Florida: Fish, Sun, and Fun

IMG_2538 (640x427)We drove through Alabama and were on our way to Florida. Our first destination was Panama City in the Florida panhandle. We were staying at the Beachside Resort. The hotel was ok. It wasn’t the nicest but it worked. The big draw was the view. The hotel is right on the Gulf and just out the doors of the hotel were beautiful white beaches and crystal clear water. The first night we got there it was very windy and a little cool out so we headed down the road where there was a shopping center, Christina’s favorite. She wanted to get a few ore things for the wedding and there was an Olive Garden near by, also Christina’s favorite, that we headed to for dinner. The shopping center was ¬†Panama Pier Park;¬†it was actually huge with all sorts of stores. It was on outdoor shopping area similar to what you find at most outlet stores.

The next morning we decided to head out to the beach. It was a little warmer and not as windy as the previous day. Christina relaxed on a large wooden beach chair that she had me lug from the top of the beach all the way down to the water. I had my fishing pole in had and was ready to finally get some fishing time in. I waded out into the water about waist deep and I could still see the bottom perfectly clear. I ended up catching on flounder in the hour and a half we were out on the beach. Although it was nothing big it fulfilled my urge to fish. Later that night we headed to find some souvenirs, as well as our Florida magnet, and to get some froyo and call it night.

The next day we were off to Cocoa Beach where we got a pretty good deal to visit a time share seminar. For $199 we got a 3 night stay in a Holiday Inn Express and after the time share seminar we would get $199 back in cash and a free stay for a night in another Holiday Inn. We knew what we were in for with the time share seminar and we made sure we were ready. It was a little late when we got to Cocoa Beach, It was a 7.5 hour drive from Panama City, so we decided to get dinner and call it a night. We headed to Papa Vito’s. Boy were we happy we did. Check out Christina’s review of the restaurant here!

The next day was our time share seminar. In the morning we headed out for a run and went back to the hotel to get ready. We didn’t have time to get lunch so we headed to a little shop right near the hotel, The Local Experience. We noticed a sign for smoothies so we decided to try them and they were great. The owner and employee working were also both great and very helpful. The time share company that this seminar was with was Holiday Inn Club Vacations. We were told this presentation was going to last 2 hours. They were exactly right. At two hours on the dot we were out of there. They did try to get us to buy a time share but their¬†pricing didn’t seem very good. Although, we wouldn’t have gotten a time share anyway. Who wants to always vacation in the same place (yes, I know if you pay extra fees you can go to different locations). They claim these are “investments”, but they do not seem to grow in value.

After leaving the presentation we headed back to the Local Experience shop. We saw a pamphlet for a fishing charter and wanted to check it out. When we went back to the store they helped us call a few places to find somewhere to fish. We ended up going with Cast Away Florida who heads out on the Banana River and only cost us $65 per person for 4 hours of fishing.

We also decided to head to dinner at on of the restaurants that one of the locals recommended from the shop we were in, Baja’s Tavern and Eats. We headed to dinner and upon being seated Christina was already skeptical. There was a cat walking about in the out door seating area. We ordered our food and although nothing was bad nothing was really good either. The service that we had also wasn’t quite on par with what we expect from most restaurants, especially in this price range. You can also check out Christina’s review on this restaurant at her Yelp link here. After diner we decided to find a waterproof camera to bring to out fishing the next day and to bring with us on our Caribbean cruise. We checked Wal-mart, Sears, and Radioshack, before finally landing at Target just before closing and finding the camera we were looking for.

The next day we had to be at the boat dock for 8am. It was about a 10 minute drive from the hotel we were staying in. When we arrived to the dock we noticed the boat that we would be fishing from. We were on a decent sized, 24ft, pontoon boat with a captain and guide and we were the only ones on the boat. We caught a decent amount of fish, between the 2 of us we probably caught 30-40 fish. We caught a few pinfish, speckled trout, puffer fish, and grunts. In addition, I caught a very rare oyster, and Christina ended up hooking the biggest catch of the day: me! Yes, she hooked my ankle on accident, so I was the biggest catch. I was excited to finally get some real fishing in. After fishing we decided to go back to Papa Vito’s since it was so good, plus we had some coupons for lunch.

On November 6th we headed to Miami and checked in to our hotel in the afternoon. There was a Chinese restaurant that Christina wanted to stop by for dinner so we decided to head over there, called Wei’s Chinese Restaurant. We had hot pot for dinner, which is basically a pot of boiling broth at our table that you use to cook raw food that is given to you. Dinner was great and we were really happy that we decided to go over there.

Down in Miami we really feel like we are already down in the Caribbean islands. Everyone here is fluent in Spanish. Either they are native speakers or they have acquired it along the way. It seems mandatory down here if you are working in any retail or hospitality work. Also, Christina and I were very surprised to see the overwhelming amount of tolls we have to pay on the Florida turnpikes. We figured it’s going to cost us about $50 in tolls as we travel through Florida. I think we have spent over $30 so far.

The next day we needed to get a few final things for our wedding. Somehow Christina keeps finding a few more things we need to get. We headed to Miami International Mall and were able to find everything that we were looking for. Also, everyone seems to be on island time, especially in the mall. We also noticed a cache nearby. We were able to drive to a library just near the mall and find our cache pretty easily. After our cache we headed back to the hotel so we could get ready for our cruise and finalize some wedding tasks.

As of tomorrow afternoon our cell phones will be off for a week, and we will be on our way to the Caribbean. Woohoo! Can’t wait.

 

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