After losing my mom in late August of 2006 we made another stop in Canada the summer of 2007... we (my dad, grandma, brother, Greg, the kids and I) decided to take a trip together. It was a great time and I think my mom was happy looking down from heaven at all of us together. (I will blog later about our Northern adventures).
When the summer of 2008 rolled around we were ready for sunny Florida again. We had everything all set... condo reserved, clothes packed, snacks bought.... then Greg went to work that Friday before we left for our trip to find out he was laid off effective immediately. Vacation downer (wah, wah wah).... we were not sure what to do. There was no way to tell how long it would take Greg to land another job and we didn't want to spend money we may need to live on for the next couple months. However, a lot of money had already been spent on the condo, tickets for Universal Studios etc... and at this point Greg needed a vacation more now than ever. We decided to go... we also decided not to tell the kids about Greg's job situation until after the vacation. No need for them to worry too.
It was difficult at first to get into vacation mode with all that was hanging over us but it all rolled off us once we hit the beach. The sun was just setting when we pulled into our condo so we ran over to the beach first thing to smell the salty air and feel the sand between our toes.
Leslie's find on the beach.... it was still alive so we took pictures and then released it... so pretty.
Greg set up the tripod and took some family photos of us on the beach... first time in a long time for a nice family photo..
We visited St. Augustine again.....
While we were in St. Augustine we wanted to do something different so we stopped into one of the little Ghost Tour shops. They told us all about their tours and then told us about a great time share opportunity they had. Typically we turn and RUN when the words time share are mentioned however this time we listened.... they told us for the price we would pay for a ghost tour for four we could stay in a 5 star resort for 3 days and 2 nights.We thought "We don't have any time restraints... why don't we extend our vacation by a couple days. We can team up and shut these guys down and then enjoy 3 more days in Florida." We called home to make sure we would have pet coverage (my dad was kind enough to watch 3/4 of our zoo and our neighbors had Murphy) for another 3 days. We walked out of the store with four ghost tour tickets AND a voucher for a 2 night 3 day stay at Blue Green Resort for around $60.00.
It was done..... we were participating in 2 things we vowed never to do... ghost tours and time share. What were we thinking??? St. Augustine is known for its old haunted hotels and buildings... I mean it is the oldest city in the country.. there has to be orbs... I mean ghosts right??? The kids were at a good age to know it is a novelty and to tell you the truth we learned a lot of history of the city on the tour. It was fun to watch all the people getting into it as they took pictures of orbs. It was raining so there were a lot of "orbs". We had fun saying ooooooooh after everything our guide said... trying to make it spooky. :) Speaking of spooky... look at our guide in this picture... guy in the black hat... is he creepy or what???
See our little white "orb" in this photo??
We visited Daytona Beach again too....
Leslie met up with an online friend while we were in Daytona.... her parents were delightful people and even bought us dinner.
Yep, Pirates Cove miniature golf again too... it was Nick's birthday and this is what he wanted to do. Leslie was a good sport... she really doesn't like putt putt golf too much.
Our big day this year was a trip to Universal Studios. My sister in law had two free tickets that she had been holding onto for years so she gave them to us to try. There were no expiration dates on them so we thought what the heck... lets give it a try. We arrived early to the park and stood in line to purchase our tickets. Not only did they accept the tickets, but they also gave us a free upgrade for admission to both parks. We purchased the upgraded tickets for both the kids and we were set. We also purchased the "meal deal" bracelet for all four of us which was amazing. We could walk into the restaurants listed on the meal deal ticket and order anything we wanted and as much as we wanted. It was so nice to not have to worry about food in the park....if you are hungry.... walk in... show your bracelet and get what you want. ahhhh... the day was fun and care free.
This picture was taken shortly after the Jurassic Park ride which DRENCHED us. We didn't think it would get us that wet when in actuality we were under water for what felt like a minute at the bottom of the huge hill. It was the last ride of the day and we laughed and laughed. We walked immediately next door to the Dinosaur Grill and got hamburgers the size of our heads with our wrist bands... what a great ending to a great day.
This picture was taken outside the Monster's Cafe... neither child would pose for me in this chair so I had to do it myself.
Do NOT ride this ride if you have motion sickness..... as I do and now feel sick when I watch the Simpsons on TV.
The park across the way from Universal Studios... Island of Adventure was our favorite. We rode the Hulk, Dueling Dragons and all sorts of fun Hollywood Themed rides. We would get off one ride and run to the next trying to fit it all in. On our way out the door we rode the Cat in the Hat ride with our sweet Maya in mind... she loved Cat in the Hat at the time so we rode the ride thinking of her... it was a lot of spinning around and around and it helped us dry off from the Jurassic Park ride... plus....by the time we got off we were ready to leave.
After another fun filled day at the condo on the beach it was time to cash in our 3 day 2 night stay at the Blue Green Resort. We packed up, said our goodbyes to the beach and the condo and headed back to St. Augustine to pick up our voucher. This was an adventure.... we went in circles trying to find the information place to pick it up. We finally talked to someone who knew what they were talking about and they directed us to the right place. We picked up our voucher and headed to our resort.
We were impressed as we pulled into the resort.. the buildings were very nice and it was on a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course. We tried to check into our room but they didn't have it ready yet so we sat in the visitors lounge and checked our email for a while. Eventually they had our room ready and gave us the key.
When we first walked into the room we were not impressed at all. It smelled like fish and it did not meet our expectations of a 5 star resort... it was nice enough, for like a hotel stay or something but we were thinking... FIVE STAR. Greg was of course the business man through all of this and he found all kinds of things wrong with the room... he said" If they are trying to sell us on purchasing a time share through this resort, they are not doing a very good job of it". He noticed busted knobs off the jacuzzi tub, a chipped and broken lamp, and the cupboards apparently were not on straight. ( I personally would never have noticed but it is that male/female observation thing again that I spoke about earlier ). Still, it was an extension to our vacation and we pretty much got it for free.
Greg called down to the front desk about the smell and the broken tub buttons. They apologized and told us the cleaning ladies had forgotten to spray the fragrance spray in our room and they would send someone up to fix it. A sweet lady who spoke Spanish came to the room and we had to have Leslie speak to her because we didn't understand what she was saying. She sprayed some spray around the room and on the carpet and then left. The smell was really strong... but it didn't smell like fish anymore. :)
The next morning Greg and I got up early to attend our little "presentation". We were prepared to play the good cop/ bad cop scenario with these people and get it over with. We agreed there was nothing these guys could say to us that would make us want to waste our money on a time share, much less than THIS particular time share resort.
We arrived, drank our coffee, watched a little film about Blue Green and then on to the tour. We were shown rooms that put our room to shame. They were even baking cookies in the rooms so they not only looked inviting but they smelled incredible. Greg and I were very sly in how we worded the description of the room we were currently staying in. We were not really complaining.... but more like talking the other rooms up. "Wow, this place is incredible, these rooms are amazing... this is NOTHING like what we are staying in." It worked really well for us because then the lady continued her presentation about Blue Green thinking we were really impressed.
Until....... she took us back to the location where we began and she started the selling portion of this presentation. Greg allowed her to finish her memorized speach and then politely said to her "we are not interested and let me tell you why". He then told her everything.. about the difference in the rooms, about the smell, about the broken everything in the rooms... he laid it out. She was shocked of course that we would have such an experience at this resort so she brought over her manager to see if he could sweeten the deal. We were prepared... we knew there was always a "dealer" that had to come over and offer us a today or nothing deal. He apologized to us both and wanted to offer us a better room during our stay. That was great! We were very grateful however we still were not going to purchase anything from them. They pressured us a bit and then when they saw they were not getting anywhere with us they backed off. They gave us our $50.00 gift card, walked us to the front desk to request a room change and then we were on our way.
We walked down to the pool to sit for a while until our new room was available.
This room was MUCH better. It was exactly like the rooms they had shown us on the tour.
We had a washer and dryer with two bathrooms and a complete kitchen. We even went to the grocery and bought cookies to bake so we could have the good cookie smell. :)
We talked to the conciere and she told us about a great little restaurant on the water called Caps, so we drove there for dinner.
Leslie ordered crab legs....
Nick doesn't like seafood so he ordered a grilled chicken salad... this is what they brought him...he said "What am I supposed to do with this?" It was pretty funny.
So, all in all it was another great trip to Florida. Greg worked through a lot of things while on this trip and I think having the beach to decompress a lot of the stress helped tremedously. God is good and He came through for us nearly a month later with a great job for Greg. Sometimes it is hard to remember that ultimately He is in charge, but he continually shows us that we need to not worry about tomorrow.... for tomorrow has worries of it own.
Florida is sentimental to me because each trip has brought something new to my memory jar. We may have stayed in the same place, saw the same things, ate at the same restaurants but each time we were different people. Each trip had a different purpose for that moment in time.
This year we will be traveling with a freshman and a senior in high school, we will be traveling as people who have lost loved ones, friends, pets, and jobs. We change like the ocean tide.... we change with each circumstance that is thrown our way and God uses those circumstances to grow us. I am one who struggles with change... so for me...bring on the comfort of my familiar friend ocean man.
Florida or Bust 2009. :)