Hubby found Amelia Island while searching for an airport with Southwest Airlines service and good fishing in the southeastern United States: Jacksonville. From there, availability and ratings led him to the Omni Resort on Amelia Island. It was beyond our expectations providing us the beautiful, casual, warm respite we needed to unplug.
- Not crowded. Most of the East Coast is vacationing in the gulf or not officially on break until Easter. (Californians go to Hawaii, Mexico or another part of California–rarely Florida.) We felt like we had everything to ourselves. No problem finding a lounge chair at the pool, shade or sun. No problem finding a place on the beach. No traffic. No speeders. We adapted very quickly to the slow, relaxed pace. We didn’t have to beat the crowds to anything. We also never got off California time so it might have something to do with waking up at 10 AM EST and eating breakfast by 10:30.
- Shrimp in Florida is like a baguette is to France: You just can’t get it this good anywhere else. We ate shrimp on pizzas and in omelets, salads, and fish stew; fried or just plain old shrimp cocktail. Yes, it’s what’s for breakfast and lunch and dinner and anything in between.
- Nice People! Plenty of Yes Ma’ams and Yes Sirs, causing me to instantly stand up straight and feel respected. Our first and only breakfast at the Doo Wop Diner was FREE, compliments of the chef and owner in celebration of Easter Week. Floridians really want to help you and don’t mind if you go first in traffic. What driver ever makes eye contact with a big smile, gently waving you through? The niceness is palpable, not photographable.
- Pirates are everywhere in San Fernandina, the tiny town where we ate most of our meals. Of course the pirates were carved wooden statues or drawings, found on street corners, storefronts, bars, t-shirts, the high school water tower and COP cars.
- The one goal hubby had besides fishing was to see an alligator. In Florida, you can walk amongst them in the greenway where I hoped they would stay far away. Beautiful grassy paths meander around a swampy area. Signs warn visitors not to feed the alligators like California parks warn against feeding bears. We saw one cute teenaged alligator swimming 20 yards away and oblivious to our voyeurism. Whew!
- Deep beaches go for miles and miles! No wonder we never had a hard time finding a spot for our towels for sunning. We rented cruisers and cycled forever on the packed sand, splashing through puddles and streams. Way better than spin class. We found tons and tons of seashells in full form, not shards. The locals were shocked California seashells are virtually impossible to find.
- Fishing. We hired an expert to show us the secret fishing spots in his speedy boat. Fish are like cats: they know who doesn’t want to fish like a cat knows who doesn’t want to pet a cat. I caught the most fish in the backwaters, an area with tall grasses surrounding narrow waterways, a la Duck Dynasty. Fun! We fished in the jetty too, basically ocean to me and REALLY wavy. (I have the greatest respect for the pilgrims on the Mayflower.) Sharks are plentiful in Florida waters and mighty feisty! We caught and released ten bonnethead shark amongst the three of us, and one 40lb drum fish. Our arms were shaking after four hours of reeling. Who needs a gym if the fish are biting?
- RETRO Decor! My interior designer friend Lora, who taught me old is hip, would be proud of Amelia Island. We ate on tin plates at a new restaurant called Gilbert’s Underground where we tried the best and only sweet potato turnover I have ever had. Repurposed pipes became paper towel holders. Chalk boards and chalk board painted walls informed patrons of menu choices or plain old messages like this one at Pi Pizza Joint:
- FOODIE Town. We expected great grits and fried chicken. We got them but we also got ORGANIC and SUSTAINABLE food too. Restaurant South 29 grows their own greens! Pi Pizza Joint makes his own sauce and sausage. Amelia Coffee, I don’t know what they do to their soy lattes but I couldn’t get enough. (Yes soy! I was so happy.) The Omni Resort breakfast buffet was homemade everything: jams, breads, oatmeal, grits—EVERYTHING. Fantasy Fudge is a dangerous place where a one-pound slice disappears in a snap.
- Tiring of pizza and fudge—it’s possible. After two trips to Pi Pizza joint and three trips to Fantasy Fudge, we had our fill. Only on vacations do these things happen.
Honorable Mention: While swimming in the inifinity pool, Hubby discovers gray hair on Wifey. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Photo unavailable. Imagination is better than the real thing.
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