"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Travel and Taste Buds - Caribbean Winter Retreat - Day 1

Friday, December 26, 2008 Planning a major vacation right after Christmas has been a bit more hectic than we thought it would be. but fortunately day one of the trip went fairly smoothly after a bit of a crazy start. We (Rob, Ashlee, Ashlee's mom, Evelyn, and our 17-year-old nephew, Matt) departed Chattanooga at 3 AM - yes 3 AM! - on the Atlanta airport van-shuttle in the pouring rain. This was after we discovered that Rob had left the sun-roof open on our Honda CRV (packed to the gills with luggage) while the rain had moved in overnight. Except for a couple of wet butts, it wasn't a major catastrophe, but along with the inclement weather we had to drive in, it wasn't the smooth start we had been hoping for. The van-shuttle was comfortable for the most part and the driver did well although Ashlee and her mom thought he was a light lead-footed once we got to Atlanta, but he got us there in one piece and the always-busy Atlanta airport and the flight on Delta went as smooth as can be expected. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale around 9 AM, gathered our ton of luggage for this ten day trip and picked up a rental SUV at "ACE Car Rentals" (it was the best deal we could find on a vehicle that could hold us and all of our luggage). ACE is a no-frills off-site rental agency that we discovered we had used before and forgotten about (their records indicated we had rented from them in 2003 - ah yes, that little Mitsubishi convertible that was so hard to see out of). Of course, you can't blame ACE for Mitsubishi engineering and they delivered us a Toyota Highlander this time that has worked very well so far in terms of our luggage and comfort. For the price these guys do a fairly good job and are a decent choice to use in the pricey south-Florida area. Another bonus this trip is that their off-airport rental site is actually very close to the cruise-ship port and they are going to give us a lift to the boat when we drop off the car on Sunday. All of us were fairly beat when we got to Florida after such an early departure (Rob, Matt and Ashlee basically pulled an all-nighter and only dozed off an on throughout the evening and early morning). We headed north from the Ft. Lauderdale airport bound for our first night's lodging in Juno Beach. We chose to stay in Juno Beach so we could have dinner at our favorite south-Florida restaurant, Captain Tony's Reef Grill. This saved us from a hundred-mile round-trip for dinner like we have done before when staying in Ft. Lauderdale (see May 4, 2008 blog entry: http://collagebarrage.blogspot.com/2008/05/100-miles-round-trip-for-dinner.html Our our way to Juno Beach we took care of immediate business and stopped for lunch in Lake Worth at probably our second-favorite south Florida eating establishment, Too Jays Deli, a regional chain that dishes out New York-style (and size) sandwiches and such. Lunch was huge and delicious, as usual at Too Jays, and it just made us all the more tired and sleepy. We were able to check in to the Juno Beach Hampton Inn a couple hours early and we all crashed for much-needed afternoon naps ( 5+ hours may be considered more than just a nap!). We woke from our slumber just in time to - guess what? - eat again, of course. We drove a mile or so north up Hwy. 1 and found Captain Charlie's Reef Grill overflowing with patrons at 6:45 PM on a Friday night - did we mention the food here is incredible? It was going to be a 30- to 45-minute wait, but we weren't going to let that scare us off. Fortunately, Captain Charlie has "expanded" his restaurant by adding a waiting bar in a suite a few doors up (don't forget it's in a strip mall). It was all of 45 minutes in our wait, but it was well worth it. The seafood was superb an included a snapper-cake appetizer, a rock shrimp and Gorgonzola cheese entree for Ashlee, a pepper-crusted swordfish entree for Rob and two dozen steamed mussels for Matt. Evelyn stuck with a house salad (which was also huge and fresh) but sampled everyone else's dishes as well. This was Evelyn and Matt's first trip to Captain Charlie's and they were impressed. This was the fourth visit for us and we are already planning a return trip as soon as we can. In regards to that, we ambled over to Hwy. A1A after dinner to take a peak at the ocean. Near the restaurant we found a Hilton property that we crashed so as to get to the beach and it turned to actually be quite the discovery. We are very Hilton-loyal in our travels because for the most part Ashlee racks up a ton of points with them when she travels for work, but also because their properties are consistently clean and safe. We will definitely return to this property, Hilton Singer Island, as proper guests. The hotel and grounds are very nice, it's right on the beach (and what a lovely beach it is), it's located in a quiet, mostly-residential area and it's only a couple of miles from Captain Charlie's. Need we say more! Day 2 will be spent back down south in Ft. Lauderdale as we excitedly prepare to board the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship on Sunday.

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