Monday, April 28, 2014

Trip Fever

We are in the midst of purchasing a home and all of the fun stuff that goes along with that so this spring, instead of taking a trip, we are having a stay-cation.  And while I do love a nice, relaxing week at home, I also LOVE to travel.  And it doesn't help that my best friend and her family are currently at DisneyWorld. 

We are thinking of going somewhere in the fall, so we need to narrow down a location soon.  I'm up for anything - cruise, beach, mountains, etc. 

I was going through albums on Facebook and I was filled with good memories of our recent travels...

Panama City Beach

Definitely one our favorite places.  We always stay at the same place, the Osprey Motel.  It's an older, family-owned hotel and each room has a kitchen and balcony.  What I love most about the Osprey, well besides their unbelievable prices, is that this isn't a high-rise like so many places in PCB now.  It has 5 floors with easy access to parking both underneath the building and in a lot directly across the street.  No waiting 15 minutes for an elevator or traffic leaving a parking deck.  And there is ample space on the beachfront.  I always feel at home here and that is a big deal to me. 

The Osprey Motel (view from the beach)

View from our balcony
In PCB, one of our favorite places to visit is Pier Park.  Located just a short walk from the Opsrey, Pier Park is a huge shopping and entertainment area.  We enjoy browsing the stores, hitting the movie theater (a beach tradition for us), and having a snack.  In our past visits, we have eaten at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Hofbrau Beer Garden, and Red Brick Pizza.  We have also made stops at Tootsies for drinks and Kilwin's for delicious fudge and ice cream sundaes.

Deliciousness from Kilwins

Stop #2 - Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

I have loved going up to the Smoky Mountains since I was young.  My parents took my brother and I just about every summer.  My parents visited Gatlinburg on their honeymoon as did Hubs and I. 

It is one of those classic places with lots of shops, amazing food, and beautiful scenery.  And it is home to one of my most favorite places ever - Dollywood!

This area is also home to about 5,459 breakfast places.  Hubs loves it.

I seriously love Dollywood.

We have mainly stayed at hotels because we tend to go and do a lot.  We don't usually kick back and relax when we are in the mountains.  I don't know why.  On our last trip in April 2012, we visited my The Old Mill - my new favorite restaurant.  Their food is amazing.  And the restaurant has a water wheel outside.  I love it.  My parents LOVE their corn chowder and last time I was there, I took back $50 worth of corn chowder mix for them.


Next up, we get a little interational...Cruise #1

We went on our first cruise in August 2011 with my parents and some friends.  Carnival still had a port in Mobile at the time so we took the quick trip to Mobile and boarded the ship around lunchtime on a Monday.  Our cruise was a 5 day to Cozumel and Calica, Mexico.  It was a great experience for us.  No sea sickness for me (which is huge because I get nauseated quickly on various transportation devices) and everyday was perfect weather (well it was HOT).

Cruises are most famous for their food - all you could eat, anytime of the day.  We indulged.  A lot.  We had buffets at breakfast and lunch and formal dining for dinner.  Plus, ice cream anytime I wanted. 
Chicken and Fetticini in the formal dining room

Carnival's famous Chocolate Melting Cake.  Amazing.
Cruise #2
Hubs and I took cruise #2 with my cousin K in October 2012.  We left out of New Orleans for a 4 day trip to Cozumel and back.  We visited a different port in Cozumel so that was really nice. 
We actually took the same ship as our first cruise.  But for us, we just enjoyed the relaxation and weren't so concerned about a different ship, or even a different location.  Plus, it helped us get around faster since we were Elation veterans.
Docked at Cozumel
Deliciously fresh guacamole and salsa.
While my first cruise proved perfect in terms of ship movement, this trip made up for it.  It was very windy and we felt it quite a bit more.  The night we left Cozumel, they posted some nice bags to use in case you got sick.  Thankfully I had plenty of dramimine but I could see where those bags might come in handy. 

Barf bags.

So overall, the sea sickness was a bit rough this time.  And land sickness was actually really bad.  I spent all evening at home in my recliner.  But that wasn't Carnival's fault. 

Despite all of the bad press Carnival received last year, I am still up for another trip. I know that certain circumstances can't be helped.  But one thing I have to praise Carnival for is their staff.  Everyone we have never came in contact with was friendly and always willing to help.  They really see to it that your vacation is as perfect as possible.  Really and truly, the only thing you have to do for yourself is shower.  They do everything else. 

I highly recommend that everyone take a cruise at least once.  If you aren't sure, take a 3 day.  That will really tell you if a longer cruise is in the cards for you.  I don't know if a 7-day is my thing but 4 and 5 were just perfect. 

And lastly, Gulf Shores, Alabama

We visited Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, with some of our best friends and their little girl last July.  We stayed with Ash's dad, who lives in Orange Beach.  They graciously opened their home to us and while it was cramped quarters, we had a blast.  Besides one minor hiccup with our car, it was a great vacation.

Hubs and EK on the beach for the 4th of July

While we were in town, we got our fill of seafood for sure.  First our first real evening, we picked up steamed shrimp from Billy's Seafood.  Their motto is "If it swims we got it."  The shrimp was amazing!  We took it back to the condo and had corn on the cob, potatoes, and hush puppies.  Delicious.

For lunch one day, we hit up the Shrimp Basket on all-you-can-eat popcorn shrimp day.  It was so good!  And their tarter sauce is amazing.

One place Hubs really wanted to try was Lambert's Cafe.  They have delicious southern foods and several all-you-can-eat pass-arounds like fried okra, fried potatoes, and hot rolls (thrown to you).  The only thing I don't care for is the humor they use.  For example, one waitress (not ours) acted like she tripped and her trick cup looked like coke was about to be all over me.  And some of them are sarcastic.  Some people think that is hilarious but I'm not a fan.  Just give me good food and leave me alone.  I'm not high-maintenance.  The food really was delicious though and I took back a plate of leftovers for a midnight snack.

And that last place we tried was the Original Oyster House.  It is a landmark.  The wait was 45-1 hour.  However, they overlooked up so at 1 hour and 45 minutes, Jim went to check and sure enough, we were skipped.  Anyway, I had the salad bar (which was yummy!) and shrimp.  I wasn't so impressed with my dinner.  And everyone sort of had an issue.  Either it was wrong or in some cases the fish was way overcooked.  So I won't say I wouldn't go back but I wasn't so impressed since it has such a reputation. 

So now I'm craving a trip even more! 


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