A Long Weekend in St. Augustine, Florida

While early July is a very, very, very hot time to visit St. Augustine, Florida, we continue to do so year after year.  And, we’re not the only ones!  From the early morning hours until the late night (late night here is about 11pm!), the streets are packed with tourists, artists, residents and passers-throughs. Some ignoring the blistering heat, some trying to ignore it, but all truly in it.

We arrived at the lovely, albeit dated, Casa Monica hotel and checked in.  An earlier guest was fortunate enough to get our preferred room, 212, so we were booked, for the first time, in a room on the 4th floor.  It’s been a couple of years since we’ve stayed at the Casa Monica.  While the common areas are as grand, and as beautiful as ever, the guestrooms could use some serious updating.  The old carpet smell greets you upon entry into the rooms.  Not dirty, but definitely old. The walls and doors are thin.  You can hear every sound through them.  And the bathrooms!  Oh my!  They look as if they haven’t ever been updated.  Ever! The comfortable bed and pillows made up for what the dated room lacked.  So, all was well.

We decided to brave the late afternoon heat and head out for a walk and a snack.  A1A Ale Works caught our eyes.  In a perfect location on King street, facing the lovely Matanzas Bay, this place is a must visit!  The menu features Floridian, Caribbean and Cuban-influenced selections, there’s a working brewery, and 2 bars.  Try the lump crab cakes with Cajun remoulade and the fried calamari with wasabi aioli.  Amazing! We topped off our snack with refreshing A1A/Florida Mules…ginger beer poured over St. Augustine vodka, fresh lime and mint.

Refreshed and full, we headed out to stroll the historic Lincolnville section of St. Augustine.  After just a few steps, the heat hit us like a ton of bricks.  Well, at least that was the excuse we used for having to step into a place with a big sign that read “Come In and Cool Down with Frozen Wine Smoothies”.  Little did we know that Vino Del Grotto would become a daily stopping point for us, making the hot St. Augustine summer days much easier to bear.

SEEDS of America’s Natural Beauty in Greetings & Souvenirs

America’s stunning landscape and regional natural beauty fascinates people all over the world. The amazing abundance of wildflower species found in the United States in all elevations, from high mountain to low desert landscapes, is witnessed every year by visitors and locals alike.

Whether it is the brilliant orange, cup-shaped California Poppy Flower or the Texas’ State Flower Bluebonnet with its vivid royal blue clusters, watching the transformation of landscapes into a multitude of color and new life is a truly inspiring experience.

While in nature, wildflowers can appear and bloom without a seed, and are found in many regions of the world, growing wildflowers in backyards and in gardens is not difficult at all; In fact wildflowers are becoming an increasingly popular landscape alternative by adding color and natural beauty to any area.

The passion for meaningful little gifts with room for personalization, for design and for nature inspired a Los Angeles based business woman, artist and graphic designer to create a gift line featuring destination themes, which decorate WILDFLOWER SEED FILLED ENVELOPES.

Her business, The Creative Idea Shop™, has artwork for all U.S. States and regional wildflower seeds from all North American geographical regions available, mixes as well as individual State Flowers.

(Envelope dimensions 4 10/16″ x 5 4/16″).

This mailable Greeting or American Souvenir for growing offers room for stamps, addresses and a personal note, and is sold online in 6-Packs or individually at Retail Stores.

Ordered with name drop or custom design service, tailored to any destination or business, the “seedz for you!™” line represents a memorable promotional or excellent client gift.

Contact information:



Phone: 310-897-3931

Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida

Our guest travel blogger, Celeste, visited the lovely Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida in the weeks leading up to the impending hurricane and the RNC Convention. 

Where to Stay: Tradewinds Island Grand Resort at St Pete’s Beach, FL – http://www.tradewindsresort.com/properties/island-grand.aspx

Tradewinds tag line: “Just let go.” An appropriate theme as this was our first overnight trip without Maura (20 months old).

Resort features separate family and adults only pools… lots of activities for kids if you’re looking for a family destination. For me, it was great to watch other mom’s chase their toddlers on the beach while I just sat and relaxed. We of course did the resort’s Pub Crawl – hitting all 5 bars on the resort. Happy hour prices at Beef O’Brady’s were a great deal, karaoke at RedBeard’s Sharktooth Tavern was quite entertaining!

One evening we walked to Blue Fugu – Japanese Steakhouse restaurant. The Hibachi Chef was entertaining, the Sushi was excellent, and the Sake was tasty.

Another night we went to Sea Hag’s Bar & Grill – casual indoor and outdoor marina waterfront dining. I wasn’t super impressed but it was good. We didn’t realize until we were leaving but it’s actually a Notre Dame bar… ND Flag hanging above the entrance.

One day we took a trip to St Petersburg… visited The Dali Museum – The Dali Museum Collection is rich in works from artist Salvador Dali’s entire career (1904-1989), with key works from every moment and in every medium of his artistic activity. We spent some time walking near Old Bayside Marina and then headed down Central Avenue to see the National Historic Site – Open Air Post Office. We then returned to the Grand Central District which boasts many bars and restaurants. We had a pint before heading to dinner at Primi Urban Café – excellent Italian food and fantastic Tiramisu!

Tickets To Do Everything and Always Beautiful Weather

Florida is known for always having beautiful weather and there is no better place to experience it than at Walt Disney World in Orlando. There are several Orlando ticket and pass options available to the public, but only the Disney Premier Passport grants unlimited access to the Disneyland Resort and all the theme parks at Disney World.

There are four theme parks at Disney World and each is a world in and of itself. The Magic Kingdom Park is home to the more classic attractions, ever lovable Disney characters, and backstage tours. Cinderella’s Castle is the well-known landmark in this park and connects the six lands contained within the 107 acres that the Magic Kingdom Theme Park is spread across.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park lets visitors see what goes into making a movie. There are backstage tours, live shows, and other events that centre on entertainment. The American Idol Experience is one of the newer attractions that allows visitors to feel like an American Idol contestant and even get the chance to meet a real star.  The firework shows that happen at night are very impressive and are definitely a highlight of this theme park. There are also many parades, musicals, and other shows that are staged in the streets of the park. Like the other theme parks in Disney World, there are several restaurants and shopping opportunities available to visitors.

The Animal Kingdom Theme Park is dedicated to everything related to animals. This park sprawls over 500 acres and is home to 250 species. There are seven main areas – Oasis, Discovery Island, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia, and Dinoland, USA- which provide all sorts of things that are entertaining, educational, and dedicated to the conservation of nature. Visitors can take part in thrilling expeditions and adventures with lots of different animals. There is even a VIP adventure that allows participants to spend time with all sorts of exotic animals.

The Epcot Theme Park is all about outer space and the future. All the attractions are very hi-tech and some of them are very fast. This park also showcases cutting edge technology and wonderful innovations. There is also a World Showcase area that features 11 countries and their culture. The Epcot Park is also a place where children are encouraged to be creative and to stretch the bounds of their imaginations. Kidcot Fun Stops are stations set up in different places around the 300 acre campus and provide fun crafts for children to do. At these stations there are no limits to what children come up with.

Sebastian the Ibis, mascot of the University o...Image via Wikipedia

‘Canes vs Ohio State!

Last week TravelingWrite travelled to College Park, Maryland  to kick-off NCAA Football Opening Weekend at the University of Miami vs Univ of Md game (32-24, Maryland).  Our next college football road trip will be to University of Miami (home) vs Ohio State, September 17th.

While tailgating in the warm, heavy rain wasn’t the worst thing in the world, weren’t interested in doing it again anytime soon.   According to the the 10-day forecast for Miami Gardens, Fl, we may have a weather repeat.  Urghhhh.

We’ll keep you posted!

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Ocean Drive…Still So Much Fun!

On our recent visit to Miami, Florida, we spent a couple nights taking in the strip of Ocean Drive.  What a blast!  Years ago we’d partied at the Clevelander and Mangos Tropical Beach Cafe.  Sure, we thought they were kind of cheesy then, but fun, oh my goodness!  Now, with renovations, great service, great entertainment, and a less intoxicated (just a little less) crowd, these two spots are worth stopping in…again and again and again!

We started at the Clevelander.  On this particular night, Friday, they had a Carnival show, complete with beautiful people on stilts, fire dancers and really hot Samba dancers. The emcee encouraged crowd participation…remember your bartender’s name and get a free cocktail.  Along with the show, the DJ rocks out the best dance tunes, both old and new.

After a couple hours, we headed to Mangos.  The line at the door looks overwhelming, but it moves quickly.  $10 cover after 9, but so worth it!  They have something for all.  Hot men, hot women, great, live Latin music, with a blend of top-40.  And the cocktails…wow!  We made a special request for a frozen mojito (after trying 5 or 6 beers from around Latin America).  Take it slow. You’re sure to be there for hours!

Visit, or re-visit these places and let us know what you think!

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South Beach and Little Havana

On day two of our Miami trip, we woke up and headed right to the beach.  We had a few Presidente Light beers, snacked on tomato and mozzarella, and swam for a few hours.

At about 4pm, we hopped in a taxi and took the $40 ride to Calle Ocho and 36th Avenue in search of Cuban food.  While there were plenty of places to choose from, we chose Versailles Restaurant.  At 4:30 Friday afternoon the place was packed with locals!  The menu was so extensive we almost covered our eyes and selected.  Almost.

We started off with cod-fish fritters and mashed green plantains with pork chunks and pork rinds.  For main courses we had Chicken Versailles (grilled boneless half chicken, marinated in mojo and served with lemon butter sauce, moros rice and fried plantains) and The Criollo (yellow rice, black beans, shredded beef in creole sauce. fried pork chunks, ham croquette, sweet plantains and yuca).  We were so stuffed we couldn’t see straight!  While the dessert selection looked so good, we couldn’t eat another bite.  We did, however, have a couple cups of delicious Cuban coffee.

In an effort to walk off our decadent early dinner, we headed down the block to the new Tabanica Cigars, Inc.  where we met Antonio Martinez.  He told us all about their Cuban seed, Nicaraguan wrapper cigars.  With little, or no urging, we purchased about 10 of them!  Check them out when you’re in town.  They don’t have a website yet.  3611 SW 8th Street Miami, Fl 33135. 305-603-8675.

Now, back to South Beach to take on the nightlife!  We need to dance off the food!

The View of the Shore Club Hotel from the Beach

The Beautiful Sky View from South Beach

Chicken Versailles

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TravelingWrite’s Headed Back to Hot Florida!

Our visit to St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Florida a couple of weeks ago turned out to be a pretty nice one.  We thought it would be unbearably hot and sticky, but it was quite pleasant.  Since most of the East Coast has been at 95-100 degree range for the past few days, we figured, what the heck?  We could really go for a few days at the beach, Salsa dancing and music, arroz con pollo and  baseball.  Let’s check out Miami!  Since its the height of summer, the rates are incredibly low.  For under $1,000, we’ve booked 3 nights at a 4-star hotel on South Beach, and 2 round-trip, non-stop airline tickets from Washington, DC.

Our plan is to just relax and go with the flow.  We are hoping, however, that “the flow” leads us to  Wet Willies and Mango’s (the usual tourist spots on SB), lunch at Puerto Sagua, a day in Little Havana, and a Marlins baseball game (we haven’t even checked the schedule!).  Other than that, cocktails on the beach and dinners at places we’ve yet to discover!

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Heading To Hot, Sticky, Summertime Florida for the 4th of July Weekend!

I know its been way too long since our last post.  I guess we needed a little vacation after that wine country tour!  Our next stop is Florida.  This afternoon we’ll hop on a 2 hour flight from Washington, DC to Jacksonville where we’ll spend the evening at one of our favorite spots, Poppy Love Smoke bar and lounge in downtown Jacksonville.  After having nice cigars, great wine and listening to cool jazz, we’ll stay the night at a beach house on Atlantic Beach.   We plan to spend the long weekend site-seeing in St. Augustine and visiting the probably not-as-famous, but definitely interesting, Palatka.  
We’ll make daily posts with photos!

Have a happy, safe 4th of July weekend!

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