Getting to Florida was a bit of an ordeal. Eric and I left Hoboken around 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday. We flew out of Newark, and this was our first time getting to the airport from Hoboken. We had thought getting to Newark would be super easy, since there is a stop on the PATH line for Newark. Well, that's for Newark Penn Station, not Newark airport. Our commute to the airport looked like this: Take the PATH from Hoboken to Exchange Place. Change to a Newark-bound PATH train, get off at Newark Penn Station. Take the NJ Transit from Newark Penn to the airport train stop. Then take the Airtrain from the train station to the actual airport. The cost was cheap (only about $10 per person), but it took about an hour. You know what I miss? Our apartment in DC that was one measly mile (and only one Metro stop) from Reagan National Airport. It took a grand total of 10 minutes to get to the airport, maybe 15 if you had to wait for a train. Those were the days.
Anyway. Our flight to Florida was also interesting. First of all, as soon as we got to the airport, my husband failed a Sweet Husband Test. Here's what happened: I booked our flights and chose our seats. I put him in an aisle seat in the middle of the plane, because I know that's what he prefers. I took one for the team and chose the middle seat next to him, even though I greatly prefer window seats (especially when flying in/out of NYC at night - talk about a gorgeous window view!). But, we rarely get to travel together, so I thought we should sit next to each other. Well, we flew Continental, and Eric is some kind of Continental VIP because all his flights to India have been with Continental, and flying to India repeatedly is a great way to rack up airline miles. When I checked in for our flight on Tuesday night, I confirmed my middle seat (despite an abundance of available nearby window seats). Eric, however, did not check in until we got to the airport on Wednesday, and guess what? They bumped him up to first class. So my thanks for being a sweet middle-seat-taking wife was only to get left back there while my husband takes a window seat in first class. He claims he tried to switch back to his original seat but it was already taken, so what was he to do? I'll tell you what he was to do! I suggested he offer to switch seats with the guy next to me when we got on the plane. Surely that could work, right? What fool would turn down a free switch to first class? The guy next to me could go to first class and we could still sit together. But, NOPE. My dear husband enjoyed his nice, roomy flight in first class while I sat back in the middle seat in coach with the rest of the poor, huddled masses, including the rather large, loud-breathing guy (that couldn't keep his elbows to himself) in Eric's would-be seat. Sigh.
Then, as we entered Florida (approximately), there was some rough weather. Eric and I are rather seasoned fliers, so turbulence is not much of an event anymore. And I have been through some bad stuff - the kind of turbulence that actually lifts you out of your seat and makes everyone scream out. That's always a good time. Well, on this flight, we hit a bad spot of turbulence. It wasn't the worst I had ever experienced, but it was probably top two or three. It was quite alarming. The worst part, however, was the flight attendant. Usually, after a violent burst of turbulence a flight attendant comes on the intercom and says in a ridiculously cheery voice, "Oh, just a little bump there! Go ahead and fasten your seat belts, just to be on the safe side!" And then you're like "okay, they fly all the time, she sounds chipper, this must not be so bad." And everyone is calm. You know how that goes?
Well, that's not what happened this time. That flight attendant made the most panicked announcement I have ever heard on a plane: "Get in your seats NOW. Fasten your seatbelts immediately. Push the grey button and get your seatbacks up. We're collecting trash NOW so we can take our jump seats. Be seated NOW and fasten your seatbelts." You could hear her voice shaking, I swear. So immediately my heart starts pounding, because again, they fly all the time, they know what's serious and what's not. And this lady sounded like she was FREAKING OUT. So, panic set in. I start thinking we're all going to die on this plane, and I'm not even with my husband because he's up in first dumb class and I'm stuck next to this other guy. Then I start freaking out that nobody other than Eric and I know where Achilles' kennel is, and if we both go down with this plane, our poor dog will be abandoned forever at doggy camp. I start realizing I need to get my affairs in order. Basically, this dumb flight attendant freaked me the heck out.
But, we only had a few more slight bumps and landed safely. The passengers broke out into applause when we touched down. Usually I hate when people applaud when a plane lands, because really, how did you expect this flight to turn out? But thanks to Fear-Inducing Flight Attendant, nobody had been sure. Good times.
Anyway. We got in to Florida in one piece around 11:30 that night, my dad picked us up and we spent the night at his house. On Thursday we had a lot of errands to run, including picking up Eric's tux for the wedding. We were going to be using Eric's grandmother's car for the weekend, so we decided to borrow my dad's car to go pick up Gramz's car that morning so we could get a jump on our errands. Well, we picked the worst possible time to go pick up this car, because as we were driving there, those awful storms kicked in. The sky got black as night, torrential rain came pouring down, lightning and thunder picked up, the winds went crazy, the whole bit. I was driving, which was terrible, because I am a scaredy-cat driver who is nervous to drive even in the sunniest and driest conditions, so once again I found myself freaking out. We made it to Gramz's place just in time to hear there was a tornado coming down Ulmerton Road - the very road we ourselves had just come down. Awesome. Needless to say, we spent some time at Gramz's hoping things would calm down, and watching the news where we saw things like this:
Photo taken from here
I mean, holy crap! I always thought my fear of driving next to semis because they might fall over on you was totally irrational, but guess what? IT'S NOT.
When things finally died down enough for us to venture back out, we took my dad's car back then went out for errands. We got everything done pretty quickly, then went back to Gramz's to hang out with her, Toni (Eric's mother), Kelley (Eric's sister) and Ronnie (Eric's brother) for a bit before we had to get ready for the rehearsal dinner that night. As you saw in my last post, we had a great time at the rehearsal dinner, then came back to Gramz's house for the night.
Friday morning we got up and went right out to Clearwater Beach. We went straight to the hotel we would be staying in that night, just to see if we could park there while we hung out on the beach until check-in time. To our surprise, they had a room ready for us already and let us check in super early. Thanks, Best Western!
Sitting area in our hotel room
View from our hotel room balcony
I have to say, that nasty weather from Thursday cleared right on out of there, and as you can see from the picture above, by Friday there was not a cloud in the beautiful blue sky. The weather was DIVINE. We dropped our stuff in our room then went right out to the beach. My mom actually used to live in the condos right next door to our hotel, so I am very familiar with the area and have walked that strip up to Pier 60 many times. I also had my bachelorette party at Shephard's right there. But, a lot has changed since I was last there. They really fancied up that whole strip quite a bit. I was pleased - it's so pretty!
We leisurely walked up to Pier 60, just taking in the scenery.
Welcome to Clearwater Beach!
These cute little turtle showers are new since I was last there
Eric made a turtle friend
After our walk, we found a spot in the sand and settled in for some relaxation. Let me tell you, I needed this. After this winter we have had, this beach day really helped restore my sanity. I lathered myself in sunblock of course, and then just enjoyed soaking up some sun.
BEACH! Oh, how I have missed you.
I was a rather happy girl at this point.
Catching some rays
The beach is just a wonderful place to be. And with a wonderful husband by my side, no less!
After spending some time on the beach, we went for lunch at Frenchy's. We shared a giant pitcher of sangria, a calamari appetizer, and then had some delicious fish sandwiches. Oh, good stuff.
My day just kept getting better and better.
By the time lunch was done we had to head back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding. And we all know what a good time we had the rest of the night!
Saturday morning Eric got up early to go play golf with his brother. He had a great time, and was quite pleased that he was "one over through [his] first six holes of the year." (I assume any golf people reading this know what that means, yes?) Meanwhile, I relaxed in the hotel until check-out time, then left my luggage at the front desk and went out to the beach. My mom drove down from Weeki Wachee to spend the day with me, which was so nice! We relaxed on the beach, caught some rays, did some chatting, and had another delicious lunch of mahi sandwiches and rum runners. Aaaah, so glorious.
My view from the sand
Beautiful beachy birds (I mean, we have sea gulls in NJ too, but they just look nicer in this setting.)
On the beach with my mom
That evening my mom drove me back to my dad's house in St. Pete. I finally got to see my sister (she was so busy I hadn't even seen her yet!), and I got ready for the evening there. Eric picked me up from there after having dinner with his family, and we went downtown to see my sister's latest show: "Songs for a New World" at the New American Theater at Baywalk. The show was very interesting, and the cast is very talented. I just love seeing my sister on stage. She sang some really gorgeous songs, and she sings so beautifully. I'm a proud big sister!
New American Theater
Heather and castmate Jared in "Songs for a New World"
PAUSE FOR SHAMELESS PLUG: Any of you Tampa/St. Pete people, there are only two performances of this show left! Catch it this Saturday at 8 p.m. or Sunday at 3 p.m. Please check it out!
Heather's boyfriend was in town from Orlando, so after her show the four of us went out for some food and drinks at Applebee's before calling it a night.
Sunday morning we went for breakfast at Gramz's house, where we were able to see Toni, Kelley, Ronnie, and Stephanie (and Gramz of course!). It was so nice to see everyone! Toni was so sweet when she arrived - she came in the door and saw everyone already there, and she just got so overwhelmed. You could tell she was so happy. She was also so cute when Eric and I first saw her on Thursday. She saw us come in and just started laughing and pushing her wheelchair towards us. She said, "I'm going to see my son!" Then she insisted that she see us every day that weekend. She said she would do whatever we wanted to do, but we had to do it together. I just love that woman. Every time we go home, I feel like I see improvements. This time I felt she was more conversational and it was great to just sit and talk with her. We're so lucky that she has come so far. (If you are not familiar with what all Toni has overcome, check out the "Toni" post label to the right to read her story.)
After breakfast Eric took me back to my dad's house. He left to go to the driving range, and I went with my dad to his choir concert at Eckerd College that afternoon, which was so nice. His choir sang some beautiful pieces and the chapel at Eckerd College was lovely. After his concert Heather joined us for dinner with some of his choir buddies at The Hanger by Albert Whitted Airport in St. Pete. We had never been there before, but the food was quite good and the wine glasses were large and full, so we are now fans!
After dinner we all walked around downtown St. Pete for a bit, which was so charming. I just love it down there. We passed the Mahaffey Theater, and reminisced about my wedding reception there. We wandered through the shops and restaurants and stopped for some delicious gelato before heading back home.
Bad cell phone picture of the Mahaffey Theater. Would you believe I didn't bring my camera for the concert and scenic Bay-side walk? What is wrong with me?
And that's really it. Back at my dad's house that night we spent some time drinking wine and catching up, and then it was back to New York the next morning. I picked Achilles back up from camp, and he was quite pleased.
Lousy Blackberry photo of my happy dog on his way home
I, however, was a little sad as I passed our sad little Hoboken beach and thought of the beach of my weekend past. Sigh.
These are also lousy Blackberry photos, but how on earth do you go from this...
...to this? I mean, really. Talk about letdown.
Although exhausting, our Florida trip was wonderful. Thanks to all for making time to visit with us! We can't wait to see you again soon! (And the same goes for you, Beach.)