ALA, part 2

Not surprisingly, I didn’t exactly hit the road running on Friday. I only had two required events. The first was at 10am, to meet with my co-presenter, and the second was dinner. More about that in a minute. I had never met my co-presenter; we had only conversed via e-mail. We met at the convention center and chatted for about 20 minutes. She reviewed her presentation slides for me and went over what she was going to cover. I then spent an hour or so looking through my presentation and adding some notes referring back to hers.

I decided to grab an early lunch, since I knew that dinner would be early, and I could avoid the swarms of other librarians. I had a surprisingly good bean and cheese burrito and ended up sitting with a couple of delightful ladies. One was a retired librarian, the other worked at the Institute of Library and Museum Studies. Sometimes, these random meetings are so much fun!

I spent a little more time working on my presentation before heading back to my hotel room to change for dinner. Not something that I would normally do, but this was the awards dinner for the group for which I am chair. And the person that was supposed to present the award had his flight cancelled and wouldn’t arrive in time. Luckily he had written his speech in advance, so I just had to read it. Dinner was at an amazing new restaurant, Tapa Toro. If you ever go to Orlando, I definitely recommend it. We had family style cold and hot tapas. Each new item was better than the last. It was a fun, relaxing evening. I don’t usually drink fancy mixed drinks, but I tried their house special, a Mediterranean Mule, and LOVED it! Ginger beer, fig-infused vodka, and lime juice. Yummy!

My roommate and friend, Stephanie, had arrived while I was out. I remembered that she had a big event that night and would probably be late getting in, so I went ahead and crashed. I had to get up early Saturday morning to meet with my vice-chair and past-chair before a day of meetings. I walked a ton that day, going back and forth between various meetings. I grabbed lunch at one of the attached hotels and spent a couple more hours on my presentation.

I generally drink a lot of water throughout the day, even when I’m travelling. But at the conference, I was so busy and things were so hectic, I finally realized that I wasn’t drinking enough when I started to get a sore throat. Plus it was really hot and humid. After my meetings were over, I walked to the Walgreen’s that was between the convention center and my hotel to get some throat lozenges. I got some Ricola ones that have honey in them. They are so good. After that I walked to the Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins next door to get a sandwich and ice cream. A perfect mild, soothing dinner.

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ALA library conference, part 1

Travelling to and being at conference is always a combination of fun and stress. I knew this would be more stressful, but even I couldn’t believe how crazy this one was. First of all, whoever decided to hold it in Orlando should be strung up by their entrails. Trying to hold a conference in the middle of tourist central was insane! Throw in the weather and the huge and difficult-to-navigate convention center? I will not be going back.

I made the mistake of booking my flights to arrive late on Wednesday night. I had to be at the convention center at 7:30 the next morning. Both of my flights were fine, and if my pre-reserved and prepaid shuttle had arrived on time, it would have been manageable. After waiting for almost an hour in the heat and humidity, I finally got a cab. And managed to get one without a/c. And the driver mis-remembered the name of my hotel. <sigh> I finally arrived and got checked in around midnight. Not the best hotel I’ve stayed in.

Thursday morning was, well, chaotic at best. After many, many months of planning a full day pre-conference, my last task was to escort the attendees to the university library where it was being held. I took a cab to the convention center, not knowing exactly where I was going. I asked the driver to drop me at a specific location, where I had been told the bus would pick us up. All told, five different people gave attendees different locations within the convention center AND different directions to them. Eventually, I found out that the bus had picked up half of the group and headed out. They turned around to pick up the rest of us, and we were only about 40 minutes late. Despite all of that, I think everyone learned a lot, which makes it successful to me.

I had hoped to learn some of what they taught in the pre-conference (it was about data visualization), but I had so many other things to work on, I just couldn’t take the time to pay attention. When I got back to the hotel, I just wanted dinner and a beer. The stuff in my room mentioned a bar off the lobby with a limited menu. Ha! Turned out, they had hot wings and chips & salsa. Yep, that was it. So, I got a beer and chatted with the bartender for a bit, since I was the only customer. I asked for a recommendation to order in. When possible, I always ask locals for suggestions. I got a great salad and crashed really early.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

For the few of you who actually follow my blog, you will notice that the name has changed. Despite my best efforts, life is just too darn busy for me to post as much here as I would like and, in recent years, I have posted more about travelling than anything else. I enjoy reminiscing about my travels, especially while in the midst of them. This is partly to consider each days events as they happen, but also to assist in my notoriously bad memory.

I will not, though, leave you with out doses of good news. I still find them and will still post them here occasionally. Should you need a more frequent dose of good news (and these days, who doesn’t),  I direct you to another blog: The Good News Network.

Lucky’s adventures

On Monday, April 6, 2015, we said goodbye to our cat, Lucky. He was just shy of 16 years old. Eventually I will write a separate post about him, how we got him, and our life with him. But in this post, I want to share a specific, recent series of events.

Last summer, we went on vacation to Florida, our longest absence since having Lucky in our lives. Our dear friends Christina and Sam agreed to stop in to feed him, clean his litter box, and spend some time with him. When we returned, they shared these delightful pictures that they took and photo-shopped.

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Florida trip

As you know, we drove to Florida this past summer on vacation. One of our weird quirks is noting license plates of other cars on the road when we travel. We had no idea how many people also drive to Key West. Below is a list of the states represented in Florida or on the drive. (Does not include states that we drove through: Kentucky, Tennessee, & Georgia.)

Alaska
Arkansas
California
Connecticut
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Texas Virginia
Washington (state)
West Virginia
Wisconsin

And, oddly enough, we saw MULTIPLE vehicles from Ontario and Quebec.

Who knew?

Florida Day 6

We took our time getting ready this morning, partly being lazy, partly realizing that we had over-done it the day before. We walked east, planning to have lunch at A & B’s but discovered that they didn’t do lunch. The owners also had a less fancy place directly below it, Alonzo’s, so we had lunch there instead. Neither of us was particularly hungry, so we decided to share a couple of appetizers: conch fritters, coconut shrimp, and fried calamari. I also tried a local beer: Key West Ale. Quite good, I thought, but I am no connoisseur.

On our walk back west, we found a local tie-dye clothing shop. The owner was a very chatty lady, who was very excited to have customers. We found a great shirt for Josh and a sweet sundress for me. We then headed to The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. It was an interesting place and definitely interesting to learn about the Fisher society and their work. We watched a short film that was mostly a bio of Mel Fisher. We then looked around at one of the exhibits, items that had been retrieved from the 1622 Spanish galleon, the Atocha.
About this time we both realized that we were exhausted from the amount of sun and humidity from the previous day, so we headed back to the resort for the day. We watched some TV, read, napped, and had sandwiches for dinner.

Florida – Update

All of you who know me will know that I’m a habitual person, so the fact that I’m now THREE days behind in my posts should tell you something. Vacation is soooooo relaxing! I do have more to add and will do so in the next few days. Until then, enjoy another sunset picture!

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Florida Day 5

There were a couple of places we wanted to go that we knew were going to be a bit of a walk, so we planned ahead (sort of), got up early (sort of), and got an early start. Sort of. After all, we are on vacation! We left our place around 9, which is pretty good for us. I had promised Josh that we could try the donut place around the corner – Glazed Donuts. Both the worst and best idea. I have never had a better donut. Ever. Amazing. The fact that mine was still warm definitely helped. The owner had just sourced some new tea and told Josh that he could have a free cup for an honest opinion. I tried it also. Wow. Very, very good. I had a latte that was also very good. I have a feeling that we’ll be back. Probably every day. And grabbing a box to bring home.

Thus fortified, we headed south. Our first stop of the day was the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. At 10am we were both already completely soaked with sweat. Oh well. The house was interesting. Kind of. We’re not big tour people, but this might have been one that would have been worth it. I didn’t get a lot from walking around looking at photographs and furniture. I did, of course, enjoy a variety of books and manuscripts that were displayed. The grounds, however, are beautiful. I don’t know how much it is like it was during his time, but the amount of work is impressive. And then there are the cats. Beautiful, sweet, six-toed cats. Very docile and patient. Some would even turn over for a tummy rub. There were about 6 kittens in a large cage as well. I didn’t get a chance to ask why they were confined, but I can think of a number of possibilities. Seeing them made us both miss Lucky.

From there we continued on to “The Southernmost Point in the U.S.” It’s marked by a large buoy, about 7 feet tall, by which you can take a picture. We didn’t feel like standing in line to wait, so we took a few pics from across the street. Our energy was beginning to wane at this point, but we wanted to get to the beach. A few more blocks and we found a small beach on which to stand and look out at the ocean. There happened to be a cute cafe there, so we ducked in hoping for an early lunch. It was going to be another 30 minutes before they started serving lunch, so we sat and had a cool drink while we decided what to do. We had read about a restaurant that was only a few more blocks away that looked to have an interesting menu. So rather than wait, we walked over to Camille’s Restaurant. Bad news: the menu that we saw online was for dinner only. Good news: we ended up having breakfast, and it was great. Josh had a basic eggs, bacon, potatoes, and toast breakfast. I had smoked salmon and cream cheese on a toasted New York-style bagel with capers and tomatoes. The best part of the restaurant was the decor. In particular, we were amused by the half-dozen Barbie dolls hanging in the windows, all dressed in various S&M outfits.

With full stomachs but still tired from the heat, we slowly began the walk back. By now it was around noon, so shade was hard to come by. We had decided to walk back on Duval Street, just so we could see what was there. Ugh – tourist central. Yeah, there are places that are probably cool, and certainly some good restaurants. But it has obviously been built up specifically for the tourists. Not our cup of tea. Having said that, we did stop in the Life is Good store, so I could buy some new shirts. I even bought two sleeveless shirts. No, I’m not super comfortable wearing them, but when the heat index is over 100 every day, screw it. I need to be comfortable!

Back at the ranch, we followed what is quickly becoming our afternoon pattern — an hour or so inside to cool off, an hour or two in and by the pool, then back to our place to clean up. But rather than stay in for the night, we decided this was the night to catch the sunset. We decided to grab a light dinner first, at Red Fish, Blue Fish [no website; check them out on TripAdvisor or Yelp]. We shared a seared ahi tuna appetizer and the Taste of the Keys appetizer which included conch fritters, coconut shrimp, and “dolphin” bites (which is really just chunks of mahi-mahi). The owner even stopped by to chat and was very, very nice.

We headed to Mallory Square. Despite the still-stifling heat and humidity, the extraordinarily hot concrete on which we sat (to get a front row seat), and the large numbers of people, it was beautiful. Stunning. I’m sure there are better words to describe it, but I don’t have my thesaurus handy. I will try to add a picture to this post, but if I can’t make it happen via my mobile devices, I’ll be putting together a Picasa album of all our pics when we get home. One funny / sad / interesting sidebar, my smartphone seems to be taking better, crisper pics than our digital camera. After stopping at Mattheessen’s for ice cream, we headed back to the resort for the night.

Florida Day 4

Did you know that roosters really do cock-a-doodle-do at dawn? Or that there are a bunch of them in town on Key West? You learn something new every day. Luckily I’m an early riser anyway, and Josh is a deep sleeper, so it wasn’t an issue for us. Just…curious.

As usual, I got up early, made coffee, checked Facebook and e-mail (just personal, not work), and worked on the blog. Josh hadn’t slept well the night before, so I figured I would let him sleep as long as he wanted or needed. Or until 9am when I was itching to get going. 🙂 After showers and figuring out a sorta, kinda game plan, we headed out around 10:30. It didn’t take long to realize that if we were going to sight-see that we needed to get going much earlier. It gets hot and humid quite quickly.

When we had checked in, we had been given a packet of information, including a handful of coupons to a bunch of restaurants around the key. We didn’t know how long we would want to be out as it got to the hottest part of the day, so we decided to just walk down to the ocean, about 4 blocks from our place. We found that three of the places that we want to go are between here and there and very easy to get to. We ended up on Front Street, which is near the northwest shore of the key. We walked along there, looking at the large variety of shops. And definitely people watching. As with any other tourist area (New York City comes to mind), there are so many different languages being spoken. But, unlike NYC, most here seem to be European.

One of our coupons was for a free mimosa at Two Friends Patio Restaurant. Most of you reading this know that I love mimosas! Josh had some sort of fried combo of mahi, shrimp, and calamari. After ordering he promised me that he would not have fried fish the entire trip. I’ll let you know how that works out. I had the lobster/crab bisque, a crab cake, and a salad. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s possible to have a bad meal here! So yummy! After lunch we headed down to the ocean. There is a boardwalk right along the shore, and we walked along that for awhile. As we turned one corner, we saw a cruise ship docked. Holy cow, those puppies are HUGE!! I was starting to feel the effects of the sun and not having a hat. (Yes, Mom, I had on sunscreen, and I had brought a hat on the trip but left it at the resort.) We were at Mallory Square, where folks gather to watch the sunset, so we easily found a gift shop. Hat, postcards, a magnet, and a handful of chintzy gifts in hand, we decided to head back. But first, ice cream! Neither of us really had room after that lunch. But despite our better judgment, we partook of some fantastic, local, homemade ice cream at Mattheessen’s. We are definitely going back.

People here are so friendly! Let me rephrase that. All of the locals are very, very friendly. Yeah, we’re giving them money, but you can tell the difference. Everyone is very interested in where we’re from, how we ended up here, if we’re having a good time, and so on. We stopped in a shop today to look at t-shirts. One of the two young people working was this charmingly flamboyant gay man. He immediately started steering us around the store, talked our ears off non-stop, and probably got us to spend way more money than we intended for three t-shirts. At least we got one helluva show!

Back at the resort, we cooled off in our room for a bit (thank heavens for a/c!), then decided to head for the pool. Yes, I bought AND wore a swimsuit for the first time in over 20 years, and Josh got in the pool. And the world didn’t end! Even more amazing, Josh wants us to get a pool. Seriously, though, what a relaxing way to spend the hottest part of the day. I spent part of it in the pool and part laying on one of the provided lounge chairs. I spent some time absorbing every sense of the experience. Looking up, I saw a beautiful blue sky with slight wisps of clouds. From my chair, I could also see two different types of palm trees, both uniquely beautiful. I closed my eyes to concentrate on sounds. I heard the classic rock music from the radio by the nearby tiki bar, I could hear some birds squawking in the nearby trees, I could hear the joyful laughter of the kids playing in the pool with their dad. I tried to determine what language they’re speaking, but I haven’t figured it out…yet. I could feel the occasional breeze cooling my skin and hear it rustle the trees. I could smell the chlorine from the pool in my hair. To some, these may be simple, normal things. To me, especially in combination, they equal relaxation. A couple of hours pool-side every afternoon is likely to become a habit while we’re here.

We eventually headed back to our place. Dinner again was sandwiches, chips, and fruit. Reading and sports on TV were a great way to end the day.

Florida Day 3

We again got a bit of a late start, but we’re on vacation, so who cares? I had a bit of the again iffy breakfast at the hotel. The bagel was significantly better than the coffee — and that’s not fair to the bagel. The people, both the staff and the other customers, were extraordinarily pleasant. I sat on the front patio drinking coffee early (before the bugs drove me back inside) and chatted with an older gentleman who was travelling for work. He saw me with my smart phone and asked if I could help him with something. He said that he communicated with his kids and grandkids via text and wanted to know how to add smiley faces. I showed him how, at which he responded with a huge smile and I got a sweet kiss on the cheek.

We headed out (stopping at Starbucks to get my caffeine fix). We decided to stay off the interstate, instead choosing to drive the Tamiami Trail (Highway 41) across the state and dropping south to Homestead, avoiding the Miami metro completely. We continued south, deciding to stop in Key Largo for lunch and groceries. Lunch was chosen the old-fashioned way, i.e. looked good, easy to get to, and close to the grocery store: The Fish House Restaurant & Seafood Market. Josh had fried mahi-mahi fillets, and I had pan sauteed yellowtail snapper, both of which are local fish. Very good meal, great staff. Crazy busy and a bit loud, but worth it.

Thus fortified, we continued south. And thank heavens we were fortified. We’re still not sure if it was congestion or construction or both, but the first quarter of the drive was at an average of about 10 mph. We both managed the bridges just fine, even the 7 Mile Bridge. Our resort was very easy to find, check-in was easy, and we got settled quickly.

We are staying at The Banyan Resort (http://www.thebanyanresort.com). Friends of ours have two timeshares here – one in February, one in July. While February would be fantastic – mid-70s instead of God knows how cold at home – it’s also considered on-season and considerably more expensive, and probably way busier. Yeah, it’s hot and humid here now, but it’s also way less expensive for 8 days and 7 nights in what is essentially a small apartment. So we can eat in as much as we want. The general plan is to only eat out for one meal a day. With a full kitchen and an adequate grocery store just a couple of blocks away, this works just fine. We are staying in The Cosgrove House, which is a lovely old building on the National Register. 10 foot ceilings, plantation-style with two doors/windows that exit out to a deck. There are two HUGE banyan trees just outside the front door. Pictures to come later. We are one block from Duval St., the main drag here. Think Bourbon St., with less people. We were lucky to get a place to park in the resort’s very tiny parking lot, although it isn’t cheap.

The main portion of our place is open, combined living/dining room and kitchen. There is a couch, two chairs, a small dining table with 4 chairs, a couple of cabinets, and still plenty of room to walk around. The bedroom is small, just enough room for a queen bed and room to walk around it. The bathroom is also small, but adequate and up-to-date. The front porch also has a table and four chairs.

After we arrived and got all of our stuff hauled in, we headed for Fausto’s, the local grocery store. Don’t let anyone tell you that everything here is over-priced. Almost everything in the store was comparable with what we pay at home. We had already picked up a lot of non-perishable stuff, so we got lunchmeat, cheese, milk, cream, and a few other things, including a whole key lime pie. Cheaper to buy one whole instead of individual slices at restaurants. We ended up walking one block along Duval on the way back to the hotel, at about 7:30 on Saturday night. It was crowded but not awful. I was carrying the pie as it wouldn’t fit in the paper sack. I was very popular! Lots of looks and smiles from passers-by. One guy looked at his friends, threw his arm over my shoulders, and said, “I’m going with them!”

We decided to rest at our place that night. Sandwiches for dinner. We even caught the end of the Cardinals game on TV! It was in Spanish, but still…