for two in an area we’d never sat in before. We really liked it – it was quiet and private. The meal was delicious, of course, and Rich will write up a separate post about that. But here are some pics. We also took video and I’ll try to upload some of those later.

Then we walked out to the boat dock and boarded a boat to Ft. Wilderness via the Contemporary. Beautiful night!

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We walked around Ft. Wilderness a bit and I did my usual tetherball thing. But we were a bit disappointed that our regular stops at the gift shops were a bit of a bust. What happened to all the merchandise? It just seems like it’s mostly kid stuff and not much as much there. We felt the same way about the Wilderness Lodge gift shop, formerly a huge favorite of ours.

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It had been a long day and a long drive, especially with Rich having a cold. He really didn’t want to have to turn around and drive all the way back to our island resort on Clearwater Beach. We ended up making a bad choice, but I’ll save that story for the next post.

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 4: Part 1, A Bit of Hawaii

We took notes each day, or at least we thought we did, but it looks like we missed some days. So I don’t really remember what exactly we did this morning other than breakfast and coffee and walking over to Pearly’s Beach Eats for lunch. We’d planned to bring something back to the cottage and eat there before getting ready for our big day in Orlando.

I do remember finding the shortcut so that “Beach Eats” was only about a block away. We also finally saw the CVS we’d been told about. When we first arrived in the dark, we could only see the two-story Walgreen’s – CVS is now hidden behind the big parking garage that’s being built – that will really change the casual feel around here of being able to walk everywhere without worrying much about car traffic.

So we walked up to the order window at Pearly’s (I like to call it “Beach Eats” because of the big sign that says that), and when we heard the music and saw the tables and people enjoying their lunch alfresco, we decided to stay and eat there, too.

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Rich ordered our food and I picked out a picnic table, passing by the surfboard table because the chairs looked too uncomfortable – lol!

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While waiting for our food, we heard Iz singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and we were immediately swept away to Hawaii. I felt so very much at home in this moment.

So, here’s the video I posted earlier.

I had the beef Baja Bowl and Rich had a beef and hash brown Boss Burrito and we had Coke and Diet Coke to drink.

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Our meals were rather large so we took the leftovers back to the cottage, took our showers, got dressed and left for Orlando at around 1 or 1:30 p.m.

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 3: Sea Critters and the Beach

This morning we had breakfast in the room: coffee and donuts for Kathy and coffee and banana nut muffin for Rich. It was cold but we bundled up and walked over to dock to take pics and video.

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Originally, this was going to be Orlando day with dinner at Artist Point but we realized we needed a beach day before we took off for Orlando so we rescheduled it for the next day.

We then showered and dressed and drove to John’s Pass for lunch but changed our minds and continued on to Sea Critters. It was a beautiful day, but had a bit of a detour on the way due to some road construction.

We sat outside and took pics and video of the beautiful day in Tampa Bay and the people arriving/leaving Sea Critters by boat.

And then we  ordered drinks and lunch – Mai Tai for Rich and Margarita for Kathy. Rich ordered the Blackened Grouper with rice and beans and Kathy ordered her traditional Florida Shrimp basket with fries. We shared a slice of Key Lime Pie with caramel sauce, which was delicious.

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We then drove back to the resort for a nap with our daily stop at Walgreens for more snacks and mouth wash and Halls for Rich’s cold. When we woke up, we revived ourselves with a soda and chocolate squares. Then we drove to the beach to see the sunset and took some pics and video.

It was really freezing out and by now it was totally dark. My light Princess Cruises sweatshirt was not enough to keep me warm so we popped into a gift shop and I got a thicker sweatshirt with hood that said, “Clearwater Beach” on it. We also picked up a postcard for Rich’s parents. They used to come down to Clearwater Beach every winter when they were living in Massachusetts.

We stopped in at Ron Jon’s and Rich got a T-shirt. We passed a musician and he was playing his guitar and singing his heart out in the cold. I asked Rich to offer something for his tip jar and when he did, the guy’s face lit up in a huge way. He started talking to us about how tonight seemed even colder. I told him to “keep warm” and he thanked me for reminding him of that. It may seem like a simple encounter but there was something very spiritual about it that’s hard to explain. But now I think I know what Father Philip means when he says that you “see Christ in the poor.” Before I just thought it was those crazy Catholics (we’re now Byzantine Catholic – lol!). But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since then.

Then we stopped by this walk-up place that said “Beach Eats” and grabbed a menu for lunch the next day.

When we drove back to the resort. Once the weather warms a bit, we hope to walk to the beach because it really is only a couple of blocks away from our resort.

Rich had leftover pizza and Kathy had crackers and cheese with our wine.

We stopped to check in with each other’s reactions to being in Florida again. It was fun but freaky at the same time. Some parts felt like home and other parts didn’t feel like home at all. We knew this week would be a roller coaster ride and we probably wouldn’t really know how we felt until about a week after we were home. Still, it was fun to talk about.

We were looking forward to Orlando the next day. Maybe Orlando feels more like home because we’ve lived there twice and the most recent.

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 2, Part 2: Tampa

After touring our old neighborhood of Grand Oaks, we then drove back on 54 to 41 and up to Connerton. This was the newest community being built and we wanted to see a “New Jersey” plan Lennar was building up there. William Ryan Homes also had a Juno plan we were interested in. We feared this location would be way too far north and it was just as bad as we expected. It was a very nice community but located in the boonies. And the goofy salesman didn’t have a model of the plan we wanted and tried to sell us one we did not want.

Then we drove down 41 to Dale Mabry, right on Linebaugh to Westchase where we had lunch at Tijuana Flats, one of our favorite standbys in Central Florida. As soon as we walked in the door we heard “Viva Las Vegas” playing on the sound system. Isn’t that wild?

Kathy stopped in at the restroom and Rich ordered Dos Tacos, beef and bean, for Kathy and Carnitas Burrito for him. Coke and Diet Coke to drink. We sat outside and enjoyed the Tampa weather.

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After lunch, we headed back to our beach cottage via Tampa Road, pass our Palm Harbor apartment to get back to 19 and 60 to Clearwater Beach. It was so much fun visiting our previous homes – we’d so longed to see them again. But it did feel a bit like watching a movie – something from the past and not the present or future.

After a nap, we drove to the beach and watched the sunset. It was quite chilly so we had to bundle up but it was a beautiful evening.

Next we stopped at Walgreen’s for more snacks and supplies. Dinner was crab sushi with siracha for Kathy and a beef and cheese sandwich for Rich. We enjoyed sipping our Cupcake wine and talking deep into the night.

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 2, Part 1: Tampa

Today was the day I’d been looking forward to: driving to New Tampa to see the brand new home we’d built in Grand Oaks. We’d found the house on the internet when it was recently for sale and were shocked to see it was now painted blue. We were sure that color was against the HOA back then but maybe they eased up on the restrictions. The worst part wasn’t the blue because it really was a light blue but the dark blue stripes on the house. We wanted to see it for ourselves. This would be the first time we’d been back since we sold it 10 years ago!!!

Rich made us some coffee and we ate some pinwheels for breakfast and then told Susan about our backs and the bad bed. Thankfully, she was able to accommodate us in a different room, even moving another person around to make it happen for us. This resort is the second highest rated in Clearwater Beach and people rave about the management. Susan is terrific! So we moved our stuff to the new room before heading north for our day’s outing.

We drove 60 to 19 to 54, past the Suncoast on to the Grand Oaks turnoff just east of 75. What really occurred to us is how far everything was. We’d remembered it differently. It was all so rural! Guess we’re used to being close in with desert surrounding us now. We then recalled how far shopping was. It was around 5 miles to the closest grocery store, restaurants, church, and gas station. Here we have shopping right outside our gated community, yet it’s not crowded.

We were very excited to drive around Grand Oaks. It all looks amazing still. We loved that community and could never find one quite like it in the Orlando area. If we had, maybe we would have stayed back then.

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The house with the new blue trim – ick!

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We couldn’t believe how tall the palm tree had grown.
We remember decorating it for Christmas that first year and Rich trimming it every now and then.

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Neighbors added a front screen to the entryway.

We walked around hoping to see our neighbors out so we could say hi but it was a bit cold and windy the first two days we were in Florida. We took pictures and video and I could see us living there again, even if in a different house.

20th Anniversary of Our First Trip to Disneyland Together (#FlashbackFriday)

Our 20th anniversary continues with remembering our first trip to Disneyland together. As I might have mentioned a time or two, I grew up near Disneyland (saw Walt in the park and even watched Disneyland being built), and Rich first went there with his family when he was six. They came all the way from Delaware. After he moved out to the San Francisco Bay Area after college, he went to Disneyland a few times with some friends.

So in October, just two months after our wedding, Rich and I were snuggling together on the couch in our Redwood Shores apartment, and he was reading a brochure. He showed it to me and said, “How would you like one of these?” What was it, you might ask. It was a brand new Mustang.

Of course, I said, “Yes!” pretty much the same way I said “Yes!” when he proposed – lol!

So we bought the new Mustang and decided we needed to take it on the open road. South on I-5 would be the perfect place to drive a new Mustang.

mustangFor some reason I can’t remember now, we planned to go to Knott’s Berry Farm. Maybe because of the stories we’d told each other about how that’s probably where we’d met on his family trip. Why not Disneyland? I have no idea now. Maybe we were looking for a smaller outing on such a last-minute trip.

So, here we were, blasting down I-5 when Rich asks, “Can you go all the way to Southern California and not go to Disneyland?”

“Yes,” I lied (why, I do not know).

So Rich said, “Well, I can’t.” lol!

“Me neither,” I confessed.

So off we drove down I-5 and checked into our hotel near Knott’s Berry Farm. We started early in the morning with breakfast at Mrs. Knott’s. Somewhere we have a photo of Rich all dolled up in a pink boa onstage with the Calico Saloon girls. That’s when I realized my new husband was a ham. Ha! Don’t know why it took me so long.

That breakfast filled us up until 4 p.m. when we finally had a small snack before heading off to Disneyland. By the time the park was about to close at midnight, we were exhausted but determined to buy Rich a Mickey watch. I don’t think we did, though, but he’d find one on another trip.

No wonder we felt like we should cancel our WDW trip this fall for a Disneyland trip. It marks the 20 year anniversary of that first trip together.

Besides, after two big cruises this year, we were trying to do it on the cheap with very few vacation days. A better-planned Spring trip will be a better time to go when we can do it right.

 

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Friday, Getaway Day

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 1: Disneyland

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 2: DCA

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 3: Dinner at Carthay Circle

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 4: DCA, Soarin’ & Sunday: Beach Breakfast

 

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 4: DCA, Soarin’ & Sunday: Beach Breakfast

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Anaheim
What: Kathy’s Birthday Trip
When: July 8-10, 2016
Why: Kathy’s Birthday

After that marvelous dinner, our first order of business was to ride some rides! Woo hoo! So we headed for the new “Soarin’ Around the World,” figuring if we only did that one, so be it. The wait time said 70 minutes but we got in line anyway. It ended up being only about 40 minutes, which was awesome.

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We chatted with the couple next to us in line and then we were seated with them on the ride vehicle.

We hadn’t expected to like it – after all, we loved Soarin’ Over California and while we were interested in maybe a Soarin’ Over Florida or a Soarin’ Over America, we weren’t that impressed with POV videos on YouTube.

The experience was so much better. We loved it!! We were seated close to the far end and it’s true about distortion in that location. But overall, it was great! And we all clapped at the same ending as “Soarin’ Over California.”

After Soarin’, we peeked into our favorite gift shop, Rushin River Outfitters to see if they had any more of those fluffy tigers. They didn’t.

And the we stopped in and rode Mermaid, which is so fun!

Then we headed for Luigis Rolickin Roadsters, the replacement for the Luigis tires ride we’d never been on. But this ride was fabulous and a great addition to Cars Land.

One of the CMs wished me “Happy Birthday” in Italian and so I said, “Grazie,” of course. 🙂

I was craving an ice cream so Rich suggested the Cozy Cone in Cars Land. It was dark by now and the setting was awesome! We love this place – really takes me back to my childhood.

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We took our cones to watch the Racers zip by – FPs were gone by this time so we had to give it a pass this trip, but it’s almost just as much fun sitting there and watching.

And then we headed back down Cars Land and caught some of the Disneyland fireworks over the Cozy Cone.

We’ve been wondering if we should get another Disneyland AP this fall and, perhaps, DCA alone would be worth the cost. Love this place!!

By this time we were ready to head back to the resort so, of course, we manage to time it with everybody leaving Disneyland after the fireworks. Oh no! And that meant, standing room only for the shuttle going back to our resort. But the ride was short, but longer than usual because the driver managed to hit every light. 🙂

We were exhausted when we climbed into bed but so happy that we managed to ride so many rides and have so many wonderful experiences in Disneyland Park and DCA. It had been a full but fruitful day. And the dinner was truly memorable. The only day was memorable.

The next morning we checked out, retrieved our car, and drove to Norm’s for breakfast in Huntington Beach. Then we drove south on PCH, took a drive around Newport Beach hoping for a parking place so we could take a quick walk on the beach. But the parking lot was already full at 10 a.m. so we hit the road and drove home.

What a short but fabulous weekend birthday getaway!

Sharing Contemporary Resort Memories

I stumbled across this video where people are sharing their memories of staying at the Contemporary Resort and it reminded me of the first time I heard about it.

My ex and I both worked for major printing companies in San Francisco. And his company was the vendor for Disney World post cards and other marketing material. Epcot was the big news and when I saw the artist drawings for Epcot, I knew I had to go. And to top it all off, the fact that the monorail traveled right through a hotel on Disney World property was the clincher – I had to stay!!!

We combined this trip with our very first cruise – on Carnival’s first ship, the Mardi Gras from Miami. That totally changed my life. And then we flew to Orlando after the cruise and stayed at the Contemporary for 3 nights. Back then it was a whopping $105 per night – lol! That was the most I’d ever spent on a room at that time. The restaurant at the top was totally out of my reach.

I was completely blown away by the Contemporary and fell madly in love with Epcot – it’s still my favorite park.

After that, we drove to Tampa and I wondered then what it would be like to live there. This was 1982 and Rich and I moved there in 2003 and stayed at the Contemporary for the first time together in early December. Before check-in, we shopped at the Christmas Store at Downtown Disney and when we checked in, we loaded all these special gifts on the luggage cart.

In 2006, we lived 2 miles behind Cinderella Castle and there was nothing like driving past the Magic Kingdom with Cinderella’s Castle all lit up at night, under the bridge where the boats slipped past silently except for an occasional “toot toot” (which we could hear from our townhome), and beyond the Contemporary.

Since that first trip, we’ve dined at several of the top-tier restaurants, but have yet to dine at the California Grill. We must rectify that at some point.

Carthay Circle Tour

We were watching some Disneyland videos on Youtube and noticed this one showing a tour of the Carthay Circle restaurant at DCA. We were so impressed with our Valentine’s Day dinner there last year, and we were anxious to take another look at it.

This gave me the idea to change the look of this blog to focus on my California history, my grandparents moving to California about the same time Walt did, touring Disneyland with my family and actually seeing Walt Disney strolling the park, and any other California historical piece I feel like blogging about. For example, here’s a photo of Walt in front of the original Carthay Circle in Hollywood.

 

Apparently, this tour takes place at 10:30 and lasts for about 15 minutes, which is pretty awesome because the only other way to see the restaurant upstairs is to actually dine there. So check it out:

A Tropical Florida Christmas

On one Christmas cruise before we moved to Florida, we found ourselves on St. Thomas on Christmas Day. The hilarious thing was when our van drove by and we saw Santa stumbling out of a bar. He waved, we waved, and our whole group laughed uproariously. Nothing like a tropical Christmas – lol!

When we first moved to Tampa Bay in November, 2002, we were surprised by the lack of Christmas decorations that were up around town. Of course, we were living in an apartment in Palm Harbor in Pinellas County and it retained the tropical beachy feel. We embraced it. For that true Christmas feeling, we visited Disney World. But for Thanksgiving, we dined at a waterfront restaurant, eating fresh seafood, and had a blast, celebrating so untraditionally.

So when we moved back to Central Florida the last time, we were living in a pool home about halfway between Disney and the beach (Atlantic Ocean side). We arrived in November, 2011 and so for our first Christmas, we decorated tropical style.

Here are a few pics of that time (including some of WDW).

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