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

Model Train Exhibit

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 24, 2017

My brother has exhibited model trains ever since I can remember. So when he came to visit and we noticed a Transportation Exhibit at the Plantation Historical Museum, it became imperative for us to make a trip there. The exhibit included displays by the Florida Citrus Model Train Society. Below is a replica of an early 1900’s train depot.

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The details in these dioramas were incredible. We watched the model trains go around the tracks, complete with sound effects, but what fascinated me more were the little buildings and the attention to detail.

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One display talked about train bandits and how the Pinkerton Detective Agency foiled these fearsome thieves and protected railroad shipments. Printed materials were available, such as brochures on the myths and realities of safety around train tracks and a brochure about train crossing warning signs. A bookmark I’d picked up says “Never walk or ride around highway-rail crossing gates!” and “Look, Listen and Live!” Trains can’t stop quickly, but you can. About every three hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train. For more information on safety factors, go to Operation Lifesaver.

I’ve been on the Auto Train between Sanford, FL and Lorton, VA. I took a commuter train from New York to Washington D.C. Otherwise, after graduation from high school, a friend and I bought Eurail Passes and spent six weeks exploring Europe. We rode the trains around and stayed in cheap places where we could rent a room. I kept a journal, one of many travel journals still in my collection. Maybe I’ll share those adventures with you someday if you’re interested. A trip like that one would be impossible today. Meanwhile, would you call yourself a train enthusiast? What trains have you ridden?

 

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Writers Conference on Independence of the Seas

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 27, 2017

Fun in the Sun Writers Conference on Independence of the Seas
Sponsored by Florida Romance Writers
February 16, 2017

As soon as we boarded Independence of the Seas, we headed to lunch in the Windjammer Café. Entrees were tempting. They had the grill with burgers and hot dogs inside here instead of out on the pool deck like on other ships. Desserts were not overly appealing, especially after the artistic confections on Celebrity Equinox. The cookies were the crunchy type, whereas I prefer soft, chewy centers. However, there is a soft ice cream machine on the pool deck that’s free to guests.

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We strolled around and unpacked a bit before the lifeboat drill. This one took place outside on the deck where we lined up like sardines and stood there for a half hour until dismissed. No life vests required for the drill, which was a bonus. However, I prefer the cruise lines where you sit in an air-conditioned lounge to hear the spiel.

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The FRW Meet & Greet Welcome Party had the editor/agent panel where we heard what each industry guest has on their wish lists. This event gave us a good chance to mingle in the Olive or Twist lounge on Deck 14. Here I am with my agent, the wonderful Evan Marshall from The Evan Marshall Agency.

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Shortly thereafter, we attended dinner in the King Lear Dining Room. I’m not a late diner, and eating at 8:30 led to a long evening on a full stomach. Some nights we didn’t finish until after ten. While the food was good, it wasn’t exceptional. Nor was the dining room service as efficient as on other vessels.

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Our cabin service was excellent, though. The balcony cabin was spacious with adequate storage. We had an extra-long couch across from a desk console. The shower is the round manhole cover shape but at least it has a glass door. Don’t drop your soap on the floor. You have to be a contortionist to pick it up. I used my slumber mask as light came in from outside the ship at the edges of the drapes. Bathroom amenities included bottles of lotion, shampoo, and conditioner. The bar soap was very thin. I missed the robes we get on other cruise lines.

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We awakened at our usual early hour. I prefer the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast in the Windjammer Café offered varied choices, but they didn’t change much from day-to-day. A chef would do made-to-order omelets. Pancakes and waffles were always available along with the usual fruits, pastries, yogurt, and more.

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Our conference workshops began promptly at 8am on Friday. Stay tuned for more in the next installment. See all photos HERE.


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ENTER HERE to win a blue scarf, a blue crystal pendant necklace, a West Indies cookbook, and a signed hardcover Killer Knots.

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Wick Costume Museum

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 12, 2017

The Wick Theatre and Costume Museum at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton offers several unique experiences. We chose to do the museum tour and lunch. First we gathered in the lobby of the museum where Kimberly Wick described the various dresses on display.

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From here we entered a cavernous hall with an exhibit titled Where Runway Meets Broadway, showcasing a range of costumes from the 1800s on up that represented the changing fashions of the times. The beautiful designs and vintage couture were fascinating.

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Next was a quick tour backstage before we headed into the delightful restaurant. The first course is a fruit cup. Then you have a choice of three entrees. I chose the stack of avocado and shrimp with salad greens. A tray of pastries followed.

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After lunch, Kimberly gave us a presentation about the place’s history. I’d had no idea their own costume designs were a worldwide enterprise. Her mother, Marilynn Wick, was an entrepreneur who started the business and grew it into an empire. I found their story as fascinating as the museum.

Before leaving, we swept through the gift shop, took a peek at the theater lobby and box office, and headed out.

Booklover’s Bench Anniversary Giveaway, Feb. 1 – 18
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Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Hillsboro Pineland

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 11, 2017

This nature refuge, located at 5591 NW 74th Place in Coconut Creek, FL, is a hidden oasis in a sea of suburban congestion. Just off Route 441 north of Sample Road, Hillsboro Pineland is a small park compared to others but its two hiking trails will give you a brief respite from civilization. It’s far enough removed that you can hear the crickets instead of the traffic. The first trail leads you through pinelands as per the park’s name. It’s a pleasant shady walk among tall trees.

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The second trail takes you through marshland adjacent to a river that you can’t see from the boardwalk but you can see the water seeping through the grassy vegetation. Lots of wildflowers attract butterflies in this portion.

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This park exhibits what I love about living in Florida. The trails go to what seem like two different ecosystems. Our state has a variety of terrain, from the sea-studded Keys to the hilly and cave-ridden north to the sandy beaches to the mangrove coastlines. Nearby, we can go to Flamingo Gardens and see hundreds-year-old trees or go to Volunteer Park to watch the turtles or take a shady walk on a trail in Tree Tops Park. Our peoples are just as diverse, celebrating our heritage as a melting pot of cultures. Our history, too, provides for a colorful past. And then there are the haunted hotels and plantations. We won’t talk about hurricanes. They’re offset by the flowers and balmy winter temperatures. What more could a writer want?

Booklover’s Bench Anniversary Giveaway, Feb. 1 – 18
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Fun Weekend

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 9, 2017

I finished all corrections for Hair Brained (Bad Hair Day #14) last week and printed out a clean copy. To celebrate this accomplishment, I took time off this weekend to relax and have some fun. Friday night started with the 20th anniversary party at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore.

I remember when this store used to be in Miami. It was a shlep to go down there but worth the effort to see the friendly face of Joanne Sinchuk, proprietor. Always supportive of authors, Joanne has hosted many book events at her store through the years. Now located in Delray Beach, the bookstore has a prime spot in a busy shopping area. Members from the Florida Chapter of MWA were present along with members from Florida Romance Writers. We mingled with readers and chatted about books. Delicious appetizers from a nearby restaurant tempted our palates. Congrats to Murder on the Beach for twenty years in the business!

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Saturday morning, my husband and I took a walk in Ann Kolb Nature Center. It was glorious weather in the eighties until the clouds rolled in. We walked along viewing the mangrove roots and holes for the land crabs and the wide lake.

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We lunched on the Intracoastal Waterway in GG’s Waterfront Bar and Grill in Hollywood, FL. I like the elegant ambiance here with a water view where you can watch the yachts cruise by. The food is excellent. Our meal started with crusty French bread served with butter and hummus dip. The starter course was delectable mushrooms in miso broth. And our grilled salmon was perfect with roasted Brussel sprouts and butternut squash puree. This restaurant is a great place to take out-of-town guests or to hold a special event.

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Booklovers Bench

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Enter Jan. 1 – 18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklovers Bench

Leave a comment on Nancy’s Let’s Talk post this week to win an ebook copy of Permed to Death Author’s Edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coco Cay

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 23, 2016

The water in the Bahamas is a beautiful aqua, and I might have been tempted to go in except it was very windy when we tendered to Coco Cay on the third day of our cruise. RCCL’s private island is an oasis with native shops, a nature trail, small coves for snorkeling, and numerous beaches with lounge chairs already laid out.

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We enjoyed the beach barbecue with chicken, ribs, burgers, hot dogs, and accompaniments. Somehow this food tastes better outside and when someone else cooks it.

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I savor these private island stops both for the relaxation and the food. And don’t forget to order a Bahama Mama. You can’t visit these islands without drinking at least one. Or a Coco Loco, which they offered at Coco Cay. As the drink vendors said, “If you’re hot, see what I’ve got.”

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We lazed around until we’d had enough sun and then caught the tender back to the ship.

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At night, we celebrated our 40th anniversary with a champagne toast. And so ended our latest cruise.

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View all the photos HERE.

 

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A Day in Nassau

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 22, 2016

Our first port of call on Majesty of the Seas was Nassau. Having been here before, we didn’t care to take a tour and elected instead to find a place for lunch.

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I’d read about a native Bahamian restaurant and wanted to check it out. Several blocks later, we entered the place on a quiet side street. Nobody was there, and so we left. It’s not a good sign if a restaurant lacks customers. We retraced our steps and chose an air-conditioned place by the water called Via Restaurant and Bar. Our grilled snapper was delicious but spicy. It came with cole slaw plus rice and beans. You can find lots of places to eat along the waterfront including Senor Frog by the far end.

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We shopped on Bay Street despite the intermittent downpours and ended up buying inexpensive umbrellas to add to our collection. Stores were decorated for Christmas. The straw market is still here and under cover. I bought a hat since I’d forgotten to bring mine. The usual souvenirs are available along with fine jewelry, liquor, and perfumes on Bay Street. Know your prices before you go.

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If you’re here for the first time, you can do a city tour, view the fort, visit the Atlantis resort, or participate in a number of water sports activities. I regret that RCCL didn’t offer a culinary experience or any kind of botanical garden if there is one on the island. However, the rainy weather made our independent choice the best one.

View all the photos HERE.

Next Post: Coco Cay

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Majesty of the Seas

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 21, 2016

We took our adult children on a weekend cruise to celebrate our fortieth anniversary. The older Royal Caribbean vessel left out of Port Canaveral. This was our first time at this port, which seemed less hectic than Port Everglades. Besides our ship on Friday, only one other was docked there and it belonged to Disney. We parked in a garage opposite the terminal and boarded before noon.

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Lunch was available in the Windjammer Café on Deck 12. The buffet setup was much smaller than on our other recent cruises, and I vaguely remembered being here before. We’d sailed on this ship back in 1992.

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Although an older model, the ship is well-maintained and clean. There’s only one pool area on Deck 12 without a secondary glass-covered solarium pool. Elsewhere, there’s a rock climbing wall for sports enthusiasts. You can also go outside on Deck 7 and walk around the deck there for exercise or lounge in a chair facing the water.

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Our oceanview cabin on deck four was tiny, with a small desk that also served as a dresser. Inside the small bathroom, the rectangular shower space had a good showerhead on a removable hose and a curtain instead of a glass door. Lotion, shampoo, and conditioner were provided. I wasn’t as comfortable here as on other recent ships we’ve been on, but it’s a less expensive cruise and we managed for the three nights. This sailing is good for a quick getaway that isn’t as expensive as some other ships, and it has an appealing itinerary with two ports of call. The cruise staff was friendly and worked hard to give guests a memorable experience.

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Shops were located on Deck 5 and had better merchandise than on the larger and newer Celebrity Equinox, our most recent voyage. The shows were entertaining with a comedian, juggler, and singers/dancers. If you’re a night owl, other activities are offered to keep you occupied. The Schooner Lounge had a musician nightly, and you could find dance music in another lounge.

Deck 14 has the Viking Crown Lounge, always a favorite of mine with its panoramic view toward the bow with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. This is where Diamond Members and above could get their free cocktails and appetizers each evening at 5pm.

We’d opted for assigned seats in the dining room at 6pm and luckily had a table for four. The food was very good, although the choices were not as classy as on Celebrity Equinox. You had to pay extra for filet mignon or lobster. The bread selection was varied enough, and a different salad was offered each night. On the second night, the waiters danced along to a conga line. On the last night, they serenaded us with “O Solo Mio” to go along with our Italian cuisine. Other dining options included Johnny Rockets for a small fee, Sorrentos for free pizza, and a deli with appetizers and wraps. For early birds, Sorrentos is open early with coffee and pastries. 

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The Windjammer opens at 7am in the morning for breakfast. I liked that they offered prepared fried eggs although you could have your eggs or omelets cooked to order. Half and half is available in little cups to go with your coffee.

There’s a ceremony of flags in the atrium where the cruise director announces the number of crew members from each country. This was an impressive display along with a few selected native dances. We also attended the welcome back party for repeat cruisers, and Richard won 100 credits in the casino. It took us a while to figure out how to play the slots. It took us less time to play and lose all the points. I’d rather spend my money on souvenirs I can bring home. Note Santa hiding in the crowd on the below right.

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Now I have to work to lose the weight I’d gained. So it goes each time after a cruise.

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View all the photos HERE.

Next Posts: Nassau and Coco Cay

 

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Cozumel

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 14, 2016

Cozumel, Mexico

Ships can dock at several different piers in Cozumel. Our pier had a concrete shopping center with a wide variety of native goods, jewelry, and liquor. We passed on catching a taxi into town or doing a shore excursion, having been here before. Instead, we spent several hours browsing the port shops and buying some beautiful woven blankets.

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We ate lunch at Senor Frogs by the water, enjoying Bahama Mamas and splitting a beef fajita. The food was good and the rum was plentiful. By the time we boarded the ship, we were both ready for a nap.

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Cozumel has beautiful crystal-clear water that is perfect for water sport enthusiasts. As Floridians with our own swimming pool and beaches, we chose to go shopping instead. Besides, we’re coming back here in February on the conference cruise sponsored by Florida Romance Writers.

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And so ends our cruise aboard the Celebrity Equinox. I hope you’ve enjoyed my journal entries.

 

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Giveaways

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1 – 18

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Grand Cayman – Pedro St. James

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 13, 2016

Grand Cayman – Pedro St. James

The entrance to this historic estate takes you through a gift shop. From here, we entered a theater and watched a multi-media presentation relating the history of the estate. It was quite interesting, especially the part where a daughter of the owner was killed during a lightning storm. She and her younger brother were fetching rain water in a bucket at the bottom of the stairs when she was struck and killed. The brother was knocked unconscious but survived. Thunder and flashing lights accompanied the tale. No ghost stories here, according to our local guide. Later fire destroyed much of the estate. It was reincarnated as a castle, and now has been restored to its original design.

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The original structure was built by slaves. It’s a beautiful place with covered porches, slate stone flooring, mahogany furnishings, and thick stone outer walls. Wood shutters shade the windows and keep the interior cool. Mosquito netting on the beds was essential.

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After viewing the building, we were led inside a café where we received tea and cakes. I liked the moist coconut cake better than the dense carrot cake and bread pudding.

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We headed back to the ship from here. By now it was two o’clock. The last tender left at three, so we peeked quickly inside the shops at the port and then departed the island.

See All Photos Here

Next Port: Cozumel, Mexico

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