Monthly Archives: July 2010

Changes in the ‘Hood

Nothing ever stays the same, does it?! Yesterday during my walk-about, I noticed that even though only two short weeks have elapsed in time, Uptown has evolved.

Here’s a photo tour!

a lot of new cement at the construction site out our window...they've added the far two stories and the cement walls in the middle...

new movies at the Princess - that's to be expected! Maybe I'll go see "Cyrus!"

the fish and chips place is now open! they'd been working on the renos for months!

...and this upscale dining establishment has closed!

(Check out this link as it has photos and a few comments on both of the above restaurants).

this bank relocated down the street, from the mall to beside starbucks...

what happened to the (closed) quizno's that was here?!! poof!

another fresh and fun window display at the children's-wear store!

beauty lotions and potions on willis way - certainly smelled divine as i walked past!

…and, of course…

...marilyn's moved into the 'hood! :)

Let’s Revisit Those Pre-Trip Predictions!

Before I left for my trip, I posted 10 pre-trip wishes  along with 5 items I hoped to avoid, all of which began with the “Letter S.”

For fun, we’ll take a post-trip look at those goals, and see how things actually turned out!

Before that, I can add one more “Letter S” word to describe this vacation in a nutshell: SMASHINGSUCCESS!!! :)

Let’s begin!

10. SUN – total hit! I enjoyed solid sunshine practically every day! There was only one evening in Sarasota where it rained, and I had one day of rain when I drove from Naples to Sarasota. And I DID wear SPF 30 every day – thanks to the instant bronzing agent in the sunscreen, I am very pleased with the tan I came home with!

9. SHOP – I sure did! Let’s go through a few highlights:

  • International Mall, Tampa (both at the beginning and the end of the trip; this was my favourite mall of all that I visited)
  • Target and SuperTarget – my favourite was the SuperTarget I stopped at on the way to Clearwater Beach
  • Haslam’s Bookstore, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million – I visited more bookstores than I anticipated
  • Walmart SuperCenter
  • St Armand’s Circle
  • Miromar Outlets
  • Coastland Center, Naples
  • Publix, SweetBay, Whole Foods

…And I don’t even feel shopped out! The trip just reactivated my dormant love of shopping!

8. SNACK – check! Enjoyed many daily treats, and ate well! My favourites: the protein snack plate at Starbucks; the veggie trays from Publix, fruit slices from Publix; Greek yogurts in different brands and flavours; Naturally More peanut butter (consumed 2.5 jars during the trip – as far as I know, not available in Canada – sob – if you know of a resource, please let me know!)

7. SNAP: accomplished both meanings, as previously defined. I photographed each day’s events…except for Siesta Key Beach Day when I forgot my camera. :( Pretty much all the photos I took ended up on the blog, so it’s a comprehensive collection.

…And also got to try some new gum flavours! For example:

new brand for me and crazy flavours! maui melon mint or peppermint spray, anyone?!

I discovered EXTRA gum in stick form, as well (think Juicy Fruit stick shape) – these were honking CHEWY, I tell you!

6. SHARE: Believe it or not, doing up the posts consumed about 1-2 hours of time per day! But blogging was a thoroughly enjoyable hobby during the trip. I loved describing the day’s events and sights, and I’m happy to have an “online journal” that I can go back and reference, too. Composing the blog entries really was a vacation highlight.

5. SPEND: The most expensive hotel night was my Holiday Inn on the beach at Clearwater Beach. The least expensive was the Ramada Inn in Naples, closely followed by my TownePlace Suites in Tampa (where I started and finished my trip). I haven’t done the calculations yet, but I believe accomodation will average out to what I had budgeted. I kind of watched what I bought in terms of shopping, because I had to consider how to get the items home! Didn’t skimp on food at all. Came home with more cash than I thought I would. Gas came in at less than anticipated…there will be more money talk in a future post.

4. STUDY: I did a lot of people watching and eavesdropping! A few items of note:

  • I was really impressed with the families I observed. I realize that families on a travel vacation likely are middle/upper class, but that doesn’t always guarantee manners; that being said, I saw very polite behaviour (example: a father and teenage son would wait til all women on the elevator exited before stepping out, kids eating politely and quietly at breakfast buffets).
  • the travellers I saw were white, for the large majority. I came across a few hispanic families, a couple african-american families and very few asians. This did surprise me – the fact that primarily whites dominated the vacation scene where I travelled – I had expected a more multi-cultural mix
  • if you’re in the service industry (hotel, airport, restaurant, retail), a little extra kindness really does make a traveller’s day!

3. SWIM: I surprised myself! Given the warm temps of both the ocean and the swimming pools I encountered, I swam MORE and spent more time IN THE WATER than I thought I would! If I had access to pools like these all the time, I’d be a regular fish!

2. SIGHTSEE: haha, true to the prediction, I did not visit one museum or tour one historic site. Now, I DID have a grand time at the Ringling Museum Grounds in Sarasota, and at the Pier in St Petersburg, but these were not “guided,” formal, pay-to-enter tours. I had a superbly enjoyable time making up my own explorations.

1. SMILE: oh yea! whether it was funny roadside signs, trying to figure out pay parking systems, or just really having fun in the moment, I was a happy clam the entire trip, honestly. No anxious moments (even trying to drive around Tampa was OK because I had nowhere I had to be, or schedule to follow), no loneliness (there’s a difference between being lonely and being alone). Even my memories make me smile! :)

…and 5 things I tried to avoid:

5. SCHEDULE: I didn’t follow a schedule but I did have more or less of a plan for each day. And I discovered I liked to visit the Fitness Rooms first thing in the morning. I blogged mostly in the eve. I needed a break late aft before an evening excursion. I did change my initial itinerary (spent an extra day in Sarasota, did not stay overnight on Sanibel Island or on Marco Island). But for a schedule-lover, I did “loosen up!”

4. SLEEP: The latest I ever slept in was 6:45 a.m. I had one night of insomnia where I was awake til 3 a.m. (that’s what chocolate in your cereal will get ya!) and one morning I woke up at 4 a.m. But the other nights’ sleeps were solid and restful, and sleep was plentiful enough.

3. STARBUCKS-MY-WAY: This is the BIGGEST FAIL!!! :) I really chuckle at this because I visited at least one Starbucks in every city, and at stops in between. But my reasons are valid:

  • you will encounter a Starbucks on most major driving routes in any city –  no need to scout out locations
  • Starbucks has free internet access in EVERY location, and the connection is FAST. Starbucks internet was faster than my fastest hotel, even
  • you know what you’re getting. I’m in the mood for coffee cake? I know what it’s going to taste like and I won’t be disappointed with a treat that looks good but doesn’t fit what I was tasting

Also to note: McDonalds offers free internet, too – but the atmosphere inside a McDo is vastly different, of course, than that at The Buck!

2. SODA-CIZE: Whew! A big sigh of relief. I had NOT ONE craving the entire trip. Club soda hit the spot many an evening, and during the day I was too busy to think about a pop break. Not even on the beach did I wish for a fizzy beverage! I’m really relieved that my mind reverted back to equating “DIET COKE” with “EWWW!” So no – not a drop of pop during the two weeks!

1. SPEED: I was a model citizen and stuck to the speed limit. When you’re taking a photo while you’re driving following directions, changing lanes, signalling, you need to have an extra moment. And the speed limit of 70 mph on I-75 was just fine.

So while I easily can say “I had a great vacation!”, it’s fun to examine exactly why it was fantastic experience.

Later this week: a financial report, a comment on the BP oil spill, and other trip-related news!

All’s Well That Ends Well

So how do you pass two hours at the airport?

1. you blog.

2. you read blogs:

blog within another blog

3. you try on sunglasses just for kicks:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C!

Please feel free to cast your vote in the “comments” section! :)

4. you skim magazines you have no intention of buying, and that you find not even all that interesting:

well, maybe the bit on brangelina was be interesting...; rachel ray? definitely not!

5. you compose your grocery list:

i only got part way through before our flight boarding was called!

Then it was goodbye Tampa…

a bientot, j'espere...

…and hello, TO!

at least i went from blue sky to blue sky! (though the temp dropped by 20 degrees or more!)

Flight was uneventful. All three of us in my row read our novels. I didn’t quite finish Nicholas Sparks; if the flight had been from Aruba, I would have!

Me and about 30 000 Asian teenagers got through Customs with no issues. My yes, no, Tampa, shopping answers sufficed. Had to wait a while for luggage…

I had to laugh - I had a clear picture of my brother trying something like that!....

Then these fine people were waiting to meet me!

a lovely welcome home!

i've become a master of the one-handed self-photo!

Could be a late night now – I love puttering and unpacking when I come in after a trip.

So I go to open my suitcase and notice the zippers are NOT how I left them positioned…I open the suitcase to find this:

that would be the notification that my contents were examined!

Fine! Lucky buddy who got to smell dirty laundry and see that I stole brought home all my baby shampoo bottles from my hotels!

What a fantastic trip. I need a few days to exit the vacation world and re-enter the home world. (The condo feels absolutely palatial! I’m used to living in 1/10th this much room, seriously!)

Stay tuned this week as I have a few post-trip bloggie ideas I’d like to share…or I may just be weeping and mourning the lack of palm trees outside my window. And please tell me we have a heat and humidity wave coming through?!

Now This is an Airport!

A surprise blog entry! It’s almost 11:30 a.m. and I am all checked in and super early for my flight to Toronto – scheduled for 1:20 p.m.

A quiet morning enjoying the last bit of Florida sunshine, then it was off to the airport. I left my hotel at 10:40 a.m. to allow lots of time – I don’t like to be stressed, especially if I am unfamiliar with what I’m doing my setting.

First task: car rental drop-off. Happily, there are signs posted every 50 feet, like “Car Rental Drop Off Turn Here” with arrows. My kind of signage! No line up to drop off the Black Stealth Machine. I was very pleased with this Nissan Versa – the seat was comfortable, the handling smooth, the gas mileage excellent (I’ll do a post next week with breakdown of expenses, but I ‘m pretty sure I spent less that $100 on gas for the two weeks – not bad considering all the wrong turns places I visited.

I asked a traffic attendant at a crosswalk where the Air Canada departure area was, and couldn’t believe when I wasn’t snarled at! The guy gave me clear instructions, then even followed and made sure I saw where he was pointing (I’m going to chalk it up to southern hospitality and not that I looked completely clueless).

I’m sure you’re familiar with the gongshow chaotic frenzy departure line-ups at Pearson. I kid you not, here’s the scene that faced me at the Tampa Air Canada area:

more agents than travellers, honestly!

I did not have to line up!! Actually had THREE agents motioning me to come to their desk! The nicest man in the world gave me a better seat on the plane (think I’m exit row again – this was not available when I picked my seat and printed my boarding pass yesterday), AND they take your checked baggage RIGHT THERE. None of this trucking your own baggage down a zillion corridors like at Pearson.

Time check: Remember, I left my hotel at 10:40 a.m….

yup, the watch doesn't lie!

Then on to the 10 second shuttle to the departure gates and Customs. No photos, as you’ll remember I am massively intimidated by customs procedures this is serious business! Whew – no issues at all, and there was all of 15 people ahead of me to go through the scanning procedure. Again, the agents were very calm, congenial, and relaxed.

…and here’s the time when I found my gate!

note the time on the clock! 45 from hotel to departure gate! zowie!

An announcement came over the PA System: “blah blah blah FREE INTERNET” – cool!!! And they have these cubicles at every gate:

like a library in here!

The bonus is that my photos are loading in about 3.2 seconds! Where was this power the days I had 30 photos to post up?!

So now I’ll get some water, wander a bit, then maybe get back on my computer and read some blogs!

Next post – the happy traveller will be back at the condo-casa!

Walking on Sunshine

I was more than overjoyed to wake up this morning to a sunny and clear sky! Yippee! Bonnie has moved along, and really, escaping with one rainy day is not too bad, considering what could have been.

I could not pass up the chance to visit the Ringling Museum Grounds one more time. I practically had the place to myself since I got there right when they open (9:30 a.m.).

full view of "the house" - did you know this was only the John and Mabel's "winter house?!"

I ventured a little further around the grounds than I did yesterday…

the private dock and rose garden were not enough, apparently; one must have one's pond, as well!

I found myself drawn back to the Rose Garden:

i adore the traditional italian circular garden design...and the gazebo in the centre...

So many varieties of roses! A small plaque describes each one…

this type of rose is perfectly appropriate for today!

i guess you've really "made it" when a rose is named after you!

how in the world did dick clark beat out, say, oprah?!

If I had realized I would have this gem of a place so close by, I would have planned to attend a performance of “Circus, Cirque, Circo.” That would have fulfilled my yen to attend a cultural event!

Now, what is it about Tampa that messes with my internal GPS?! I decided to take Tamiami Trail/Route 41 north until I could catch 275 N through St Petersburg and into Tampa. My alternative was to backtrack to I-75 and come in from the East. I chose the first route because 275 passes right by the airport and I could easily hop off. I had a stop-and-go drive through Bradenton, and got momentarily confused when Tamiami Trail suddenly became 14 Ave W then switched back…just to keep me on my toes, I guess.

i will miss my beloved causeways!...even though they charge you a dollar toll for your up n over thrillride...

 Still, my drive clocked in at about an hour – what I had thought. I know I got off 275 at the correct exit…but I was nowhere close to where my directions indicated I should be. Luckily, I ended up where I had been lost my first time through Tampa, so figured out more or less where to go, then got myself to a gas station (I have to return Black Stealth Machine all fueled up) and a Sweet Bay grocery store.

{SIDE NOTE: I’ve commented on the wacky parking lot pay systems I have found in Florida this trip. Well, gas stations are no better, I tell you! I’ve been paying with my credit card, but here you can’t just insert the card and pay at the pump because they ask for a zip code…so I have to go in to the clerk. The following methods of paying have thus resulted:

  • I had to leave my credit card with the clerk, pump the gas, then go back in and pay
  • the clerk wanted me to guess how much it would cost me to fill up; I felt like I was on the Price is Right: $15? $20?
  • the clerk swiped my credit card, then just told me to go out and pump the gas and all would be good
  • (one time I just paid in cash because I couldn’t be bothered playing Mystery Gas Station Game}

Your Daily Smile/Only In America Moment!…

did they actually PAY someone to come up with this?!

I was able to check in early once again at my beloved TownePlace Suites Tampa where I spent my first two nights of the trip. I love this location: I’m a two minute drive from the airport…but more importantly, DOWN THE STREET from the International Mall!!!

Once again, I’m on the top floor, but in a different room. But it’s a carbon copy of my previous suite:

best kitchen ev-ah! (yes, i set up my computer in here this time!)

now the queen bed seems so teensy!...but i still have my five pillows!

personally, i would choose a workstation over a seating area in a home-away-from-home...

 The rest of the day has flown by! That will happen when you spend two hours by the pool…

it was HOT out, i tell you!

bliss.

definitely a 2-star "beach read;" i have <150 pages to go...can i finish by the time the plane lands in TO?!

…then 2.5 hours at the mall!

so glad i had time for a return visit!

Guess what?! When I did my Department Store Review yesterday, I forgot one!…

only one i have come across this trip....

…and how does it rate? Well, I will slot in in the #2 position, just below Neiman Marcus, just above Macy’s – very niiiiice.

The mall was an absolute ZOO! I was there 4:30-7:00 pm (Luuuuuv that all the malls I visited this trip are open Saturday eves til 9 pm) and it was just FULL of humanity of all ages. Made for some interesting people-watching and window-gazing.

And, I’m happy to report I made a last-minute contribution to the U.S. Retail Economy!

I had my fingers crossed as I returned to Forever 21 – would I find the cute items I had passed up previously? Well, unfortunately, I did not find everything…understandable in a very popular store which thrives on quick-turnover of items. But I DID unearth the one tank top that I had loved! It’s part of a line designed for Forever 21 by Danny Roberts. Two weeks ago, there were scads of designs; today I found ONE tank in ONE design – but it was meant to be as it was the design I had loved the most! (If you scroll to the bottom of the link, above, you’ll see my tank!):

it's kind of a swingy-swaying cut - I love how soft it is, too!

Then I had a most pleasant and unexpected COUP of a find!…

I have coveted SIL Ana’s Puma sneaks for a very long time…I’ve had a pair on my Christmas List for at least the past two years. Earlier this week, I tried on a couple of pairs at the Puma Outlet at Miromar Outlets but didn’t find exactly what I wanted…and wasn’t sold on the underwhelming prices and so-so styles.

BUT TODAY!!! The Puma store had 40% off all sneakers! I’ve always thought that if I get a pair, I want the actual PUMA to be visible. Well, I tried a pair on, they fit like a dream, are super comfy and feature the puma. For $40, they’re migrating to Waterloo, Canada!

add 'em in to the rotation with the vibrams and the nike frees!

Good thing I bought that $7 duffle in Naples – It’s rather full!

I’ve had a happy rest of the evening blogging, reading blogs, knitting and listening to ESPN. :)

“Time flies when you’re having fun.”

Chased Out of Naples

…by Tropical Storm Bonnie, that is! The morning news today updated the local weather situation pretty much every five minutes. The prediction is that the rain is moving over the west coast Friday and early Saturday, but that we should just be seeing wind and rain. I can live with that. Glad it’s not a hurricane!

Once again, though, the timing of rain could not have been more perfect! I had planned an indoor day, anyway! I would spend the morning shopping at the huge mall just down the Tamiami Trail from my Ramada:

the size of 3 football fields and 2 golf courses, i reckon!

…then I would follow that up with my drive north to Sarasota, a trip of about 1.5-2 hours, I thought.

The goal of my mall tour today? Not so much to make purchases. I wanted to complete my department store comparison by checking out:

the only prior knowledge i had of macy's is hearing of the "macy's parade" in NYC!...

the lady i chatted with on the beach at siesta keys said dillard's was her preferred dept store...

i remember jcpenney from visiting florida on our family trip when i was in grade 3!

You’ll remember I checked out Neiman Marcus at the Tampa International Mall and compared it to Holt Renfrew in terms of style and wow-factor.

So how would I rate them overall? Let’s go in ascending order, least to most impressive:

4. jcpenny – reminds me of Sears (which I did not go into today since I don’t even shop Sears at home) – caters to an older demographic, middle-of-the-road trends, lower price points.

3. dillard’s – quite lovely, just not quite the selection of macy’s or neiman marcus; again, aimed at a slightly more mature crowd

2. macy’s - awesome selection of styles and designers for women’s wear, age 25-50 or so; prices still a little too high for me…

love the tshirt - the price? eesh!

1. neiman marcus – if I had the dough, I would n.m. my wardrobe!

I spent a lot of time today in Forever 21:

please come to canada!

 This has been my best store find of the trip (I had read about it on blogs before my vacation). I’d equate it to h&m in terms of styles, target audience, and price point. I came away empty-handed; HOWEVER!!! …tomorrow I plan to go back to my Tampa International Mall – there were a few pieces there that I did not pick up on my first visit. If they’re still there, I’ll take it as a sign and indulge with some last-minute purchases. (Just like store locations vary in quality at home, I found the Naples Forever 21 less organized and smaller than the Tampa store).

Have to show you the family washroom in the mall cuz it was just too cute:

...and there was a mini-sink, too! the only other place i've seen the child-sized toilet is when Little E. and i went to our Drop-In Centre!

I exited the mall to find this:

heeeeere's bonnie!

...and she won't be leaving any time soon

I had a smooth trip from Naples to Sarasota despite very wet conditions. I think the splash-back from trucks was worse than the actual rain, but it was coming down pretty hard all the way in. As predicted, I arrived at my destination in less than two hours (I did debate driving straight up to Tampa since the weather was so gross – that’s about another 50 miles or so. But I decided to stick with my intial plan which was a SCORE as you shall see in a moment!).

But first…the hotel tour:

just getting prepped for my next trip when i marriott my way around florida! :)

…and I can now say that I have SCORED on EACH hotel this trip! (Tomorrow night is a repeat visit). No icks! My SpringhillSuites suite tonight is larger than some apartments, clean as a whistle, and pretty darn cute:

kitchenette consists of fridge, micro, sink - but no dishes like in the TownePlace Suites...

workstation (although i am currently set up with my computer on the kitchen counter, a la my style at home - free wireless here)...

sitting area (couch faces telly)...

separate bedroom area...

...and the shower and toilet...

...are separate from the bathroom sink/vanity!

There is a pool which I will not be using due to the rain, and a great fitness room which I will use tomorrow morning! Also, comp USA Today … AND the Wall Street Journal! And breakfast tomorrow a.m.! Smashing, I say!

I’ve determined that my hotel preference is really accomodation targeted to the business traveller. You get more amenities than in a tourist-focussed hotel location for a great price. Sure, you may have to drive in to beaches or shops, but for me, that’s no big deal.  

I thought this would be THE END of the post for today…but no! There’s more!

On my drive to Sarasota today, I was reflecting on my trip and thinking that one of the best afternoons was when I accidently found the Pier in St Petersburg. Would you believe I was about to have another serendipitous sightseeing tour…

On a map, I had seen that the Ringling Museum was very near to my hotel – like VERY near. After I settled in, I noticed the rain had stopped (things work out as they’re meant to be, example #14!) so I went down to see it. And yup, it was a five minute walk from my hotel.

this site is MASSIVE!...

This is quite an artsy little corner: right across from the Ringling Museum and grounds is this:

i would have loved to take in a cultural performance of some type this trip, but with it being the off-season, didn't happen...

I could not believe the size of the Ringling grounds!

again, who needs a tour of a historic site? just give me the coles notes versions!

I walked into the first building, very new and modern, and read that the museum cost $25 – ouch. I’ll pass, thanks. But I remembered reading in my hotel pamphlet that the grounds are free…I confirmed with a staff member that yes, you can wander the grounds for free until 6 pm. Yippee! What a discovery!…

these rose gardens truly impressed me...

The “formal Italian wagon wheel design” was absolutely gorgeous. Add in all the roses and sculptures and it was practically a walking meditational experience.

rose-lined pathwalks...

peace and beauty in the rose garden...

getting quite adept at these self-photos!

I just love how when I think I know how a day is going to play out…an unexpected treasure appears - especially after that dreary drive today.

there's something about banyon trees that both frightens and awes me...

While I couldn’t enter the Ringling mansion for free, I certainly could observe it from the exterior…

quelle maison spectaculaire!

facing the water...

not exactly the cottage wooden dock, now is it!

love the stone detailing on their "fence wall"...

i was impressed with the obvious care taken to restoration, as evidence in the window detailing...

the thinker??!

he doesn't look too fierce!

What fun. This will go into the memory bank as a total gift of an outing.

Now I’m watching MTV and various other mind-enhancing TV channels and knitting (I’ve not done too badly with knitting, actually, this trip! If you know wordpress, blogging photos takes aaaaages as they upload, so I tend to knit while the uploading occurs. I did bring too much yarn by one ball, though!).

Tomorrow I return to Tampa, and visit. the. mall. :) Will the weather improve enough to allow me to enjoy the Olympic-sized pool at one of my favourite hotels of the trip?!

Memories on Marco!

It was a beautiful day in the neighbourhood, a beautiful day for a…drive down to Marco Island! Can you believe I didn’t even have to change streets to get there! My Ramada is on “41,” which leads right to Marco Island and becomes Collier Blvd N once you’re on the island.

As mentioned previously, I was very excited to revisit the site of our family holiday back in August 1991 when we had the pleasure and good fortune of staying in a penthouse condo suite, right on the ocean. Did I find the condo?!

You betcha! As I crested the bridge leading onto Marco Island, I could see our condo building off in the distance, that’s how quickly I recognized it. I drove directly to the condo:

yes! we were on the TOP FLOOR! i remember the ocean side has floor-to-ceiling windows...

i remember we took photos, sitting on the wall at the entrance to the driveway - if i find them at home, i'll post them!

 I had forgotten the name of the complex, but not the little wall at the front, there.

with my back to the condo, looking down the long driveway to collier blvd...

the front lobby/entrance...

view from a couple blocks away

I had such a good few minutes just wandering about a little, snapping photos (the place was absolutely dead quiet, except for a couple of maintenance crew). I remembered some of the highlights of our 10-day holiday:

  • lounging by the pool listening to The Eurythmics on my bright yellow walkman
  • an evening mini-golf contest
  • all six of us piling into and out of a rental mini-van for our excursions
  • trying to play tennis
  • going on a beach walk with my Dad one afternoon – we got so thirsty that we stopped at a hotel poolside bar and scammed glasses of water, pretending to be guests
  • taking a sightseeing boat excursion and having MR TOM CRUISE’S MANSION pointed out!! I believe I took 17 photos of it from every angle
  • enjoying the best rootbeer and pizza fest of my life the first night we arrived

…and I could go on. One last memory:

dad and i ran ONE morning while we were here! i remember we took this road; the court turns into a private road - i remember being very hot!...

 I parked my Black Stealth Machine in a strip mall lot this a.m. (and prayed it would be there upon my return! – hey – there were no signs saying NOT to park!) and ogled condo towers along the beach strip. I’m not sure if I had drool or sweat on my chin!

the lush grounds of Marriott! no one ever outdoes Marriott, i truly believe...

i couldn't resist another marriott shot - certainly makes a statement upon your arrival!

I found a sidewalk leading to Beach Access:

i had forgotten how W I D E the beach is, and how white the sand!

let's call this millionaire CONDO row, shall we?!

Marco Island is absolutely immaculate. Granted, it’s off-season – at times today the scene reminded me of a posh Ghost Town, but honestly, the condos and resorts are maintained to perfection. But when you pay top dollar, you expect perfection, I suppose, and settle for nothing less.

FUN PHOTO OF THE DAY!…for all my dog-owning friends!…

no placing fifi's doodoo in a regular ol' garbage can now!

That dog poo recepticle was on the grounds of this condo compound:

"the madeira" - wonder what the condo fees are per month?!

I can never tire of looking at fabulous condos – I so thoroughly enjoyed myself this morning:

you can tell it's the off-season - look at all the units with the weather-guard shades in place...

love the roofline and all the windows - unusual for the non-ocean view!

After I had satisfied my condo fixation, I drove over to Tigertail Beach. Marco Island only has two public beaches; this is one of them. We had never visited this beach on our 1991 holiday because, obviously, we had our own private beach area! :) I had thought I would spend the afternoon today at Tigertail…however, there was an $8 entry fee to the beach. I think I got spoiled by free access in Sarasota, and just didn’t feel like shelling out $8 for an hour or two…Since Tigertail held no special significance for me, I decided to return to Naples earlier than planned, and visit the beach near my Ramada.

Before leaving Marco Island, I did more of a home tour/sightseeing excursion (let’s just say today made up for last eve’s disappointment!). 

i think i photographed this same house in 1991! i remember being enthralled with pastel houses, even then

pastels and palms - can't be beat for loveliness

pleasing to my eye...

the backyard dock, boat, and florida room is as common as the frontyard driveway

only on marco could you pull off this mailbox style!

Once again, I had debated whether I should stay the night on Marco Island, or daytrip-it from Naples. I decided on the latter option, and once again, am super happy with that decision. One, it would have cost me well over $250 for a night’s accomodation on the island (even on my anniversary I have trouble trying to justify that expenditure!), and secondly, there really as not enough to do to fill a full day on my own (without going fishing – haha!). Naples is only about 20 minutes away, so it was a perfect out-and-back sightseeing tour down memory-lane.

At the end of Banyon Drive, (remember the names of streets in Sarasota that were all citrus fruits? In my neighbourhood, here, there are tree names: Yucca Rd, Pine Ct etc) a two minute drive from my Ramada, there’s a Public Beach, so I decided to make use of that for this afternoon.

...or you can go to the public beach at the downtown pier

While the beach is free, you have to pay for parking. Once again, these Floridian parking systems flummoxed me! I lost $1.00 in quarters before I figured out how to activate the payment method!

would you believe it's $0.25 for 10 minutes?! But I still came out ahead over the $8 for Tigertail Beach!

park-like grounds, too - nice for the kiddies!

note the chickees on the right hand side! (the pier beach is definitely busier)

 

have i ever mentioned i love the beach??! :)

Would you believe the shelling here was better than Sanibel Island? To be honest, I had really hoped to find a shell on Sanibel to bring home with me as a memento of my trip. In keeping with a Life Lesson I’ve experienced already this vacation, when you’re not looking, you’ll find what you’re searching for…

see the shell on the right?

I picked this one up and am taking it home as “my shell.” At first I was like, no – it’s not perfect, part of its shell is missing (see the top). Then I thought – no, this is the one. I tend to be a perfectionist (no secret there!) and this shell will remind me that it’s OK to not be perfect all the time. Another trip a-ha moment! :)

Tonight is my last evening in Naples, so I am going downtown to watch and eavesdrop on the botoxed and fake-tanned Beautiful People of 5th Avenue.

kiki steps out

Tomorrow…hahahaha! I have not had yet enough of shopping!!! I will hit the HUGENORMOUS mall one block from here (I can’t leave Florida without scouting out Macy’s, Dillards, JC Penney – that just wouldn’t be right!). Then I drive north for my night’s accomodation…I’ll return to a city I’ve been to, but I have a reservation at a different hotel!

…and I’ll leave you with a little local humour:)

...made me laugh, anyway!

Happy Anniversary, B!

july 22, 1995!!!

Is it unique to spend your 15th wedding anniversary with one spouse beaching it in Florida and the other hiking the John Muir Trail? YES!

Have we ever done things by convention in our marriage? NO!

But through all the eras (Oakville and Kitchener Fire Dept’s/teaching and Clarica; DART Rescue; our 1st apartment, Ross Avenue the Loft) we’ve always supported each other’s goals and dreams 110%, and we make things happen. B is the yolk to my egg white; I see, he saws, and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Here’s to us! :)

Money, Money, Money…It’s a Rich Man’s World

The States is renowned for outlet malls – you know how we Canadians love our cross-border shopping excursions. Well, Miromar Outlets would rival anything in Buffalo, I do believe…plus who can beat the Floridian temp and sunshine (um, yea, it was sunny and hot again today!).

Logistically, it would have made the most sense for me to leave Ft Myers, stop at Miromar, then continue on to Naples. But who needs to think strictly logically on vacation?! I wanted to make a whoooole day out of my trip to the Outlets, and I didn’t want to have my luggage and laptop in the trunk of the Black Stealth Machine – that seemed like a recipe for Melted Computer, if I ever heard of one.

Besides, the trip back to the mall was only about 20 minutes from my hotel – in the grand scheme of life, totally fine. So north up the I-75 I returned this morning.

I had my game plan ready!

i had highlighted the shops of particular interest! i started where i am pointing...

shopping game face is ON!!!

a view of the "corridors"

My modus operandi was to find steal deals…since I get great staff deals at my store on fitness wear, $29.99 wouldn’t cut it here.  Otherwise, I was looking for items in stores that I can’t visit at home. Also, I just wanted to poke about and see what was available.

{Side Note: I saw evidence of the downturn of the US economy, too – I’d say a good 25-30% of the store space was vacant. I bet this would not have been the case 3-5 years ago}.

So! Let me take you on a visual tour of my day. We’ll call this “the many faces of Kiki, the Outlet Shopper:”

not sure what we'll find at adidas...

i'd love some juicy!!! but sadly, prices still way high...

I HAVE THE POWWW-AH!!! (nike pow-ah!)

best effort at snobby-face...

if only this had been available in girl colours!

Have you heard about these shoes?

my vibrams and frees would have welcomed their zigtech cousin...

These shoes were super-comfy but for $95 US, I hesitated…I hope this doesn’t turn out to be one of those “I missed the boat” missed purchases that you end up regretting…these are Reebok’s Zigtech shoes and you can read more about them here. They were super-comfy!

Just so you know, it’s not easy doing a self-portrait AND getting the position just so, with logos behind you, yet not blocked! For example, I saved my efforts outside of Esprit to show you…

oops, missed half the sign...

...missed my mouth and chin, but a bit better on the signage...

there we go! and after all that, i didn't even buy anything at esprit!

see, i AM starbucking my way through this trip - a stop here to refuel!...

some day i'll get to the REAL saks 5th avenue...

i am puma, hear me roar!

whew! 2+ hours after starting, i was at the end of the mall!

My style is always to do my research, remember where I want to go back to, then make purchases. This mall layout actually worked in my favour, as I could do an out-n-back route very easily!

Biggest disappointment? Nike. They had ZERO Nike Free’s in the store – they’re still too popular in the malls…and no really hot deals on clothing…

Biggest WIN and most pleasing find of the day?…

remember the GRAND n-m i found in tampa? (like holt's, i thought)

I spent A LOT of time in here looking through the fashions. Most stuff was still wayyyy more than I could spend (hello, there is a limit to how much I can bring back over the border!) – but the styles were just fabulous, and I found some really neat brands. 

And, I DID score this!…

this dress had caught my eye way back at the beginning of my shopping...

strike a pose...

The best part? The tag states the dress was originally $108.00. It was marked down to $39.99. When I went to pay, there was another 30% off THAT price, so I picked it up for $27.xx!!! That’s the deal-ee-o I was hoping for!!! It’ll be multi-seasonal, too, since I can throw on some black tights in cooler weather.

What else did I get? Honestly, not too much…

we have Claire's at home...

…but do these capri tights not just scream KIKI?!!! And my favourite earrings, cheaper than in Waterloo. Keychain they threw in for free.

All in all, a very successful day and I left 3.5 hours after I arrived!

I relaxed from all that stress and strain by swimming, and lounging and reading poolside. Interestingly, there are a few American guests at the Ramada, but mostly I am hearing European accents and German and French being spoken…

This eve I was so hyped and excited to go on my Obscenely Ostentatious Home Tour. Well, what can I tell you – it was an EPIC FAIL, overall! I have to laugh at the way life works: you go searching and come up empty; when you’re not looking, BAM! great things happen. I honestly saw far better homes the other day in the gated community by the Causeway to Lido Beach. But I do have a few photos to show…

Here are the reasons why my search proved fruitless this eve: 1) the most impressive of the homes I could see were too big to fit into one picture frame, I kid you not:

exhibit A - this house stretched further to the right!...

2) the truly grand and oppulent homes are on compounds so huge that the house itself is quite set back from the road and hidden from view.

3) the homes feature strategically placed lush, thick foliage which blocks anyone’s view from the road:

ain't nobody seeing nothin' through this wall and hedge combo!

4) I was scared to stop and take photos, yet alone venture onto a driveway! I had visions of being caught on security camera or tracked by german shepherds…

don't worry! i'm moving right along!...

I guess broadcasting FOR SALE frowned on in the ‘hood:

...and i saw SEVERAL properties looking for new owners...

So I’ll leave you with a few ideas for when you build your next dream home… :)

quite ornate...

this was the back third of the house-...the driveway and covered 2nd floor walk impressed me enough!

i would love to breakfast out there!...

...and these are the windows that face the road! what must the ocean view be like?!

spanish influence on display here...

It was a still a relaxing and wonderfully pleasant drive this eve – I just wish I had been totally WOW-ed.

Now for a good sleep because tomorrow is another day trip! Bring on Retro Rewind Thursday!

Joan Rivers: Just Not Drawing In the Crowds…

Before I left on vacation, I had a loose list of places I wanted to visit, things I wanted to do during my two weeks.

I’ve made excellent progress on the list! For example: Whole Foods visit? Check. Shopping at a huge mall? Check. Ice cream cone on the beach? Check again. And last night, another item got stroked off the list when I went to see the movie Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (see “40 Movies” for my review and a link to the New York Times review).

The movie theatre was about 10 minutes from my hotel – really easy to find, too.

20 individual theatres in one complex!

The movie cost $10.50 which is $1 more than at home – I had no idea what a movie would cost in the States right now. I found my theatre – it was now less than 10 minutes to show time…so imagine my surprise when I walked in and was greeted with this scene:

anyone? anyone???!

backpack marks my spot!

Yup! I was the only one!…until about 30 seconds before the previews started and an older gentleman walked in…happily, he did not sit near me or I would have been a little freaked out.
Just about as close to enjoying my own private theatre (with stadium seating!) as I’ll ever get, I guess!
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