We had a great trip to Florida for Thanksgiving week. It was too short, of course – we always end up wishing we could stay a couple more days – but it was a fun time and fairly relaxing.
We left Nashville on Sunday after church and headed down through Alabama to see my grandparents in Tallahassee. Aside from a construction delay, it was a fairly easy trip, and we got there in about 8 1/2 hours. The only real concern was when we stopped at a Taco Bell to get something to eat, and I heard the employees discussing the fact that they had just moments earlier been robbed at gunpoint! It made me glad we had the construction delay.
We spent the night in Tallahassee, and after visiting with my grandparents through lunchtime and then stopping to see my aunt and cousin at work, we got back in the new van for the rest of our trip. Ivan was not too happy to be back in his car seat so soon after the long drive the day before, but we survived and made it to my parents’ house in time for dinner Monday night.
On Tuesday, we didn’t do much in the morning, but headed down to Lakeside Village for some shopping (mostly by the women) in the afternoon, and ate dinner at BD’s Mongolian Grill. It’s a lot like Genghis Grill, which is one of my favorite places to eat.
That evening, we had our family Christmas, since we probably won’t see my side of the family in December. Our kids got lots of toys, which would not have fit in our car (thank goodness for the new van!), and I got a toy of my own – a very small, lightweight remote controlled helicopter. We had so much fun with it that my brother went and bought one (only $30 at Toys-R-Us!) and we flew them both in the garage to the amusement of (just about) everyone.
On Wednesday, we relaxed in the morning (do you see a pattern here?) and then left just before lunch to head over to the Tampa area. We ate lunch in Ybor City at the Columbia Restaurant and it was oh so good. I think just about everyone had the Cuban Sandwich with a side of black bean or Spanish bean soup, and we followed up with churros and guava cheesecake. And of course, the Cuban bread was excellent.
After a great meal, we went to the Florida Aquarium, which is one of my favorite places to visit. As Mary has already mentioned in her blog, I asked about a discount from our Nashville Zoo membership (the zoo being part of the AZA and having reciprocal benefits relationships with some of the other members) and didn’t really expect to get much, but it was a significant savings. I think we paid $15.50 instead of over $50 for Mary, Owen, and me (Ivan got in free). I was glad I asked! The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga only gives us a couple of dollars off, but I think that’s because it’s so close and they expect to have a lot more Nashville Zoo members take advantage of the discount.
Anyway, Owen seemed to have a good time at the aquarium. I tried to get some pictures of him in front of the glass, but the lighting was low and he wouldn’t hold still (you’d think he was a 3-year-old or something). He really giggled when we went by the otters and also at the stingray pool, where they come right up and splash you with their fins.
Outside the aquarium, they have a playground, which is probably a lot more fun in the summer months (they have a lot of water-based activities that were turned off). We did get some photos of Owen running around and playing out there – including riding the surfboard with Uncle Keith.
On Thursday, of course, we celebrated Thanksgiving, and Mom and her family did an awesome job as usual. The food was excellent and we had a nice time visiting with everyone – I have several cousins who I pretty much only see once a year at either Thanksgiving or Christmas. After lunch and some helicopter flying we took turns riding my brother’s new scooter. Even my mom and my aunt took a ride on it. The weather, which had been a little cool earlier in the week, was beautiful on Thursday and Friday.
Since all the family was already there, we had a little birthday party for Ivan on Thursday night. He was thoroughly enjoying his cake when my mom decided to give him a strawberry. After all that sweet cake and icing, I guess the strawberry was pretty sour, because he puckered up real good and looked at us all like “what in the world did you just give me?”. Of course, we just laughed and took lots of pictures. After a while, though, he got over it, ate some more cake, and then opened his gifts with a little help from big brother.
On (Black) Friday, I pretty much wanted to avoid any type of retail establishment. Mary had gotten a shirt that was the wrong size, so she went out with my mom to exchange that, but the guys (Dad, my brothers, and the kids) stayed at the house and watched some old Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes and played a little cards while the boys napped.
That night, we met up with one of my oldest friends, Shane, and his wife and their two boys. We took all the kids to Chuck E. Cheese’s, and if I could sum up that place in one word, it would be “loud”. Owen seemed to enjoy it for the most part, though. We played a few games, including driving a race car that he enjoyed, and he rode some rides. They also had a kid-sized air hockey table, so I had to run out and get the camera to take some photos of Owen and Landon playing air hockey. They didn’t totally know what they were supposed to be doing, but they knew enough to hit the puck back and forth and had a good time doing it.
Saturday morning, we got up early to start the long drive home. I wasn’t sure how bad traffic might be on the holiday weekend, but I was hoping most people would wait until Sunday to travel home. It moved pretty well until we got into the Atlanta area, where it got very thick and slowed down. Up to that point, we had only stopped once for gas, so we hadn’t eaten lunch yet (mainly because the boys were sleeping and we wanted to take advantage of the peace – those of you who have traveled with kids know what I’m talking about).
We saw a sign for “Truett’s Grill”, with a Chick-Fil-A logo underneath it, so we thought we would check that out and see what it was. It turned out to be a really nice 50’s-style diner that served Chick-Fil-A food and a lot more. The decor in there was incredible – it was full of old cars, both life-sized and scale models, and had a model train running on an elevated track around the whole restaurant (which, of course, Owen loved). I spoke to one of the employees and he said that S. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A, lived right around the corner and often stopped in there on Saturdays. I would have loved to meet him, but he didn’t come in while we were there. It was a very neat place, though, and I recommend that anyone traveling through or around Atlanta stop in at one of the Truett’s Grill locations (I think there are 3).
We spent a longer time there than we usually spend for lunch when traveling, but once we got through Atlanta, the traffic was light, so we still made it home at a decent hour and got unpacked and put the boys to bed. As much as we enjoyed our time in Florida, we were all very happy to be home.