Posts tagged ‘Florida’

Forget I Asked…

When I was 15 years old, my parents sent me to my aunt and uncle’s house in Florida to spend a week with them in their condo. They had used to live in New Jersey, less than an hour from us and we would see them a couple of times a year. However they had moved to Florida after my uncle retired from his job as a printer so I didn’t get to see them nearly as often as I used to and they were cool so I looked forward to the trip.

My aunt (my dad’s sister) and her husband were both Read more…

James Beard Dinner at The Ravenous Pig

Joe and I went to a James Beard Dinner at Winter Park’s Ravenous Pig gastropub this past Sunday. The meal was designed to be similar to a “Central Florida” themed meal that was served at the James Beard House earlier this year (go ahead and Read more…

Key West Weekend ’08

Key West! Finally! Dar and I had been planning this trip for 3 or 4 years but it kept being put off for plans with higher priorities, changing work schedules, etc. But we finally had dates that worked for both of us and, after driving to Dar’s house on Wednesday afternoon (with dinner at a Japanese/Thai place so everyone was happy) we were on the road at 10:15 Thursday morning. Sorry hubbies – y’all don’t like Key West so this is Girls’ Weekend Out!

Dar took the wheel (actually, she drove all the way there and all the way back – I offered to take over the driving but she said she was OK) and off we went. The drive was without problems – we were able to avoid major traffic with Dar’s recommended routing and timing, and we had good tunes thanks to rigging my old XM receiver to her AUX input.

We eventually started to get hungry and, since we couldn’t find any chains (we figured we could trust them and know what we would get), decided to take our chances and eat at a local place called Hobo’s Cafe. It was a sports bar and restaurant in Key Largo and we figured, with all of the cars in the parking lot, that it couldn’t suck. And lo and behold, it didn’t! I got a grilled chicken sandwich that was really good and Dar got a burrito that besides being delicious, was freakin’ HUGE! As it turned out, there was an Arby’s about a quarter mile past Hobo’s and a Wendy’s a half mile past that, but we didn’t know that until after the fact and we think we did better anyway.

Hobo’s Cafe

Since Dar is a travel agent, we made one or two quick stops on Rt. 1, so she could possibly find places to recommend to her clients. One was the Largo Lodge – it was very pretty…very tropical and isolated, with its own lovely, private beach. And then we took a second look and saw a dozen or so turkey buzzards on its lovely private beach. Ummm…no. We also made a quick stop at a resort on Duck Key, which looked a LOT like DVC’s OKW. We didn’t stop at Ramrod Key but did get a giggle out of the name (grin).

We finally got to Key West around 4:30pm and found our bed an breakfast, the The Cypress House. The staff was friendly and the place was clean but the room was a little run down – most of the furniture was antique, or at least old, but it was nicked and scratched and really needed to be refinished. And the carpet, a 6′ square place carpet, was FILTHY. Besides being worn, the white areas had turned gray – that’s how dirty it was. It was just gross and not something I would walk barefoot on. The bathroom was across the hall – something of an inconvenience but we knew about that ahead of time and it was something we agreed we could deal with – however the lack of air conditioning in the bathroom was not expected. We weren’t going to sweat the small stuff though – it fit our priorities (clean, not mondo expensive, 2 beds and high speed internet access) and as inns built in 1888 went, it was fine. And the 2 resident Schipperkes, Ben and Gabi, were ADORABLE!

Street view of Cypress House

Their front porch

Above and Below: Views of our room. It didn’t look bad from a distance but even in the top picture you can see all the nicks and scuffs on the furniture in the foreground. And the rug was just icky.

Above and Below: Our bathroom, which was across the hall from our room. Nothing fancy, and certainly without A/C, but clean.

Loved the artwork in our bathroom

By the time we finished unpacking, it was Happy Hour at the B&B. Happy Hour ran from 6p to 7p and I have to admit it was THE BEST Happy Hour at any hotel or B&B I’ve ever visited. They had chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, crudite fruit and veggies and I can’t remember what else. And the booze – THE BOOZE! – dark rum, light rum, scotch, whiskey, you name it! All for free! Not that either of us are big drinkers by ANY sense of the imagination, but as someone who has been a guest in several B&B’s in her time, all of that to be complimentary, as part of Happy Hour, is VERY impressive!

Backyard/lounge/pool area where they do Happy Hour

During Happy Hour: Cute gay boys staying at our hotel

After Happy Hour was done, we went back to the room and hung out for a while. Eventually we started getting hungry walked up and down Duval Street for something to eat. We almost settled on the Hard Rock Cafe (again, a consistent old standby) but went to Caroline’s Cafe, across the street, instead. I had the Asian Salad (with some grilled shrimp added) and Dar got the Makin’ Bacon Salad. Both were really good!

Caroline’s Cafe

It was about 10pm by the time we were done eating and we decided to walk along Duval Street some more. The bars, obviously, were open, as were most of the restaurants. Many of the crap shops were still open, although some were closed, either because of the time or because of the date – I found it amusing that nearly every store that sold Harley Davidson stuff, bongs and penis-shaped items were closed for Yom Kippur (grin). Anyway, with some Kohl’s custard in our bellies for dessert, we went back “home” and to bed, ready to be tourists the next day.

We woke up on Friday at 9am and enjoyed the breakfast buffet – there were all different kinds of cereals, fruits, breads and pastries to enjoy, along with coffee and a variety of teas.

Breakfast buffet at Cypress House

After breakfast, we walked to Mallory Square and checked out some crap shops – especially the shell shop where I had gotten my Mary On The Half Shell a few years ago. They don’t sell it anymore, BTW.

We had bought tickets for the Conch Train Tour on our way out the door that morning (our B&B sold discounted tickets) and grabbed the conch train when the sun was getting hotter and our feet were getting tired. It was a nice 90-minute ride with Gary, our engineer. It turned out that Gary used to be the musician for the Schooner Western Union, which was the ship we had ridden on for a sunset tour during our last trip to Key West, several years ago. Anyway, despite the 10-minute “Code Molassas” that we encountered, the tour was fun…we criss-crossed the “old” parts of Key West and Gary gave a history of many of the sites, buildings and architecture styles.

Conch Train Tour “train”

We were STARVING after the Conch Tour and decided to find something to eat. Well, Dar and I had been debating about what sunset cruise to take and I think Gary’s history with the SWU finally put us over the edge of decision-making – we would take the Schooner Western Union. We worked our way there, figuring we would eat at one of the restaurants on the wharf and came upon the Conch Republic Seafood Company. I got a salad with rare grilled tuna – not sure what Dar had. The place was “iffy”, as per Trip Advisor but we must’ve caught it on a good day cuz our food was great!

Conch Republic Seafood Company

After standing and walking for so long, Dar needed to sit and rest, not long after lunch. I stayed with her for a while, then went off on my own to look at some shops that were off the beaten path. Lots of pretty, artsy stuff but nothing that screamed “buy me!” When I got back, we went to a nearby ice cream shop (ice cream was becoming something of a tradition on this trip) and by the time we were done, we were almost ready for our sunset sail on the Schooner Western Union.

The Schooner Western Union

Information about the Schooner Western Union

The ship was set to sail at 6pm and we needed to be there at 5:45. We arrived at 5:30pm and, after a beautiful day all day, that’s when the heavens opened up. Fortunately, the launch was right near a bar so we hung out in there for a while until the rain stopped. We boarded the ship and were off! As I said, we (me, Joey, Steve, Gary and my in-laws) had been on this ship years ago, when we were on the Disney Cruise and ported in Key West for the day. Times have gotten hard for them in recent days (hell, times have gotten hard for everyone in recent days) and they’ve had to cut costs by excluding the conch chowder, drinks and music. The crew is as friendly as ever though and that, the rainbows and the sunset we saw were worth every penny of the trip.

Leaving the dock

Rare double rainbow

Even more rare: Seeing the end of the rainbow. No pot of gold but maybe there’s treasure from a sunken ship in that spot?




Mother Nature ROCKS!

If we weren’t tired before the sunset cruise, we were EXHAUSTED by the time we were done 90 minutes later, so we headed back to the Cypress House and called it a night. I think we were asleep before 10pm!

Saturday was shopping day. After breakfast (same as yesterday, except with cheese omelettes in the crock pot – they were yummy!), we strolled up and down Duval Street. Four hours. And hours. And hours. And although the art shops were hit or miss, there wasn’t a crap shop we didn’t visit.

Above and Below: Some of the shops we hit. Of course I LOVED the flamingo crap shop!

Some stores had merchandise that was just too funny to not take pictures of:

Thought of Rob & Scott

I think they stole that from the “I Found Jesus” website

Yeah, I guess Key West is Family friendly

I thought we were finally done with this for forever. Apparently not.

Gee, who did THIS remind me off?

LOVED these!

I laughed because it was true


Pity I didn’t have this during the Freakathon

Sometimes it wasn’t the stuff in the store that made you laugh

Although we generally went past the bars without a second glance, we did stop off at a bar called Cap’t Tony’s Saloon that claims to be THE spot (not the Sloppy Joe’s down the block) where Ernest Hemingway hung out during his Key West years. Whether he actually did or not, I don’t know or care – the place was old and had charm and character – I LOVED it (grin). And just like drinking at 10:30 in the morning at Castaway Cay, having a beer at Cap’t Tony’s at 12:30 in the afternoon is just “right”.

Cap’t Tony’s Saloon

Above and Below: Inside Cap’t Tony’s. On the left side of the “below” picture, that’s the trunk of a huge tree – it’s growing inside the bar and goes through the roof

Gift shop of Cap’t Tony’s. Cap’t Tony is still alive (he’s 92!) but apparently he got his tombstone made early

We did stop for a complimentary tour at the Oldest House in South Florida. After visiting all the big ol’ opulent houses in Savannah not long ago, seeing another big ol’ opulent house wasn’t really all that, but the tour guide was something of a train wreck and was rather interesting to watch and listen to (evil grin).

The Oldest House in South Florida

After some more crap shops, we decided to do an early dinner at Santiago’s Bodega. It was a little off the beaten track in a not-so-great neighborhood but it caught our interest in a commercial and turned out to be the number one restaurant in Key West, according to Trip Advisor. It was a tapas place so Dar and I shared a variety of things: bocconcini di mozzarella (marinated and mixed with roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, garlic, and fresh basil), dates (stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped with prosciutto ), bacon and basil wrapped mushrooms (with basil aioli), pinchos morunos (spicy marinated skewers of pork tenderloin with apple-mango chutney), beef tenderloin (seared and topped with bleu cheese butter) and croquettas (cayenne spiced pan-fried patties of potatoes, house ground prosciutto and provolone cheese with scallion cream). The food was all good, although not great. The sangria (Carlo Rossi, with orange rum and a splash of Sprite) was awesome though (grin).

Santiago’s Bodega

We started to make our way back on Duval Street and decided to go to Mallory Square for one last sunset. But not before a stop for ice cream! Anyway, the crowds were good for people-watching and the sunset was terrific – a nice way to end a nice weekend.

The crowds at Mallory Square

A Key West Sunset:

The trip home on Sunday (after breakfast that included pancakes and bacon in the crock pots) took a little longer than the trip going, simply because of the REALLY crappy (in a good way) crap shops we stopped at on the way.

The crap shop to beat all crap shops

And they had the toilet I wanted when I was a little kid (I’ve since grown up and although my tastes remain as tacky as ever, comfort and practicality have taken over and I’d rather have a Toto Washlet)

Lunch was at Dairy Queen (ice cream for dessert, of course) and we got back to Dar’s around 4:30ish. I made it home by 6:15pm and did a quick turn around and change of clothes so we could meet Rob, Scott and Tyler for dinner before the concert we were going to that night.

It had been a nice weekend in the Conch Republic, even though I didn’t each one freakin’ conch! Next time…

Gay Days ’08: The Week of Fabulousness

Gay Days 2008: The Week of Fabulousness (WARNING: Very photo-heavy)

Gay Days Thursday and Saturday were a BLAST! WOW, did we have a great time!

Thursday night at the AdvClub was all about tank tops and puka bead necklaces and perfect hair and every single stereotypical mannerism that Greg Haskins so eloquently described in his Fringe show. LOTS of eye candy, LOTS of laughs, Gayves, a surprise appearance of one of the best Pamelias in the history of the Club, etc., etc., etc. Sam’s show was (obviously) different yet the same and although I missed the tradition of Sheila, if she wasn’t available, Andi was the epitome of “as close as you can get”. And just as enjoyable, too. There were a few disappointments…no “WOO Man” – although Tyler thinks he saw him upstairs, alcoholic beverage not in hand, only one drag queen all night and although the place was very crowded, it wasn’t quite as crowded as past years. Hoopla was pretty typical, including Saints, although god bless Pam for her verse about rainbows (grin). I still miss the annual Gay-Straight Valderee-Off but I don’t think it would have worked quite as well this year, with the 75:25 demographics. The year there were just SIX straights in the audience though, THAT was precious. We saw a lot of the same people that we usually see…Reggie, Larry, Bernie, John, etc…Bradley and his sister were noticeably absent again this year as were, of course, the known homophobics and/or bible thumpers. Funny though…KA’s BF was there by himself for the longest time. Every gay guy I know who has turned their gaydar onto him says that he’s gay and either doesn’t know it or just hasn’t come out yet, and there he was for a good hour, all alone, watching the crowd. VERY interesting.

We went back to the AdvClub on Friday night but sadly, it was a pretty typical night. The “Week of Fabulousness” (thanks, Allison) crowd was probably akin to a typical “Thursday night” and although there were some references to “the summer kickoff” (well, not really…no one used that term even once this year), it certainly wasn’t the overpowering “rainbow flavor” that we were expecting. I wound up leaving the Club around 10pm and falling asleep by midnight, which worked out well because I had to wake up early for Saturday.

As always, Rob had made reservations at Crystal Palace for Gay Days at the MK. The ressie was for 8:20am, which meant getting to MK at 7:45am, which meant leaving the house at 6:45am, which meant waking up at 6am. But with 6 hours of sleep under my belt (for this event it’s usually, like, 4), it actually wasn’t TOO too bad. I took Osceola Pkwy to WDW and wound up seeing 6 hot air balloons in flight. Since skydiving is still out of the question, I’m thinking that going up in a hot air balloon might be a cool thing to do for my 50th birthday (grin). But that’s still 7.5 years away and I digress. Anyway, I wound up meeting Steve on the monorail and we were on our way.

Steve & I got there so early that we were two of the first 10 cars in the parking lot

It was so early that we got to see some GF CMs using the Monorail as a means of public transportation. BTW, what’s up with that? Showing CMs in costume where they don’t fit into the theming? Talk about ruining the Magic…

Steve & I were the first 2 of our group at the MK entrance, but were quickly joined by Tyler & Kat, then Rob & Scott (who had donned matching Mickey groom hats for the occasion), and, once we got to the restaurant, Lyne. Joe had to work and the others weren’t available, so it was a smaller crowd than in past years.

Waiting for MK to open. Boy, won’t THIS guy in the red shirt be surprised!

Left side of photo = one type of family. Middle and right side of photo = another type of family. A shot of Main Street right after the park opened for people with breakfast ressies.

Breakfast at the CP was the same food as always, but with a different show/parade (Pooh doesn’t march around in his red shirt with a sign that says “It’s My Day!” anymore! Boo!) and, again, a definite decrease in red shirts. Our server, Kathy, was from Bensonhurst so she and and I had a nice discussion about how we would never go back to “the old neighborhoods” in Brooklyn nowadays because they’ve changed so much (I don’t know much about Bensonhurst because I was just a little kid, but we moved out of Canarsie in the mid-1970’s and I know it suffered from “white flight” in the 1990’s. Personally, I haven’t been back since 1992 or so). We got pictures with all of the characters and, once we were done eating (and analyzing WTF was in the Breakfast Lasagna), we were on our way.

Oh goody…it’s Pooh

Above and below: much better sports than me

I believe my face says it all. And the matching head tilts are icing on the cake, don’t you think?

Speaking of which, yes, cake WAS one of the ingredients in the Breakfast Lasagna. So were pancakes, waffles, blueberries, custard, bicycle tires, Capt Jack Sparrow droppings and a hint of vanilla

We took the Adventureland route and, after bypassing the Swiss Family Robinson Stairmaster (well done, Rob), took a trip aboard the Jungle Cruise. Our skipper royally sucked but it was still better than if we had gotten Dress Up Boy, which almost happened. POTC was closed so the gang went on Splash Mountain while I held everyone’s stuff, keeping it (and myself) dry. Next was BTMRR, then HM, then Small World.

This boat was ALL Marys, except for the one row of a mother-father-kids family WAY in the back

Rob says he saw one of these guys deep throating his frozen banana. Unfortunately, I missed that shot.

We then took a LONG walk to Tomorrowland so we could go on Buzz Lightyear (I still like MIB much better than either Toy Story attraction) and the Peoplemover (TTA my ass – and what WAS the deal with the guy in the rainbow ears crouching in his seat, riding over and over again?), and then, with a quick stop off at the wishing well, went back to Frontierland to stand on line for the annual 1:00pm Country Bear Jamboree with the Bears.

We got there early enough so that we had to wait for about 45 to 60 minutes, same as always. Not a biggie because we had some shade and cold water and lots and LOTS of people to people watch. I saw a handful of people I knew (a few of which were folks that I didn’t really WANT to see…) and a couple of people recognized me, too (and thank-you Christian, for having enough tagged photos on your blog so I could figure out who one of them was. As you would say, HA!). While standing on line, some people from a podcast gave Rob & Scott a Target gift card for being “the first couple they saw who were wearing bride-bride or groom-groom hats”. They asked them a couple of questions and the podcast should air one of these days. Until then, here’s a picture of them being interviewed (5th picture down. If you look carefully, you can see me, Steve and Lyne in the shot, as well).

Part of the queue for CBJ

Disney was smart this year and made some rope queues so, although even the Bear crowd wasn’t quite as large as previous years, it still wasn’t quite as much of a clusterfuck as it could have been to get in. Unfortunately, they still haven’t realized that just because the posted capacity of the attraction is 300-and-something, that is NOT the case when the demographics is overwhelmingly Bears…so the experience was SRO for several dozen unfortunates (present company excluded…everyone in our group had seats). Anyway, as always, you ain’t seen CBJ until you’ve seen it with a bunch of grown men singing lyrics like “All the guys that turn me on turn me down.”

We went foraging for food after CBJ…El Pirato y El Perico was open (I don’t remember the last time I saw that it was) but their menu didn’t have stuff that would work for some people in our party, so we went back to Pecos Bill’s instead. After lunch we parted ways and whereas others went home or to other parks, I wandered around to the Hub to watch the pre-parade festivities.

Bunch of Red Shirts crowding around Streetmo ladies in Victorian garb (the ladies, not the Marys)

Members of the Orlando Gay Men’s Chorus in their “regular spot” to view the parade

The Hub was the only place where the Gay Days crowds seemed to be in as full force as always. Then again, when there may be just a few thousand less than the many several thousand that’s usually in attendance, maybe it’s just harder to notice. Anyway, it was, as always, a sea of red, with lots of people talking, taking pictures and having a good time. I walked around the Hub and up and down Main Street a few times, taking my own share of shots, but decided that before I became TOO exhausted, I’d skip the parade itself and just go home.

I was home by 4pm and asleep until 6pm. “The best nap in the world” was followed by “one of the best showers in the world” (THE best shower occurred at the MCO Hyatt in April, 1995) and, after Joe got home and we had dinner, we went back to the AdvClub to join the gang in closing The Summer Kickoff. Nothing really special there, except for one guy with a big ass camera and equally big ass flash, who actually made The Borg’s habits seem mellow. Just for shits and giggles, I kept track during one of the NMIs and can you believe this PITA took 14 pictures in 60 seconds? JESUS, talk about annoying! Not only for the other Guests who had to live with the equivalent of a strobe light in the Main Salon for a period of time, but also for the poor CMs on stage who had to deal with his flash in their faces every 4 seconds. Honestly, how important is it to have one picture of Pamelia with her hand by her shoulder, one with her hand on the way to her mouth and one with her hand on the way to being raised in the air? PUH-leez…

— Over and over, we noticed that the crowds just weren’t quite as thick this year. I’d bet the economy, combined with sky high gas/airfare prices, had a lot to do with it. It didn’t put a damper on the week but I hope more people will be able to come next year.
— John deHaas apparently has a twin. While we were at Pecos Bill’s, Rob said, “There’s John deHaas” and I replied, “It can’t be…I’m pretty sure he’s out of town right now.” Rob saw him again a few minutes later and said he REALLY looked like John but in looking more closely, was JUST different enough to not look exactly like him. But it was really close. I never got a view of the guy (always that second too late and out of range) but John, make sure you don’t have a twin who was separated from you at birth, OK? (wink)
— I’m going to think twice before going to Crystal Palace next year. Honestly, nearly $30 for a character breakfast buffet? And this is when characters do NOTHING for me (hm, after those pictures, can ya tell?!?!) and I usually eat next-to-nothing for breakfast. And it’s not like the food is even good or that more than a teeny-tiny percentage is healthy fare. So I have a variety of mindsets…I can go to be social and live with the implications of eating a shitload of crap that isn’t good for me. Or I can go and eat what would be “about right” for me (6 oz of oatmeal or maybe a piece of fruit) and pretend that I didn’t just eat the equivalent of a $30 apple. Or I can say “fuck it” and just meet up with everyone after they’re done eating. I might change my mind by next year but right now, I’m leaning towards the latter. Most breakfast buffets do not work for me. Bad breakfast buffets are even worse. It’s really a total waste for me.

When I went to Gay Days in the past, I noticed lots of the guys and some of the girls wearing a variety of really cool shirts. This was my year of taking pictures of them. Enjoy the shirts and, where applicable, the captions. And, if the guys are cute, the eye candy:

Once a Bear, always a Bear

Above: Front of shirt. Below: Back of same shirt

So when they designed this shirt do you think they were thinking what these guys were thinking when they bought it? Nah, me neither.

Probably not what WDW had in mind when this shirt was designed, either

Very nice (giggle)

LOVED this shirt. Reminded me of Margaret Cho. “Are you THE GAY???”

Another shirt that probably no one thought about twice when it was designed

Hey, I know you!

VERY cute shirt!

I think this one was my most favorite shirt I saw all day

And I don’t think he means Skittles

Above and below: Same shirt, different “flavor”

Hey, it’s Keith B.!

Everybody neat and pretty? Then on with the show!

There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else there’s Bearcard

Obviously NOT here for the festivities

A 4’7″ woman taking a picture of this shirt during Gay Days. Write your own joke.

I am SO buying this shirt for next year!