Monday, December 29, 2014

A Sweet Re-Visit to Panama City

It is so ironic that I have high school friends living in Panama City.  You see, I went to high school in nearby Milton FL while my dad was an NAS flight instructor at Whiting Field.  We were transferred during my junior year, moving to Massachusetts. Here I made a few friends and finished out my high school career then went off to college.  I stayed in touch with my best friend Linda from that high school in Massachusetts until I moved away in the  mid-1980's.   I reconnected with her just 3 or 4 years ago, thanks to Facebook, only to learn that she and her two sisters Marcia and Sandy and her mom were now living, of all places,  in the panhandle of Florida, just 70 miles east of where I lived before moving to Massachusetts and meeting them.  Talk about weird!!

There's a very nice Marriott timeshare property on the bay between Panama City and Panama City Beach, and I like going back there, especially near Christmas.  I can visit my friends, get some good runs in, eat some of the best Apalachicola oysters, and relax in the off-season desertion of this town.

I went back there again the week before Christmas this year.  It's a good solid, full day's drive to get there, but I've driven across this stretch of I-10 so many times that I could do it in my figurative sleep.  There are two very nice grocery stores right near the resort - a Winn-Dixie and a Publix - so I stopped and did my week's grocery shopping before continuing on to the resort property and checking in.  As always, the units are plush, nicely furnished and giant.  About 1300 square feet with two bedrooms, two baths, washer-dryer in the unit, large well-appointed full kitchen, dining area, living area, and screened balcony.

It was a charming week!  Since my best friend Linda had moved back to New England the previous year, I didn't get to see her but did meet up with the other two sisters a few times during my visit.  But while I was in Lowell MA to run the Baystate Half Marathon last October, I was able to visit with Linda and have lunch with her.

I met one of the sisters - Marcia - for lunch at Hunt's Oyster Bar in the historic St. Andrews section of PC.  This is becoming a tradition for me.  Can't go to Panama City without going to Hunt's.  The local oysters are large and succulent and sweet.  Oh, my!
Hunt's Oyster Bar in historic St. Andrews

Six for an appetizer, a dozen for the main course!

Marcia is a very active volunteer for the local animal spay/neuter and feral cats programs, so before driving to Hunt's, I stopped at the grocery store and bought two 25-lb bags of Purina One Cat Chow and two large boxes of Fresh Step Extreme Kitty Litter.  It was a small investment on my part to a very large and worthwhile program on Panama City's part and more specifically on the worthwhile work that Marcia does, much of it supported out of her own pocket.

After lunch, Marcia suggested a coffee house nearby that I might enjoy, so we said our goodbyes with plans to meet up later in the week, and I strolled on down the little main street to Saint Andrews Coffee House for a wonderful cappuccino and a peppermint brownie.

Data from my GPS watch.  running some of the roads in Legend Point

The next morning I got a  nice little run in, in the rain, then stayed close to "home" for the afternoon keeping warm and dry.  Linda's daughter lives in PCB and has a son who turns 1 year old this week, so I did a little shopping for a gift to take to his birthday party later in the week.  A quick texting consult with my daughter-in-law regarding suggestions for gift items and I headed out to the store.

The "spoils," purchased at the nearby Publix grocery store.
The sippy cup and snack cup are staples in my son's family.
The soft vinyl squeezy bath toys are similar to those that my
granddaughter totally latched onto.  A bait bucket!! What a
perfect toddler "tote around!"  The hinged lid opens with an
easy squeeze of the latch, simple for a toddler to deal with.

Everything stuffed inside the bucket and wrapped loosely
for a toddler to tear into.

Wednesday the memory of those succulent oysters was weighing on my mind so I drove back over to St. Andrews and had a progressive lunch...a dozen raw oysters at Hunt's, and then a bowl of white bean and ham soup at St. Andrews Coffee House followed by one of their cream cheese brownies and a cappuccino.

The birthday party late that afternoon was everything you'd expect for a one-year old and then, afterward, Sandy took me to a very nice restaurant called Salt Water Grill for dinner.  Its biggest feature is the enormous salt water fish tank that occupies the central portion of the building.  We feasted on red snapper and enjoyed the live pianist.  Very pleasant!

Thursday was chili cheese dogs for lunch at the Wreck Room by the pool of the Marriott so I took advantage of it and brought two dogs back to my condo and ate them in front of movie.  I could tell those guests who were snowbirds.  They were the ones sitting by the pool in shorts and swimsuits while the rest of us huddled in our jackets and sweaters in our heated condos.

Data from my GPS watch.  running my favorite 5-mile route in Legends Point

Friday morning I went out for a longer, 5-mile run and as I was chugging along, I heard a car pull up behind me going slowly and then pull up along side me.  It was Marcia!!  She was in the area delivering a Christmas gift to an elderly friend of her late mom.  What a surprise!  She made the "call me" hand signal then pulled away.

I finished my run and once I got cleaned up and had lunch, I called Marcia and Sandy and we made a plan to meet for dinner that night at Carraba's.

While I waited for them to arrive, I looked around at the gorgeous poinsettias which were everywhere, I watched the other diners as they arrived, so festive and animated, some dressed for a party, and I thought about how this holiday, like no other, brings people together. The three of us ate ourselves to beyond fullness, enjoyed some wine - and one chocolate martini (!) - and then shared some dessert among us.
I wasn't sure if I would be staying until Sunday or if I would get up the next morning and leave a day early, so we said our goodbyes, not knowing when we'd see each other again.  But I enjoyed the time that I did have with these two friends.  I will miss them.

In the end, the fact that I still had enough groceries left for one more day and evening, ultimately made my decision to stay until Sunday morning.

Nyla immediately claimed her spot under the tree
Saturday night, I packed everything but the few items I'd need to get ready in the morning and loaded the car.  I had a few grocery items left, but I knew they'd travel well in the car. Now just one more night's sleep and I'd be heading for home.

It was a nice visit, sad that Linda couldn't be there with us, a little sad that their mom had passed away the previous winter, and sad that this trip wasn't heading toward San Diego to spend the holidays with  my son and his family.

I left PCB at 7:30 AM and arrived home at 6:30 PM to a happy cat.  I grabbed a quick dinner and then got to work setting up the Christmas tree and decorating it, eager to lend some cheer to the empty house.  Happy Holidays!!


  1. Your kitty looks pretty happy to have that tree set up.

    It sounds as though you had a wonderful mini vacation. A nice place to stay, good food and good friends makes it about perfect.

  2. We had a new Mazda6 for a loaner last week while our Mazda3 was in the shop for some major work (ignition coils/variable tumbler/solenoids). We were impressed with the SkyActiv technology and I really liked the NAV Center multi-control knob on the console. We are looking into the CX-5 for a contender for our next purchase.

  3. Fleeter - love my Mazda CX9. Bigger than the CX5 by one row of seats, and silly big for a single person, but I wanted room to hold my bicycle, now that I no longer own a pu truck.