Farewell Thanksgiving at Wine Bar George and the Chicken Guy

When we got the email about Thanksgiving at Wine Bar George, we knew we had to do it for our good-bye to Florida. This would be our third time at Wine Bar George and one of the places we will miss when we’re back West.

It was a beautiful day – we arrived at Disney Springs at around 10:30 a.m. for our 11:30 reservation. The lime garage was already full but we’ve grown to appreciate the orange garage so that was no problem. We strolled around the springs, enjoying the atmosphere and Christmas decorations and our first stop was the Ganachery – another place we will totally miss. We got some chocolate toffee bark to take home and a milk chocolate Mickey and a vanilla with dark chocolate, shared them, while we strolled the Springs and made our way to World of Disney to get our first peek at the remodel.

We browsed and ended up getting Minnie Mickey coffee mugs. By this time it was getting close to 11:30 so we headed back to Wine Bar George and were seated on the balcony across from another couple, who were just being served a huge plate of Thanksgiving turkey. We exchanged appreciative glances and comments and ordered the same. The dinner was a traditional turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and haricot vert. We paired it with Argyle Pinot Noir. It was quite tasty, but I asked for a box to take half of it home for my evening meal.

We skipped dessert but made a point of stopping at the Chicken Guy. I’m not a fan of chicken tenders, but this was our last chance to try them. We were especially interested in the Nashville hot honey sauce – we were wowed by Nashville’s hot chicken when we evacuated there last year. I’m not usually a fan of hot chicken as in Buffalo Chicken Wings but Nashville chicken is amazing!

Anyway, we picked up an order of 3 tenders and the Nashville sauce for Rich’s evening snack since he managed to finish his turkey dinner. And then we headed home. It may seem to silly to complain about an hour and fifteen minute drive but it does get old. But that’s probably because we’re so ready to move back west. Our Florida vacation this time around is so over.

The toffee was incredible, my leftovers were even tastier heated up later, and the bite of chicken tender I had was the best chicken tenders I’ve ever had, although Rich remembers Cane’s in Las Vegas as being just as good if not better. We’ll have to make that one of our first stops when we get back so we can double check that memory. 🙂

 

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 7: The Finale and Travel Day

Today was travel day and we were trying to decide how to best spend it. Our flight wasn’t until 4:50 p.m. but we had to be out of the cottage by 10 a.m. I asked Rich if we should explore the Ruskin to Riverview area (they were building tons of new homes in the area) or do something that would leave a more positive impression because we already knew we weren’t that much in love with the Ruskin/Riverview areas.

Our other two possibilities was to hang out on the Causeway and enjoy the Gulf views for several hours or check out the Wesley Chapel area where several new shopping centers had been built since we’d lived in neighboring Land O Lakes. We chose to check out Ruskin/Riverview, including driving over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

I was awake until one thirty a.m. and slept for an hour. Then I finally went back to sleep until eight. Got up and had coffee and cereal. We finished packing and cleaning the room. We checked out out at ten am per the rules and drove over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Beautiful and thought we might be able to live here. Stopped at Ruskin and finally got to tour the Lennar New Jersey plan in Ruskin. We loved it but there was no community pool.

We were getting hungry so we stopped at Mickey Ds in Riverview. We both had colds by this time and a Big Mac would be the comfort food we would need. Then we drove to the airport.  We dropped off the rental car and stopped at RumFish for drinks. MaiTai for Rich and Ruby Snapper for me.

Then we went to the gate to wait. Rich got us a Pumpkin Latte at Starbucks and we boarded at 4:20. We left Tampa Airport at 5:50 EST and arrived about 25 minutes early at 7:30 PST. The trip home was terrible. We’re already not big fans of flying, especially these days, and Southwest was horrible. They only offer you Fritos or Cookies or Vending machine crackers and fake cheese for a 4.5 hour flight. We were exhausted and coughing our heads off the entire time. We did get the Exit row, which was nice for Rich’s legs, but those planes are notorious (we found out later) for having super uncomfortable seats in the exit rows. My butt was numb after about an hour.

We had a great vacation and it was exciting to see Florida again. We’re no closer to knowing whether we would accept an opportunity to move back there or not. I’m at an age where I really enjoy the comforts of home and feeling at home – I’m not as adventurous as I once was. So it would really be hard to move back again. Part of me wishes it wasn’t so and maybe it isn’t entirely, but for now, being home, especially when you’re sick, is exactly where I want to be.

We didn’t get to spend as much time in Orlando as we may have wanted to, and we didn’t get to Caddy’s on the Beach, which was at the top of our list. I guess we’ll just have to go back again.

So for now, it’s good-bye Tampa Bay – good-bye Sunshine Skyway Bridge – I hope we get to see you again.

 

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 6, Part 1: Thanksgiving

I woke up at dawn feeling compelled to open the door, inhale the fresh Florida air, and watch the sun rise over the Bay. The emotional roller coaster ride continued each day and Florida wasn’t feeling quite as much like home as I’d hoped. In Tampa, we held out hope that maybe Orlando was our place. But in Orlando, I couldn’t wait to get back to Tampa. Does that mean the door is shut on living in Florida again?

And then that morning I woke up thinking, “I don’t think I can choose to never feel this again.”

So I quickly got dressed and walked over to the dock. A couple passed me and the woman said, “Happy Thanksgiving”, which was nice. I sat down and watched the sun rise and breathed in the wonderful Florida air that I had missed. The weather had been warming each day and it was feeling like the Florida I remembered.

I scurried back to the room to see if Rich was up because I didn’t want him to miss this. He was a little slower going but he did get up, made us some coffee, and we took it and a banana nut muffin back to the dock. We saw there enjoying the view, taking more pics and video.

After a while, we returned to the cottage to shower and get dressed and then walked to the beach. We walked all the way to the pier, down the pier, and then back down the beach. Along the way, I dipped my feet in the water – very nice! I love this!!

It was a glorious morning. The beach was absolutely gorgeous. I do think it’s a bit more stunning than my southern California beaches but it lacks that feeling of home that Newport and Huntington Beach give me. I think the California vs. Florida choice is the choice between adventure and home. I want both.

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The day was really warming up so we returned to the resort and decided to sit out by the pool. One woman was out there when we arrived but she soon left. Well, here it was Thanksgiving morning and it was so nice out, we decided to change into our swimsuits. I think it reached close to 80 that day.

So, Rich went back first to change and when he returned, I changed. It was simply glorious outside! The pool was fabulous! This is the life!!

By Thanksgiving, it starts to get cold in Las Vegas, cold, meaning about 50 degrees during the day and maybe 39 or so overnight. We’d had a pretty warm fall late this year but on travel day, we had our first cold day. When we arrived in Florida, it was unusually cold but after a couple of days of that, it began to warm up and felt more like the Florida we know and love.

Another couple joined us out by the pool and we swam and enjoyed the sun and the warmth and the music. We sat out for awhile and then got back in for a final swim. Eventually, it was time for lunch. Rich remembers us having Beach Eats leftovers (and he has a very good memory), but I wrote that down for last night. I’m wondering if this was the day we had the Stouffer’s pizza we’d picked up at CVS – anyway, one or the other last night and one or the other today for lunch.

 

 

Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 5: Wild Night in Orlando and Frenchy’s on Dunedin Causeway

We punched the address of the Residence Inn in our GPS and as soon as we turned right onto 535, I knew where we were. This was the route we took when we lived in Windermere. And something about that really freaked me out. So when we checked into the Residence Inn, I was already having a bad feeling about this choice. Maybe we’ve stayed in to many Residence Inns on our cross-country moves, but they now remind me of what all of that entails. What had happened to my Margaritaville vacation?

To compound all of that, we had nothing with us – no meds, no toothbrush, no sleepwear, nothing for our cold. It suddenly seemed like a bad idea. But Rich was exhausted and he quickly got into bed. That’s when I became wide awake. I tried to sleep in the bed. I tried to sleep on the couch. But something about all of this discomfort was keeping me awake. Eventually, around 2 a.m. Rich awoke, too, and we decided to hid the road. He said he’d slept enough to feel able to drive us back to Clearwater Beach.

It was a very quiet drive and really quite beautiful when we approached Tampa all lit up night. It was a very familiar feeling after living there for a few years. What a relief to return to our beach cottage, though. Disney property is fabulous and we would have been much better off if we’d stayed on-property if we could have found something available. But we did keep our Elite status for next year so maybe it was worth staying over, especially since that’s what allowed Rich to rest up enough to drive us. I really don’t think I could have.

We arrived back at the cottage at 4 a.m. and slept until 8 a.m. Then we had coffee and cereal. We showered and dressed. I really didn’t think we’d get up and go anywhere again this day. But we decided to drive to the Dunedin Causeway and have lunch at the Frenchy’s Outpost there. We put our name in and the wait was short. It was a beautiful day and people were sitting inside and outside enjoying lunch on a weekday.

We chose to sit inside – it was just too bright outside and we liked the atmosphere inside. Rich ordered some kind of frosty drink in a bucket – lol! I ordered my usual Margarita. It was clam basket for Rich and my usual shrimp basket – what’s Florida without that?

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Then we drove onto the Causeway. First, we parked on the shady side, got out and took pics and video of the Causeway and then sat there enjoying the beautiful water. Then we switched to the sunny side and stayed in the car and watched the activity on the Gulf. It was just too bright and sunny out and we were still a bit tired from the night’s adventures.

Eventually, we headed back to the cottage and took a nap. We awoke around sunset, took some photos from the dock, returned to the cottage, ate the leftovers from Pearly’s Beach Eats, sipped wine, talked, and went to bed early.

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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 – Mai 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 Byzantine 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 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.