Travel Diary: Independence Eve in Apalachicola

This year we started a new family tradition: celebrating 4th of July early during Apalachicola’s Independence Eve Celebration.

Over the last few years we have mostly missed all the spectacular fireworks displays on the 4th because we have a young child who is usually asleep by the time the fireworks begin.

We also haven’t had the holiday land during the weekend where you have the next day to recover. With that in mind, we spontaneously decided to head down to Florida’s Forgotten Coast to a quaint little Oyster Town that celebrates America’s Birthday a day early.

The Town

Apalachicola is an adorable small town about an hour and a half from our home town of Tallahassee. The drive is scenic and fast, which makes it ideal for our family. As you cross the bridge into the town, there’s usually oyster boats on either side. The area is known for its world class oysters.

It’s a small area, but it’s packed with historic buildings, a brewery, raw bars, great restaurants, old time fountain soda shop, galleries, coffee shops and adorable boutiques. There’s a lot to do even outside of the Independence Eve celebration.

The Accommodations

We decided to do this pretty last minute (the week of), so I wasn’t sure what options would be available. Luckily my hubby’s co-worker recommended The Coombs House — a historic Bed & Breakfast.

The B&B ended up being absolutely perfect. Quaint and comfortable with incredible bedding and a delicious homemade breakfast served in the Main House dining room.

After arriving I discovered (proudly displayed on a door plaque), it’s been named one of America’s 33 Luxury Inns by Travel + Leisure. It definitely delivered.

The Celebration

The Apalachicola Independence Eve Celebration is jam packed with family fun. After checking into our historic B&B, we walked a couple of blocks down to Water Street where the majority of the activities were taking place. We brought our lawn chairs and blanket and found a grassy spot near the dock with a perfect eye-line to the fireworks display that would take place over the water. Everyone is super respectful of your claimed spot and we left our chairs for hours with no one moving them. It was such a relief to know our viewing spot was secure and we could enjoy the festivities!

First up, we grabbed some Oyster City (local brewery) beers and headed to the Bounce House, so Westley could jump, while we enjoyed live music. The. It was time for the Parade, which includes locals who decorate golf carts with Americana decor and hand out everything from beads to juice and candy.

Post parade, it’s time for the free ice cream social where you can choose from vanilla or chocolate ice cream and toppings. So we definitely broke the rule and had dessert before dinner πŸ™‚

While there was a food truck court with options from seafood and gourmet tacos to a British food truck serving up fish n chips, we opted to walk around and find a local restaurant to sit down, cool down and grab a bite. We ended up at The Seafood Grill and enjoyed the fried Captain’s Basket with huge Gulf shrimp, bay scallops, fish, crab cake and hush puppies served with an array of sauces. It did not disappoint.

After dinner, we walked back to our spot on the lawn and got ready for the main event!

Fireworks

I’ve seen a lot of fireworks in my life and this display definitely takes first place. Hands down the best fireworks show ever. The choreography, variety of fireworks and length made it a spectacular display! The fireworks over the water felt like a 3D display and we were all in awe!

Once the 30-minute show wrapped, we grabbed our chairs and walked back to our B&B – no traffic or hassles…just a nice walk, hot shower and a super comfy bed.

If you’re looking for a different way to celebrate 4th of July, Apalachicola is a great choice and will be our new go to for one of my favorite holidays! St. George Island is super close, so you can also extend the trip and spend some time at one of the area’s beautiful beaches!

Happy Independence,

Ivette

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The Marvelous Medieval Times

Spending Mother’s Day at Medieval Times ended up being such a magical night. Growing up in Florida, I was always aware of the Castle, but never visited. My husband also had never been, but always wanted to go thanks to Jim Carrey’s The Cable Guy.

The experience was awesome for us and for our three-year old who was thrilled with all the excitement and elements of the performance.

The Pre-Show Experience

Arriving at Medieval Times you walk through a village setting and enter the grand castle to pick up tickets. The area is adorned with knight statues and paintings. With tickets in hand you are greeted by staff in costumes who give you a colored crown that dictates what are you will sit. We proceeded to meet the Queen and take a photo and then walked into the Hall.

The Hall has bars, a sitting area and retail space with swords, cups, shirts and other branded items. We grabbed some drinks, bought Westley a light up sword and took some photos.

The Show

We were part of the Yellow Knight’s team and sat toward the front. The seating is family style with long tables in a stadium setting.

The show features different components from games and competitions between the knights to falconry, jousting and sword fights. It is very engaging and fun because you’re cheering for your knight at every turn.

The Queen rules the land, which is a new element to the show. For the last 34 years it’s been a King. This timely and relevant leadership change also adds to the plot of the show.

Finally, the horses are gorgeous and show off their skills in the ring. Each horse does special tricks, something Westley really enjoyed.

The show is about an hour and a half give or take, but because there are so many different parts and is paced well, Westley paid attention and enjoyed the show without fussing!

The Dinner

Coming into the experience I was expecting dinner to not be a highlight since it is secondary to the show. However, while it’s simple and food you can eat with your hands — Medieval Style — it was surprisingly delicious. We started off the meal with a tomato bisque (you drink from the soup bowl), followed by a half chicken that was moist and perfectly cooked, paired with potatoes and corn on the cob. The dinner is topped off with a pound cake for dessert.

It was adult and child approved!

Overall Experience

The production quality, characters, show elements and overall experience was wonderful! We were never bored and always looking forward to the next part.

For me, the horsemanship and the falcon flying around the arena were definitely highlights. I also thought the Queen did a phenomenal job in her role.

For the boys, it was all about the action. Both big and small — they were all about the jousting and sword fighting.

We definitely will visit again and as there are several castles across the country — it would be fun to check out some of the other shows!

If you’re looking for a dinner show that will have something for the whole family, I would recommend Medieval Times! You won’t be disappointed.

Happy Jousting,

Ivette

Mom Hacks: Dinner Edition

I’m launching a new series for #Tip Tuesday that will be all about Mom Hacks — basically the things I’ve discovered, actively use and love to make life as a working mom easier. The inaugural edition focuses on one of my favorite things…food πŸ™‚

Like every other “millennial mom” I love a good app…especially one that makes my life more convenient. While I am not a huge fan of feeding my son “fast food,” I consider Chick-fil-A to be in a category all its own. Sure it’s more expensive, but the service, quality of the food and healthy options for kids and adults lands CFA at the top of my drive thru choices.

Just when I thought they couldn’t get any better, Chick-fil-A launched an app that I swear was designed for working mamas like me. There are a ton of features, including freebies and treats you earn, but the piece de resistance is ordering, paying and curbside pick up all from the app. It’s such a seamless experience and you can avoid the drive thru or having to get out of your vehicle. I have my favorite orders saved on the app from Westley’s 6-piece grilled chicken nugget meal to our family go to. It’s so easy, I can order on the app as I’m leaving daycare and select “curbside” — by the time I pull up to the light near the CFA, I select “I’m here” and my order is made fresh, I park in the curbside dedicated spot and a team member walks my order out to me. No line, no taking an active tiddler out of the car seat, in and out in 5 minutes.Β  All delivered with a friendly smile and a “my pleasure.”

Would love to hear from you on any mom hacks you know and love or other #TipTuesday topics I can cover πŸ™‚

Happy Hacking!

Ivette

 

 

The art of customer service: dead or in hiding?

First, my apologies for being MIA for so many months. Between work, wedding planning, the Junior League and being President of the FPRA Capital Chapter, I rarely have time to even think about blogging, let alone actually type a post! Hopefully in mid-August, I will be back on track – posting weekly. I should be refreshed from our Alaskan honeymoon and ready to attack the fall.

However, given all my craziness, I still wanted to take the time to write about the importance and art of customer service. This stems from an awful brunch experience Sunday at a Tallahassee restaurant. It was my second time there. I gave the place the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately I once again left underwhelmed and disappointed.

I’ve never worked in hospitality, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to deal with customers all day, with their diet requests and personalities. However, the concept of being nice and welcoming is not alien to me as I work in PR and deal with clients, media and people all day! I know we all have bad days, people who drive us nuts and times where we are just over it, but unfortunately if you work with people, you must suck it up and be kind. After all, they’re probably not the problem…you’re just projecting.

Case in point, yesterday at brunch I arrived with two other girlfriends and our three little dogs. We sat outside at the restaurant and I went inside to alert someone that we were seated outside – I even offered to bring the menus out myself. After a few minutes, we were “greeted” by an unpleasant server. No hello, how are you or even a smile. She was annoyed that we were there and more so when we asked if we could get some fresh water for the pups. We brushed it off and tried to stay positive…it was our Sunday Funday after all.

We order our brunch items: waffles, huevos rancheros and a Cuban sandwich. Then we wait…and wait…and wait. We have to suggest to our server, who continues ignoring us, that perhaps it would be a good idea to leave a pitcher of water for us since she’s busy inside with her other tables — namely an “8 top.” Meanwhile other tables that had arrived after us were receiving their food and their servers were checking in on them. Hmmm…finally after what felt like hours our food arrives and it’s kinda cold and okay. Nothing to write home about. Our server comes by to check on us and asks how it is…we all say the same thing: “It’s okay. Thank you.” That was not the adjective she was looking for. We told her it was good, not great and that we were a bit disappointed to have waited an hour for the food. She got super upset with us and stormed off. She comes back and declares: “I have clarified with the kitchen and you did not wait an hour, it was 42 minutes.”

Well then, alright. Excuse us, it was nearly 45 minutes then. At this point, our brunch is officially ruined. We speak to a manager who makes excuses about being busy, etc. He offers nothing in return, not even a sincere apology. So, as we paid for our checks and left, we decided they would be less busy now since they’ve lost three customers and their potential business.

The sad part is customer service seems to be a dying art. More and more, I’m experiencing these less than pleasant encounters at restaurants, in stores, and over the phone. I’m not sure why, but it seems everyone is upset, tired, overworked, uninterested or simply rude. I’m not asking for a cheerleader every time or for my food to come out in five minutes. I’m pretty patient, but I do think that if you work with people (and most of us do to some degree), it helps if you start with a smile and try your best to be nice and pleasant.

The Crossfit Challenge

If you know me, you know I LOVE food. But I also enjoy working out to burn those calories. I’ve been a spinning instructor for a few years and really enjoy it, but my body has gotten used to it. I decided I needed to add another dimension to my workouts and have since joined Crossfit Black Box. Only one word can describe Crossfit — INTENSE.

I work out regularly, but when I left my first training session at Crossfit Black Box I could barely move and it felt AMAZING. This training session included one on one attention from a personal trainer and a variety of exercises like pull ups, push ups, dead lifts, sumo lifts, and much more.

I have another session tonight and am so excited to see the results of taking my workouts to the next level. I’m on a mission to continue growing and challenging myself…I’ll keep you posted on my sore muscles and workout progress.