Thanksgiving in Margaritaville: Day 4, Part 3: Artist Point

We checked in at Artist Point close to our 5:45 PM reservation. We were seated at a table for two near the windows overlooking the walkway down to Roaring Forks. We had never been seated here before, but we had always noticed it. It turned out to be a very nice location, secluded and quiet with a nice view of the rest of the dining room.

WINE

Rich & Kathy
Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills

ENTREES

Kathy
Chinook Cedar Plank Salmon
Baby Sweet Potato, Chicory Greens, Forelle Pears, Yogurt, Lemon Vinaigrette

Rich
Seared Diver Sea Scallop Paella
Little Neck Clams, Mussels, Carolina Gold Rice, Tomato Broth, Petite Fennel

DESSERT

Rich & Kathy (Shared)
Cobbler
Seasonal Berries, Black Raspberry Ice Cream

Our server Rae was wonderful. Before long, she was pouring us huge glasses of Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir. It is one of our favorite Pinot Noirs. We have visited the Sokol Blosser winery many times and were members of the wine club.

We skipped the appetizers so we could save room for the cobbler for dessert. The menu was much different from the last time we were here, and Rich was happy to see that there was a paella that did not contain shrimp, which he is allergic to. The combination of scallops, clams, and mussels was a perfect blend. And the rich, thick paella was creamy and delicious.

Kathy’s salmon, the signature dish of Artist Point, was spot-on, with rich, deep flavors and a wonderful blend of accompaniments. We tasted each other’s entrees, and we enjoyed everything.

Kathy’s comments: It was really a classic Artist Point menu, but I could have done without the extra greenery on top. In fact, the couple who were seated behind us after we were seated had obviously enjoyed Rae’s service before and the woman told her to skip the greenery on her plate. Disney seems to be getting carried away with what they think is healthy eating. I enjoy veggies but this was ridiculous. lol! Still, they were tasty.

We had to have the cobbler, something we were looking forward to for so long. And it didn’t disappoint. Warm, yummy, and comforting, it was the perfect end to the meal. We shared the cobbler, and even then we were quite full from the scrumptious meal.

It was hard to tear ourselves away from the incredible atmosphere and the memory of the delightful meal, but alas we had more adventures ahead.

Kathy’s comments: Rich started talking about how tired he was and he didn’t think he was up for the drive back to Clearwater Beach. He mentioned something about checking to see if we could get a room at Wilderness Lodge. I wasn’t quite sure he was serious at first – this isn’t like him. But he kept mentioning it.

I was thinking it would be nice to boat over to Ft. Wilderness and we could do that if we were staying over. But being the budget keeper of this trip. I was a bit concerned about WL as a choice, so I suggested we stay at the nearby Residence Inn, which was $99 per night. We knew that because at one time we’d planned to split the trip. So we booked the room and boated over to Ft. Wilderness and back. More about the room in tomorrow’s post.

img_7626Waiting for our table

img_7627Enjoying our wine

img_7630Rich’s Paella with fennel moved

img_7628Kathy’s salmon with greens moved

img_7632Ah… the Cobbler!!

 

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville: Day 4, Part 2: Disney Springs and Wilderness Lodge

At around 2 pm we left the island via 60 on to 275 to 4 to Orlando. We were anxious to get our first look at Disney Springs. Honestly, we weren’t that impressed from all the videos we’d watched. It just seemed like a lot of chain restaurants from elsewhere stuck in a new outdoor mall on Disney property. But in person, well, we kept saying “Wow!” Surprisingly we were impressed.

The garage parking wasn’t as bad as we feared, but we were disappointed that the Marketplace area parking was now valet only at $20 a pop. But the Christmas decorations and music really added to the atmosphere. Finally, “Downtown Disney World” had a vibe similar to Downtown Disneyland.

We crossed over the new bridge and bought a McQueen ornament at the Christmas store and walked around the new Springs area. Tempted to try some of the new snack options but had. 5:40 ressie at Artist Point.

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We retrieved the rental car, drove past the MK gates, and on to Wilderness Lodge. We parked with the regular people (no Tables in Wonderland/no Valet) – lol. We admired the Christmas trees and music and outside grounds and had to stop for a glass of something at the Trout Pass Bar.

We so wanted a cocktail but ended up getting a glass of Cab because it was getting close to our dinner ressie and was conscious of having to drive all the way back to Clearwater Beach that night. We had a blast talking and laughing with the CMs and other guests. What a moment! It was all very exciting! We both had big grins on our faces.

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It was soon time for our reservation and we were seated along the side at a table for two in an area we’d never sat in before. We really liked it – it was quiet and private. The meal was delicious, of course, and Rich will write up a separate post about that. But here are some pics. We also took video and I’ll try to upload some of those later.

Then we walked out to the boat dock and boarded a boat to Ft. Wilderness via the Contemporary. Beautiful night!

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We walked around Ft. Wilderness a bit and I did my usual tetherball thing. But we were a bit disappointed that our regular stops at the gift shops were a bit of a bust. What happened to all the merchandise? It just seems like it’s mostly kid stuff and not much as much there. We felt the same way about the Wilderness Lodge gift shop, formerly a huge favorite of ours.

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It had been a long day and a long drive, especially with Rich having a cold. He really didn’t want to have to turn around and drive all the way back to our island resort on Clearwater Beach. We ended up making a bad choice, but I’ll save that story for the next post.

 

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 4: Part 1, A Bit of Hawaii

We took notes each day, or at least we thought we did, but it looks like we missed some days. So I don’t really remember what exactly we did this morning other than breakfast and coffee and walking over to Pearly’s Beach Eats for lunch. We’d planned to bring something back to the cottage and eat there before getting ready for our big day in Orlando.

I do remember finding the shortcut so that “Beach Eats” was only about a block away. We also finally saw the CVS we’d been told about. When we first arrived in the dark, we could only see the two-story Walgreen’s – CVS is now hidden behind the big parking garage that’s being built – that will really change the casual feel around here of being able to walk everywhere without worrying much about car traffic.

So we walked up to the order window at Pearly’s (I like to call it “Beach Eats” because of the big sign that says that), and when we heard the music and saw the tables and people enjoying their lunch alfresco, we decided to stay and eat there, too.

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Rich ordered our food and I picked out a picnic table, passing by the surfboard table because the chairs looked too uncomfortable – lol!

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While waiting for our food, we heard Iz singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and we were immediately swept away to Hawaii. I felt so very much at home in this moment.

So, here’s the video I posted earlier.

I had the beef Baja Bowl and Rich had a beef and hash brown Boss Burrito and we had Coke and Diet Coke to drink.

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Our meals were rather large so we took the leftovers back to the cottage, took our showers, got dressed and left for Orlando at around 1 or 1:30 p.m.

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 3: Sea Critters and the Beach

This morning we had breakfast in the room: coffee and donuts for Kathy and coffee and banana nut muffin for Rich. It was cold but we bundled up and walked over to dock to take pics and video.

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Originally, this was going to be Orlando day with dinner at Artist Point but we realized we needed a beach day before we took off for Orlando so we rescheduled it for the next day.

We then showered and dressed and drove to John’s Pass for lunch but changed our minds and continued on to Sea Critters. It was a beautiful day, but had a bit of a detour on the way due to some road construction.

We sat outside and took pics and video of the beautiful day in Tampa Bay and the people arriving/leaving Sea Critters by boat.

And then we  ordered drinks and lunch РMai Tai for Rich and Margarita for Kathy. Rich ordered the Blackened Grouper with rice and beans and Kathy ordered her traditional Florida Shrimp basket with fries. We shared a slice of Key Lime Pie with caramel sauce, which was delicious.

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We then drove back to the resort for a nap with our daily stop at Walgreens for more snacks and mouth wash and Halls for Rich’s cold. When we woke up, we revived ourselves with a soda and chocolate squares. Then we drove to the beach to see the sunset and took some pics and video.

It was really freezing out and by now it was totally dark. My light Princess Cruises sweatshirt was not enough to keep me warm so we popped into a gift shop and I got a thicker sweatshirt with hood that said, “Clearwater Beach” on it. We also picked up a postcard for Rich’s parents. They used to come down to Clearwater Beach every winter when they were living in Massachusetts.

We stopped in at Ron Jon’s and Rich got a T-shirt. We passed a musician and he was playing his guitar and singing his heart out in the cold. I asked Rich to offer something for his tip jar and when he did, the guy’s face lit up in a huge way. He started talking to us about how tonight seemed even colder. I told him to “keep warm” and he thanked me for reminding him of that. It may seem like a simple encounter but there was something very spiritual about it that’s hard to explain. But now I think I know what Father Philip means when he says that you “see Christ in the poor.” Before I just thought it was those crazy Catholics (we’re now Catholic – lol!). But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since then.

Then we stopped by this walk-up place that said “Beach Eats” and grabbed a menu for lunch the next day.

When we drove back to the resort. Once the weather warms a bit, we hope to walk to the beach because it really is only a couple of blocks away from our resort.

Rich had leftover pizza and Kathy had crackers and cheese with our wine.

We stopped to check in with each other’s reactions to being in Florida again. It was fun but freaky at the same time. Some parts felt like home and other parts didn’t feel like home at all. We knew this week would be a roller coaster ride and we probably wouldn’t really know how we felt until about a week after we were home. Still, it was fun to talk about.

We were looking forward to Orlando the next day. Maybe Orlando feels more like home because we’ve lived there twice and the most recent.

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 2, Part 2: Tampa

After touring our old neighborhood of Grand Oaks, we then drove back on 54 to 41 and up to Connerton. This was the newest community being built and we wanted to see a “New Jersey” plan Lennar was building up there. William Ryan Homes also had a Juno plan we were interested in. We feared this location would be way too far north and it was just as bad as we expected. It was a very nice community but located in the boonies. And the goofy salesman didn’t have a model of the plan we wanted and tried to sell us one we did not want.

Then we drove down 41 to Dale Mabry, right on Linebaugh to Westchase where we had lunch at Tijuana Flats, one of our favorite standbys in Central Florida. As soon as we walked in the door we heard “Viva Las Vegas” playing on the sound system. Isn’t that wild?

Kathy stopped in at the restroom and Rich ordered Dos Tacos, beef and bean, for Kathy and Carnitas Burrito for him. Coke and Diet Coke to drink. We sat outside and enjoyed the Tampa weather.

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After lunch, we headed back to our beach cottage via Tampa Road, pass our Palm Harbor apartment to get back to 19 and 60 to Clearwater Beach. It was so much fun visiting our previous homes – we’d so longed to see them again. But it did feel a bit like watching a movie – something from the past and not the present or future.

After a nap, we drove to the beach and watched the sunset. It was quite chilly so we had to bundle up but it was a beautiful evening.

Next we stopped at Walgreen’s for more snacks and supplies. Dinner was crab sushi with siracha for Kathy and a beef and cheese sandwich for Rich. We enjoyed sipping our Cupcake wine and talking deep into the night.

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 2, Part 1: Tampa

Today was the day I’d been looking forward to: driving to New Tampa to see the brand new home we’d built in Grand Oaks. We’d found the house on the internet when it was recently for sale and were shocked to see it was now painted blue. We were sure that color was against the HOA back then but maybe they eased up on the restrictions. The worst part wasn’t the blue because it really was a light blue but the dark blue stripes on the house. We wanted to see it for ourselves. This would be the first time we’d been back since we sold it 10 years ago!!!

Rich made us some coffee and we ate some pinwheels for breakfast and then told Susan about our backs and the bad bed. Thankfully, she was able to accommodate us in a different room, even moving another person around to make it happen for us. This resort is the second highest rated in Clearwater Beach and people rave about the management. Susan is terrific! So we moved our stuff to the new room before heading north for our day’s outing.

We drove 60 to 19 to 54, past the Suncoast on to the Grand Oaks turnoff just east of 75. What really occurred to us is how far everything was. We’d remembered it differently. It was all so rural! Guess we’re used to being close in with desert surrounding us now. We then recalled how far shopping was. It was around 5 miles to the closest grocery store, restaurants, church, and gas station. Here we have shopping right outside our gated community, yet it’s not crowded.

We were very excited to drive around Grand Oaks. It all looks amazing still. We loved that community and could never find one quite like it in the Orlando area. If we had, maybe we would have stayed back then.

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The house with the new blue trim – ick!

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We couldn’t believe how tall the palm tree had grown.
We remember decorating it for Christmas that first year and Rich trimming it every now and then.

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Neighbors added a front screen to the entryway.

We walked around hoping to see our neighbors out so we could say hi but it was a bit cold and windy the first two days we were in Florida. We took pictures and video and I could see us living there again, even if in a different house.

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 1: Travel Day

We’d been playing the Margaritaville station on SiriusXM for days, if not weeks, before the trip and getting really excited about the resort we eventually chose located on Clearwater Beach. When we lived in Tampa Bay, we used to take day trips to neighboring Sand Key Park but hadn’t spent that much time on Clearwater Beach.

Unfortunately, we had to get up at 5 am and leave for the airport by 5:30 for the 8 am flight to Tampa. The usual airport exit was closed for road work so Rich found a work around for us. We left the car with valet and headed for the security check, where we discovered that we had pre-check and could bypass the usual line.

Once we arrived at the gate, Rich scoped out a place where we could get some breakfast because the only thing Southwest would be serving for the four-hour flight would be crackers and fake cheese or cookies and peanuts.

I had the eggs and bacon and potatoes breakfast and Rich had the breakfast burrito.

Our SW number was something like A35 so we were able to pick the seats we wanted. I couldn’t decide between port or starboard – lol – and eventually chose starboard – window for me, middle for Rich. Unfortunately, that was the sunny and hot side of the plane. The seats were hot and cramped.

So at the first chance we got, we ordered a Bloody Mary for each of us. That’s our trick for not having to get up and use the restroom from the window seat of a plane – all of that salt – lol!

We arrived at Tampa at 3:05 Tampa time and Rich was impressed with the airport. This was his first time but I’d driven there when we lived in Tampa and checked it out a bit.

We’d reserved a midsize sedan and chose the Silver Toyota, I think. I wanted the Chevy but didn’t want the Georgia plates – lol! There was a comedy of errors when we were checking out with the car – couldn’t figure out how to roll down the windows or unlock the doors. It was getting silly and we were eventually on our way.

We headed for Courtney Campbell Causeway straight down 60 and then did the circle thing and then the first right to East Shore drive and our resort.

We’d reserved room 7C because we thought the screened porch would be nice and we liked the beachy decor but after a night on a bad queen bed that dipped in the middle, we were able to change to 7A, which had a brand new king bed and it turned out to work very well for us.

Anyway, Susan the innkeeper, gave us a tour of the property of the laundry facilities, the beach chairs, towels, pool, and boat dock and we took a nap.

When we woke up we hopped in the car, drove around a bit to get our bearings and stopped in at Walgreen’s for coffee and a few other food items and supplies. We’d heard we were within walking distance but it all seemed confusing at night. Later, we would catch on to all the stuff you really could walk to, including the beach.

We baked a pizza in our oven and had a glass of Cupcake Cab and oatmeal raisin cookie and milk before bed.