Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Girls Weekend in Amelia Island, Florida

Just off of Exit 1 in the Northwest corner of Florida, lies an island with 13 miles of beachfront, a long history under eight different flags and a cute, little beach town with shops and shrimp boats. And very few people have ever heard of it. 

Amelia Island was named for King George II of Britain's daughter. Flags from Spain, England, France, Mexico and the Confederate US have flown over the island from it's different rulers. Today it's a sleepy little island with a couple of big resorts, seafood restaurants, condos for rent and one of the most infamous auto weeks, the Concours d'Elegance, in all of the US. 

My first visit to "Florida's Favorite Island" was in the Spring on a girls weekend with my mom and sister. We arrived on a beautiful Friday evening and strolled down the main street of little Fernandina Beach - the main town of Amelia Island. After checking out a few of the shops, we started perusing menus for dinner choices. We settled on Amelia Tavern and Brewpub. It was a delicious meal with the Tavern's own brews and we exited to a gorgeous sunset over the pier. 

Saturday morning started with breakfast at our hotel and then we were off to view the beach. Our first stop was the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island for a coffee at Coast, the Ritz's restaurant. Located beachfront, the Ritz is one of the locations for the Concours d'Elegance which is the biggest event of the year for the island.(Some 300 volunteers man the show and hotel rooms are sold out a year in advance) Held during the month of March, this car show is the premier show in the state of Florida. The charitable event is like a "beauty pageant for rare and elegant cars." Also included during the week are auto auctions, charity raffles and even fashion shows with profits going to charity. If you're a car aficionado, this is the event for you.

After seeing the beach and wandering the Ritz, we were ready for lunch. A quick drive down the beach road led us to The Surf. Also a hotel, the Surf is located across from the beach and serves up pub food in a beachy atmosphere. 

From there we drove past all the beachfront homes and took a drive around the island. There is a lighthouse but it is privately owned and only open one weekend per month, so we drove past to see it and then went back for a little more shopping. Parking is free along the main street and there are lots of cute little shops in Fernandina Beach. Fun fact: the house used in the filming of the Pippi Longstocking movie from 1987  is located in Fernandina Beach. It's now for sale so if you'd like to own a piece of movie history you can purchase it for a mere $750,000.

But all to soon our visit to Amelia Island was over and it was time to move on to our next stop. If you haven't been, give Amelia Island a try. It's got beautiful beaches, a swanky resort, cute little shops and I'm told, a car show to die for. If those sound up your alley, I'm sure you'd love it.

How about you? Have you ever heard of Amelia Island? Or have you been?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Visiting San Diego: Eight Fun Things to Do

My niece moved to San Diego several years ago and I've been lucky enough to go visit a few times. I've enjoyed sightseeing and getting to know the city a little at a time. Here are a few of the things I've been able to do on my trips west:

1. Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography
The Birch Aquarium at Scripps sits high on a hill overlooking the coast at La Jolla with the best view I've seen from an aquarium.  A smaller aquarium, but with over 5,000 fish to view in large window aquariums, Birch is a great place to take kids. You can see a feeding, take in interactive activities - such as a water play area for the little ones - and also take part in off-site activities like whale watching or pier walking. The aquarium is open from 9 to 5 pm daily with free 3 hour parking. (Dining is available at Splash Cafe and of course, there is a gift shop)

2. The Flower Fields
The Flower Fields, located north of San Diego in Carlsbad, is fifty acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers that are in bloom for six to eight weeks every spring. (They plant one million seeds each year ) You pay an admission fee to walk amongst the flowers and enjoy an ocean view while you do so. But that's not all - you can take an antique tractor ride, see the American Flag planted in flowers, visit the poinsettia tent, the Orchid greenhouse and walk the sweet pea maze. And if you're in the market for such an event, you can hold your wedding here or bring a school group.

3. The Embarcadero 
The Embarcadero is located downtown along the Bay and is the spot in San Diego to learn about the city's maritime history. Housed here is the USS Midway Museum, the Maritime Museum of San Diego, cruise ship terminals, Seaport Village for shopping and eating, and several waterfront seafood restaurants. 
When you stroll along the harbor you will encounter: the USS Midway, an historic aircraft carrier that you can tour, the national salute to Bob Hope and the Military, which are a series of bronze statues listening to the comedian Bob Hope and the ever popular Kissing Sailor Statue - or Unconditional Surrender Statue - depicting the famed V-J Day photo from Times Square. 

4. Visit Coronado Island
Coronado Island is one of my favorite places to visit in the San Diego area. Located just across the bay from San Diego, Coronado is home to the famous Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Beach (voted Best Beach in the US by Dr. Beach in 2012) and a charming Main Street with a New England vibe. Once you cross over the bridge, you can dine at outdoor cafe's, shop at the local shops, take in the view of downtown San Diego and enjoy all the water sports like surfing, paddle boarding and kayaking. And of course, you can't visit Coronado without visiting the Del. Built in 1888, Hotel Del Coronado is a National Historic Landmark and was the filming location for the movie Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe. You can enjoy a drink at their outdoor tiki bar or just plop yourself down on the beach and enjoy the sparkling sand.

5. Have some pasta in Little Italy
The Little Italy area of San Diego is one of my favorite spots to visit and for one reason - the exceptional food. According to San Diego's Tourism board, Little Italy is "San Dieg0's most dynamic food and drink scene." It's got patio cafes, restaurants, craft breweries, urban wineries and Amici Park, where even the picnic tables have recipes written on them. Settled by Italian descendants, obviously, who worked in the tuna fishing industry, Little Italy is now the place to go for eating and drinking. (I'm pretty sure I couldn't afford to live there, though, as it was just voted one of the most expensive neighborhoods to live in in the US) I wouldn't be mad about visiting here every time that I visit San Diego. And I'm still hoping to take one of their food tours someday.

6. Check out the North Park neighborhood
One of the trendiest neighborhoods of the moment, North Park is home to students and hipsters, craft beer pubs and brunch spots. It's known for it's craftsman bungalows and popular instagram worthy street art. If San Diego isn't satisfying your craving for night life then head to North Park known for it's dive bars and the Thursday market which features live music.

We stopped in at Holy Matcha for some doughnuts and green tea - and sat a spell on their well-known pink velvet setee's. This place is very photogenic - and the doughnut was good, too.

7. Hang out at Balboa Park
In 1915, the Panama-California Exposition was held in San Diego at Balboa Park. Today, the 1,200 acre park is considered one of the most popular parks in the US - and with good reason. The park contains 17 museums - including the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Art Institute and the San Diego History Museum - gardens, walking paths, restaurants, shops and the world -famous San Diego Zoo. That's not counting a puppet theater, the Old Globe Theater or the Balboa Park Carousel. It's really a treasure trove of cultural and recreational activities. 
On my visit there I had a delicious lunch at Prado, walked through the Botanical building, visited the Museum of Photographic Arts and listened to a couple performing and dancing the tango. That's not even scratching the surface, though, and I'd love to go back.

How about you? What are your favorite things to do in San Diego?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand and The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party!