Oct 6, 2012

Sea 'gustine

Pigtails, Curls and I spent 10 days in Florida in early August.  The adventure continues, the girls are on queue for SeaWorld in Orlando and our drive to St. Augustine. 

When we went to sea world it is not worth the money the best part about it was the shows and the rollercausters where the best. The rollercausters are huge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The car was nice it was a Chrysler 200. The house in st. Augustine had everything we needed it had a cooler a frige bathroom a pool a bed  towles and even more.  In st augaustine we went to a mexan place and it was great!  The day I first seat eyes on the ocean it was clouds everywere the water had foam in the water. And the water was cold but I still liked it and I learned how to boggi board.

Hi, it’s me, Curls!  When it comes to highlighting the rest of our Florida vacation, I’m stepping in to pick up where Beard left off.

Disney was simply enchanting and memorable for reasons already stated.  But Florida has more to offer than a castle and mouse ears.  Having relied solely on Disney transportation up until then, we needed our own vehicle going forward.  Beard lined up a rental for us – a Chrysler 200.  Nothing fancy, but decent, all things considered.  He drove, I navigated.  Pigtails napped, drew pictures and sang happily in the backseat.  Amazingly, we had no directional snafus.  Yeah, I know.  I’m surprised too. 

First up…

SeaWorld.  <sigh>  When first planning our Floridian escape, SeaWorld simply “made” the cut.  Beard, Pigtails and I quickly agreed that sea life HAD to be part of our coastal visit and SeaWorld seemed the most promising avenue to deliver on that kind of experience.  I’ll be the first to admit that I get just as excited planning and anticipating a trip as I do actually living out the trip, so I  invested a great deal of time perusing SeaWorld’s web-site, pulling up random YouTube videos showcasing their rides and studied TripAdvisor reviews up ‘n down.  So, you could say I felt pretty confident that we’d have a good day there – grrr…

I’ll just come out and say it.  SeaWorld was a bit of a letdown.  I had assumed our reaction was, in part, due to us coming off from our Disney “high”.  But honestly, I think SeaWorld is trying too hard to be something it wasn’t ever intended to be.  We were seeking the crème de la crème of sea life spectaculars. We kind of got it, I guess.  Sort of.  Maybe.  You see what I mean?  I can’t even choose the right words.  We saw the dolphin nursery and the sting ray lagoon (and much, much more, as they say), but alas walked away unexcited, under-thrilled and thirsty for something more substantial.  A memory perhaps?  Something educational?  A sweeping brush with sea life experts who would wow us with their hands-on interactions?  I suppose it’s unjust to state that these opportunities don’t exist at SeaWorld (they do, but at extra cost), but I simply didn’t see it brought out in a profound, visible way throughout the park.



Instead what was quite accessible were the rides and food.  Beard and Pigtails immediately gravitated toward the coasters.  I happily waved them by.  Safely.  On the ground.  Somebody had to hold the “good” camera – ha!  That’s the story I’m sticking to *wink*.  

We hit up a handful of other attractions, but none to highlight from my perspective.  One quick story before I abandon this section.  Mid-day, we grabbed a (mediocre) lunch.  Overpriced and possessing little taste, we had no problem discovering great joy in feeding our leftovers to these crazy birds that just magically appeared and obnoxiously hovered around our outdoor table.  It was particularly great entertainment when the ducks moved in and the birds retaliated.  Best $15 bird/duck food ever!

So, where did SeaWorld tug at my heart strings a bit?  I’ll pick two, one that still has me yearning and another that made me laugh. 

First, the beluga whales.  Had anyone told me that these sweetie pies would capture my heart that day, I would have scoffed.  My money would have been on the dolphins.  I was pleasantly surprised at how magical and endearing the belugas were to watch.  We had just finished up a flight simulation ride called “Wild Arctic”, which forces an exit into what is described as a “polar playground”.  Behold the beluga whales!  We were lucky enough to arrive as a pair of guests, donning wetsuits, was in the midst of their “extra cost” beluga whale interaction experience.  I can’t speak to whether or not it’s worth it to pay extra for such an encounter, but I can assure you that I got my ya-ya’s just watching.   

 SeaWorld describes these mammals as “gentle” and “social” creatures and, based on what I observed, that is spot-on.  I was holding Pigtails on my hip so she had a better view and between the two of us, we uttered phrases like “look at the precious cutie”, “he, she, it… is so beautiful”, “ah, she’s a smarty pants”, “I think she smiled at me” (that was Pigtails, not me), “listen…she’s singing”.  We stood there for what felt like an eternity, but I could have easily logged another hour or two.  Very peaceful habitat, great viewing area and kudos to SeaWorld for carving out a place for these beauties.  Highly recommended.  
And my second favorite?  The sea lion show, “Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island”.  Out of all the shows we took in that day, this was rated tops among the three of us.  Very cutely scripted, slap-stick style presentation and both kid and adult approved, it was not only wonderfully innocent, but a throwback to the good ol’ days where simple entertainment is better.  And best of all, there was an obvious storyline that drew you in.  Like a sucker, you couldn’t wait to see what happened next (even though deep down you already knew).  But you know what?  I loved every second of it.
So, there you have it – SeaWorld.  More than anything, I craved educational opportunities.  I was there to learn.  I didn’t quite get that.  Instead, it was a theme park.  For some, maybe that’s precisely what they’re looking for.  For me, not so much.  Even so, glad we took time to check it out.

And leaving central Florida, we head to the Atlantic coast and the highly praised St. Augustine.  Would it live up to its reputation?

As a lover of all things historical, the very idea of St. Augustine grabbed my attention fast and deliberately.  Bear with my bookish intro.  St. Augustine, nestled in northeastern Florida, was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers.  It’s touted as the oldest continuously occupied European-settled city in the continental US.  I may (or may not) have paraphrased Wikipedia there.  More than anything, St. Auggie’s promised an escape from more popular Florida destinations.  Sign us up!

We arrived just outside of town around the dinner hour.  Crabbiness was setting in.  Food was a priority.  Trip Advisor (love this app!) pointed us to a highly rated Mexican restaurant by the name of La Cocina, just on the outskirts of town.  This locally-owned gem offered an authentic atmosphere and menu.  I requested the chicken fajita dish, a staple order for me.  The food was served warm, dressed up and so colorful that I couldn’t wait to swoop spoonful after spoonful of that spicy awesomeness my way.  The tastes that emerged didn’t disappoint – wonderfully seasoned and satisfying.  Had we more days to burn, I would have strongly suggested we make an excuse to visit this eatery again (something I rarely do when vacationing).  Me gusta!

With tummies full, we pulled into St. Augustine.  If you should ever be so lucky to be close enough to visit, do it!  I loved everything about this city and wouldn’t hesitate to make a repeat visit.  So, why the appeal?  It’s a coastal town (yeah beaches!), tucked in a historical setting (character!), with a tidy downtown “cute-as-a-button” shopping district offering a mix of eclectic shops (woo hoo!), fun eateries (yum!) and street vendors (hello, 3-ft bubble maker man!).  Need I say we had a good time out there?  We did.

What really sealed the deal for us were our lodging accommodations.  We decided to go out on a limb, forgo a traditional hotel and instead try a vacation rental.  Admittedly, I was initially skeptical.  Is the owner trustworthy?  Will we get what we pay for?  What if the place is icky?  What if the pics posted online look nothing like the property we walk into?  And the list goes on.  At some point, you just have to take the risk, you know?  And that we did.  We chose Airbnb.com, an online site that brings those with vacation rentals to offer to those seeking a place to stay.  After a couple weeks, reading review after review, we finally settled on a canary yellow abode.  The photos were beautiful, the reviews were overwhelmingly positive, the location was ideal and the price was right.  Crossing my fingers, I submitted the reservation.  Boy, did we ever hit the jackpot!

At the risk of not doing this place justice, I’ll let the pictures do most of the blogging.  I’ve never been so pleased with lodging.  I kept telling Beard that if I owned property as nice and well-maintained as this, I’d never offer it up to strangers.  It was THAT immaculate.  I thank our wonderful host for opening up this dreamy slice of paradise.



I’ll leave you with these departing words.  St. Augustine marked Pigtails’ first time ever seeing the ocean.  It’s a tough thing to describe to a 10-yr old who has no point of relevant reference.  It’s more than water.  Our initial visit was at dusk, upon arriving on that first day.  We parked the car, walked about 20-steps, kicked off our flip-flops, curled our toes through the sand and headed straight to the salty oasis.  We promised Pigtails that we’d be back the very next day for an official introduction, but we just needed that taste, ya know?  I believe her first word was, “Whoa…”.  Whoa indeed, Pigtails.  It’s more than water, after all.  


~Pigtails and Curls


  1. Funny how different people enjoy different attractions. Our kids loved Sea World even without paying for the extras, but Disney was 'ho, hum' for them. It sounds like y'all make the best of everything, though!

    1. Completely agree, TJ! I kept telling Beard - did we somehow "do" SeaWorld the wrong way? Tough to know for sure. Thanks for stopping by to drop a comment!

  2. Anonymous10/07/2012

    Sea World...I don't remember rides or beluga whales. We did pay for some of the educational experiences...the penguins were my favorite, enjoyed the shows, but it is not Disney...where your every whim is met. I totally agree that they could up the education and the environmental aspect of sea life.
    Loved St. Augustine...although after reading this, our hotel was sub-par!!!! You lucked out! So glad you had a good time.
    There is nothing like the ocean!

    1. When I experience new things, I like to either 1) be learning something or 2) be entertained. Preferably both. Beard and I waffled about the "extra cost" stuff at SeaWorld, but decided to pass 'em by. Perhaps that was our mistake? I agree it's not a completely fair comparison to put it up against Disney.

      St. Auggies, I know. Such a lovely place...so happy to read that another felt the same, Kathy!

  3. Great recap, Curls! You have a great writing style - Beard should ask you to take over the blog more often! :-)

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ms. Erin! :)

      I'm trying to convince Beard to do a post where we co-write, as in, he writes a paragraph, then I write a paragraph and so on. Basically we pass the baton, as though stepping through a conversation. Oh, the possibilities! What do you think?

    2. I think that is a loverly idea. Yes, loverly!

  4. What a great recap!! You guys are making me crave a vacation.

    1. Just do it! Vacations need not be big to be worth it. Just a couple of weekends ago, Beard and I hit up a nearby state park. With the leaves changing 'round these here parts, it was BEAUTIFUL. You gotta seize the moment, ya know?

    2. A daycation...that's a bit of a staycation.

    3. Daycation!! I love it :)

  5. of all our homes (& we own 6 around the country) we love our key biscaynne home the best. cant beat an ocean view. sea world blows (of course i also call disney the most crowded, miserable place on earth, so...). busch gardens & jungle island are a much better 'bang for the buck' places in my opinion. also anything on the keys involving sea life is fantastic & well done. plus theres the stone crab (when in season) & the real deal key lime pie. the everglades can be fun, but that too tends to be more $$$ than its worth. coral castle is a great (cheap) place & cocoa beach is a lot of family fun. the causeways are great drives & of course then there is papa hemingway. pub crawling in his footsteps is always a(n)(adult) treat. scuba diving in the blue holes in ginny springs state park is breath taking & the college town atmosphere of the gainsville area always makes me feel 19 again. florida is way more than tampa & kisssimmee!

    1. that's nothing, I got 7 houses.

    2. Beard, lego houses and snow forts do not count!


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