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 ‘Travel’ Category

The Wedding Rehearsal

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 15, 2018

The wedding rehearsal was held at 11am on Saturday. Our bridal party assembled at the Treasury on the Plaza where the wedding planner took us step-by-step through the ceremony. It was a sobering moment as the reality of the wedding hit us. How would we remember all these moves when the time came?

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Our heads filled with instructions, we went to lunch at O.C. White’s Restaurant in their upstairs room. We had a delightful meal while getting to know each other.

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During our free afternoon, Richard and I strolled down St. George Street to browse in the shops. St. Augustine is always a charming town to visit with its distinctive restaurants, museums, historical buildings and attractions.

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Then it was time to rest in our room until the rehearsal dinner at The Floridian. Our private room upstairs was beautifully decorated, and appetizers were laid out on the bar. Mostly this was about connecting with close family members and getting better acquainted with members of the bridal party. Thanks to Es and Rick, our future mechutonim, for hosting this event. Anticipation filled the air. The big day would soon be upon us.

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Coming Next: The Wedding Day

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Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pre-Wedding Adventures

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 9, 2018

Our daughter’s wedding was magnificent. It’s hard to believe it is over. All that planning for ten months and then in three days, it was done. There’s relief that things went well mixed with regret that it’s past history, but we’ll relive the event through the photos. (This collage is representative of a wedding but is not ours.)

Wedding Collage

We checked into the bed and breakfast inn at St. Augustine that was designated for the bridal party. Here began the first of our Wedding Misadventures. This historic inn had no private parking area. You have to park in an assigned space at a lot several blocks away. To unload your luggage, you must hunt down a driveway on a street at the rear. We pulled into the wrong place and had to drive around the block again to find the proper loading zone. Our room was in a separate structure from the main building, where our daughter had booked a lovely suite. We had a room that needed renovation as the wall a/c unit blasted onto the beds. There was a long flight of steps up to our second floor room with no elevator.

The front desk sent a guy to help us with our bags. Then we backed our car out of the tight driveway and ended up scratching the passenger side. We suspect it came from a latch sticking out from a gate. Mishap #1.

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Friday evening, we had drinks in the cozy cocktail lounge at the inn and then got ready to meet everyone at Michael’s Tasting Room for an informal dinner. My husband flushed the toilet in our hotel room before we left. It overflowed and flooded on the floor. Mishap #2. We reported it to the front desk, who assured us they would get the maintenance man right over there.

We went to dinner and had a delightful meal with the members of the bridal party who’d arrived early. From left to right are the bride and groom. They are toasting with the groom’s brother (aka the best man) and his wife. And here are Richard and I seated with Es and Rick, soon to be our Mechutonim (i.e. relatives through marriage).

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Anxious about our room situation, we hurried back around 9:30. The front desk person said a plumber had been called, and he was still working on the toilet. We spoke to the man, who said the problem was in a pipe and he had to drill into the wall.

We were outta there. After speaking to the front desk, we spent the night at another hotel, planning to return in the morning. The inn refunded our night’s stay. We returned the next day and had a pleasant breakfast on the front porch. I had French Toast Peach Cobbler. That’s the best part about B&Bs – the morning meal.

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It’s a good thing we ate first, because here’s what we found in our room:

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Despite the clerk’s reassurance that the problem had been fixed and the maid would clean up, we checked out and booked two nights at the Hilton. Central a/c! Starbucks in the lobby! We were in heaven! We moved over all our stuff and were ready to face the new day.

Coming Next: The Wedding Rehearsal

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Museum of Science

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 12, 2018

We took a break and visited the Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It had been years since we’d last visited when our kids were young. The museum has two levels plus a gift shop, concession stand, and IMAX theater. We bought tickets to the exhibits only, bypassing the films and the flight simulator or Mars Rover experiences. There’s also an Everglades Airboat Adventure, which we chose not to explore since we’ve been on the real thing in the past.

We began our tour in the Florida Ecoscapes section. Here displays showed various South Florida habitats and some of the creatures that lived in them.

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An impressive aquarium section had colorful tropical fish and this spiny lobster. It’s a good thing the lobster and shrimp that I eat in a restaurant come without the heads and antennas or I’d lose my appetite fast.

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A section on prehistoric Florida had this giant replica of a sea creature whose only predator was the whale. An overenthusiastic young tour guide told us how its cartilage structure instead of bones meant mainly teeth were found to prove its existence. He may have said the creatures died off due to lack of food during a mini-ice age, but I was only half-listening to his rapid-fire talk. He was very knowledgeable if you wanted a thorough explanation of the era.

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The otter section is nicely done, with a rocky waterfall that gives the animals room to play.

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Naturally there’s a hurricane section where you can see a water spout form and watch news broadcasts about various storms. Downstairs also has a kids section that looks like fun for smaller children.

Upstairs are the flight simulators and IMAX theater. Models of aircraft cockpits tempt you to sit in them and push buttons to allow you to virtually cruise down a runway. I ended up blowing up my aircraft as we veered onto the grass.

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There’s a health section where you can read about various bodily functions and medical robotic techniques.

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An area with brain teasers could keep you occupied all day trying to fit the jigsaw pieces into a square shape and doing other tasks. The biggest exhibit was on The Science of Archimedes, a Greek scientist eventually murdered by a Roman soldier. He designed a great many apparatus that were replicated here.

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A brief area with rocks and minerals drew my interest, followed by the inevitable dinosaurs.

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This was a fun visit that took about two hours to roam around inside and check out the gift shop. There’s no café on premises but the museum map shows one under construction. Parking is next door in a public garage. So if you’re in town looking for something indoors to do, visit our Museum of Discovery and Science. It’ll bring out the curious child in you.

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St. Petersburg Florida

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 12, 2018

We got into St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday Sept. 5. Unfortunately, I hadn’t booked the conference hotel which was already full when I registered for Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. Events took place at the historic Vinoy Renaissance by the bay. This distinctive structure faces a boat marina and a park on one side and Beach Drive at another end. Our hotel, the Hampton Inn, was on a side street from this main strip that hosts a plethora of restaurants and museums. The town is good for a few days stay with all there is to see and do. Here are shots of the Vinoy that was built in the 1920’s.

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It was a distinct disadvantage not staying there as we had to tip the valet at the Hampton Inn each time we needed the car. I got too hot walking the five to six blocks in ninety degree heat to the conference hotel while dressed up for the meeting. Once I left the Vinoy in the afternoon, I didn’t return. Daily thunderstorms and the intense heat prevented another long stroll. A shuttle ran between conference hotels, but only in the early morning and late afternoon. So I learned my lesson. Never stay off site again. However, we enjoyed St. Petersburg along Beach Drive even though we didn’t go farther into downtown.

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Dining adventures included Parkshore Grill where we had lunch on day one.

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We dined outside at Fresco’s on the first night.

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We met my former critique partner, Sharon Hartley, and her husband for dinner at Bella Brava.

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Richard and I enjoyed the early bird special at 400 Beach Seafood.

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I think I had more fun trying the different restaurants than anything else!

I skipped out on the conference on Saturday afternoon for a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. This two-story building held many exhibits including sculptures, paintings, and valuable artifacts. I liked the clock exhibit. There’s a café and gift shop on the premises. Here are some of the items we viewed. More are in the album on my Facebook page.

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Coming Next: Bouchercon 2018

See all my photos HERE

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Posted in Conferences, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Adventures in Dining – Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 4, 2018

As usual when we visit Orlando, we like to try new dining spots as well as frequent some of our favorite restaurants. Besides Bonefish Grill and Longhorn, we celebrated our family’s September birthdays with the Magical Dining Month menu at Fleming’s. I got the beef filet with a salad and carrot cake for dessert.

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I didn’t fare as well at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. This being Labor Day Weekend and the opening of the festival, the park was crowded and there was a long wait under the broiling sun just to get in through bag inspection. We made it to a couple of places where I tasted the mini blended burger (very good!) and the loaded mac and cheese (too spicy).

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Then I succumbed to the heat and felt lightheaded. After a brief rest on a shady bench, I recovered my stamina and we headed to the festival marketplace to pick up our annual passholder magnets. Then we left, vowing to return when the weather has cooled and the crowds have thinned. I just can’t make this trek anymore in the 90+ degree heat.

Another day, we dined at La Madelaine, a French café located inside the Florida Mall where we took a nice air-conditioned walk. I didn’t have a problem there and enjoyed the exercise. My meal here was tomato basil soup, Caesar salad, and a half turkey and brie sandwich. The best breakfast was at Keke’s Café where I had a waffle accompanied by fresh berries and whipped cream.

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The highlight of the week was a bridal shower in honor of our daughter held at Orchid Thai Cuisine in Winter Park. The food was delicious from the buffet-style appetizers to the plated lunch to the beautiful cake. Our daughter was radiant as she greeted her friends and other guests.

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It’s hard to follow the wedding diet on these meals. I’d say I would wait until after the wedding, since that weekend will involve a lot of eating too, but then Thanksgiving will be upon us. Maybe I should make getting in shape a New Year’s resolution?

 

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Yesteryear Village

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 18, 2018

Yesteryear Village is located at the Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach. It’s a living history museum that tells the story of Florida up until 1945 or so. The nine acres house various historic buildings, shady oak trees, and brick-lined paths. A general store offers nostalgic goods for sale. But bring your own snacks. There’s a picnic area under shelter but no café on premises. The park is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am to 4pm. There’s an admission fee. Allow a couple of hours to stroll around and enjoy the exhibits.

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Inside the gated grounds, we turned left from the Welcome Center and passed equipment for sugar processing and a small building describing the Pineapple growing industry in Florida. As the interior was roped off, we couldn’t read the signage inside, but I got enough of a view to get the gist of it. I hadn’t even been aware Florida had pineapple plantations.

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Next was a train caboose next to a switching station housing model trains and other railroad memorabilia.

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Inside the next structure, which held one set of public restrooms, was a shoe repair place, a print shop, and a fire house.

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From here we went to the jail, which held a one-person cell. Note the noose on the outside.

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We passed an old hunting shack and moved on to the church, which is still in use today for services and weddings.

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Beyond the Bait and Tackle Shop and the Smokehouse, we came to a two-storied (plus attic) Victorian house that dominated the area.

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Riddle House must have been very large and well-built for its day. Downstairs were the common rooms and kitchen, while upstairs were several bedrooms. It was rumored someone killed himself in the attic, and indeed, the park offers seasonal ghost tours. Some of the places have costumed guides, and this was one of them. We got our own private tour of this impressive house.

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We peeked inside the visitor cabins, sewing circle room, old telephone exhibit, and a shotgun house. I liked the school, a large building with two classrooms on either side of the teacher’s desk. A single schoolteacher taught all the grades, and she wasn’t permitted to be married. The old wooden desks each had a hole presumably for an inkwell.

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You can visit the old post office, farm buildings, a blacksmith shop, and more as you stroll among the shady grounds. Although the temperatures hit the nineties, a breeze kept us comfortable as did the leafy branches overhead. Some, but not all, of the buildings are air-conditioned.

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You can see all of my photos HERE. If you visit the park, ask for a map at the Welcome Center. They’re busiest during the Fair season, so you might want to go at a less crowded time. This site is owned and administered by the Fairgrounds, which somewhat surprised me. I guess it’s a way for them to earn some income when the fair or other events aren’t in session, but you’d think a historical society would be interested in this display of early Florida life. Be sure to visit if you’re in the area.

Do you like visiting recreated villages or living history museums with costumed guides?

 

Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Key West 2018

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 26, 2018

We drove down to Key West on the Thursday before the Mystery Fest Key West conference began. Once you hit the Keys beyond Miami and Homestead, you pass interesting little towns on each island along with scenic ocean vistas on either side of the highway. On Ramrod Key, we stopped for lunch at Boondocks. Their creamy New England clam chowder was one of the best. I liked the crabmeat salad and cole slaw that accompanied the soup. A half portion of salad was more than enough.

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After arriving in Key West, we checked in at the Doubletree Grand Key Resort and then took the hotel shuttle into town. Here we meandered around until our friends Alyssa Maxwell and her husband joined us for dinner. We dined at Conch Republic Seafood Company. Richard and I shared stuffed mushrooms and grilled mahi mahi. We were as stuffed as the mushrooms when we’d finished.

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Friday morning, we were free, so we visited the East Martello Museum, a Civil War era fort. Exhibits tell about how the fort was used during the war as well as a bit of Key West lore including ghost stories and the creepy Robert the Doll tale. Doll houses, a treasure chest, and a cannon were among the relics displayed. Then we went outside toward the tower where a spiral staircase takes you to the top. Here are some scenic views.

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Hungry from our exertions, we drove into town and lunched at Pinchers Crab Shack on Duval Street. Then it was back to the hotel for the start of the conference.

 What’s your favorite place in Key West?

See all my Key West Photos Here

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Hollywood Studios and Beyond

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 31, 2018

We spent an afternoon last weekend strolling around Disney World’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. Turning right at the first main intersection, we passed the fast food places on our left and gift shops on our right. Straight ahead was the Tower of Terror. I went on this theme park ride for one time in the past, and it was my only time. However, I like to admire the structure because it reminds me of Dead Roots, my haunted hotel mystery. I had this attraction in mind when planning the layout for my fictional resort, which was also inspired by the delightful Tower of Terror movie.

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Many of the former attractions were closed and we couldn’t access the back streets. Remodeling is underway for the new Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway and the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

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We viewed the tourists along with this local resident.

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Then we went into Star Wars: Path of the Jedi to see a 12 minute film and get cooled off in the air-conditioning. The film follows Luke Skywalker from when he began his journey as a Jedi to when Rey took up the challenge in the latest saga film.

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We saw the new Star Wars Solo movie at Disney’s Dine-In Theater. The action kept me on my toes throughout along with keeping track of the various political factions. I especially liked how Han met Chewbacca and Lando. If you want a good escapist film, I’d recommend it for an entertaining couple of hours.

We ate at several restaurants in the area. Here’s the stuffed mushroom appetizer we enjoyed at Longhorn.

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Breakfast one day was at Wilderness Lodge.

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Dinner at Ahi Sushi.

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We also went to the Farmer’s Market in Winter Park and then strolled along the shops at Park Avenue after lunch.

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This was a welcome break. Back home, I completed my final read-through of Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day mystery series. Now it’s ready for production!

 

Posted in Disney, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dining Out Fort Lauderdale

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 21, 2018

You may be wondering why I write about food so much on this blog. Authors have lives, too, and I happen to enjoy dining out, taking cooking classes, and experimenting on recipes. Everything we do feeds into our creative works. You’ll find recipes and food mentioned throughout my Bad Hair Day Mysteries. So here are some local spots aside from the usual chains.

Dar Tajine is a Moroccan Restaurant that draws you in with its lush décor. The menu selections were varied enough to appeal to everyone at our table.

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We started out with Zaalouk, an appetizer with grilled eggplant, tomato, garlic, olive oil and spices. It tasted like Ratatouille and came with triangles of pita bread. For my entrée, I had the Beef Tajine that was wonderfully tasty and tender. My husband had the Vegetarian Tajine that looked substantial enough for his appetite. In my estimation, tajine means it is slow-cooked and served in these interesting pots. We’ll have to go back to try the Shish Kabob and Chicken Bastilla. Mint tea and a selection of pastries concluded the meal. The restaurant is located at 8281 W. Sunrise Blvd in Plantation. Go to http://www.dar-tajine.com

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On Mother’s Day, we dined at Vienna Café & Wine Bar. This is a favorite when we want a special night out. It has a continental atmosphere with Vienna classics on the menu. I started with the Mushroom Fricassee. The mushrooms are sautéed with port wine and cream and served in a flaky pastry. My main dish was the potato-crusted salmon, which came with a pinot noir cream sauce and steamed asparagus. I ordered a side dish of potatoes au gratin. This is located in Davie at Pine Island Plaza. http://www.ViennaWineBar.com

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So here’s my question for you. Do you like to read about my dining and travel adventures? Or would you rather I stick to how-to articles on writing and the writing process? Perhaps you like a mixture of both? Please let me know what interests you.

 

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Nature Trails in Local Parks

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 3, 2018

While our South Florida weather was perfectly temperate last weekend, we took advantage by exploring our local parks. Once the humidity kicks in, it’ll get too hot and buggy. So here’s where we took our daily walks:

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

On East Sunrise Blvd near A1A is the turnoff into this state park. We parked in the first lot and took the woodsy trail, enjoying the shade and searching for wildlife. We’d seen big turtles here before but they were hiding this time.

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Then we strode down a sandy path to the café and gift shop. Beyond this you can cross to Fort Lauderdale Beach. We walked a while along the street, admiring the glistening ocean and the boats in the distance.

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Our stomachs hungry for lunch, we stopped at the café on our way back and ate burgers. Then we drove around to the Intracoastal side for another stroll, watching the yachts and water taxis glide by.

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Tree Tops Park

Off Nob Hill Road near I-595, this shady park offers nature trails among decades-old trees, a boardwalk over a freshwater marsh, picnic tables, rental boats on a lake, and equestrian trails. It also has a trail on Pine Island Ridge, the highest elevation in the county at 29 feet above sea level. There’s a sculpture dedicated to a great Seminole leader as well behind the main building complex. The park is also listed on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

We like the woods and started at the path near this tower that we climbed to the top for a view among the tree canopy.

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Then we followed to trail to the swampy area where we could see catfish and turtles in the murky water. I noticed an abundance of snails that hadn’t been there before.

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Plantation Preserve Linear Trail

The Linear Park at Plantation Preserve Golf Course & Club is a pleasant trail that loops around for 1.1 miles. This trail offers a historical Indian burial mound, varied native shrubbery, birds, and rabbits. Yes, this was the first time we’d seen the critters, and I counted about eight of them as we strode on.

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