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From La-La Land to the Saints of Florida

Author: Lisa C.
Date of Trip: December 2010

At Christmas this year we traveled to see both my Mom in The Villages and my Dad in St. Cloud, Florida, stopping along the way at the ever-popular South of the Border, of course! I swear that mexican-flaired roadside attraction is like a mirage in the middle of I-95, but it is the BEST place to buy a shirape! Did you ever wonder where all the sunbirds go in January??

Lady Lake, now known as The Villages of Florida, is a sleepy little cypress lined town that has been overtaken by a huge retirement community unlike any other and is the destination of choice for erudite retirees! Golf galore, endless sunny weather (except for this particular end of December…brrrr!) and a town square that is always rockin’, you must visit soon – – you won’t be bored!

Our hotel, the Town Suites at the Villages, was sublime with a hot tub and sweet sized pool in the courtyard and nice sized rooms; we loved the comfy bedding, esp. when I came down with the flu and ended up in the huge king-sized bed for the 1st two days… Otherwise, the sky was the limit on entertainment with a huge movie complex, shoppes and restaurants agogo in the town square (We stayed in Spanish town – there are two center squares depending on which side of the development you’re on!) and we drove through all the differing housing developments viewing holiday lights at night, most decor was replete w/pink flamingos, of course! Leaving on 27 East, heading for Hwy 192, in just over an hour we found ourselves only ‘minutes’ from Disney and it’s plethora hotels and entertainment venues but blissfully far-far away, as St. Cloud boasts palmetto and pine fields as far as the eye can see, cow pastures and vast emptiness along the highway as well as plenty of strip malls, Wal-Marts and SunTrusts; it definitely has small-town charm and a lovely golf course, The Royal Palms, where we dined with Daddio for a Coleman Christmas Reunion!

Don’t miss Reptile World, for a close-up look at indigenous species of serpents in Florida, with no ‘disneyesque lines’ and easy on the budget, too! We stayed at East Lake Fish Camp, a bass-fisherman’s heaven,, but sadly, the fisherman had the flu (my husband came down with my flu on day 3…) so we weren’t able to wet our rigs, but the sunsets at the lakeside were a doozy and a frosty morning dew washed over the surrounding farmlands each morning. It was devoid of other travelers, the entire place was ours to explore, quaint cabins w/duo double beds, small kitchenettes and clean baths were a great deal, esp. compared to any other hotels anywhere near Disney, where all the crowds are!

Leaving on 192, heading due East through Melbourne, we veered into Indialantic, a small seaside town, to visit an old friend for an idyllic afternoon beside her private pool. Upon leaving we hit I-95 once again, heading due North for St. Augustine, where the Fountain of Youth beckoned my sense of adventure and a wonderfully brand-new Fairfield Inn awaited our arrival. This hotel is nice because, although you couldn’t walk to the beach,,,it’s near the Prime Outlets on the outskirts of Hwy 16, and is only approximately 6 miles to the center of the action, Flagler University, the Castillo De San Marcos and the scenic views of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. The heated outdoor pool and the steamy hot tub in the rear courtyard warmed to a wonderful 70+ degrees on our final day, so we tanned and relaxed after climbing the lighthouse, drinking the ‘sulphur-laden’ youth elixir and traversing the town’s tourist attractions.

Our trip was too short-lived, our youth not to be extended, and by the time we felt better it was time to go home; and…awaiting our return to Virginia was only sparse bits of melted snow from The Blizzard of Monumental Proportions (14 inches!) ~ All-in-all, the blizzard of 2010 was well avoided by our totally cool trip to Florida (even with the FLU!)…

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