St. Augustine, Orlando, SeaWorld, and the Nashville Floods of 2010
Started doing a pre-trip report over on the Dis boards, ended up kind of doing a post-trip report on our first trip to Orlando, thought I'd cover it over here as well. I mostly read trip reports for places I hope to visit, but I read all the ones here even though I'm not into WWF and am never going to do the Redneck Tour. They're just generally more informative, seems to me; I hope mine will be the same.
When we bought into Bluegreen, I told the kids they could each pick a resort to visit, and my middle daughter immediately went for the Fountains, in Orlando. We've been planning to take my second son to see some orcas since he was about three, when his Orca Obsession got going (prior to that it was zebras), plus my youngest is absolutely terrified of costumed characters where she can't see the face of the person inside, so I figured we'd do SeaWorld and leave Walt Disney World for later. Which was fine with everyone, until middle daughter started telling her friends she was going to Orlando and they all wanted to know if she was going to WDW. I sat down and crunched the numbers with her and she agreed that SeaWorld made more sense, but she was kind of disappointed. Then Disney started advertising the Give A Day, Get a Day program, so then she could have a day at WDW after all. Yay!
Tried to talk her siblings into volunteering with us; not only did we get no takers, her oldest brother waited until all the Give a Day tickets were out, THEN he started coming in to work with us. *sigh*
Hubby took the Friday before our vacation week off, so we left Friday, April 23, 2010. I started having the kids keep "Vacation Memory Books" from EnchantedLearning when they were little; now we just do the "Trip Information, daily diary, Trip recap" kinda pages. Since we were driving down, not a whole lot happening. I note that the temp dropped 10 degrees before we stopped for lunch (even though we were driving pretty much straight South at that point), and that we saw the Photosaurus for Dinosaur World:
My parents lived in Tennessee when the kids were little, and one year dad gave me some cash and told me to take the kids to Dinosaur World on our way back, which we did -- when the kids were waaaay littler:
So hubby always points out the photosaurus, "Remember when we went there?" and the kids always say, "yeah, yeah, whatever." We also saw an idiot driver weaving in and out of traffic, which is a pretty common occurrence, however this time he went blasting by us, disappeared over a hill, then we crested the hill to see the car had run into a barrier along the outside of a long curve below us, apparently spun a bit, and was now parked at a crazy angle facing the barrier. When we got down there, the car was empty, the driver's door hanging open, and hubby speculated that the guy had stolen the car and run off after he wrecked it.
We stopped at a Chattanooga Ramada which had a much too soft mattress, got going early the next day, and got to St. Augustine before the sun was down. We drove out to the Regency Inn and Suites on Anastasia Island, which is right across from (the parking lot for) the beach. Looks to me like a renovated old motel, so the "suite" was just a big room with three double beds, but it was clean and we were only going to be there for a night, so we dumped everything and raced off to the beach. And technically the beach is just a narrow strip of sand up against a breakwater right there; you have to take stairs down to it and at high tide it's all under water, but happily it was low tide that night and we spent an hour or so under and around the pier there, chasing crabs and the like as it got dark.
The manager let us have a late check out the next day, so we got up early and paid to get on the pier across the street since there was no beach, and hubby took pictures of what was supposed to be the sunrise -- too cloudy for good sunrise pics but nice to be out anyhow:
Hubby took a few shots of the shore, but he was trying to get some effect of the waves so they're not terribly informative. Gives you an idea of why the beach there disappears, though:
It's just that tiny area with no beach, though -- a few blocks away in either direction, the beach is like this:
Nice wide stretch of sand. There's a fair bit of tiny sea life along the edges we watched for a while, then my four younger kids dug holes, hubby went swimming, and eldest daughter and I stood in the surf, sinking, while we critiqued waves. It was great.
Last edited by Hobbitess; 08-11-2012 at 11:39 AM.
Toward noon we went back to the room and got cleaned up, packed the van, and headed for St. Augustine proper. The one "must do" I had was Castillo de San Marco, which will be 450 years old in 2015. Never been defeated and weathered cannon shot pretty well -- I think the most damage it's ever sustained was when some yahoo ran his truck into part of it this past spring. (link is to a news video)
He must have been going crazy fast, because even the retaining walls are well off the road, and it's uphill (although there is a tip that stretches down to the parking lot closer than this, which I'm guessing is where he hit).
Anyhow... we parked at the Visitor's Center downtown and looked over the displays there, then walked down to the Castillo. It doesn't cost much to tour, $7 for an adult (and an adult is 16 and above), but we didn't even have to pay that much because it was National Park week. Which I'm guessing is the last full week in April? Hubby loved that getting-in-for-free part.
When you enter the fort, this is over the door:
That’s actually a replica; the original was moved to a museum in 1958. And then somewhere a bit further in, you see this (I have totally cranked the contrast and things because it was in a deep recess and hard to see, so the colors are pretty quirky -- I don't remember that red off to the right, for sure!):
That older, more worn one is the royal Coat of Arms of Spain, best I can tell (some sections I haven't a clue what's really there!). The castles symbolize the kingdom of Castile, and the lions the kingdom of Leon. We tried to get a good picture of it because it’s so different from the one at the gate – the crown and shield parts are the same, but it doesn’t have the ring of what the Hermit called crabs around it, and it doesn’t have the sheep hanging from the bottom. So I went looking to find out why they’re different.
Since Charles II was king when construction of the coquina fort began in 1672, the shield over the gate is his shield; the decorative ring (the “collar”) and the hanging sheep indicate he was in “The Order of the Golden Fleece,” which is one of the oldest chivalric orders. It’s called a “collar” because it’s named after those big gold necklaces you see on a lot of pictures of guys from the middle ages, like the hunk of metal on this guy:
Those gold “collars” are knightly insignia. News to me! Both the gold chain and the collar on the coat of arms are supposed to be alternating “briquets” (aka “firesteels”) in the shape of a B (for Burgundy), linked by flints. So the things that look like crabs to the Hermit (and flowers to me) are really supposed to be flames, and those curvy interlocking c-shaped things were once b-shaped things. Obviously, the design of the briquets and flints can vary greatly, as can the shape of the sheep – look at the poor mutant sheep on this one:
A bit more research and it turns out that the skinny middle is supposed to show that it’s just an empty fleece; the one on the Castillo is an older style where it looks like a ram in a hoist who could stand on his own four feet if you’d just put him down. I suppose the empty fleece makes more sense but it just looks weird to me. I like the collar on the Castillo gate better than any of the other versions I’ve seen, but if you want to draw your own conclusions, here are a bunch more (jewelry sets, though, not carvings).
Downstairs there are some tiny rooms to tour and a big plaza, but what the kids liked best were the cannons upstairs...
And the little turret rooms:
Is that little groove where they rested their guns?
Here’s the gun turret from a bit further away:
That's kind of dark, but mostly I wanted to point out the "Bridge of Lions" to Anastasia Island in the back there. That's highway A1A, which goes pretty much the length of Florida along the Atlantic coastline. If I had three or four lifetimes to play with, driving the length of A1A would be on my bucket list.
And here is a shot of a couple of kids with a re-enactor:
In my experience, some re-enactors are really on top of things and have a lot to offer; others kind of have their little spiel on their uniform or gear, and they’re done. This guy could answer some of the kids’ questions on the cannons, so he gets points. :thumbsup2
Walking back, we took St. George Street in the Spanish Quarter, which was nice, and I really like the city gate that's still there. I tried to find a picture of the Old City Gates that looked like what I saw, but all I could find was ones like this:
-- which is much more stark than I remember -- or overly romanticized ones like this:
If you can imagine something about halfway between those, that's what I remember seeing.
In an art store in Old Town I also saw a print of Thomas Kinkade's "A New Day at Cinderella's Castle," which is the one Kinkade that really tempts me:
I love the deer (supposedly Bambi and his mother - yeah, they totally lived near a European-ish castle!), and the rainbow, less enthused about Tinkerbell up there. I like Kinkade's lush landscapes and I think their fantasy feel is just right for Disney. His landscapes tend to all blend in the mind, though, but this one is so clearly Cinderella's Castle it stays put after I look at it. He did a painting of Biltmore, too, but that one's got people in it, and I do not like his people. Generic landscapes bug me a lot less than generic people, for whatever reason.
Anyhow. There's tons more to do in St. Augustine and I really want to get back there sometime, but this was "an Orlando trip," and the kids were antsy to get to Orlando. So we got back to our car and headed out!
Great TR. I love that Kindade as well.
Thanks for sharing.
Maybe I'll do a trip report too since you are inspiring me.
Give it a try! I always thought I was All About the Anticipation, rather than the trip itself, but I'm finding that remembering the trip is just as fun. Ran across a C.S. Lewis quote that really speaks to me now (and probably wouldn't have before): "A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered."
Originally Posted by chriskre
And, thanks for the kind words. Glad you're enjoying it.
To be honest, I felt a little trepidation about our resort in Orlando. We could only stay in the units in the older Oasis Lake buildings (because the regular units officially sleep six), which were in the process of being refurbished, meaning we would either have construction noise, end up in a unit due for refurbishment, or both! Plus, the unit was all white with blonde woods; I like bright colors when I'm vacationing, and preferably nothing that reminds me of the 1970s.
On the upside, the units that sleep 8 are big -- over 1300 square feet -- and we love our space, so that part is good. When we checked in, I could tell from the room number that we would be in the building that isn't being refurbished yet. So no construction noise, at any rate. This also means, in essence, that you can't get these units anymore -- you can, of course, but as part of the refurbishment they cut a new door from the master bedroom into the dining area, so they moved the table over to merge with that island thingie, meaning it's a smaller table that seats five. In a unit that sleeps eight! Yeah, that's helpful...
We drove over to our unit and unloaded the van by the unit, then hubby ran it over to the next building to park (this was an on-going issue -- I think people drive over to swim in the pool, so it's hard to find parking right by the building but we always found parking at our end of the parking for the next building over, so not a big deal). Then we rode the elevator up to the top floor, opened the door to the unit, and this is what we see -- sort of:
For me, at any rate, the view just pulled me right through the unit and out onto that big screened porch. I forgot all about the fact that I didn't expect to like the decor and just rejoiced in that big unit with a view. I guess some people find screened porches confining, but I love them, and the view was nice -- the lake below, and then you can see SeaWorld beyond it. Hubby apparently did not feel the same, because we have no pictures of that view. And come to think of it, I sat out on the porch with eldest son, not hubby. Hubby liked the unit just fine, but I guess the view didn't grab him.
The master bedroom had a ridiculous large dressing area:
The bed looked better before eldest son flung himself across it.
And there was a little unscreened balcony:
The second bedroom in the units that sleep eight has a queen bed and a fold out sofa. The smaller units in the older buildings, the second bedroom has two twin beds, but the regular units in most of the resort, which also officially sleep six, have two double beds in the second bedroom. Where's the logic in that?
Last edited by Hobbitess; 08-12-2012 at 12:10 PM.
We decide to do a tour of the resort -- middle daughter wanted to see the big pool that I suspect is half the reason she picked the place. I didn't request any pics so hubby didn't take any (this is the trip I clued into the fact that I really needed to get a camera of my own). This, from BG's flickr collection, shows most of the big pool there:
That first lobe to the left is zero entry, and has various squirty things and stuff for kids to play with. The next lobe has this double slide (first pic from TripAdvisor, second from the BG flickr):
The kids liked the double slide because they could race each other. And even the loser wins, because it's a slide!
The big pool was practically empty, which surprised me. I knew it was unheated, but on checking it when we got there it was warm enough for my kids, so I figured other "northerners" would be happy with it, but apparently not. We wandered on to the indoor/outdoor pool, which is heated, and it was mobbed. I hadn't toured the Disney resorts at that point, but now that I have, that pool was right up there with them. There were people playing volleyball and everyone seemed to having a good ol' time, but I'd rather the cold and quiet one, myself.
Indoor/outdoor pool from inside:
The outside part of the indoor/outdoor pool is right off the lake, so you can sit there and look at either, which looks nice. Not that I ever got to do that -- we were only there five nights and there were a lot of things I didn't get to. There's also a kiddie pool and a big chess board and things, and of course you can get a canoe or a swan paddleboat to do Lake Eve. Lake Eve is really a pond, IMHO, but we enjoyed it for all that.
I bought a few pins for trading before we came out, but middle daughter and I wanted to get lanyards, and of course you can never have too many Disney pins, so we decided to head over to Disney's Character Warehouse in the Orlando Premium Outlet, which is right close to the Fountains. Second son and youngest daughter decided to come along, which seemed innocuous. The parking lot was packed, but there was plenty of parking -- shaded parking -- in the parking garage, which was free.
I'd forgotten my mall map, but I remembered the Disney store was near the food court, so we found it easily enough. Middle daughter and I headed over to the pins and promptly found a Pirates of the Caribbean pin we both liked for a buck a pop. We both picked out the same lanyard -- it was pink enough for her and purple enough for me -- and, since none of the other pins shown particularly excited us, we picked up a couple of mystery bags each. So we ended up with two of everything, which I didn't realize until the cashier was ringing us up. The cashier said, "Would you like two bags?" and middle daughter said, "Sure!"
So the cashier divided everything evenly and gave one bag to middle daughter and offered the other to my youngest. My youngest had decided that Disney=costumed characters, and since she hates costumed characters, that means she hated Disney. Plus she doesn't like Mickey Mouse, who was of course emblazoned across the bag. She she just crossed her arms and glared at the poor cashier.
Middle daughter, who is the soul of tact, cheerfully said, "I'll carry it for her." So I thought we'd gotten over that hurdle, but then the cashier offered the kids Mickey stickers, and this time my youngest didn't just glare but loudly announced, "I hate that guy" and stalked away, which prompted second son into a declaration that "Sea World is way better than Disney" and would have sent him off into a rant on the subject if I hadn't given him the Evil Eye.
Middle daughter, beaming over her loot and the unexpected gift of stickers, thanked the saleslady again and wished her good day, and I slunk out of the store with my middle daughter practically skipping at my side, telling me how great the Pirates pin was, second son muttering softly that "Sea World is still better, I dunno why Disney gets all the attention" and my youngest whispering, "Disney is evil" kinda stuff to herself. I expect the saleslady predicted a wonderful time at Disney World for us.
By the time we got back to the Fountains, a good storm was cranking up, so hubby went and sat on the bedroom porch (no screen) to take pics of the lightning.
Then, when it settled down to mostly just pouring, we went out to the front and watched the rain sheeting off the roof while hubby tried to get a picture of it, with less success.
That's the clubhouse down on the left; there's a restaurant in there and the indoor/outdoor pool toward the back. The big pool's the other side of the building across the parking lots.
Middle daughter and I had decided on the Magic Kingdom for our one park day, and I didn't want to hit the MK on a Monday, so we went to bed knowing that, the next day, it was SeaWorld. Or, if you're my second son, The Next Day, It was SEAWORLD!
Georgeous pictures - thanks for sharing!!
Thank you so much for doing this trip report!! I loved the pics also. I wish more people would do them. I love remembering my trips. Naw, I don't expect anybody but me to go to wrestling conventions & red neck tours but everyone has fun in their own way and providing family memories that will last a lifetime.
PS ok Christie, your turn to do a trip report. I'd love to read it.