Thursday, November 20, 2014

Family Fun

Tom’s brother Todd turned the big 4-0 and we wanted to help his beautiful wife Sherry make it something really special and memorable for him - plus on a completely selfish note we wanted to see them both. A few conversations with Sherry, and some scheming we were able to assist her and help concoct a grand affair for Todd. Leveraging Skymiles, Tom and I were able to pitch in with plane tickets while Sherry took care of everything else. Sherry planned everything, including conspiring with Tony and Diane (Tom and Todd’s parents) to take the kids for the weekend, while they came out to St. Augustine to celebrate. I am pretty sure Sherry succeeded in bowling Todd over and then throwing in one more surprise as they boarded their connecting flight in Atlanta to St. Augustine - Tom was there waiting for them on the plane to fly the rest of the way to Florida on his way back from San Antonio.

Tom and Todd heading out to body board

The majority of the weekend was spontaneous and completely centered around the ocean. Days where spent lounging on the beach, taking to the waves by body board, Todd and Sherry taking complete advantage of the proximity to the sea during their visit and hopefully enjoying every moment of it. In fact one of my most cherished memories of our stay in St. Augustine happened while they were visiting and involved the four of us sitting on the beach one night after a storm had moved out over the Atlantic Ocean. All of us sipping on wine as we sat in awe, watching as lightening ricocheted across the sky, giving us our own nature driven firework show! The power and energy that illuminated the sky while listening to the snap of thunder and the soothing sound of waves, all creating an amazing ambience to just sit, marvel and catch up on life. A memory I will never forget and they company made it a perfect moment in time!  

Strange encounters on the beach
Todd raising the main sail
We had one event planned for Todd and Sherry’s stay, a sunset sail which didn't disappoint. The sail started perfectly, we put Todd to work assisting the crew with raising the main sail to mast as we set out to sea. The crew kept our wine glasses full. They were exceptionally friendly and fun to talk to, and the Captain even let Miss Ethel man the wheel for a bit. We all sat back, took in the scenery and marveled at the well-oiled machine that was our crew, watching them move sails, run across the boat as the wind would shift and learning what it takes to sail a schooner was quite a learning experience. Then there was that magnificent sunset, creating an ambiance of magic as she highlighted the historic St. Augustine in front of her and left a trail of golden streaks to dance across the ocean. Our sail was a perfect start to a crazy and fun filled night. Poor Ethel was such a trooper and went along the entire night, although I am pretty sure she slept through the bulk of it.

Sunset Cruise
Todd and Sherry taking in the view
All of us tipsy and starving as we disembarked the boat, we immediately set out in the search of dinner and ended up at a fun outdoor place on Aviles Street. Good food, great conversation, a dog passed out on top of my feet and the most interesting server I think I have ever experienced. At one point she was Brazilian and had no voice, later she sounded like New Yorker with a voice and at another point she changed her clothes. To top it off she kept bringing us free food and wine and then she graciously kicked us out; our response “if you want us to leave, quit bringing us food to eat!”

Sunset Cruise with an outline of St. Augustine
Me stealing kisses from Tom
After being kicked out of the restaurant, we stumbled down St. George Street looking for more fun and happened to meander into this crazy, eclectic wine bar; enticed in by a bobble head, a one man band and the fact that they let Ethel come hang out with us up at the bar made it a perfect landing spot. I vaguely remember ordering a drink and getting some strange concoction and then learning later by some bar friends that the bar was technically not a bar, but by some weird Florida law they can sell fermented alcohol without a liquor license. So the vodka water I had was fermented, hence the weird taste. Hind sight, had I known this, I would have gone with wine and not the weird Florida moonshine I ended up with. We happened to close down yet another place, we got the boot and this is when we all learned pretty quickly that St. Augustine isn't really night town because everything was pretty much shut down by midnight. I am wondering if during peak season in the summer months if it’s a little different? Although, it suits me, I am such a morning girl, being out past ten is kind of a big deal for me and St. Augustine made me feel like party animal, it was good for my ego!

More Sunset Cruise
Bridge of Lions Drawbridge welcoming us back to port
The long weekend with Todd and Sherry went by way too quickly and it was hard to say goodbye to them, but I am sure their kids were very excited to have them home, even if we didn't want them to leave. Getting to celebrate with Todd for his 40th almost felt like being home again and it was nice to be around familiar faces and family. Lucky for me, my sister-in-law (my brother’s wife) who is also one of my dearest friends, Staci, was coming out to play the following week while Tom was working. So although I had to say goodbye, I still had another hello coming my way, which helped ease the pain of letting them go.

Fun family shot from our sail
Water Reflections
Staci flew in on a Sunday and we had five wonderful days with her, packed full of fun adventures and of course lots and lots of beach time! But when we weren't of playing in the sand or rescuing live starfish that had washed ashore, we were off doing something crazy, like zip lining over alligators or exploring the haunted side of St. Augustine!

Charm in sailing
City view from the marina
One day, cloud covered skies with rain on the horizon, Staci and I had the need to move, so we opted to explore our adventurous side and headed over to the Alligator Farm to attempt the zip line. Little did we know that it was a full two hour obstacle course that included 9 zip lines with obstacles sixty feet from the ground; ground that was covered with very large and very hungry alligators! Besides zip lining over large ravenous beasts, we also walked across high wires, rickety old bridges, log jumps and then ended our adventure with a forty foot free fall! Talk about endorphin's running wild, such a fun and spur of the moment thing and one of my favorite memories. I am so glad I got to do this with her and didn't read all the details online before driving over, I might have decided against it!
Shots from Staci and I's obstacle course
Ghost tour fun
Staci’s last night in town we headed out to dinner and then for a walking ghost tour of historic St. Augustine. Were we scared? No. We did however learn a plethora of history about the city that I wouldn't have learned otherwise, so on that account, I have to say it was 100% worth the time and money. St. Augustine is America’s oldest city, so to say that there isn’t paranormal activity, would just be na├»ve; the stories, the puns and learning the overall dark side of its roots was phenomenal! The puns of course coming from the yellow fever outbreaks and people being assumed dead, but only in a coma. The wealthy citizens would hire individuals to watch over the grave of their loved one buried in Huguenot Cemetery by tying a string around the buried finger. This string was then tied to a bell on the surface, so if they awoke from a coma versus actually being dead they could be “Saved by the Bell” by the person paid to watch over them from a death of being buried alive. So were people actually buried alive? Yes! They have actually found caskets with scratch marks of those that awoke from their coma, to only end of dying of suffocation. I know, crazy and creepy! What else did we learn? Well the Intracoastal is connected with the Matanza River, which I knew with my broken Spanglish, meant slaughter, but learning how it got its name was another fascinating story, but I am going to leave that one for y’all and your own ghost tour of St. Augustine; as much as I want to, I can’t give you all the gory history!

One of the three starfish Staci and I rescued
Having family visit was amazing, wonderful and I was just over the moon to see OUR people! We haven’t had guests since April when Susy came to see us in DC and I didn't realize how much I missed everyone. And not to take away from all the friends we have been able to meet up with and see along the way, or the new friends we have met on the road, but it just isn’t the same as those you are used to interacting with on a regular basis; those that know you and still love you regardless of your craziness! Saying goodbye to Todd, Sherry and Staci was hard. Maybe it is just the hold that family has on you, that unconditional love, or the not knowing when we will see them again; but I have been left with that longing and maybe feeling a little homesick for our people as of late, so dammit, I need more of you to come visit because I am not ready to come home yet!

Sunrise and combing the beach with the beautiful Staci
Sunrise Selfie

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Home Sweet Anastasia Island!

We landed on Anastasia Island, with just a quick drive over the Bridge of Lions from the city of Saint Augustine herself and quickly adapted to the carefree, go lucky, happy attitude of island living; our month of idyllic life began the moment we pulled up to our home in Saint Augustine Beach, it was like driving into a dream. From the proximity to the sea and the charm of our adorable yellow cottage, it was almost as if I needed to pinch myself to verify it was all real; the setting was almost too perfect to believe. Needless to say, St. Augustine Beach won us over from the get-go!

Of course the beach being half a block away was the focal point of our trip, being able to wake with the sun almost every morning to watch her rise up out of the Atlantic had such a refreshing and renewing energy. It was almost like a spiritual experience for many of the locals, running into many of the same friendly faces day after day, cup of coffee or surfboard in hand, just watching the gift of vitality the sun brings at the crack of dawn, grateful to start each day anew and reenergized by its light. Acclimating to the Salt Life didn't take long, trust me, as you can tell, blog posts are very far  behind! I was sucked into the present, not wanting to miss a moment of playing in the sand or listening to the sound of the waves. 

Our First Sunrise in St. Augustine Beach
Unfortunately, Ethel didn't appreciate Tom and I’s love for the beach as much as we did and would run from the ocean as fast as her little legs in powdery sand would take her. On the plus side, we found her a great doggie daycare to play and mingle with friends while her humans took to the waves! Most of the beaches here are pet friendly, well, pretty much everything is pet friendly here. Think I am kidding? Ethel pretty much went everywhere we did, well except the market, but as far as dog friendly cities, I have never visited a city that values pets as much as this place, except maybe Black Mountain. 


Saint Augustine Beach is truly a beach town, if you have shoes on, you’re a tourist! The locals walk barefoot virtually everywhere and I can say, it is pretty easy to get used to not putting on shoes, in fact there are a couple of times that Tom and I hopped in the car realizing, oh shit, we need shoes! Everyone is friendly, kind and they live on beach time; things get done when they get done, no rush and no worries. Especially if the waves are beckoning the surfers to the sea, this is a surf town and well, surfing comes first regardless of work. In fact there are a couple of shops and eateries that would just flip the open sign to closed and you could watch the staff, surfboards in hand, running to the ocean! Now “City Bonnie” might find this annoying, but “Beach Bum Bonnie” found this enticing! Everything about this place had me wrapped around its finger!

Our Beach
The home itself was cozy and exuded the beach vibe; from the decor to the outdoor shower. The house even smelled of the sea and not in the fishy gross way, but it had that appealing scent of moisture. Imagine a cool night, waves crashing and the breeze blowing through the window, that is the smell this place emanated! Besides the fun vibrant colors in the home, the place boasted a couch with fish on it, seriously, how can it be more beachy than that! 

We have so much to share from our time here: our adventures, visitors, history and pictures, but in the meantime, here she is - the home that captivated us - the place we almost needed to be evicted because we really didn't want to leave - our Magical Beach Oasis:


Back Patio
Family room complete with a fish couch! It was literally covered with fish! 
Guest room that got used!!! 
Dining Room
Kitchen
Master Bedroom
Shell Art for the Home
Cozy Front Porch
Our Outdoor Shower