When Paul was informed by his employer that he would be going back to an office after several years of working “from home”, he decided on the Orlando branch. That is how we ended up here in Winter Park, Florida. The plan is for us to stay here until Paul retires. Neither of us know when that will be exactly, so we are making ourselves comfortable and settling in to this great little community.
Our Winter Park Apartment Complex
Florida is the tenth state we’ve lived in since becoming Caretaking Couple back in 2009. Our rental lease is up in January and I am keeping an eye out for a local long-term sit. We are very happy where we are, so if an opportunity doesn’t present itself by then, we will stay put and rent month-to-month until one does.
Winter Park Chamber Ribbon Cutting
In the meantime, I have joined our local Chamber of Commerce and am enjoying various leads groups, networking events and educational programs. This Chamber is very active and I am loving being a member!
Aside from Caretaking Couple, I am keeping an eye out for other meaningful work of the paying and volunteer variety.
Winter Park Toastmasters Goes Well with Coffee!
Another organization I am proud to be a part of is Winter Park Toastmasters. I joined this summer and can’t believe how much I’ve learned in these past few months. My main goal was to simply be more comfortable speaking in front of groups, but Toastmasters is so much more than that. I am learning how to become a much better communicator and meeting some great people while I’m at it.
Orlando WordPress Meetup
I’m also very excited to say that I have found a thriving blogging community here, thanks to Meetup. I recently joined WordPress Orlando, which is how I met Carol Gann of Orlando Web Wizard. She is helping me fix some website stuff I broke (oops) and I am helping her to get Winter Park Bloggers and Social Media up and running. Also, WordCamp Orlando 2016 is this weekend and I cannot wait!
There are so many other things going on that I am excited to share, but my aim is to post short and sweet updates more often versus long, rambling catch-ups like I have in the past, so please stay tuned!
As always, let me know if there is something you would like me write about. Central Florida life in general? Favorite locals and their pets? All of the great restaurants we’ve discovered? Maybe even an interview or two? Questions and comments are welcome. I’ve missed my bloggy friends and am thrilled to be up and running again.
I’ve lost track of how many people asked us if we were sure we wanted to commit to a long-term sit in Alabama. So glad we decided to go for it.
This was a fairly simple assignment. We had only one critter in our care, along with a very well-kept property. Kiwi isn’t an overly affectionate cat, but she did enjoy our company (typically from a few feet away). She only jumped onto our laps every now and then. Her preference was for Paul, which I tried not to take personally.
We were walking distance to both Mobile Bay and Downtown Fairhope and spent many a morning and evening (when it was the coolest) on the water. It was an unforgettable summer full of new adventures and friends. You can click on any of the photos in the gallery below to make them bigger.
I am still processing our time there and will most likely add to this post in the coming days. For now, I wanted to get these photos out (like I promised a few weeks back). Also, I am not currently on Facebook but will be back soon. In the meantime, you can find me on LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Paul and I are now in Orlando, Florida and will be renting an apartment in Winter Park as of November 1. We plan on staying here until Paul retires. Winter Park is gorgeous and we are smitten. It is going to be a fantastic fall! We miss all of our friends, old and new, so please keep in touch until we see you again. XO,
Valynne & Paul
PS I’ve been having some technical issues with the blog. At present, your comments are not being displayed (along with all kinds of other quirks). Please bear with us as I have found someone who is going to help me rebrand Caretaking Couple altogether in the coming weeks. Exciting!
It was an exhilarating two weeks, driving across Route 10. The plan was to drive from California to Florida (Paul will be working in Orlando soon), but that changed somewhere along the line and we are now on a house and pet sit on the Alabama coast. That is not very surprising to those of you who know us well, is it? I promise to post all about how we ended up in Fairhope and what it is like here soon. First, Route 10.
After our lease was up on the Ojai rental, we moved back in to Linda’s place. Linda is our friend with the ranch – the horses, the goats, the chickens and the cats, and one very fun little Whippet named Giselle. I took English and Humanities classes from Linda’s late husband Hugo – that is how far back we go. So, we stayed at Linda’s for a few weeks before hitting the road, sometimes sitting, sometimes rooming with her. Thank you, Linda. We love and appreciate you.
The Salton Sea
Our first night on Route 10 was spent in Palm Springs. Since I’ve recently written about Palm Springs (click on highlighted text for that post) and we didn’t do much there aside from sleep and revisit our favorite spots, I will carry on.
It didn’t take Paul long to stray from our original route. Neither of us had been to the Salton Sea so we decided to take a detour on our way to Arizona. What we saw of it was eerie and abandoned, sad and beautiful. What will become of California’s largest accidental lake? I encourage you to Google “Salton Sea” if you don’t know the story and would like to. If you feel like discussing it, leave a comment and I will happily reply.
The Arizona / Mexico Border
One thing I should mention is that most of these pictures were taken with my new iPhone 6. I normally use my Canon for blog pics, but this phone is so handy and I thought I would try it out. This border shot was taken while Paul drove and it looks like a movie set to me. The border is actually behind those dunes, but the metal barriers are what piqued my interest. My guess is that they are to stop someone from 4wheeling it through the border wall, over the dunes and onto Route 10.
Our first stop in AZ was at a Harrah’s casino. This was Paul’s idea, because he knows I like to play poker. Texas Hold ‘Em is the only game I care to play. He doesn’t gamble, so it was very sweet of him to pick this place. I turned $40 into $300 at one of the tables and had a great time doing it. Paul sat at a restaurant bar, away from the smoke and the noise.
Poker Room in The Distance
Neither of us had been to Tombstone, Arizona. We heard that it was touristy but worth it, and Paul loves Wild West history, so we put it on the itinerary.
O.K. Corral in Tombstone
Paul found us an inn belonging to an English couple. The husband and wife team came to Tombstone for a visit several years ago and fell in love with it. Soon after they were running the Trail Rider’s Inn. I love stories like that. Maybe someday we will fall in love with one place and decide to do something spontaneous like that. More likely we’ll be traveling around in an Airstream or something similar and continuously falling in love with everywhere, though.
Trail Rider’s Inn Bunkhouse
We wandered up and down and all around like we always do. It is an interesting little town, especially if you enjoy eavesdropping. Lots of short story material.
My favorite place in Tombstone turned out to be Big Nose Kate’s. I peaked my head in when we first got to town and was rewarded with live country music and a woman in neon yellow shorts dancing on the bar. According to Wikipedia, Big Nose Kate was a Hungarian-born prostitute and longtime companion and common-law wife of Old West gunfighter Doc “I’m your huckleberry” Holliday.
Big Nose Kate’s
We came back later for karaoke night with the locals. There was some serious talent in the room and I videotaped some of it. I am unable to post my videos here on the blog for some reason but you can “like” us on Facebook for more photos and a few travel videos.
Big Ass Beer at Big Nose Kate’s
Paul loved the bar at the Crystal Palace Saloon the most. It is gorgeous in person and has been around since the 1800’s. He also loved the costumes that the bar staff wore (I think it had something to do with cleavage). I tried to get him to take an old-fashioned photo with me in one of the numerous booths along Main Street, but he kept coming up with excuses not to. He really doesn’t love having his picture taken and since I take a lot of pictures (of him) I can’t complain (I guess).
Crystal Palace Saloon
Our wanders eventually lead us into the The Tombstone Epitaph, which has also been around since the 1800’s. Anyone else have a thing for old typesetting equipment?
Setting the Type at Tombstone Epitaph
And to the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park. I’m not much into stories about people shooting and hanging each other, but I did get a kick out of this quote out of George Parson‘s diary back in 1880: “A man will go to the devil pretty fast in Tombstone . . . Faro, whiskey, and bad women will beat anyone.”
Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
We hit Boothill Graveyard on the way out of town. Again, not something I would typically do but am glad that I did. See my favorite marker below. Every so often I like to remind people that they can double click on my photos to enlarge them. That’s your reminder.
Boothill Grave Marker (Keeping It Real)
What can I say about West Texas? Not much. We got ourselves rooms in El Paso and Ozona, but all we really did was eat, sleep, do laundry and watch The Big Bang Theory reruns. We were both shocked at what $109 a night gets you in El Paso, though. Our digs at Hampton Inn and Suites included a full kitchen, dining area, living room, bedroom and bathroom with a tub.
It wasn’t until Fredericksburg that we really began to appreciate our time in Texas. We had a hearty and traditional lunch at the Old German Bakery and Restaurant which provided plenty of fuel to wander another day away, this time on one of the largest and prettiest Main Streets in America (according to me, anyway).
lots of German Food in Fredericksburg, Texas
My Kind of Main Street
Pioneer Memorial Library in Fredericksburg
After that, we headed to Austin. Our friends and fellow adventurers Thyra and David had kindly offered their guest quarters to us and we took them up on it for a couple of nights. They’ve recently moved from California to Texas and it was a treat to see their new home, hang out with their four-legged friends and compare travel notes.
Finnegan Says Hello
David, Paul and Thyra at Guero’s Taco Bar in Austin
For our literary friends, David is in the process of having his second book of poetry published while Thyra completes the cover art. Find out more at MaxMundan. Prepare to have the wind knocked out of you.
Walking Into Austin
After visiting Thyra and David, we spent two nights at a Hyatt, chosen for its proximity to downtown. Austin was as enjoyable as everyone said it would be. Like California, it was in a draught when we left. Right now, a few of the places we visited are under water owing to the floods. A State of Emergency has been declared. Thankfully, our friends live on higher ground on the outskirts of town.
My Favorite Outdoor Austin Mural
My Favorite Indoor Austin Mural (Firehouse Hostel)
We loved Austin – it is a great walking town. Hours were spent inside the Blanton Museum of Art as well, which we just happened to stumble upon. Get there if you can.
Lone Star State
The Blanton Museum of Art
Best Margarita? B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub (Go Figure)
Rickshaw Boots (Because Airstream)
The Oldest in Austin, Hotel Driskill
Along with the Wild West, Paul loves a good detective series. He is a fan of the Dave Robicheaux novels by James Lee Burke, which take place in and around Bayou Teche. That is how we ended up at Country Charm Bed and Breakfast in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. It was indeed charming, with Norman Rockwell plates on the wall above the kitchen table, a big bathtub with jets (I’ve really missed taking baths) and a pond out front.
Country Charm B&B
The View From Our Porch
Paul wanted to go on a swamp tour while we were in Bayou country. I wasn’t so sure. I was thinking mosquitoes, alligators, and snakes hanging from tree limbs. And rightly so.
Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours Headquarters
Paul Loves Swamp
But then we got there and it was beautiful. Plus, I felt kind of foolish over my initial trepidation seeing as how this five year old was showing no fear whatsoever.
Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tour with Gary
Our guide Gary grew up in these parts and returned here after having traveled the world. He shared with us all kinds of interesting facts. Example: we suffered no mosquito bites thanks to the dragonflies that kept the population low. And did you know that the biggest threat to baby alligators is fire ants? I could have done without all of the ex-wife and mother-in-law at the bottom of the swamp jokes, but that’s just me. Being in a swamp / bayou is unlike anywhere else I’ve been. It was an unexpected highlight.
We really wanted to have dinner at Glenda’s Creole Kitchen (a hole in the wall down the road from the B&B) but it had just closed for Mother’s Day Weekend. I almost wept when I read the sign – it still smelled so good from lunchtime. Instead, we found ourselves eating fried food and people-watching at Pont Breaux’s. The tall man dancing towards the front of the stage was celebrating a Birthday. Everyone there knew him and I could have watched him dance to Lee Benoit and his band all night.
Oak Alley Plantation
We stopped at Oak Alley Plantation on the way to New Orleans. It was random and since we hadn’t planned it out, we ended up having to choose between lunch and the last tour. Guess what we chose? That is right, we chose lunch. Maybe next time, or maybe not. Lovely on the outside, but with an ugly past. Thoughts?
Hurricane at The Ice House Bar in Hotel Provincial
Paul and I are enchanted with New Orleans; especially the French Quarter. First stop: Hotel Provincial. I freshened up and walked across the courtyard to a small bar across from the lobby and ordered myself a Hurricane from James. A proper one, with premium rums and fresh citrus. In a glass (as opposed to a plastic Bourbon Street cup). It was delicious. This bar was full of friendly locals and both James and Etienne know how to tend. We love everything about this hotel.
Below are some of my favorite New Orleans photos. Not my best photos, but my favorites. I have blogged about New Orleans before and have gone on long enough for one post besides.
Thank you for following along with us. I know some of you have been stopping by the blog since Day 1 (back in 2009). Some of you even give me grief when I go too long between posts and let me say that I do appreciate it. And we both LOVE hearing from you, as well. Feel free to leave a comment / question on any of our posts at any time and one of us will respond.
New Favorite Breakfast spot = eat
Johnny White’s for $5 Bloodies
Old Ginger Mint Tulep Mural in the French Quarter
Revolving Bar at Hotel Monteleone
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (Oldest Bar in NOLA)
Faulkner House Books
Walk in Large Groups
Tarot & Palm Reader – Jackson Square
Outside Cafe Negril on Frenchmen Street
d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street
Early Morning in the French Quarter
The Courtyard at Hotel Provincial
Thank you again for stopping by. As a token of our appreciation, I will be sending one lucky commenter a copy of my favorite southern read so far. Simply leave a comment here on the blog and I will draw a name on June 15th. In the meantime, Laissez les bons temps rouler! XO,
Valynne & Paul