Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Archive for the ‘Florida Musings’ Category

A Day at Disney World

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 8, 2018

We spent last weekend at Epcot in Walt Disney World for the Festival of the Arts.

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The weather cooperated as we strolled along, enjoying a concert midway. See the video here: https://youtu.be/nFNaTpRF_Is

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Art exhibits tempted buyers all along World Showcase. Here’s an art class in progress by the France pavilion. Disney art, Star Wars, and other subjects appealed to the crowds.

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We stopped to taste some of the marketplace wares. At the Pop Eats! Booth, we tried the Sous Vide Poulet Rouge Chicken Roulade with Apples and Sage, served with Warm Brie Fondue, Blueberry and Beet Gel, garnished with Apple and Beet chips. This dish was quite good. I would have liked to try the Almond Frangipane Cake layered with Raspberry Jam and Belgian Chocolate but was avoiding sweets.

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At L’Arte di Mangiare, I had the Sformato di Melanzane e Pomodori: Tomato and Eggplant Terrine with Fior di Latte Mozzarella. This was tasty and worthy of a main meal.

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Prices seem to have gone up so we didn’t try too many. Plus, my temporary crown prevented me from eating anything sticky, crunchy, or with nuts.

That evening, we headed over to Disney Springs and dinner at The Edison. This cool steampunk establishment has numerous dining rooms, some overlooking the lively bar. At night, one of the downstairs spaces turns into a cover-charge nightclub. I ate a bowl of creamy tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich (3 layers of bread). Husband had crab cakes. Next door is a new Italian restaurant we’ll have to try another time.

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Outside, we peeked at Enzo’s Hideaway around a curve and down a level from The Edison. You go through a tunnel to a bar and yet another cozy Italian restaurant.

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On the way back to the Lime parking garage, we saw a very unique rolling piano. See the performances here: https://youtu.be/nzomu4xLb5Y and https://youtu.be/kLYj5ev-zkk

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Royal Princess – The Food

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 20, 2017

The food in general on the Royal Princess tasted very good. Menu choices were average. For dinner, I enjoyed on different nights the prime ribs, filet mignon, tiger shrimp, and lobster tail. Vegetarian choices were available. We celebrated my birthday with a chocolate treat.

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Thanks to our travel agent Adam Wolf at The Cruise Web, we dined at the Crowne Grille, one of the specialty restaurants. Here I had lobster cake appetizer, mixed greens salad, beef filet with baked potato. Our table shared creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and freshly cooked asparagus. I had a lemon meringue tart for dessert.

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This venue hosted a British pub lunch later on in the voyage. It was fun to eat my favorite cottage pie with a trifle for dessert.

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The buffet seemed to have little variety and was very disorganized. Without any labeled station except for Pastry, you had to hunt through each aisle to see what was offered. The selections for breakfast or lunch didn’t seem to change much from day-to-day. We didn’t go here for dinner so can’t comment on that meal. Nonetheless, you could get plenty to eat whenever you came by. What I did like was that they opened for continental breakfast at 5am and breakfast at 6am. Since we’re early risers, this suited our schedules.

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Outdoors by the pool, you could get pizza or hot dogs and hamburgers. An ice cream station offered vanilla or chocolate swirls, but I thought it tasted more like gelato than a creamy ice cream. Or you could dine at an Italian restaurant for free on one of the lower decks. The International Café was always a favorite. Coffee drinks cost money there, but the food was complimentary.

An annoyance was the lack of drink stations at the buffet. There were a couple of spots that offered coffee, tea or water. Otherwise, waiters circulated and took your drink order. You had to order lemonade. Sometimes we waited and nobody came by. On other ships, these waiters wheel carts around to offer refills. Not so here. They served you individually which made for less efficient service. These same wait staff had to continuously clean the tables to make them ready for new diners. The ship should offer more self-serve drink stations and include lemonade. Also, there weren’t any take-out cups available for coffee/tea. Only ceramic mugs were available.

Food in the dining room for dinner was very good.

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The desserts were noteworthy, and I enjoyed fruit crumbles with vanilla sauce, fresh baked cookies, almond or chocolate croissants, Baked Alaska, and more.

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And don’t forget the tropical drinks!

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Coming Next: Ports of Call

 

Posted in Cruising, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Royal Princess – Ship Review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 18, 2017

Royal Princess
Nov. 30 – Dec. 10, 2017

This was our second trip on the Royal Princess. Here are my notes.

The Ship

The lifeboat drill took place in a lounge, which is much more comfortable than standing outside in the heat. At least you can relax while listening to the safety spiel.

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Besides the main swimming pool and deck area, there was an adults-only Retreat offering lounge chairs facing another pool. This is open to the air and not covered like the solarium on other ships. Or for a fee, you could enter the more exclusive Sanctuary enclave. Otherwise, it wasn’t hard to find a lounge chair somewhere on the ship. We prefer the shade so we would hunt down a quiet site. Being Floridians, we didn’t feel the need for sunbathing or sweating in the heat.

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On deck 7, there’s an outdoor promenade but it doesn’t go all the way around for passengers. If you want to take a stroll, you can go inside at deck 7 or use the sun deck.

As loyalty members, we appreciated the free Internet minutes and the nightly appetizers (mostly veggies or cheese and crackers, except for a shrimp fountain the last night) offered in the Club Six lounge, but we missed the free drinks and more generous hors d’oeuvres from RCCL and Celebrity.

Shopping was fun here, and the shipboard shops offer a wide variety of affordable merchandise. They had sales every night, although the sale items didn’t differ much. There is a logo store with souvenirs, clothing and hats; a cosmetics store, liquor and chocolate stores, an Effy fine jewelry store, and a costume jewelry store with items from Swarovski, Brighton, and more.

The port talk lady pushed the onboard shops too much. I stayed at her presentation for twenty minutes and then left when she hadn’t even started talking about the ports of call.

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We didn’t inhabit the casino, but it was a busy place. You could browse the photo gallery, attend art auctions, or stroll to the small library and pick up the Sudoku or trivia puzzles of the day. A selection of lounges gave us other places to go for a quiet drink or to listen to the music in the atrium. Plenty of other activities are available to keep you busy if you wish.

The Cabin

We had been upgraded from a balcony to a mini-suite cabin. The storage space was generous enough for all our belongings, and our luggage fit under the beds or upright in the closet. The closet was a good size with plenty of hangers. In this area was a tall built-in cabinet with a safe and more drawers.

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Separated from the main bedroom by a movable curtain, the sitting room had a full-size couch, a small coffee table, a desk with drawers and shelving, plus a chair. The balcony itself was tiny, barely allowing for movement outside, with two chairs and a small table. It wasn’t very inviting being so small.

The tub shower came with a rubber mat so you wouldn’t slip inside the tub. However, the European-type hose contraption was annoying. We would have preferred a stall shower with a fixed showerhead. There’s ample space for a lady to shave her legs. However, the flapping curtain—instead of a glass door—was unpleasant and unsanitary. You never knew who it might have touched last. Also, the drain was on one side of the tub and in the middle. You had to be careful not to cover it with the mat.

There were hot and cold water faucets but no cold water. We couldn’t get cold water for showering or for brushing our teeth. Sometimes the water was too hot even to wash my hands. Try brushing your teeth with burning hot water. Not fun. My guess is that this is due to a heat pump that makes hot water quickly available for showers. The bathroom sink area had adequate counter space and shelving. Bar soap, albeit thin, was provided along with liquid soap and shampoo dispensers in the tub/shower. Hand lotion was also available.

The blackout drapes were good, although some light from the balcony seeped in. Also, LED lights on the TVs shed light at night. The cabin was quiet and the room temperature just right. The bedding was comfortable, although the pillows were overly large. Our bed faced the wall with one of the TVs. Two nightstands come with one shelf each and a couple of drawers.

We had two large flat-screen TVs mounted on the walls, but these had no closed-caption option. If you’re hearing impaired, this is a serious downside and disrespectful to people with this problem.

Our cabin came with a mini-fridge that was handy for holding drinks. Since the staterooms did not offer a coffeemaker, I would get a mug of coffee from the buffet and refrigerate it overnight. I like iced coffee anyway so this worked for me. In the morning, I would sip cold coffee while getting dressed. It helped to wake my brain up until we went for breakfast.

The Entertainment

The musicians were excellent throughout the ship. In the atrium, you could hear a violinist, a talented piano player, or different bands playing either steel drum music or big band tunes for dancing. We enjoy a Caribbean band so appreciated their presence.

You could go to “Movies Under The Stars” that showed popular films by the pool. These same movies are available on your cabin TV the next day if you don’t feel like sitting out in the wind.

The main showtime theater is too small for the ship’s capacity. We had to get there a half hour early to get a seat. There are no second-story balconies like on some other ships. Seats are crammed in, and people ended up standing in the back.

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The production shows during our voyage were blah. One was downright boring where the performers wore black and sang mundane tunes. The third show was cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances.” No razzle dazzle here at all. Shows on the other nights offered single entertainers. These included vocalists and comedians. Again, not much variety. The only performance that stirred our blood was Tom Franek, a pianist who not only played concert-level music, but did it while standing on his head and putting his hands on the keys backwards. That was the only show with a “wow” factor.

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Coming Next: The Food

 

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Waterhouse Residence Museum

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 10, 2017

Built in 1884 for carpenter William H. Waterhouse, the Waterhouse Residence Museum at 820 Lake Lily Drive in Maitland, FL is available to the public for a peek into the late Victorian era. William and his wife, Sarah, had two children. Charles and Stella lived in the house after them, and soon Stella was left. She lived into her nineties and had no offspring of her own. It’s said her spirit inhabits her former bedroom, and she was happy when the curtains were opened at the window so she could look outside.

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I took a number of photos here but no orbs showed up. So whether or not this site is haunted is questionable, if you believe in such things. Our guide does, or so she led us to think. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is operated by the Maitland Historical Society. The grounds overlook Lake Lily.

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The house is decorated for Halloween in these ensuing photos. The front parlor is where they might have had a coffin viewing before a funeral. The sofa is called a courting couch because the young couple would sit at either end.

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The dining room table is set with lovely china. Note the hand in the center, and the skull inside a cage on the chest of drawers. The room even has a creepy doll. I really liked the lace curtains.

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Next we entered a sort of breezeway, which may have separated the kitchen from the main house. The house is constructed from pine, which is termite-resistant but susceptible to fire. This crank device was where you’d wash and wring out your clothes. That plunger-like device was called an agitator. Aren’t you glad we have washing machines today?

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Here’s the stove and an ice box next to our guide in the kitchen.

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Here’s the bedroom where Stella lived, sample clothing, the master bedroom, a desk with implements of the day. The framed wreath contains human hair. Victorian mourning customs (which you can read more about in my book, Died Blonde) involved preserving a hank of hair from the deceased in jewelry or other remembrances. More bedroom scenes and another parlor.

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Get tickets or see the hours here: http://artandhistory.org/plan-your-visit/tickets

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Epcot Food Festival Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 8, 2017

We spent another delightful afternoon at Disney World’s Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Here we sampled more foods from around the world. Hurry if you want to go. The festival ends Nov. 13.

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Active Eats in Future World West (near Coca Cola pavilion on the way to World Showcase)
Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese – $4.75 with pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, green onions, and chopped bell peppers. My favorite for this season!
Sweet Avocado Cream with strawberries, yellow cake, and streusel topping. $3.75

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China – Chicken Pot Stickers $4.00. You get two dumplings. Very tasty.

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Italy – Absolut Penne with penne pasta, shrimp, and vodka sauce. $7.00. The shrimp are good but too much pasta is filling.

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American Adventure Hops & Barley – Smoked beef brisket with pimento cheese served on garlic toast. $5.50. The barbecued beef flavor was good but the meat a bit overdone. The soggy piece of bread beneath the meat was unappealing.

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We had a better meal at The Boathouse in Disney Springs. I had the lump crabmeat with avocado appetizer (enough for a meal) and Richard had a giant crab cake.

 

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Hurricane Prep List

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 6, 2017

Here is a repeat of my annual Hurricane Prep List. You still have time to prepare for Irma.

 

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1. Buy bags of ice. Put on lower shelves in freezer, and later in fridge if power is out, so melting ice doesn’t flood the interior. Or freeze water in plastic containers ahead of time to help keep food cool. You can use old water bottles instead of discarding them. Turn fridge to coldest setting ahead of storm.
2. Buy bottled water, fruit juices, sports drinks, and caffeinated beverages that you can drink cold or at room temperature. Fill plastic pitchers and other containers with tap water and refrigerate for drinking.
3. Have enough food in stock. Fruits that keeps well: grapes, apples, bananas. Applesauce and other packaged fruits are good buys. Get bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can buy peanut butter in individual portions. Get snack packs with cheese, crackers, peanut butter, dried fruits, apple slices, or grapes. Canned chicken, baked beans, and nuts are good sources of protein. Canned tuna or salmon tend to smell more if there’s no garbage pickup. Or buy the tuna in water in a pouch.
4. Cook and eat the perishable foods in your freezer and refrigerator. Hard boil your eggs, and make sure you cook dinner early as the storm approaches in case the power goes out.
5. Consider boarding your pet at a kennel or make plans to secure your pet with enough supplies.
6. Back up important computer files. Send an email to yourself at another online address with your most recent files. Back up to a thumb drive that you can carry around.
7. Bring in all loose objects from outside.
8. Do the laundry.
9. Perform personal grooming essentials. It’s hard to shave and wash hair with no lights, and the water might get contaminated.
10. Fill gas tank in car.
11. Get extra cash to have on hand. ATM’s won’t work in a power failure.
12. Pay bills due or coming due.
13. Charge cell phone, tablet, and other portable electronics. Get a portable charger.
14. Prepare a list of repairmen and tree trimmers who might be needed.
16. Buy hand sanitizer and moist wipes in case the water is contaminated.
17. Have paper plates and cups on hand along with plastic utensils and paper towels.
18. Stock up on trash bags to clear away debris.
19. Place a flashlight or battery-run lantern in each room. Buy extra batteries, cooking fuel if necessary, duct tape, and plastic sheeting. Candles can be a fire hazard, and they don’t provide enough light to read by in the dark.
20. Put insurance papers and other important documents into a plastic bag for quick departure, or store copies in a separate location. Scan them into your computer files and backup to the Cloud.
21. Buy an emergency hand-crank radio that also comes with a light and a cell phone charger
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22. Learn how to open your garage on manual in case power goes out. Keep instructions handy.
23. Get a good paperback book to read.

Watch the weather reports at:
National Hurricane Center:
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
Navy Tropical Cyclone Page: http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/TC.html
National Weather Service, Miami: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mfl/
The Weather Channel: http://www.weather.com/
Broward County Hurricane Page: http://www.broward.org/hurricane/Pages/Default.aspx

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Shipwrecks and Suspense

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 19, 2017

Research Insights – Shipwrecks and Suspense

I like adding bits of history into my mysteries. In Facials Can Be Fatal, I mined our Florida past concerning shipwrecks. Did you know the waters off Florida teem with sunken vessels? Spanish galleon ships alone may account for up to forty wrecks off our coast. Millions of dollars in silver, gold, and jewels lay at the bottom of the sea, much of it undiscovered. But Spanish treasure ships are not the only ones sunken off our shores. Pirate vessels, slave ships, merchant transports, and Civil War ships plied these waters, too. Storms, shallow water, coral reefs, and pirates were responsible for many of the wrecks.

Shipwreck

Buried treasure has long been exploited in stories, and my book is no exception. An old family journal is recovered that hints at a nefarious past for a couple of characters. How does this relate to the present? That’s the key that my hairstylist sleuth must uncover. Marla and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, travel to Key West to learn more about Florida’s history from a reporter who has an interest in Dalton’s latest case. The victim is society matron Valerie Harper, who expired in the middle of a facial at Marla’s day spa.

Treasure Chest Reveals A Luminous Secret  Notebook

Here’s how the conversation goes with the reporter:

“The waters around Florida have seen ships flounder for decades, starting with Native Americans who used dugout canoes to travel up and down the coast. As civilization increased, ships and boats became vital to our development. Waterways were the most efficient means to transport people and cargo. Florida became a hub for maritime trade routes, but our waters can be treacherous. Hence we have a large number of shipwrecks offshore.”

“What about treasure ships from Spanish fleets?” Marla asked, shifting in her seat.

“My estimate is that maybe thirty to forty Spanish ships, dating from the 1500s to the late 1600s, lay at the sea bottom. The Spaniards would pick up gold, silver, jewels, and rare spices from the Caribbean islands and the South and Central Americas. Sometimes, they’d stop at a mint in Mexico before grouping together to return home. Or they’d gather in Havana and leave from there under convoy.”

“But not all of them made it.”

“That’s right. They’d get grounded on our reefs or floundered during hurricanes. For example, the Tierra Firme fleet set sail in 1622 from South America. Twenty-eight ships headed home to Spain. They ran into a fierce storm off the Florida Keys. Both the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita were lost. In 1985, Mel Fisher discovered the Atocha’s resting place and its treasure.”

“That’s amazing,” Marla said. “Those ships must have been heavy with all the gold coins, silver bars, and jewels aboard. No wonder they sank. Who owns the salvage rights to a sunken ship?”

“According to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1988, any historic find becomes the property of its respective state.”

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To accomplish my due diligence, I paid a visit to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, a fascinating attraction in Key West. Here you can see many of the relics recovered from the Atocha. Read about my experience and see my photos HERE. Shipwrecks and buried treasure will always provide fodder for stories.

Do you like a bit of history mixed in with your mystery? Does it enhance the story for you?

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For more details on Facials Can Be Fatal, CLICK HERE.

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Crane Point Museum and Nature Center

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 26, 2017

Located on Marathon in the Florida Keys, this 63-acre hidden oasis has nature trails, a tram ride, historical houses, and a nature museum hidden away near the highway at mile marker 50. We bypassed the orientation film to stroll down the tree-lined paths in a mile-and-a-half loop. If you’re not a walker, you can take the tram instead. We wanted to get in our exercise before the rain clouds moved in.

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We reached The Point at the end, where we came across a lovely water view of Florida Bay. Crane House is here, built for Francis and Mary Crane in 1954.

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We didn’t stop to view the Wild Bird Center that rehabilitates rescue birds as we have something similar at Flamingo Gardens in Davie. The Adderley House was the next attraction, built in the early 1900s for Bahamian immigrant, George Adderley. The white structure was made from tabby, a concrete-like mixture of sand, lime, seashells, and water. We peeked inside the bedrooms, the dining area, and the separate kitchen.

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From here, we headed back on the trail past the Butterfly Meadow and the Cracker House with exhibits and on to the gift shop and museum to cool down. The museum portion houses exhibits on native culture and marine life.

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Visit http://www.cranepoint.net for more information.

See all my Florida Keys Photos Here. Click on Photos and then Albums.

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The Road to Key West

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 21, 2017

On our way to Mystery Fest Key West, we took the turnpike extension south toward Homestead. Note the Mutineer Restaurant at the corner of SW 344th Street.

There’s a Starbucks in this vicinity too. From this junction, you head south. A long, boring stretch of swampland and mangroves follows until you leave mainland Florida. Or you can travel the scenic Card Sound Road that leads to upper Key Largo instead. Then it’s about a three hour drive to Key West. Right before the bridge to Key Largo is Gilbert’s Restaurant.

Traffic travels at speeds from thirty-five to fifty-five miles per hour through a series of islands. The scenic wonders will make you glad for the slower pace so you can enjoy the sights along the way. Allow extra time for pit stops and to fill your stomach. It took us five hours total from Fort Lauderdale. State parks abound if you want to stop for a swim or stretch your legs.

Key Largo is the first big island after you leave the mainland. Their inviting Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center just past Shell World is a good place to stop and use the restroom. Here also are a Publix and Winn Dixie, where you can grab a snack or use the facilities. There’s even a Starbucks, a rarity in the Keys. Full service restaurants include Fish House, Snappers, Skipper’s Dockside, Conch House, Island Grill, and Sundowners. We ate at the latter on our way home. Admiring a lovely view of the Gulf, we sipped creamy clam chowder in a bread bowl.

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Or you can take the scenic Card Sound Road instead and stop at Alabama Jack’s, if it still exists. Resorts on Key Largo include a Hilton and a Marriot. There’s a Botanical State Park at the north end. Or, if you like snorkeling or diving, check out John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park with an aquarium, glass-bottom boat tours, museum exhibits, nature trails. On the way home, be sure to stop at the Florida Keys Key Lime Products on the east side of the road past mile marker 97. Good place to pick up some last minute frozen Key Lime pies, lime barbecue sauce, salsa, and other products.

On Tavernier are a Winn Dixie, Dairy Queen, CVS drug store, Dunkin Donuts, Chevron and Shell gas stations.

Islamorada is a popular weekend retreat. Stop by Hooked on Books at 81909 Overseas Highway and browse the bookshelves. Numerous restaurants claim their fame here: Islamorada Fish Company, Marker 88, Island Grill, Hog Heaven, Pierre’s Restaurant, Wahoo’s Bar and Grille, and Shula’s 2. The Postcard Inn, Amara Cay Resort, and the Chesapeake Resort look like nice hotels. From here, it’s two hours more to Key West. There’s a Visitor Center if you need a pit stop. Tourist attractions include Theater of the Sea, a marine mammal park with exhibits, animal shows, beach, grill, gift shop; and a History of Diving Museum with exhibits and gift shop. Look for a Starbucks before Whale Harbor Channel bridge.

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Marathon has a Publix and Winn Dixie, Walgreens, IHOP, gas stations and fast food places, the Island Fish Company restaurant, along with another visitor center. There’s Crane Point Museum and Nature Center with historic home, nature trails, tram ride, gift shop; and a Turtle Hospital with 90 min. tour and gift shop. if you’re looking for places to explore. Further along on Grassy Key is a Dolphin Research Center. We made it to Marathon three hours after leaving home but traffic was slow on I-75 due to construction.

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Big Pine Key has a gas station if you need it.

We stopped for lunch at Boondocks Grille at Ramrod Key around mile marker 28 on our way south. This restaurant opens for lunch at 11am. They have good clam chowder, sandwiches and salads, and a nicer gift shop than most of the souvenir stores in Key West.

Pigeon Key has a visitor center and a Sunset Grille and Raw Bar.

When you hit Key West, you face Roosevelt Boulevard going in two directions. Heading to the left will take you to a bunch of hotels and Southernmost Point. This latter is Mile Marker 0 on our country’s east coast and is 90 miles from Cuba. The opposite direction will take you past strip shopping centers, fast food restaurants, more hotels, and into downtown.

Duval Street hosts bars, restaurants, and gift shops. During the day, stroll along and soak up the tropical ambiance. Visit Hemingway House, Truman’s Little White House, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, historical sites, and more. Take a ride on the Conch Train. Charter fishing, glass bottom boat rides, and various other boat tours are available. Or stroll along the Historic Seaport District for a number of waterfront restaurants by the marina. We’ve eaten at Alonso’s Raw Bar and Conch Republic at Harborside, and also Schooner Wharf. Here we saw a cook chopping up fish to feed to the sea life.

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At night, check out Mallory Square for street performers and a blazing sunset. Things come alive on Duval Street in the evening, when hordes of visitors ply the cafés and bars where live singers entertain the crowds.

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We recommend our favorite restaurant, Louie’s Backyard. This historic site faces the Atlantic Ocean and is a great place to enjoy fine dining. Prices can be expensive, but if you’re on a budget, just order an appetizer or share a meal. At the Upper Deck wine bar on the second level, you can get small bites if you don’t feel like a full meal.

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Come to the Keys to decompress. With its slower pace of life, it’ll help you relax. There’s only one negative. It’s hard to leave this island and return to reality.

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Pandora – The World of Avatar

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 6, 2017

We visited Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and set out to explore the world of Avatar. Our entrance into this magical land took us past a lounge that looked inviting.

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We skipped the new rides, not having fast passes and not caring to wait two hours in the standby line. It was delightful to stroll around and view the amazing flora and fauna. Disney did a wonderful job making you feel you’re on an alien planet.

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Mountains rise in the distance, past this floating masterpiece, while musicians welcome visitors to their land.

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Hungered by our journey, we entered the canteen where healthful choices tempted us. I had the chicken bowl with rice and vegetable slaw. Others in our party had cheeseburger pods or vegetable curry pods. My non-alcoholic drink, a Pandoran Sunrise, was green and tasted like melon juice.

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Inside the gift shop, you can buy all sorts of theme-related wares. It was fun to browse although we left with our wallets intact.

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It took us a couple of hours to stroll around. If you go on the rides, allow more time. You’ll still have the rest of the day free to explore the Animal Kingdom. I love the lush greenery of this theme park anyway, and the new addition adds to the allure.

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