Saturday, December 10, 2011

Back to Panama City - Back to Old Friends

Last March I came to Panama City and spent the week leading up to the IBA party in Jacksonville.  It was a great opportunity to meet up with a long-lost high school friend and to reconnect after many, many years (story here:  2011 Panama City Visit). 
It was such an enjoyable time, I made plans to do it again this year, staying at the same Marriott Grand Vacations resort as last year.  A bonus week through Interval International made this possible.  It dovetailed very nicely with my weekend on Cedar Key. 

I decided to take US 98 from US 19 in Perry, and was nicely rewarded by great views and quaint towns along the coast...Carrabelle, Apalachicola, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach.  Some of the inspiration to take this route came from Alan Leduc's new book, "Passion in the Wind."   I served as his editor for this book and, as I read his description of riding this road, I was struck by how much of Florida I still had not explored despite having lived in this state - two separate times - and having visited the state countless times.

Being in a car this time, rather than on the motorcycle, greatly streamlined the process of stocking up on groceries and getting to the resort.  On the bike, I'd had to check in, unload the bike, then suit back up again to head to the grocery store.  I was checked in, unpacked, and settled in by 4:00 PM.  Nice!  The resort is, as always with Marriotts, quite comfortable and luxurious.

While I was on the road, enroute to Cedar Key, Alan had emailed me all of the InDesign files for final edit and review, one for each chapter of the book, with the plan to have all of the editing completed and files to the printers by the end of the week.  Therefore, my top priority for Monday and Tuesday was to work my way through all 16 chapters of Alan's book and have the editing complete by Tuesday night.  This is a process I enjoy and I appreciated the excuse to relax in comfortable suroundings for a couple of days after being on-the-go quite a bit the last four days.

Monday afternoon I made contact with friend Sandy, and we made plans for the balance of the week.  I spent most of that day working on Alan's book.   Tuesday late morning I took a little break from editing and drove over to St. Andrews State Park and walked out onto the piers and enjoyed the views before letting the GPS lead me to Schooner's right on the beach for some fried oysters and a beer.  That afternoon I returned to finish the book chapters and to send Alan my own personal congratulations on his job well-done along with lyrics to a song that I thought he would enjoy.

Wednesday morning I got a nice 3 mile run in and then cleaned up and drove over to Pier Park to meet her for lunch.  A nice bowl of crab and corn chowder, then a stroll through the shops and a cappucino at Starbucks.    Sandy then had me follow her to the house she shares with her mom, so that I could visit with her mom, who I haven't seen in decades!  She's chipper and reasonably spry for her age and we did some reminiscing and got caught up with each other's lives.

When I returned to the Marriott, I had an email from Alan, sent to all on his private book-update distribution list, letting us all know that the book was official done and the files had been delivered to the printer's.  Excellent news!

Thursday I totally chilled out and did absolutely nothing.  Good for me!  But on Friday morning, I got up, braved the cold temps, and got a nice 5 mile run in.  By the time I'd finished, the sun had warmed things up considerably.    That afternoon, I met Sandy and her sister Marcia at a convenient point enroute to the historic district of St. Andrew, and I parked and locked my car and joined them in theirs as we headed for an early dinner. 

I've been craving oysters on the half shell ever since I arrived in Florida a week earlier but have had no joy finding any.  I have eaten more than my share of fried oysters this week, but nothing beats large, moist, succulent and slightly salty oysters, topped with horseradish and slurped off of their shells.

They took me to Hunts Oyster House, the perfect place - rustic, well-worn, and efficient.  When we arrived on the waterfront, there was a small open air market underway and we browsed the vendors a bit, I bought a very unique book and chatted with its author for a bit.   It was then time to cross the street to Hunt's before it got too crowded.  We found three stools at the bar - exactly what we'd hoped for - and proceeded to eat ourselves silly, stuffing ourselves with oysters.  The two young men doing the shucking were pleasant and efficient, as they placed a tray in front of me and proceeded to place the oysters on the tray, one by one, as they shucked them.  Can't get any fresher than that!  They were large and juicy...and they really hit the spot!  After eating a dozen raw oysters, I ordered a half-dozen baked.  We each had a glass of pinot to wash it all down.  

There's a pretty park just down the street called Oaks By the Bay Park, and the town puts up lighted decorations.  According to Marcia, they've only been doing this for a couple of years, but it was a very nice display, revealed gradually as we walked the loop through the park.   

Afterward, we went to a delightful wine bar called The Purple Grape (they need to update their website - it still shows their old location).  The interior decor was very well-done, with cozy group seating areas, some high tables with stools, low tables that seat two.  We sat at the wine bar.  The menu was a bit overwhelming with choices.  I ordered from the "new arrivals" section of the menu and had a glass of Adelsheim pinot gris from Oregon and it was wonderful!  This place used to be down on Panama City Beach but recently moved to this location.  The gal working the wine bar told us that business is much better at this new location, getting much more walk-in traffic.  I can see why. 

On the way back to the car, we poked our heads into one of the funky shops along the main street.  I couldn't tell what merchandise was new and what was second-hand.  It was truly a bargain-hunter's treasure-trove of unusual women's clothing...definitely not my kind of clothes, nor my kind of shop, but Sandy and Marsha were having fun and the very nice proprietor eventually came over and joined us to chat. 

The evening over, they dropped me off at my car and we said our goodbyes, with promises to visit each other in Texas, New Orleans, Panama City...We'll work it out.  Somehow.

Saturday I'll watch the Army-Navy football game, start packing, and then I'll hit the road for home on Sunday morning.

No comments:

Post a Comment