Our Island Hopping, Rain Dropping, Champagne Popping Adventure
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Yeah!! It's here...excited to read about this trip!!
I have been looking for 5 night cruises and am having no luck finding any. I guess the times of year we are looking to go, they just don't offer them....boo
I had hoped that we would be on the road by 9 a.m. . . . but I was a little surprised when my hope turned into reality. We are notorious for rarely leaving when we say we are; however, my toes were painted, the dogs were boarded and the bags were packed, so there really wasn’t that much left to do that morning except get ready and eat breakfast.
This was our first time taking a long road trip since we had traded in the minivan for a car, so the big question was could the girls actually sit in that close proximity to each other for that long without killing each other. To help create “the backseat of love, peace and harmony,” I asked the girls to each pack a bag of activities (the contents of Maddie’s bag were interesting to say the least. . . she had an Easter book that was about 5 years old in hers ), I downloaded a book on Mary Devall’s Kindle and a movie on Maddie’s and I packed a bag of drinks and snacks. If WWIII broke out in the backseat, it was not going to be my fault.
Thom was doing his part by providing a sheet that they could use to snuggle under. Before we even got out of town, they had decided to make a fort and the three of us attempted to construct it while Thom drove. A couple of miles before we hit the interstate, Thom had enough of listening to us and pulled over to fix it himself. Works.every.time.
We ended up have an amazingly smooth ride. I even managed to convince my “break loving” husband not to stop every hour on the hour - - it may or may not have had something to do with the bag of snacks. At noon, we finally stopped at a McDonalds in the middle of Georgia where we always seem to find ourselves at lunchtime (and yes, we found ourselves at this same one on the way home ). We had a nice little lunch and even let the girls play in their outdoor play area for a few minutes before we took off again.
As we drove further and further south, we knew that we were heading right into Tropical Storm Beryl. We also knew that rain was going to play a big part in our vacation , but we didn’t really care since we couldn’t do anything about it and we had our trusty dollar store ponchos. I just hoped that we would reach St. Augustine in time to do a little touring before the bottom dropped out.
We arrived at our first destination a little after 2 p.m. and went right to our hotel. My one and only time in St. Augustine, I had stayed at the same Hilton which is located in the historical area right on the bay. It is the perfect location for exploring the city on foot and, on this visit, I discovered that it is also perfect for traveling with children. From the moment my girls crossed the threshold, they were rock stars.
When the manager saw me taking a picture of the girls, he insisted on taking a picture of all of us.
Mary Devall then took these pictures around the lobby.
Everyone, from the front desk clerk to the maintenance man, bent over backwards to make our short stay memorable. As a Hilton Honors Diamond member, Thom received two “cones” containing pretzels, fun size candy bars and m&m’s (or as Thom calls it “the good stuff” ). I’m not exaggerating when I say that every time we passed through the lobby, someone was sneaking the girls two more “cones of goodness.” Thom and the girls couldn’t eat them fast enough before they were replenished. Over a month later, we still have some at home.
As we were checking in, the head of housekeeping came out and assured the girls that they shouldn’t worry about the tropical storm. We ran into her numerous times throughout our visit and she always stopped and had a chat with the girls. I was starting to think that she lived there.
After our warm greeting, we made our way to our room on the second floor and I immediately saw that we had a dead-on view of the Tini martini bar next door where I had two fabulous martinis on my last visit. I closed the curtain a little sadly knowing that I wouldn’t make it back on this trip.
Thom realized that he had left his hang up clothes in the car, so he took off to see if he could retrieve them before the valet whisked away our car. The girls set about exploring every inch of the room while I grabbed a local dining guide to see if we could figure out where it eat that night. Priorities people!
Imagine my surprise when Thom opened the door and, in addition to his clothes, was holding a glass of wine. Did I mention that the bar was on the way to our room? Woo Hoo! Let the vacation begin!
We relaxed in our room for a bit, but then decided that we should take advantage of our “rain free” afternoon and walk around while we could. As soon as we walked outside, the girls were entranced with the cobblestone streets and just the “look” of going back in time – especially my little history buff, Mary Devall.
We found a little shopping mall where I had bought t-shirts for them a couple of years ago, so I knew that it had some things of interest for them. And did I ever hit the nail on the head. We were two steps inside when they spotted a candy store chock full of every candy imaginable. We let them each pick out one thing and they took a great deal of time making their selection. Mary Devall chose some type of gummy nastiness and Maddie went with the little wax bottles filled with syrup.
They then found these fun old timey machines that always make me think of the movie Big. Actually, I think they had one very similar to the one from Big, but I steered clear of that one! I had tons of quarters saved up for the pressed penny machines at Disney, so I gave the girls one to test out their mood. They loved doing this. Sadly, Elvis was not working that day.
We browsed through a few more stores before heading back outside and continuing on our merry way. It wasn’t long before Mary Devall spotted a magic shop and asked to go inside. It was good timing on our part because a show was just about to start. The magic show was truly just a sales pitch to get people to buy the tricks, but it was so much fun to watch and amazing to think you could do these things yourself (for the low, low price of $39 ). Maddie was asked to participate in one trick which totally made her day.
We continued wandering around until we felt a few sprinkles and decided to head back in the direction of the hotel, so we would at least be closer if the bottom dropped out.
On the way, we stopped by a book store, The Lion and The Mermaid, Mary Devall had asked to go into earlier when we came back this way. Thom took Maddie to a pirate store next door (complete with a real live pirate family sitting on the porch . . . never could figure that one out ) while Mary Devall and I walked into one of our favorite places, a book store.
The Lion and the Mermaid was a tiny place and reminded me of the little one-room library where I used to spend most of my summers when I was a little girl (that kind of makes me sound like Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, doesn’t it? ) Mary Devall was jealous when I told that it was next door to our house and that I walked there almost every day.
The only difference was that I immediately noticed that something was a bit different about The Lion and the Mermaid. It’s hard to describe, so I’ll just present Exhibit A.
As with most of our historical Southern cities, St. Augustine has a ghostly past. The Lion and the Mermaid was apparently filling that little niche of “other world” literature. Of course, Mary Devall was about to hyperventilate from pure joy. If ever there was a book store for Mary Devall, this was it.
She poured over every shelf until she found several large books which appeared to be primers for wizards, Roman gods and Egypt. She went back and forth until she finally decided on Egyptology since it had some cool features to it. She spent so much time making her decision that Thom and Maddie had already joined us and had disappeared back into a children’s area. Thom had made himself a little too comfortable at a set of kids’ table and chairs and we had to call for him several times after Mary Devall had checked out.
As we approached the road where our hotel was, the girls could not help but notice the horse drawn carriages lined up and down the street. The rain was still holding off, so Thom took off across the street to find out how much a ride cost. I had grabbed a little cash when we left the hotel room and, when he returned with the details, I realized that I had just enough for a 30-minute ride with a little tip thrown in. We went across the street and hopped into our waiting carriage. Maddie had never been on a carriage ride and was simply thrilled. Mary Devall was not only excited about the horse, but she couldn’t wait to hear the stories that our driver was going to tell us.
We had a female driver and she was fantastic. You could tell that she really enjoyed her job and Mary Devall just soaked up every tidbit of information. Near the end of our ride, we passed a restaurant and she made the comment “I’m not allowed to say anything bad about a place.” Okey dokey then . . . we won’t be eating there. Thom asked her where she would recommend and she mentioned a place a block from our hotel that we had already heard good things about. Guess where we were headed next?
When we got back to where we started, the girls skedaddled out of the carriage so that they could pet the horse. They do them some animals. Our great driver even offered to take a picture of us.
With a wave goodbye, we headed back across the street and took a left to go to Henry’s. That’s when the bottom dropped out. Thankfully, we were right at a little overhang, so we stopped there and made the decision whether we should continue on to Henry’s and risk getting stuck in a tropical storm on the way back or return to the hotel and eat in their restaurant. We decided to be responsible adults and take our children to our safe and dry hotel . . . but first we had to run like screaming meammies in the rain. We got a little wet, but nothing the blow dryer in the room couldn’t take care of before we headed back downstairs for dinner.
On our drive down, I was reading about our hotel online and came across some excellent reviews of the restaurant, so I didn’t really feel as if we were missing out by coming back to the hotel. Once we were seated, they immediately grabbed my attention when we were handed lighted menus. I swear that I was more excited than the girls. In addition to the cool factor, I was glad to be able to read the menu since the ambience in the room was very romantic (i.e. dark).
I have no idea what the rest of my family ate for dinner, but I do remember that Thom and I shared a shrimp appetizer and I ordered scallops for my entrée. I can probably go out on a limb here and guess that the girls had mac and cheese and Thom had steak. My scallops were absolutely delicious, but I didn’t even come close to finishing them.
We were surprised to see that the rain had stopped while we were eating dinner since it looked like it had moved in for the evening. The girls remembered seeing an ice cream store earlier in the day and asked if we could go there for dessert. About the time that we turned down dessert from our waiter and received our bill, the rain started again and, this time, it was evident that we were in for the night. Lucky for the girls, they still had plenty of snacks and candy in the room.
We did have one little bit of excitement when we went to pay our bill. When Thom had checked us in, the front desk clerk had given him a sealed envelope that contained a percentage off of our meal if we chose to eat in the restaurant there. Our server opened the envelope after he brought the bill and discovered that we got 10% off our meal. Oh well, we wouldn’t have minded 50%, but we wouldn’t turn down 10% either!
I laughed when we returned to our room and Thom got ready for bed. It was barely 7 p.m.! While he snuggled into bed, Maddie watched t.v., Mary Devall poured over her Egyptology book and I read. After a while, I got up to snap some pictures of the wild weather and then decided to go downstairs to the bar for a glass of wine. Of course, Maddie never lets me go anywhere without her, so off we went together.
While I ordered a glass of wine, Maddie crawled up on a bar stool and helped herself to some nuts that were set out on the bar. She looked way to comfortable in that scenario for a six-year-old. She decided that she wanted a smoothie, so the bartender tenderly made her the freshest smoothie that she’s ever had. Little more than fresh fruit, orange juice and ice went into it. She topped it with an umbrella before Maddie and I headed back to our room with our drinks.
The girls and I spent the rest of the evening relaxing, reading and watching t.v. . . . and occasionally messing with Thom (see picture below ). He doesn’t mind . . . he enjoys being the center of attention even when he’s sleeping. About 10 p.m. we finally turned in also since tomorrow started Part II (as Mary Devall liked to call it) of our vacation!