In early July, The Rabbit Hole crew took to the road in the beloved big white van again. We arrived in Orlando on the night of July 4th, just in time for the legendary Disney’s firework. Story is, we didn’t have tickets, and it was too late to get into the park. We were told a dinner reservation at the Polynesian Resort was the ticket for the best fireworks viewing in town. TripAdvisor confirmed, so we called for reservation. Nope, couldn’t get in. We drove there anyway and was turned away at the guard gate (Boo!) As we were turning around, huge fireworks started going off RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. We went around the corner, pulled the van over by a pond, put down a blanket, and enjoyed the amazing fireworks privately. It was fantastic. I couldn’t shut up about it for the next couple days.
Then we met up with family for dinner and watched some more straggling fireworks, hit Animal Kingdom (our first time!) the next day, and had dinner while screaming like savages at the Medieval Times.
Following day, we said goodbye to family (except for our niece who was coming with us!) and took off to our first destination: Mount Dora, FL. After some serious shopping and several great scores, we walked around downtown adoring the beautiful little town and came across the historic Lakeside Inn. It comprised of several historic buildings nestled between a lake and a train on a non-working railroad track. We lined ourselves on the rocking chairs on the porch, ran around their garden and pier, and decided to stay for the night. I was completely enamoured with this little white gazebo in the lakeside garden, surrounded by Spanish moss. We rocked ourselves on the porch chairs until the sun went down right in front of us.
Turns out the Inn was haunted. (Yay! Cries.) The whole town, including the hotel, was pretty much asleep by 9pm. We entertained ourselves by chatting with the front desk lady, who was more than happy to share numerous personal and hearsay ghost stories of the hotel. She kept saying how much she hated having to be there alone until 11 pm and how happy she was that we kept her company. Indeed we kept her company until 11pm. She showed us the sofa she stayed away from because that was where the little children ghosts liked to hang out (the fact which suddenly made the sofa very attractive to my niece.) We got to see the old entrance of the underground speakeasy (right under the rug we were standing on!) and the super haunted downstairs bathroom. We also walked around the spooky dark dining room. “I will wait right here, you guys go right ahead”, she said. My niece got to move some silverware on a table in hopes that the little girl ghost would come and play, etc.
We said goodbye the next morning and headed North. Driving through Ocala National Forest, we spotted a sign for “Salt Spring” in so and so miles up. Salt Spring? Hmm. Wondering if it was just a town name or an actual spring we could, you know, swim in; we consulted the internet, which confirmed it an actual spring, so we went swimming. The water was crystal clear and 72 degrees year-round. There were a lot of little fish and also some big ones. I had my goggles with me, so we swam and spied on the little water animals for several hours.
Salt Spring park had this gorgeous 200 year-old tree that curved over the walk way.
After this, we drove and shopped and drove and shopped. I always wanted to see Panama City Beach, so we went there. Got friendly with a person at our first stop who knew a bit about vintage and pointed us to all the secret spots in town. Then we swam in the ocean full of stringy green sea algae watching the sunset said to be one of the most beautiful in the country.
On the way to Panama City Beach, we saw this beautiful old barn on the side of the road. Having a perfect model sitting right there in the back, I asked if she would put on a vintage dress we had just bought for a picture.
Husband was posting our trip photos on his Facebook, and a friend suggested we stopped at this area in Alabama called Fairhope. She suggested a restaurant that she liked, so we went to check it out. After dinner, we headed to the pier for another sunset and came across this beautiful old wooden staircase nestled in the greens right across from the water. Another freshly picked vintage dress came out for a photo.
As my niece was getting into the dress, husband thought we would miss the sunset because it was going down fast. We had about 5 minutes. I told him, “Nah.” with a wink ;) Couple minutes later, we were on the pier enjoying the sunset (in a new dress!)
From there we went to New Orleans where we sought out a favorite place for gumbo and jambalaya for lunch and a long-time local neighborhood spot for dinner. Took a double decker bus tour of the city and did some walking around the city in between.
We drove down to St. Pete and tried to do some shopping but ran out of time. Figured we would make our way home along the beach and enjoy the view from inside the van, but it was such a beautiful day. We just had to get our feet on the sugary white sand for juuust a little bit.
It was really time to go home, as we were already a day+ late. We left the beach area and was heading South via the Sunshine Skyway bridge. The bridge itself was very pretty, and we were excited about it. So before we got on, we did some driving around to see the bridge from different angles. Once we came across some secluded beautiful area, a couple more dresses came out to play. Love having a cute model handy on a road trip!