Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Winter Haven

Ok, I've described the rental process (somewhat), my trip down, my first impressions and later ones of the unit and area, so here are photos of the inside of my winter rental.  (Click on "winter rental" preceding this sentence, if you are unfamiliar with live links.)

And notice how it doesn't look like a cave from these pictures (probably because most of the lights are on!)  Or.....wait just a minute....the walls have been painted brown, not cream as in these shots!   Well, now, that explains a lot.  (I just noticed that while looking at the photos again....duh.)

P.S.  There's a second bedroom and bath, so come on down for a free stay!  :)

First Impressions

Sometimes first impressions can be dead wrong.

I drive along Hwy. 98 in the Panhandle to the north entrance of Sandestin Resort, present my rental agreement, and am waved on through the (heavily guarded) Baytowne Wharf gate.  The 2400 acre property consists of individual "neighborhoods" of condos, townhouses or single family homes on ponds or each of the two golf courses.  I find mine, Bayou Village, and locate my rental.  My unit backs up to one of the golf courses.  (There are also highrise condos, a huge, huge hotel with conference center, its own little "village" named Baytowne Wharf, with shops and restaurants, a grassy "town square" with bandshell for music concerts, and a seasonal, tented ice-skating rink -- yes, Virginia, ice-skating in FL -- all on the bay.  Sandestin is located along the Choctawhatchee Bay, as well as across Hwy. 98 along Miramar Beach.  There are miles and miles of walking/biking trails, too.)

Opening the door, I experience a sinking feeling.  "Cave" comes to mind.  Windowed walls appear only in the front and back, none on the sides.  And although they are triple sliding glass doors, the back ones don't let in much light, as a screened porch adjoins them, its roof blocking out the sunlight.  So I have to turn on a few lights even during the daytime. 

In addition, I can't turn the A/C any cooler than 75 degrees.  Is the thermostat actually rigged not to go lower?  Maybe we Northerners have taxed the A/C systems beyond repair down here in our efforts to stay cool, who knows.  But I am seriously rethinking March and April if I can't get it down to 70.  (The bane of being a woman of a "certain age"....sigh.)

After unloading the car, I drive across to the resort's beach area and although the sand surely is finer than any sand in which I've ever wiggled my toes and the ocean emerald green-azure blue just like the pictures I'd seen, I don't know if I like the "feeling" of this particular beach.  Maybe I'm just hot and tired.  (What I come to figure out is that this beach is narrower than those of St. Pete or Clearwater and, thus, makes for a more "intimate" feel.  I usually prefer "big" and "anonymous", which was, by the way, why I left a small, private college for a big university in my youth.)

However, after a good night's sleep, everything looks much, much better today.  I don't even mind that the condo is a little dark inside (notice how today it is "a little dark" as compared to yesterday's "cavelike feel".....it's all a frame of mind, dahlink). This is how I leave the condo, stepping off its front porch (click photos to enlarge):

Breakfasted al fresco this morning in the "village", visited the ceramic shop where you buy an unfired, unpainted product and under the tutelage of the shop manager, paint, fire and create your own masterpiece (something I am definitely planning to do), picked up some fresh fruit and veggies at the local grocery, and explored a little more.  Wound up on the beach "down the road a piece" (I hear ya, Mick) and snapped the following sunset:

Beginning of the sunset behind the clouds

Some artist's creation

The sunset intensifies....

A small inlet, the Gulf in the background

Drivin' Down South

Second day on the road was orange and russett and burnt sienna.  Autumn departure is ever so much better than winter.  No ice or snow or gray to contend with.  Sunny and mild and little traffic.

Driving to St. Pete/Clearwater was never as entertaining as the last leg of this drive....Hwy. 331 to Hwy. 98 takes you through, shall we say, "down home" America.  Witness the signs I made note of along the route:

Ed and Otis Lane
(really and truly...there were four houses on it)

There are no fire escapes from hell

Local eatery:
It Don't Matter Family Restaurant
(What don't matter, how it's cooked?)

Brantley, AL:  Front Porch City
(And every single house I saw had a front porch...this I found very charming)

Store sign:
Live rattlesnakes
(Um, why?)

Company sign:
(Not sure how to pronounce this or what they manufactured, but it sounded to me like either the result of a battle of the sexes or that classic lover's name, Southernized.)

Hillbilly Mall
(Hey, they said it, not me!)

And the one I liked best:
Betty's Firecracker Store -- Best Bang in Town