Friday, December 11, 2009

Driving home from the Island Princess Cruise

We left the Holiday Inn Express in Madison around 10:00 AM, gained an hour and got home early afternoon. Lunch in Chipley at Gary's Flaming Grill, as always. Total mileage today, 260; total miles from Fort Lauderdale, 673 (1,083 km).

All was fine at home and the cats were furious.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Island Princess Cruise, Disembarkation
December 2009

Return to Port Everglades, disembarkation, and the drive north

We woke at 6:30 AM and headed to our assigned waiting area, the Wheelhouse Bar. They provided juice, coffee, tea and pastries. This is a treat for those who have sailed on Princess more than five times. The Wheelhouse Bar is very comfortable and private.

Our bag color (Orange-3) was called on time at 8:00. We left the ship, collected our bags, got a porter, went through customs, found the Park 'n' Cruise van and were at our car by 8:30. And we were on our way north and home.

Around 4:00 PM we got as far as Madison, Florida, 415 miles (668 km). We spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express there. Dinner was at Ken's BBQ also in Madison and the food was wonderful. Really good smoked BBQ chicken.

This was on the dock when we got back to port on Thursday morning.

Is this what they used to call Euro-trash?

Distance Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1104 nautical miles = 1270 statute miles = 1822 kilometers

Aruba to Cartagena
374 nautical miles = 430 statute miles = 617 kilometers

Cartagena to Panama
279 nautical miles = 321 statute miles = 460 kilometers

Panama to Limon
193 nautical miles = 222 statute miles = 318 kilometers

Limon to Ocho Rios
670 nautical miles = 771 statute miles = 1106 kilometers

Ocho Rios to Fort Lauderdale
752 nautical miles = 865 statute miles = 1241 kilometers

Total distance
3372 nautical miles = 3878 statute miles = 5564 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Day 10, Island Princess Cruise
December 2009

At sea

This is our last full day of the cruise and we are at sea heading for Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. Arriving tomorrow morning at 7:00.

Captain Bommarco invited us to visit the bridge this morning. This was our fourth time to visit a ship's bridge. Last time it was with Commodore of the Princess Fleet, Giuseppe Romano on the Emerald Princess. Today we had an excellent tour guide in Third Officer, Sean Poole, from Canada. Captain Bommarco was not able to be with us.

Our tour guide on the bridge, Third Officer, Sean Poole

This what the Captain sees

Here's where you can steer the ship

Paper charts are still in use

The flag collection
When the ship sails into a port she always flies the flag of that country. So there has to be some way of organizing the flags and keeping them neat. These cubbies are about five inches square and each has a country or a state flag, plus there are all the nautical code flags for letters and numbers.

Notice the plaque on the wall has the call sign of the Island Princess, ZCDG4, spelled out in signal flags.

For more information about flag codes here are links to two Wikipedia articles: International Maritime Signal Flags and International Code of Signals.

At dinner we said goodbye to our waiters and our favorite head waiter, Nelson. He's soon to finish his contract and head for some rest and recreation at home in Portugal.

Tonight at dinner, as happened last night as well, there was an announcement and the lights dimmed so the entire serving staff could dance a conga while we clapped. It was to thank them for all their hard work. Harmless fun and very brief. Not nearly as intrusive or lengthy as on Carnival, where the Maitre 'd danced on somebody's table.

Back to the room after dinner to finish packing. All the big bags went out in the hallway tonight and would be waiting for us in the morning at the dock in Fort Lauderdale.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Day 9, Island Princess Cruise
December 2009

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Panoramic photo of the harbor at Ocho Rios
Navigator of the Seas at the dock in Ocho Rios

The only other ship in Ocho Rios today was the Navigator of the Seas. It was a gray, dull day as you can see from the photo above. The original plan was for us to stop in Montego Bay today, but early in the cruise we were told that Day 9 would be in Ocho Rios.

There are two docking facilities here. One is next to where the Navigator of the Seas tied up. That dock can accommodate four ships and leads to a modern welcome center and downtown is immediately across the street. We docked a mile away by an ugly warehouse. It's a long walk to shops and restaurants along a busy highway.

The Bermudian Red Ensign
Hamilton, Bermuda is the Port of Registry for the Island Princess. So it is no surprise to see a large Bermuda Red Ensign flying off the back of the ship.

Lovely dinner tonight in the Bordeaux Dining Room. Our head waiter, the attentive Nelson, treated us to a starter of very nice escargots and a wonderful pasta dish with our main course. Before we were finished eating we realized we had miscalculated the time and needed to hurry over to the Universe lounge for tonight's show.

We explained our problem to our waiters but as we left Nelson and others worried "that something was wrong." Even offering to send the rest of our meal to the the cabin to have after the show. It was our fault for not planning better and getting to dinner 30 minutes earlier. As it was there were few seats left in the lounge. In fact, we may have gotten the last two.

What we were rushing to the Universe Lounge to see was, "Adrian Zmed...In Concert." He was backed by the Island Princess singers, dancers and band. Every 10 days Zmed performs the show for two nights on the Island Princess and then two nights on the Coral Princess -- three shows on each ship. Both ships have the complete sets, costumes and performers, the only thing they don't have two of is Mr. Zmed. It was a fine show. Excellent music and the singing was terrific.

Distance Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1104 nautical miles = 1270 statute miles = 1822 kilometers

Aruba to Cartagena
374 nautical miles = 430 statute miles = 617 kilometers

Cartagena to Panama
279 nautical miles = 321 statute miles = 460 kilometers

Panama to Limon
193 nautical miles = 222 statute miles = 318 kilometers

Limon to Ocho Rios
670 nautical miles = 771 statute miles = 1106 kilometers

Total distance so far
2620 nautical miles = 3012 statute miles = 4323 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Monday, December 07, 2009

Day 8, Island Princess Cruise
December 2009

At sea

Rough seas
The sea is boiling

When the seas are rough and the front of the ship keeps slamming down into the oncoming water these formations appear in the water below our balcony. They are very interesting to watch.

Tonight is formal night again and we decided to have dinner in the always informal Bayou Cafe and Steakhouse. The Princess brochure says, "It's a spicy mixture of French, Spanish and African influences. New Orleans cuisine is one of the oldest culture-driven cooking styles in American history, but new to the cruise industry. Princess introduced the very first New Orleans-style restaurant at sea -- the Bayou Cafe -- aboard Coral Princess in 2003."

The Bayou Cafe's menu works like the one for Sabatini's -- if you want to sample all of the apetitzers they will bring you sample portions of everything. But you have to be careful, keep in mind that soup, salad, main course and dessert is still coming.

Bayou Cafe and Steakhouse menu
Bayou Cafe and Steakhouse menu

We tried the Bayou Cafe on the Coral a couple of years ago. We were not happy with the meal at all. Now it's two years later and Princess is still offering the Bayou Cafe experience so we decided to give it one more try. This time we had a great meal and two fine steaks. And their version of Oysters Bienville was fabulous.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Day 7, Island Princess Cruise
December 2009

Limon, Costa Rica

Chef's Table Menu
Chef's Table Tonight!

The weather in Puerto Limon is dull today, some rain with clouds and a moment of sunshine now and then. Hot and very humid. Let's stay on the ship.

I took a picture from the balcony and caught two tour buses and a van waiting for adventurers. In Cartagena the other day I stopped counting tour buses at fifty...

Word on board is that there's some sort of religious festival today and all the shops are closed. Even the tourist welcome center looks closed. The national tourism officials do have a wonderful slogan right now: it translates 'Costa Rica, No Artificial Ingredients.'

Here's a link to Costa Rica's tourism website.

On the dock today

There's coffee in them hills!

Tonight we eat at the Chef's Table. The menu is posted above. There are eight of us and it's non-stop eating for three hours. It costs a little bit extra but it's worth it. And wine is included. Great service, too. And Loreto Bembo, the ship's executive chef, is watching over us from the beginning to the end. When dessert finally comes you can eat the dishes.

Distance Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1104 nautical miles = 1270 statute miles = 1822 kilometers

Aruba to Cartagena
374 nautical miles = 430 statute miles = 617 kilometers

Cartagena to Panama
279 nautical miles = 321 statute miles = 460 kilometers

Panama to Limon
193 nautical miles = 222 statute miles = 318 kilometers

Total distance so far
1950 nautical miles = 2243 statute miles = 3218 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Day 6, Island Princess Cruise
December 2009

Panama Canal

Panama's Flag

Mules at work

Entering Gatun Lake

Gatun Locks Observation Building

Lock full

Lock empty #1

Lock empty #2

Distance Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1104 nautical miles = 1270 statute miles = 1822 kilometers

Aruba to Cartagena
374 nautical miles = 430 statute miles = 617 kilometers

Cartagena to Panama
279 nautical miles = 321 statute miles = 460 kilometers

Total distance so far
1757 nautical miles = 2021 statute miles = 2899 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Friday, December 04, 2009

Day 5, Island Princess Cruise
December 2009, Part 2

Cartagena, Colombia

Colombian flag
Colombian flag flying over the old fortifications

Church dome
Dome of the Church of San Pedro Claver

Harbor and skyline
Cartagena harbor and skyline

The Fort
The Fort -- Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Plaza at the Fort
The Plaza at the Fort

Long climb up the fort
It's a long, steep climb to the top

Day 5, Island Princess Cruise
December 2009, Part 1

Cartagena, Colombia

We woke up in Cartagena, Colombia. We had heard of Cartagena but knew nothing about it, so we signed up for a three-hour tour. It turns out that Cartagena is a big city, with a population of about one million people. And a history dating back to its founding in 1533. There is a large middle class and it looks prosperous and very clean.

We enjoyed the contrasts between the old colonial parts and the residential, beach front neighborhoods with modern high rise apartments.

Colonial courtyards in Cartagena
Courtyards at the Naval Museum of the Caribbean

The Naval Museum is located in the 16th Century area within the walled city near the Church of San Pedro Claver.

Cartagena's harbor
High rise apartments on the water

La Virgen del Carmen
A huge statue of la Virgen del Carmen welcomes sailors

Admiral Don Blas de Lezo
Admiral Don Blas de Lezo

Cartagena's hero with his one eye, one arm and wooden leg, Admiral Don Blas de Lezo, shown above guarding the fort -- the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.

We were glad we took the tour. We saw a lot and learned a lot that we wouldn't have found out about had we just taken a taxi around town. This was the first official Princess Cruises on-shore activity we had done. It was well run and started exactly at 9:30 AM, as promised, and we were back at the ship practically on time as well (because of traffic congestion we were 10 minutes behind schedule, no problem).

As we sailed out of Cartagena we did a laundry and took photos of the departure from the rear of the ship. That's where the coin washers and dryers are. There were great improvements in the laundromats, newer and better machines and lots moreof them, too.

Distance Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1104 nautical miles = 1270 statute miles = 1822 kilometers

Aruba to Cartagena
374 nautical miles = 430 statute miles = 617 kilometers

Total distance so far
1478 nautical miles = 1700 statute miles = 2439 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Day 4, Island Princess Cruise
December 2009

Oranjestad, Aruba

By the time we woke up we were at the dock in Oranjestad. The sky was partly sunny/partly cloudy and it was very hot and humid. We didn't go into town. But it seemed that everybody else did so we had the ship to ourselves.

There were two other cruise ships here today (another good reason to stay on board).

Sea Princess (left); Jewel of the Seas (right)

Downtown Oranjestad
Downtown Oranjestad from our ship as we leave.

We had a quiet day -- reading, napping, eating -- a perfect day on the Island Princess.

Distance Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1104 nautical miles = 1270 statute miles = 1822 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Day 3, Island Princess Cruise
December 2009

At sea

Day 3 started out sunny and calm but by noon the wind was up and you could feel the sea a bit. At noon we had sailed 826 nautical miles from Port Everglades and had 277 more to go for our arrival tomorrow morning at Aruba.

A surprise at dinner was a platter of crisp fried calamari provided by our Maitre d', Mario.

After diner we went to the Princess Theater to see a production show, 'Piano Man.' It has been a staple on Princess for many years but the production, sets and costumes looked fresh and the performances were excellent with good singers, dancers and a fine band. And well-balanced sound, thank you.

By the time the show was over we were feeling some heavy wind and the boat was rocking. But we had to stroll outside on Promenade Deck 7 to see the huge full moon rising out of the sea. This is our seventh cruise and the first one to have a full moon. Lucky for us the sky was clear despite the raging storm we were in.

There has been a slight change in our itinerary: on Day 9 we will visit Ocho Rios instead of Montego Bay. There was quite a bit of confusion about this from the beginning of the cruise. Some of our paper work mentioned going to Ocho Rios but we got the order form to purchase Montego Bay tours and shore activities. Many folks were grumbling about the change. We didn't care at all as we had no intention of getting off the ship any where in Jamaica.

We were rocked to sleep and the bumps lasted until morning.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Day 2, Island Princess Cruise
December 2009

At sea

This is our first full day on the Island Princess and we are at sea heading for Aruba.

Island Princess atrium at Christmas
Here's another panoramic view of the atrium.

The ship is familiar -- it's identical to the Coral Princess. We sailed on the Coral Princess in April 2007 when we made our first visit to Panama. Both ships were launched in 2003. They are medium-large ships, the capacity of each is 1,970 passengers and 900 crew. The last ship we were on, the Emerald Princess, carries up to 3,100 passengers with 1,200 crew. We like the size of the Island Princess a lot -- it's big enough to have lots of features but you don't get lost on it.

For more information about the Island Princess you can read the ship's review on

Our Captain is Nicolo Bommarco. We have sailed with him before. He was Captain on the Grand Princess in December 2007 when we cruised the western Caribbean. Another familiar face on this cruise is Maitre d' Mario Propato, also our Maitre d' in December 2006 when we sailed out of New Orleans on the Golden Princess heading, again, for the western Caribbean.

It's Formal Night tonight. We 'forgot' to bring dress-up clothes. Hey, this is a vacation, not a business meeting. If you don't dress for dinner on the two formal nights there are plenty of places on the ship to eat. The formality is mostly at the two fancy dining rooms, the Provence and the Bordeaux. Tonight we had room service on our balcony.

Breakfast was in the Bordeaux Dining Room. There's waiter service and a very peaceful atmosphere. Lunch was in the Horizon Court Buffet. Each sea day there's a theme at the Horizon Court. Today's was sushi, beautifully made and beautifully displayed. And all you can eat. There was 'regular' buffet food as well. And all this got us through until tea in the Bordeaux Dining Room at 4:00. I never made it to the pizzeria.

First time ever on a cruise I visited the medical center. I needed to get a test to see how the blood thinner was working. Somehow I always thought that going to the ship's doctor would be complicated and involve crowds of people and long waits. Wrong. It was simple and quick. And the doctor, a young woman from South Africa -- all the medical staff are U.K. certified -- was a tall beautiful blonde with a charming personality. The medical center was state-of-the-art. And expensive, but I'm told my health insurance will cover it. We'll see.

We signed up for Internet access, both in the Internet Cafe and in the room using the laptop. We have cruised on Princess enough times now so we each get 250 minutes of Internet time free. It's a lot better than a few years ago when $50 got you 100 minutes.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 1, Island Princess Cruise
November 2009

Embarkation, Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale

The hotel was comfortable and we slept well. And woke up early. We wanted to get to the parking lot around 1:00 and get in line for boarding around 2:00. We had read on that lots of people always got to the ship early and there was less waiting in line if you arrived mid-afternoon.

Oh, well. We killed as much time as we could and arrived at Park 'n' Cruise at 11:30. There was no waiting for a van and we were beside the ship at the registration desk at 11:40. At 11:50 we were in our cabin and at 12:55 our luggage arrived. The fastest boarding ever.

Our cabin steward is from the Philippines, as many of the staff of cruise ships always are. He is quiet, serious, friendly but not warm and clearly we will not get to know him at all. Not a problem.

At dinner we meet our waiters. Our senior waiter is from the Philippines, the junior waiter from Thailand, both are quiet and very serious. Not naturally warm personalities, but they are good waiters. The head waiter for our section of the dining room is Nelson from Portugal. Nelson knows how to do it. He gives a little bit of extra service to every table and he is always 'on.' It is amazing to watch him in action.

Throughout the cruise the food is good to excellent most of the time. Coming up at the end of the cruise there will be a post on our dining experiences on the Island Princess.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, click to enlargeRoyal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, the biggest passenger ship ever built.

In addition to the Island Princess, there were four other big cruise ships in port: Oasis of the Seas, Seven Seas Navigator, MSC Poesia and Bahamas Celebration.

The Oasis of the Seas is the biggest of them all. It is brand new and will have its first voyage with paying customers in a few days. So far in Port Everglades she has been taking travel writers, the press and various travel industry VIPs on two-day excursions. We got to see it as it departed this afternoon and it is really big.

While the Island Princess, was waiting to sail the Christmas decorations were going up. Here's a photo of the atrium's holiday decor.
Island Princess atrium, click to enlarge

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Driving to the Island Princess, second day

From Ocala, Florida to Plantation, Florida -- today's drive was much easier than yesterday's. It was only 275 miles (443 km.). The city of Plantation is located just west of Fort Lauderdale. We were at the hotel before 4:00 PM. There was plenty of time to re-pack our luggage for the cruise and just relax from two days of driving.

Business card: La Casita RojaFor dinner we had planned to eat at one of the Cuban restau- rants near the hotel but we ended up at La Casita Roja, a Peruvian restaurant. It sounded like something worth trying and it was. The food was tasty but not spicy at all. Hot sauces were available. I'm not sure if the food in Peru is really that bland or perhaps the owner/chef is worried that the Florida locals want it that way.

We had a nice meal of fresh ingredients freshly cooked. The owner was very friendly and explained everything we had questions about.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Driving to the Island Princess, first day

Our original plan was to drive to Jacksonville and then see a little of St. Augustine and the northeast Florida coast. Then we would head south to spend the second night in Vero Beach completing the drive (about three hours) to Port Everglades on Monday morining.

However, just before we left Pensacola we decided to cut a few miles and see St. Augustine some other time. So we headed south to Ocala and spent Saturday night there.

The mileage was 383 (616 km.) including a few extra miles to take the cats to the cat hotel our vet runs.

At 10:15 AM we set out on Interstate 10. We tried to have lunch at Gary's in Chipley. Not only are they closed the day after Thanksgiving (we learned that last year) they were closed this time for carpet cleaning. So we went on again to Marianna and ate at PoFolks Restaurant. Excellent fried chicken. And sweet potato casserole.

After several breaks for me to walk around we got to the hotel in Ocala at 6:00 PM. We had dinner in our room: deli sandwiches from the nearby Publix Supermarket.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Itinerary for the Upcoming Cruise

Island Princess, December 2009

  • Saturday, November 28, drive to Ocala

  • Sunday, November 29, drive to Fort Lauderdale

  • Monday, November 30, 5:00 PM depart Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale

  • Tuesday, December 1, at sea

  • Wednesday, December 2, at sea

  • Thursday, December 3, 7:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M., Aruba

  • Friday, December 4, 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M., Cartagena, Colombia

  • Saturday, December 5, 5:00 A.M. to 3:30 P.M., Panama Canal; 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M., Cristobal, Panama

  • Sunday, December 6, 7:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., Limon, Costa Rica

  • Monday, December 7, at sea

  • Tuesday, December 8, 7:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., Montego Bay, Jamaica

  • Wednesday, December 9, at sea

  • Thursday, December 10, 7:00 A.M. arrive Port Everglades; drive north; find a hotel around Perry, Florida

  • Friday, December 11, arrive home late afternoon

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Backyard: The Pool At Sunset

Taken in Pensacola, Florida on November 13, 2009 at 6:10 PM CST.

Pool reflections at sunset

Pool reflections at sunset

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Reading List for the Island Princess Cruise

A cruise is a great time to just sit and read -- or listen to an audio book. You have to find something to do between meals and naps. Here is a list of the books we're taking on the next cruise. And there's more for us to read in the ship's library.

Images of books listed below
Very Good, Jeeves!, eleven short stories by P.G. Wodehouse
A Midsummer Night's Dream, By Wm. Shakespeare
Rat Pack Confidential, by Shawn Levy

Images of books listed below
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Ripley Under Ground
Ripley's Game
all by Patricia Highsmith

Images of books listed below
The Boy Who Followed Ripley
Ripley Under Water
The Complete Ripley Radio Mysteries, audio CDs from BBC Radio 4
all by Patricia Highsmith

Images of books listed below
Spinoff 2008, annual publication by NASA
The Hit Charade, by Tyler Gray

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Next Cruise

Cover of a 1913 book about the Panama CanalPanama and a little bit of South America on the Island Princess

We have a cruise coming up early this winter -- ten days on the Island Princess, sister ship of the Coral Princess. We think back on our April 2007 cruise on the Coral as one of our favorites. So this time we will be on a ship with an identical layout and size and with a nearly identical itinerary. Like the Coral the Island Princess was launched in 2003 and carries a maximum of 1,970 passengers with a crew of 900.

It's a slightly smaller ship than some of the others we've been on. We like the size a lot. It is big enough to have all the amenities we want but it isn't huge and hard to get around. Click here to look at the deck plans.

Island Princess at sea

We sail out and back from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. The ports of call are Orenjestad, Aruba; Cartagena, Colombia; then Panama with a partial crossing of the Canal. Morning and afternoon we cruise around in Gatun Lake and then take the locks back down to the Atlantic, followed by a visit to Cristobal for sightseeing and shopping. In the next few days there are stops at Limon, Costa Rica; Montego Bay, Jamaica; then back to Port Everglades.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sarasota Trip, Day 5

Monday, October 12, 2009 -- Home

Up and out and on the road by 10:00 AM. We got on Interstate-10 about 25 miles north of Perry and were flying home. Good news, the construction around Tallahassee is finished after many years and we never slowed down.

When we are on the road and need a room in small-town America we often stay at either a Holiday Inn Express or at one of Hilton's Hampton Inns. Both offer a free continental breakfast plus they promise a couple of hot items -- sometimes scrambled eggs, mini-omlettes, fried eggs, bacon, sausages, etc. But today it was Huevos Rancheros -- scrambled eggs with Mexican-ish stuff mixed in, seriously overcooked and served cold. What were they thinking?

Generally the Holiday Inn Express chain has a better breakfast than does Hampton Inn and the Holiday Inn Express has those fantastic hot cinnamon rolls.

Gary's cardWe made good time heading for home, thanks in part to the extra hour we gained when we crossed the Chattahoochie River heading west. Lunch was in Chipley at Gary's Flaming Grill again.

We picked up the cats from the pet hotel and were home before 4:00. Today's distance was 266 miles and the total for the trip was 1,145 miles (1,843km.).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sarasota Trip, Day 4

Sunday, October 11, 2009 -- Heading Home from Sarasota

The weather seemed a little bit milder this morning. Or have we just gotten used to the recent heat wave.

Before we left town we visited Toby, Debbie and their daughters. What a great place they have. An open, airy house with fabulous plants and trees and art. And what an office!

Early afternoon we started up I-75 North and hadn't made any plans for how far we would try to get before stopping for the night. Soon after Tampa we tired of driving on the congested Interstate and took the exit for Brooksville. A few miles later we joined the "old" road, Route 98. It's a divided highway but the style is pre-interstate highway -- no exit/entrance interchanges. Plus lots of speed traps. And there's almost no traffic, the opposite of I-75. Relaxing to drive.

We took 98 as far as Perry, that's where it heads west to Florida's Panhandle and the northwest coast. Along the way 98 adds Routes 19, 27 and 55. One road, four route numbers. Our drive today was 303 miles, and a total of 897 miles so far for the trip.

Logo: Mama's Italian Family Restaurant, Perry, FloridaIn Perry we found a room for the night at the Hampton Inn. And almost next door a wonderful place, Mama's Italian Family Restaurant, with home cooked food, Italian and other kinds too. You can visit their web site here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sarasota Trip, Day 3

Saturday, October 10, 2009 -- In Sarasota

Along Longboat Key, FloridaAnother hot day. We drove around the city taking in the sights.

Longboat Key, pictured here, was beautiful as always. There was a huge festival and arts fair going on at St. Armands Circle so lunch at the Columbia was out. We soon went back to the mainland to continue our tour.

Yoder's Restaurant, Sarasota, FloridaWe went to Yoder's Restaurant, for lunch. They serve Amish food. It's located in Pinecraft, Sarasota's Amish and Mennonite neighborhood. The food is simple and delicious. Famous for their pies and hearty eaters, the restaurant recently attracted the attention of Adam Richman and the Travel Channel's Man vs. Food show.

The Sarasota episode featured Yoder's and two other Sarasota classic, casual dining, restaurants, Munchies 420 Cafe and the Old Salty Dog. Watch the Travel Channel's listings for reruns.

Primo! Ristorante, Sarasota, FloridaAfter a nap we joined Michael and Ralph for Italian food at Primo! Ristorante, in Sarasota near the airport. The food was wonderful, thank you, Ralph! And we had a great time catching up. We hadn't seen Michael for more than 30 years and were just meeting Ralph for the first time.

For info on restaurants in the Sarasota area here's a blog, Dine Sarasota Pot Luck, I found that has some wonderful suggestions.