Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sunrise and Sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico

The devil, as they say, is in the details, and our Internet at the condo, while “free” as advertised, is limited. This has meant that I have been having to ration my time on the Internet, including my time spent blogging our experience here.

But not to fear, I have been busy taking pictures and I have been “sacrificing” myself by relaxing away from my computer in the interim.

To tide you over until I return home to my paid, but unlimited Internet access, I present these pictures of a sunrise over the Gulf and a couple of sunsets. Enjoy.

Despite having been up 36 hours straight a couple of days beforehand, I was still up in time for the sunrise on Thanksgiving morning.

The Foodie Daughter was nice enough to travel down with me to the beach in the chilly weather.

Our condo is up there. Sweet.

Later that day we again ventured down to the beach to see the sunset.


Friday evening the Foodie Daughter and I went down to watch the sunset.

Hope you enjoyed the show.
Lucky you got to see this without having to deal with the cold sand and the chilly winds.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving in Panama City Beach

After finding out that my husband’s family would be celebrating Thanksgiving on the Sunday before the big day, I looked forward to actually being able to prepare my first ever Thanksgiving Day dinner for my family at home. For not once in our 26 years of marriage had we ever been home on Thanksgiving Day.

Those plans all changed with an email that I received from my husband on Monday, November 16. In it he asked what I thought about going to Panama City, Florida for Thanksgiving. My response was, “Who are you and what have you done with my husband?” After determining that he was indeed my husband and he was quite himself, thank you very much, I answered that yes, I would love to go.

Of course, it was then up to me to make all the arrangements for our stay. Once again the Internet saved the day as I was able to search hotels and condos and compare rates and features online before making a decision. A few clicks later and our reservations had been made.

The Foodie Daughter was brought on board and she immediately “voluntold” the Foodie Boyfriend to housesit and watch the cat for us while we were gone. Luckily for him, all our fish recently died, so there was that much less for him to do. Looks like we’re ready to head south for Thanksgiving.

Now we just had to prepare for the 14 hour drive down to Panama City Beach and schedule our departure from chilly Southern Indiana so that we would arrive in the warm Florida Panhandle in the late afternoon. Oh, you mean we have to leave home at 2 am? Well, if we must, we must.

The husband was able to go to sleep in the evening before we had to leave, so he took the first driving shift. Unfortunately, I had too many last minute things to do and I was too keyed up to be able to sleep, so I did without. In the end I couldn’t sleep in the car either, so I was awake a full 36 hours before I went to bed once we got to the condo and finally settled in for the night.

The first part of the drive was rather peaceful and we decided to stop in Kentucky at 4 am for a “midnight” snack. I’ll let you in on a deep, dark secret: I normally have little use for McDonald’s and view it only as a necessary evil when on the road and a quick, travel-friendly meal is needed. One of the many problems I have with their food is that I am always hungry an hour after eating there. I maintain that is because the food is mostly empty calories, but of course that is just my opinion. That being said, I do have a serious love for their Bacon and Egg McGriddle Sandwiches. And I have no problem with only very occasionally treating myself to one, despite the fact that I know I will be getting all or most of my daily allowance of calories, fat and sodium in that one little sandwich. I just couldn’t imagine eating this kind of food on a regular basis.

Now where were we? Oh that’s right, we were headed south on our way to Florida.

During a stop for gas in Franklin, Tennessee the Foodie Daughter and I switched seats, hoping that I could get some sleep. Alas, it didn’t work, but the daughter did take some pictures of the sunrise and early morning mists for me.

We stopped for a true breakfast at a Cracker Barrel in northern Alabama before the Foodie Daughter took over driving duties.

Alabama broke my heart.
No, wait. That wasn’t it.

Alabama broke my windshield.

The poor Foodie Daughter nearly had a heart attack when a rock hit the windshield on the passenger side where I was sitting, putting a not-so-very nice hole in my pretty windshield. Bad Alabama.

Guess we need to add the price of a new windshield to the cost of this vacation. Good thing I came in nearly $200 under budget on the accommodations. We are also saving money by eating in the condo for breakfast and lunch each day. What, us cheap?

Spanish moss on a tree.

Now that's something we Northerners don't get to see up our way.

Falling to the lure of quick, easy food, we did end up stopping at a McDonald’s for lunch and the food was predictable and forgettable. What else were you expecting?

Hello Florida.

Cotton fields.

That's another thing we never see up north.

There's still fall color to be found down here.

We crossed the Mid-Bay Bridge on our way to our destination.

Our condo is in the building on the left.

Finally, after hours and hours on the road and an hour detour to Destin, Florida so my husband could look at a piece of property for the bank he works at, we arrived at the condo. The friendly staff quickly signed us in and we were directed to our room on the 9th floor.

We then parked and took as much stuff as we could handle to the room to find … that the room had just been painted that day, tarps were still on the floor, the furniture was in the middle of the living/dining room, the workers’ tools and drinks were on the kitchen counters and the TV and lights had been left on. Well, this obviously would not work. Disheartened and tired, the Foodie Daughter and I trudged back down to the front desk to see about getting another room as this one was obviously not ready and I would not be able to stand the odor of the paint even if it were. Thankfully the nice lady quickly changed us to a new room and we moved our things.

What a difference. The first room was nice, but had no direct gulf view. Also, the bathroom was only accessible through the bedroom, which was not to the dear daughter’s liking. The new room is up on the 14th floor and directly faces the gulf. The floor plan has 1-1/2 baths so she doesn’t have to tramp through our bedroom in the middle of the night. In short, we are now happy condo-dwellers and I want to thank the staff of Origin at Seahaven for taking care of us.

I think I could handle having a place like this to come down to a few times a year. Guess I need to write my Great American Novel and get rich and famous so we can afford to do just that.

This is the floor plan for our unit.
Is this sweet or what?

Don't you just love this view from our balcony?

The pool is down on the 4th floor level.

We missed the sunset the first evening.

As tired as we were, we opted to walk across the road to Sharky’s Seafood Restaurant and Beach Club. The sun had already set, but the temperatures were still in the 60’s, so I made an executive decision and asked to be seated outside. Our table overlooked the beach where young children were happily playing while their parents sat in the restaurant.

One definite disadvantage of arriving after dark and sitting outside was that we couldn’t see either the menus or the food once it arrived. Guess they haven’t heard of lanterns? Our waitress, Michelle, was a gem and laughed when I asked to keep the menu long enough to photograph it for my blog.

We decided to order an appetizer and asked for the Caribbean Fritters. These are described as being “a Caribbean favorite, a blend of diced seafood, seasonings and onions in a traditional batter, crispy fried served with Sweet Thai Chili sauce.”

We all liked the fritters, and I will have to try to figure out a recipe like this at home.

The Foodie Daughter ordered the Classic Caesar Salad with Grilled Shrimp. She was very happy with her salad and practically inhaled the shrimp.

The husband ordered a basket of scallops.

These were deep fried bay scallops served with French fries and hush puppies.

He loved the scallops and thought they were perfectly prepared.

I opted to get the Firecracker Salad which is “lightly breaded Popcorn shrimp tossed in a sweet Thai chili sauce and served over a bed of mixed greens , tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.”

I did realize, even in the dark, that the “mixed greens” consisted solely of simply iceberg lettuce, but other than that tiny detail, this was one terrific salad and the shrimp were simply divine.

By now we were full, chilly and tired, so we headed back to the condo and turned in for the night by 8 pm local time (9 pm EST). Do we know how to live or what?

Stay tuned for sunrise and sunset on the beach, relaxing on the balcony and a disappointing but expensive Thanksgiving buffet.