A Tale of Two Floridas

Our trip to Florida was our first vacation since the Covid pandemic and exactly a year from our last vacation. Florida has never been a destination on our bucket list, but with international travel still difficult to do, we decided to make the best of a February getaway. Travel in any shape or form sounds good at this point.

Two Floridas? The first -My husband’s idea of a good time and my idea are not always the same. We travel together but our activities are split and we do our own thing. The other tale is that we divided our stay, 3-nights in St Augustine and 3-nights in Disney World. Disney was solely my idea and it took a bit of coercing to get my mate onboard with that one.

Yoga class on Vilano Beach

St Augustine- Florida Part 1

Since this portion of the trip fell on a Fri, Sat, Sun, I knew this would be a busy and crowded time. Since I wanted to see St Augustine and my husband was going to golf and enjoy the Golf World Hall of Fame which is about 20 miles away, I booked us a hotel off of I-95 in between the two. This worked out perfectly for the things we wanted to do. Below is my good and not so good list of my experiences.

Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios

The Good

  • St. Augustine is a beautiful town. I really liked the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios. It’s a pretty waterfront park…and it was the only free parking I could find.
  • Good restaurants
  • Dan golfed at 2 nice courses at Golf World Village, Slammer & Squire and King & Bear.
  • I took a backroads drive to Jacksonville, and in the town Green Cove Springs I found a couple of neat old cemeteries.

Not so good

  • St Augustine parking is next to impossible and the city was extremely crowded…(albeit this was a Saturday). Driving through on a Monday was much better.

Disney World- Florida Part 2

Leaving St Augustine we drove the A1A coastal highway, a little slow-moving but very scenic. We bypassed Daytona and got back on I-95 for a bit and then continued on to Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach. The drive and sightseeing took most of the day and we arrived at Coronado Springs Resort inside Disney World around dinnertime.

The GoodNot so Good
Coronado Springs resort is nice… and very gigantic.

Dan had 2 golf days inside Disney- the Palm, and Magnolia.

I went to Animal Kingdom one day- a nice, fun park, not too crowded. The best ride was Avatar: Flight of Passage.

The next day I went to Epcot. This was my eating day: so many countries with so many foods to try. This park was very empty, 20 mins was my longest wait for a ride.
Because of Covid only 2 full-service restaurants were open, not good for a resort of this size and the wait time  for a table was ridiculous.

We ate dinner one night at Polynesian Resort. Food was good but pricey, that was expected. Shuttle buses were about every 1/2 hour or else too full to get on. We used Uber when eating at the other resort.
Cemetery in Green Cove Springs, FL

Here is what I learned about Disney World… you cannot be in a hurry for anything. Everything takes a long time, restaurant waits, shuttle buses, lines for rides, and walking around the hotel/resort area, everything is far because it’s so big. Of course the travel agent in me spent a little bit of time shuttling over to other resorts to see what they look like.

Disney resorts are so nice, they are a vacation destination on their own–you don’t need a theme park everyday. I expected the Floridian resort to be nice, but I was blown away by how nice. Talk about the “wow!” factor.

Floridian Resort Disney World

Would I do Disney again? Yes! (my husband said absolutely not). What would I do different? Maybe I’d bring a car as to not rely on shuttle buses, bring an older school-age grandchild with me, and spend more time enjoying the resort amenities.

Woodpecker seen in Green Cove Springs, FL (Mt Olive Cemetery)

Travel Ireland: Why it’s not your grandparents’ trip

I have to admit that when we first started talking about a trip to Ireland, I wasn’t that excited… it just seemed so old-school. Maybe a little too tame and mellow? Well it was, and that is the beauty of it. I personally get a little tired of touring ruins, cathedrals, and cute little towns full of souvenir shops. On this trip I was looking for more than that and I was surprised at how much I loved it.

The best way to visit Ireland is by driving yourself or hiring a private guide/driver. We went with another couple, so it made splitting the cost a little more feasible. Driving yourself didn’t look too hard. The cars are very small for the narrow roads, and the traffic was not that congested. The only thing that looked challenging was maneuvering in roundabouts from the left hand side of the road.

When you are able to customize a trip yourself, you can choose the things you are most interested in. For instance, I wanted to see old cemeteries and gardens, my husband was interested in golf courses, our travel partners’ request was to drive the shore roads, view marinas, and take a carriage ride around Dromoland Castle. We all got our wish… well almost. My husband desperately wanted to get out onto Skellig Michael island. He tried, but it’s nearly impossible. The tours only take so many people a day (it’s booked up months in advance) and it’s cancelled half the time due to the weather. It’s a long choppy boat ride. Also, it has become super popular because it’s the film location of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The top 6 reasons I love Ireland–

  • The people are so friendly, I never tired of the hearing numerous times a day in that Irish brogue with such passion “Good morning, what a lovely day it is.”
  • My wish was fulfilled of visiting 2 beautiful cemeteries- Glasnevin in Dublin, and Aghadoe in County Kerry.

  • As usual for me… the food. Scones with rich Irish butter, mussels, fish & chips, cottage pie (AKA shepherds pie). My husband had a Guinness beer with every meal, he swears it tastes so much better there on draft. One thing we had to learn, bacon is ham. We never saw crispy bacon. Even if you order a BLT sandwich, it’s a piece of ham.

  • Our driver was able to get a private tour of Old Head lighthouse just outside of Kinsale, and we enjoyed a drive through its famous golf course. This is a working lighthouse with a salty seaman that lives on the grounds to care for it. From the top of the lighthouse there was an amazing view of the golf course, the craggy rocks and crashing waves below.

Lighthouse caretaker

  • The biggest impression I got of Ireland was that it felt romantic, it seemed to me like a good place for a honeymoon. The hotels are so old and stately. When we stayed at The Great Southern in Killarney, I felt like we were staying at the Biltmore, very grand with a fireplace burning in the lobby. On one misty rainy day, we stopped into a pottery + coffee shop in Dingle and the cafe smelled of baked goods and coffee, as the rain hit the sky lights and windows. The pubs were always dark with cozy corner tables. See what I mean….. romantic!
  • We didn’t do this–but if we were to go back again, there are some fantastic walking trails. I saw a lot of backpackers walking the Kerry Way. It’s 135 miles of walking trails around Ring of Kerry, Killarney, Muckross Lake, Cork, Tralee, etc. It looks great.

Ireland, we will be back.

Kerry Camino