Monday, March 13, 2017

Extended Weekend in Key Largo

Campsite cocktails
The Airstream was calling us for an adventure. Bill was able to get reservations at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park so we planned a dive trip to Key Largo in mid-March. Will was also on board. With pup tent and dive gear packed in the camper van, we were transported to another world in less than three hours.

The boys had four great dives. I had a relaxing time at camp with Solo while they were away. We had some good meals at camp and a few on the town. The Fish House, Encore and Hobo's Cafe were all excellent.

Rainy morning with devices

A couple of Will's friends came down for some spring break fun and found a hotel room nearby. Will Ubered out two nights after dinner to check out the scene with his friends.

A downpour at 5am on Sunday caught Will without the fly and soaked his tent inside and out. The downpour and resulting drama made for a lovely, lazy, memorable, cozy family coffee clutch in the camper. After pancakes at camp, the sun fully returned and we headed south for Islamorada to enjoy some microbrew beer flights.

Florida Keys Brewery
Will took off after a crazy lunch at Hobo's Cafe. Bill and I lazed around camp on our final night and binged-watched "Mozart in the Jungle." (I pretty much only watch TV in the camper; rarely at home). We took our time packing up in the morning and stopped for a final meal at Hiddenout Restaurant. Lots of laughs and a very nice family getaway.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fun Finale

Usually, on the way home from a road trip, we get into the must-get-home-ASAP mode. Thursday was different, however. Bill had a conference call at 10am, so we lingered around camp and enjoyed a slow morning with nature. We arranged to meet vacationing sister, Nancy and Terry, and blogson Will for lunch. At 2:15pm we pulled into a mutually convenient location in Bonita Springs, Doug's Seafood, and enjoyed a family reunion but not the disappointing meal. We sat in the RV and had a couple of beers in the parking lot (losers) before the last push home.
It was a good trip. We crossed the 10,000 mile mark. That's a lot of miles in 6 months. For the first time, we returned home with no major repair issues to take up with the dealer. Perhaps we have worked out all the RV kinks. 

The Airstream has been a fun mode of travel. We enhanced our overall experience with a major improvement: the RV Superbag. The Airstream bed is really comfy, but it was difficult and time consuming to make up every night because the mattress pad wouldn't stay put. There's no room under the bed for which the corners to adhere. The sheets get all bunched up as a result and the bed becomes lumpy with bedding. Bill discovered a solution: the RV Superbag. For what it is, I thought it was a little pricey, but after this trip, it's worth every penny. It's a custom made comforter on the bottom and another one on top with velcro sheets that attach to the comforters. There are three different weights: summer, winter and tropical. We used the winter weight on the bottom for extra cushioning and the summer on top for this trip. So easy and super comfy. The bag zips up for storage on three sides leaving the top open. It just lays on top of the bed and everything stays put. Nice addition.

It's always good to be home. Tune in soon for more adventures!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hillsborough River State Park

Our last night on this fun little getaway was just north of Tampa as we worked our way home. We packed up camp in Destin and were on the road at 8am Wednesday. Who knew the Panhandle was in the central time zone? It's a big state and we drove over six hours with a little over three to go.

We booked the last campsite at Hillsborough online and we're happy to have a spot, but it is our least favorite park so far. It's old with lots of mature foliage, which is very pretty but that makes it dark. The sites are crammed in next to each other like a parking lot. No space between neighbors. Oh well, it's just one night. We heated our fabulous dinner leftovers on the campfire and tucked in early.

Our campsite is very close to the river and we came upon this big guy while walking Solo. See the gator on the bank next to the tree?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Really Glamping

It was a half mile walk from our campsite, so we saved an Uber fare and made dinner reservations at the Henderson Inn Beachwalk Café. The restaurant next door to the state park was rated #1 in Destin on TripAdvisor. With sunset cocktails in hand and a flashlight in my bag, we ventured along the Emerald Coast. The emerald color of the water was really apparent in the setting sun.

We had an amazing dinner and bottle of wine while taking in the beautiful waterfront setting. The flashlight came in handy as we walked along the dark and empty beach back to camp. The stars were out but there was no moon to shed light our journey. It was a fun night hike and spectacular evening all around!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

No Bugs but Plenty of Other Air Traffic

This weather is so perfect! Severe clear sky, bright sunshine and temps in the 60s. The best part of it all is the fresh air in the van with the door wide open. No worries about bugs getting in our space because there are no bugs. Perhaps the stormy weather blew them away or it's just the way it is here in Destin FL in January.

There is no mistaking the presence of a nearby Air Force base, however. I'm not sure what's with all the training missions, but it is a very active area. The roar of fighter jets, carrier planes, helicopters...sonic booms and g-force rumbles deep inside the inner ear are plentiful here on the Emerald Coast. Bill is totally enjoying the sights and sounds overhead.

Coffee in Bed

It's a bright, sunny, brisk 49 degrees this morning. The heater is on and we're reading the news feeds and blogging on our devices. Solo's curled up in a ball.

Yesterday was almost too windy to play outside so we rode the bikes a couple miles to Destin Commons, another top attraction in the area. There we took in a matinee: La La Land. It was cute. Back at camp we made chicken wings on the barbie with another show-stealer side: creamy polenta. So good! The new Instapot has been useful in the RV.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Henderson Beach State Park

According to TripAdvisor, Henderson Beach State Park is the number one attraction in Destin. We were lucky enough to get a campsite here for three nights. This is our third FL State Park and equally impressive as Anastasia in St. Augustine and our first foray with the RV at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo. Each park is on water, clean, private, offers nice amenities and is a bike ride away from commercial activity.

We made a fire after we set up camp at 3pm and started drinking earlier than usual (haha) after the anxious ride and tedious conditions. Luck and timing were on our side as predictions of the continued severe weather in the Panhandle were unfounded. Apparently, 14 people died from the storms that blew through the area.

With gratitude, we enjoyed our cocktails around the warmth and comfort of the campfire. The fire provided the perfect heat for slow roasted, caramelized Brussels sprouts, which stole the show at dinner. With sleeping weather in the 50s we were out like babies.

Feeling rested and content after a morning hike with Solo, we're off to further exploration!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Eglin Air Force Base Beach

The stormy skies opened up to sandy seas. We arrived on the Emerald Coast safely. This beautiful country amazes me with stunning new sights around every bend.

Adventure in Travels

"Getting there is half the fun," travelers like to say. Life on the road is filled with adventures and that's what makes RV travel so exciting. We left St. Augustine this morning for the next leg of our journey: the FL Panhandle. The severe weather that has passed through the south over the last 12-18 hours is definitely a factor as we head west on I-10. Tornado and thunderstorm warnings are currently in effect for this region as we navigate serious gusts of wind on the last 87 miles to Destin. It's a little scary, but we're in good hands; God is our co-pilot.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

30 Mile Reward

When you have protein shakes for breakfast then ride the bike 30 miles, you can have French fries covered in clam chowder, bacon and cheese for lunch. Whoa. We rode Anastasia Island from north to south on a gorgeous day. Lunch at the Sunset Grille was almost a guilt-free splurge.

Campsite Breakfast Dishes

It's a simple life of French pressed coffee and Isagenix protein shakes. Makes for easy clean up, too!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Long Walks on the Beach

Such a pretty area. Loving the surrounds. We're living a clean life of exercise and good campfire food while working in visits with the kids.

I had some drama with my phone yesterday. It fell through a crevice in the wall of the RV. It looked like a window sill but ... down it went.

We took the Airstream to a mechanic and his genius mind rigged up a tool, which was able to retrieve the phone. Brilliant work by this young man! He said no charge, just say something good on social media. I did; and I'm back in business.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Oldest Town USA

It's odd to think of how many times I have passed through St. Augustine and never once stopped to take in the civic and historical sites of the country's oldest town.

So, after a lazy morning, which included a nice nature trail hike with Solo, we mounted the bikes and headed out to highway A1A. While busy, the road was not as dangerous on the bikes as it may sound.

The first detour was the St. Augustine light house for a quick walk through the museum and grounds surrounding the site of the first light house established in FL.

We then crossed the Bridge of Lions from Anastasia Island to downtown St. Augustine. After a ride around the little streets surrounding the beautiful Flagler College campus, we stopped at Castillo de San Marcos: an impressive old fortress, now a national monument, in ruins on the Matanzas River.

We walked our bikes down the cobblestone village of boutiques and ice cream shops before heading back to our camp on Anastasia Island.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Anastasia State Park

From France to St. Augustine, FL on the travel blog here. Actually, we had a road trip up the coast to NYC and NJ in early December that didn't even get a mention or photo on the Blogagerie. But, here we are in one of the most beautiful state parks ever! An amazingly private campsite with the Atlantic Ocean a mere breeze away. The foliage is perfectly tropical, lush and plentiful. $18 a night!

We pulled in just before 3:30pm, plugged the rig into shore power and corked a bottle of wine! Steph and the kids are on the way for a visit and hopefully some songs around the campfire. It's good to be back in the RV!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Au Revoir La France

Such a civilized end to our journey; no alarm, leisurely morning chatting with an Aussie stranger over a beautiful breakfast buffet, short stroll to the airport, simple but efficient security and painless border control. The airport employees all wear an uplifting shade of peach, which also matches the commode fixtures at Charles de Gaulle airport. The French are all about the aesthetics.

We had an an amazing lunch at the airport with a final order of French fries for good measure. We are looking forward to resuming our protein shake diet at home.

After a slight delay, we landed at MIA close to schedule. A remotely familiar couple from the cruise and flight hitched a ride with us to Marco. Two more hours of chatting. I'm tired of making conversation.😉

What a great trip! Thanks for following along. Here's a few random pictures. The French really are all about the aesthetics.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The French Paradox

The French paradox or "pair of ducks" as Bill likes to say is a curious phenomenon. It goes something like this: the French people can eat baguettes, croissants, creamy cheeses, pomme frites, pastries, fancy sauces, desserts, enjoy fine wines daily and not gain weight or have major health issues. What's that about?

One tour guide insists the secret to the French paradox is the consumption of only fresh foods. No packaged products, no fast foods, no soda.

I'm hoping I'll find the French paradox true to theory when I get home and weigh myself after these two weeks of wild abandon.

The Last Two Castles


After such comfortable accommodations on AmaDolce, two nights at the Novotel Amboise had the group anxious to move on. We gladly boarded the bus for the final day of touring.

The lovely ride along the Loire River was complemented by impressive residences and châteaux. The first stop, the massive Château  de Chambord, was the hunting castle of François 1 and an "architectural creation of genius." The enormity of the castle and grounds is obscenely decadent, especially considering it was a second home used primarily for leisure. It was an important site on this trip.

The second stop was was the Royal Château of Blois. Sadly, between the lowest temps of the trip and the miserable cold rain, we just wanted the tour to end and settle into the Pullman Hotel at Charles de Gaulle airport for tomorrow's departure. Enough!

The bus ride to Paris was long and slow but, nevertheless, warm and toasty. Rain complicated the journey. The Pullman hotel near the airport was a welcome sight. A beautiful, modern hotel with smiling staff and all the luxuries of home. We're almost home! 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Pomp and Splendor

The Loire River is also known as the Royal River and we now know why. Lots of castles in this beautiful region. It was a long day of touring and we're all ready to go home. 

With three major stops on the agenda, my favorite of the day was Château du Clos Lucé, Leonardo da Vinci's last home and resting place. A fascinating man and an equally fascinating restored museum in his honor.

My next favorite stop of the day was Château de Chenonceau, spanning the River Cher. A feminine castle, protected through French history by powerful woman. It is filled with intriguing appointments, art and is surrounded by magnificent gardens. 

The Château d'Amboise has an incredibly fantastic facade, as pictured in yesterday's post, but it was overwhelming to tour. We opted midway to walk the sweet little streets in town.

We stumbled upon the best meal of the trip at Le Patio. An amazingly simple "plat du jour" lunch bursting with flavors and culinary perfection. A veal chop dinner at Chez Bruno in Amboise was also good, but lunch was unforgettable.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tours and Amboise


Back on the TGV, we had a couple hours to relax in silence. For a lazy river cruise, this trip has been fast paced and strenuous. And to think that Bill and I are among the youngest! 

We arrived in the medieval town of Tours, in the Loire Valley, at noon. The buses were waiting at the train station for the group. In the city center, we walked the cobblestone roads for an orientation of the old town and then were free to go on our own for lunch. Bill and I opted for Thai food surrounded by students in this university town.

Another walking tour after lunch took us through the magnificent St. Gatien's (Martin) Cathedral. 

On our way to the Novotel Amboise, our bus driver took a detour so we may see the facade of a most beautiful castle: Château D'Amboise.

It was good to relax in our room, window open...sun shinning in, for a short while before a quick group dinner in the hotel.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Bordeaux by Bike

Our group of bike enthusiasts were ready for the 9am tour but certainly not prepared for the chilly weather. With frozen hands and feet we meandered our two wheels through narrow streets, dodging cars and pedestrians. The Cité du Vin was a welcome stop. We toured the new wine museum and warmed up.

The afternoon proved to be a better time for peddling around the beautiful city. Bill and I rode along the river and found some cute shops in the city center. 

The captain of AmaDolce cruised the riverfront after dinner so we could enjoy the lights of Bordeaux on our last night. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Back to Bordeaux

Another chilly morning found us at the Créon Bastide market. We sampled cheeses, meats and bread before browsing the colorful foods and wares. I tried to buy a tablecloth but the metric dimensions were lost in translation. 

After a light lunch on the AmaDolce, a small group decided to skip the bus trip to Château de Montaigne and instead enjoy the lazy river cruise. The much needed respite from tour guides and Châteaux included lots of macaroons on board all afternoon. We picked up the other passengers in Bourg and all went on to our final stop: Bordeaux. 

Le canard was on the dinner menu and it was simply delicious. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Libourne, St. Émilion and Pomérol Region

A lazy morning on the boat cruising along the foggy Dordogne River turned out to have some element of excitement. In fact, it was so foggy that we almost had to turn the ship around and return to Bourg. Instead, our brave and skilled captain gently pressed on and treaded carefully under four bridges in the mist and made it to our destination: Libourne.

It was a spectacular afternoon for biking through the vineyards and stopping along the way for informative commentary on the region. We wandered along the steep and narrow streets of St. Émilion and enjoyed two varieties of macaroons. So yummy!

Back on the bikes, we met the busload of walkers at the beautiful and modern Château Soutard for a tour and tasting. The bikers were encouraged to take the bus back with the others after drinking wine.
Filet mignon was served at the festive Captain's dinner where we joined a fun group of soon-to-be good friends. We even stayed up long enough to join the sing-along in the lounge.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Blaye and Bourg

Riding through the vineyards, the river bank as the backdrop...pure magic. Fall colors popping out; the sun trying to do the same...pure magic.

What a thrill to be one with the land; peddling in the brisk autumn air. The countryside is rich with history. Magnificent rolling hills, châteaux and country homes dotting the landscape. A beautiful day on the bikes. A spectacular day in France.

A wine tasting at Cotes de Bourg. A floor show with dancing. The Chef's Table dinner. A full day of blessings.