Well, it really is past time that I posted about our vacation, now that we’ve been back well over a month. I started writing a post a few weeks ago, but it was turning into more of an Amtrak travelogue and was going to take me forever to actually finish it.
So I’m just going to share the highlights, with a few pictures.
The first photo was actually taken from the bus station. We took a bus to Boston to catch the train to NYC and then get another train -- the Silver Meteor -- to Jacksonville, FL. There was a pretty sunrise while we were waiting for the bus, so Mr. T got this photo.
Much later in the day, aboard the Silver Meteor, he got this beautiful sunset picture as well.
We had left Boston around 8:30 a.m. and arrived in Jacksonville about 24 hours later. The Enterprise people picked us up at the Amtrak station and took us back to the car rental place to do the paperwork for the rental car. It was there that I learned that our sneaky youngest daughter and her 1-year-old son had flown from Nevada to Jacksonville and were even then waiting for us to pick them up at the airport. What an incredible surprise and blessing!
We were to stay with friends in Panama City -- these friends are like parents to my daughter, and she was surprising them as well. Since she had previously (by phone) questioned me thoroughly as to what activities were planned for our vacation, she knew just what we’d be doing. One plan had been to go camping at the beach for a couple of nights, so my resourceful child had packed one whole suitcase full of camping gear. Tent, sleeping bags, rain fly, tarp -- you name it.
We arrived at our friends’ home on Thursday afternoon after driving through a torrential rainstorm. After they got over their shock at seeing 2 extra people and made arrangements to borrow a high chair and pack’n’play, we had a wonderful evening together which included an incredible Southern meal. I’m sure to forget something, but there was fried turkey breast, mashed potatoes & gravy, field peas, cornbread.. to name just part of this feast.
On Friday evening, we were invited to a relative of our friends for supper. Our friends bought fresh gulf shrimp and we had a shrimp boil at a wonderful old Florida farmhouse. Mr. T and I had never tasted such delicious shrimp in our lives! We also had baked potatoes and salad, and our hostess had made a lovely cake with an orange sauce for dessert.
On Saturday, we drove several hours to a family reunion for our host’s family. Talk about food! Our friends had promised this would be a spread of real Southern home cooking, and oh, my! They did not exaggerate. Several long handmade tables were set up outdoors and were literally covered with dishes of every description. I wouldn’t be able to list everything if I tried, but it was all delicious. One of the desserts was a yellow cake with chocolate icing which my hostess had previously told me to watch for. This cake had 10 layers! Thin layers, to be sure, but that cake was 10 layers high. It didn’t look to me as if the layers had been split, so I asked the lady who made the cake. Oh no, each layer was baked in a separate pan. I couldn’t resist asking her if she owned that many cake pans. She does!
Following the official reunion, quite a few of our host’s immediate family members gathered at their ancestral family farmhouse for more time together. I enjoyed visiting with some of the relatives on the screened in back porch while I cross-stitched. Mr. T got a tour of the farm and fields from our host. It was another opportunity to see some of the “real” Florida most tourists don’t get to see.
Sunday of course was church and we thoroughly enjoyed time that we spent at our friends’ church, both for the Sunday services and also the midweek service on Wednesday night. It’s a larger church than ours, but very much the same in a lot of ways, so we felt right at home.
On Monday we headed out to St. Andrews State Park, where we would spend 2 nights camping. Our friends have a motor home, and we older folks slept there, while our daughter and grandson stayed in the tent they’d brought. What a wonderful state park it is! We would definitely enjoy camping there again sometime if we had the opportunity. There are actually 2 campground areas within this park -- Lagoon Campground and Pine Grove Campground. Our site was in Pine Grove, and looked right out on the bay. In the mornings we could watch all sorts of water birds fishing for their breakfasts. It was such a great campsite!
One of the days we were there, our hostess drove us to the town of Seaside to do some sightseeing. It’s just a beautiful little community with fabulous, interesting architecture and some very intriguing shops. We went in several shops and also went down to the beach, where these photos were taken.
On Wednesday, our last day at the campground, we went over to the ocean (Gulf of Mexico) side of the state park. We couldn’t swim, because red flags were posted, but we enjoyed walking along the beach and watching and photographing the wind and waves. A large cargo ship was making its way into the harbor, and our little grandson especially enjoyed watching its progress.
Thursday we headed for Tallahassee and spent the night with Mr. T’s sister and her family. That was really nice, as we hadn’t seen them in over a year.
Friday afternoon, we took our daughter and grandson to the Jacksonville airport. It was hard saying goodbye, but we were so thankful for the opportunity to have spent time with them. An hour or so after leaving them, we were once more headed north aboard the Silver Meteor.
Our trip home couldn’t be said to be uneventful... it was a series of delays and disgruntled people, and I must say I still haven’t figured out why Penn Station in NYC has no seating (other than in the food court) for anyone except Amtrak first-class passengers. Everyone else sits on their luggage or the floor, if they sit at all. Oh well, we got safely home, and only a few hours later than planned.
And the next day we had yet another surprise! Our sneaky daughter had not flown home to Nevada after all, but had flown to Boston where her brother picked her up. She managed to surprise another set of people, and to surprise me again too!
All in all, it was a wonderful vacation, even though it turned out very differently than I expected! It was such a treat to see our friends and relatives and especially to be able to interact with our youngest grandson. God is so good!
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