The Florida Trip

In April 2001 I visited northwest Florida, to visit family and also look around on my endless search for the "perfect place to live". This was also my vacation, seemingly the first real vacation I've had in my adult life (if you don't count weekend jaunts to model horse fests. Well, ok, there was also that ski trip to Jackson Hole, but that's another story.)

I flew in to Pensacola on Tuesday the 17th, and stayed two days with my grandma "Big Mama". Uncle Bill was there too, and I also got to see my Aunt Cherie and Cousin Hope (and Hope's new baby Cheyenne). I visited my Uncle Frankie and his wife Dot at their place (also in Pensacola) Tuesday evening, but didn't get any pictures of them, unfortunately.

Pix of some of my relatives

I didn't think too much of Pensacola; it's pretty small, and mostly old. Lots of trailers and small older homes along the roads there. Tuesday night we (me, Bill, and Big Mama) ate at a local seafood place called "Sam's" (which made me think more of Sam's wholesale club than a restaurant). I had some fried mullet for the first time in my life. It wasn't bad - kinda mild, like catfish.

Wednesday morning we got up and I took Big Mama out for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel. She loved that, she loves their country ham. I like Cracker Barrel too; it sure beats the hell out of IHOP or Dennys or other chain breakfast places. CB always seems to have good food. Anyway, after that we picked up some corn and stuff to grill out for dinner. That turned out real good - Bill cooked some shrimp on his big smoker/grill thing, and we grilled the corn and some onions and potatos. It was all excellent.

On Thursday I visited the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. This was the first time I'd visited in 15 or 20 years, since I was a kid and went with Dad way back when. The museum has really grown and expanded - it's very cool. Saw lots of nice stuff, and was tempted to buy a wooden model of some plane or another, but wasn't sure I wanted to risk it breaking on the way home. I really enjoyed the art (paintings) on display in the entrance area. As for the rest of it, it was neat and cool and all, but perhaps not quite as magical as when I was a kid. Coulda just been that I didn't have anyone here to share it with though.

The Naval Air Museum in Pensacola

After touring the NAS, I drove out to Fairhope Alabama, about 40 miles west of Pensacola. My great-aunt Judy and her husband George live there in a nice new house. I got to see Judy's horse, Monte, a chestnut Arabian. She keeps him at a friend's place, and the friend's horse Cleo (sp?) is another Arabian, a grey. It was a beautiful day to visit, and I did love the big 10-acre place where Judy's friend lives. If I had the $500K to buy it, I'd be tempted...

Pictures of Judy and the Horses

Then we drove around and looked at Fairhope. Interesting and pretty town, lots of shops downtown. We also stopped at the pier by the bay and I took several photos there. Afterwards we all went to an Italian place there named Gambino's. Great food - although the "bottomless salad" and breadsticks reminded me a lot of Olive Garden, only it tasted a lot better. As though Olive Garden was some cheap imitation of this place. And Gambino's had this to-die-for espresso milkshake dessert. Yummmmmy!

Pictures around Fairhope

I stayed Thursday night with Judy and George. Got up Friday, took some more pictures of their house and yard, and of them. There's a decent picture of me in there too.

Pix of Judy and George's place, and a pic of me and Judy

Then I drove to Destin. It was 40 or so miles from Fairhope back to Pensacola, then another 40 to Destin. I shoulda taken the scenic route along the beach, but didn't, and that stretch of highway 98 between Pensacola and Destin is rather desolate. At least until you hit Fort Walton Beach. Then it's cram-city. The traffic was horrible - I'm glad I was going the other way. I decided as I was driving into town that this was no place I wanted to live.

I finally got to the big expensive condo I had rented, and decided I didn't like that either. For one, they had me on the 2nd floor right above this cafe - so, me being the shy timid sort, I knew I wouldn't be able to enjoy sitting out on the balcony with folks peering up from downstairs. Plus, the balcony was quite a bit smaller than I'd been expecting. The whole condo place was crowded, noisy, and for various other reasons I just decided not to stay there. So, I left, and drove around a bit, somewhat aimlessly, wondering where I would stay.

I found an Abbott Resorts office nearby, and went in to see if they had anything available on the spur of the moment. (There are dozens and dozens of condos and beach homes along there, and Abbott owns/rents a lot of them). They put me in a 1-bedroom condo that was right on the beach, but at a small and more private condo complex. I was much happier there. It was quiet, much less crowded, and half the price of the other place. I only stayed 3 nights, which was enough, given that I wasn't going to be doing any sort of house-hunting or that kind of thing.

I had a great oceanfront view at the condo. But no modem line, argh! The tragedy, me without my net!

Friday and Saturday nights I walked out to the beach and took a stroll in the surf. That was neat. Water was too cold for swimming, but that's ok. I went shopping instead (hah!). I suppose it's a girl thing, although I don't often shop just for shopping's sake, unless I'm looking for art - I love to buy art stuff. I bought a cool new journal (not that I needed another one - I've got several cool journals at home waiting for me to catch up on my journal-writing). I also got a leaded crystal seashell, which has this metallic coating on the base that makes the shell seem to glow. (It's called "Inner Glow") I also got a nifty glass pendant/necklace. Was tempted to buy a painting/print for my wall at home, but was worried about how to get it home (I guess I coulda shipped it...) so ended up not getting it.

Here are some pix of some of the shops and places I visited. Or rather, the outside of the shops. I particularly liked the Market shops at Sandestin. Also some pix of Seaside, FL.

Part of the fun of traveling (for me) is getting to try out great new restaurants, and two of the winners in Destin were Cafe Grazie and "Vintij". Cafe Grazie is an Italian place, and the food was excellent. I don't normally like to try pizza because nobody does it "right", but Cafe Grazie has great pizza. Super-thin crust, almost cracker-like, with no tomato sauce and instead a pesto and cheese combination topping. And, since I had the pizza margherita, it also had tomatoes and basil on top. It was delicious - my idea of the perfect pizza. Not too filling either - I could eat the entire "small" (10-12") pizza and not feel stuffed.

The other place, Vintij, is a wine bar, but I'd read good reviews of their food, so I went there for lunch on Sunday. There wasn't much of a selection on the menu, so I just went for the special - a spice-seared salmon, with a lemony butter sauce and poblano mashed potatoes. It was really great.

Of course, eating alone in these fine restaurants made me feel like a bit of an alien (I was pretty much the only one there eating alone), but I enjoyed the food. I suspect I woulda enjoyed it more if I'd had company, though.

Anyway. Monday I checked out of the condo and drove across the bay to Niceville, near the Okaloosa airport (was flying out Tuesday - woulda been Monday except they had no flights with seats available then). Since I had the whole day to burn, I spent some time at the Air Force Armament Museum. It's not as big as the Navy Museum, but it wasn't bad. I loved the B17 out front.

Photos from the Air Force Armament Museum

I got a hotel room in Niceville, and rejoined the matrix (after all, I'd been without net access for 3 days - the tragedy!). Had lunch at an interesting little cafe in Niceville called "Gio's Garden Cafe". Italian food, and the service was great - had a friendly and chatty waiter named Jack. The food was good, although I ordered the "heart healthy" plate which was just spaghetti, tomatos, olive oil, and about 40 cloves of garlic all mixed together. Not bad, but I couldn't finish it; while I like garlic, there was enough of it in my lunch to scare away every vampire in the state of Florida. :)

Dinner wasn't as great - I went to "Giuseppi's Wharf", a waterfront place with a great view; there's even a dock where a number of boats were moored. You could sit outside and have pretty much nothing between you and the water, other than one rope railing. The service was kinda bad tho (one surly teenage girl), and the food was kinda mixed - I thought the fried clab claws were really excellent, but the grilled mahi-mahi was bland and boring. Perhaps it's more of a fried food place.

I finally flew home on Tuesday - the plane left at 5am (ugh!) but that's all that was left (I changed my plans, originally I was leaving Thursday, but since I knew I didn't want to live there, there was no point in staying that long for further looking around).

I enjoyed visiting the relatives, and learned that vacationing alone really sucks, and I don't want to do it again. Next time I'll just visit friends, or invite a friend along. Or something.

<< Back to Photos Page