Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Panama City Visit

Gasparilla Half Marathon is done. Now it's on to Panama City and Marriott's Legends Edge, my favorite place to "hang out" for a few days. I have local friends to hang out with, go out to eat with, scarf down oysters with. And the little area of Bay Point is a nice, safe place to get some running miles in.

I had a large, late lunch on the road from Tampa to Panama City, thankfully, because I really didn't want to stop at the grocery store before checking into my Marriott condo. Fortunately, I had some snack foods and fruit with me in the car. But I did buy a bottle of wine at the little marketplace on the Marriott property. I was wiped out! Poor night's sleep the night before, 4:30 AM wake-up, a half marathon, then a 400 mile drive to get here. So sipping some wine and snacking while watching TV was the perfect way to end a very long day.

The next morning I slept in until 10 AM! I finally dragged myself out of bed and to the grocery store. I was motivated to do not much else for the rest of the day.

But on Tuesday morning, I met long-time high school friend Linda for brunch at a really cool cafe. I had avocado toast and "basted" eggs, which are sort of like shirred eggs. We chatted and lingered over our meals for a long time, until she finally had to leave to run some errands. Later that day, I walked over to the "happy hour" at the center and brought a beer back to my room to go with my dinner.

We had such a nice visit on Tuesday, we decided to get together again on Wednesday for lunch. She met me at a nearby parking lot where I could leave my car and then we drove, first to the Humane Society and Operation Spay Bay, where I dropped off a big stack of old towels I'd brought with me from home. They'd posted at their Facebook page that they were in dire need of towels. Then, just because we were there, we went in and checked out the cats waiting for their forever homes. Afterward, Linda took me to a cute little tea room in the historic Panama City district, Willows Tea Room.

Linda and me at Willows Tea Room

It was a pleasant little place and the menu offered some traditional English pub-style food (not really tea room fare). I had a Cornish Pastie and Linda had their carrot soup.  Afterward, we drove along the piers in Panama City and then followed the coast through historic Saint Andrews before returning to my car. Before parting company, I mentioned that I was having lunch on Friday with a running friend and asked Linda to join us.

I'd made plans to join Linda's younger sister Sandy for a late lunch at Pier Park on Thursday, and to stroll along the pier and poke around in some of the shops at the south end, near the water. It's something she and I did one other time while I was here and I really enjoyed that leisurely pace.  I got a short little run in and then drove over to Pier Park to meet up with Sandy. We ate at The Back Porch and then brought our leftovers down to the beach to feed the seagulls.

This photo is not zoomed or cropped; it's exactly as it appeared
in person, the gull's relationship to me exactly as it appears. . I could have reached up and
petted these gulls, they were so close and so unafraid of me.

What was so fun about doing this was that not one single seagull was in sight but once Sandy started tossing a few pieces of food into the air, a seagull floated in from the land side, followed by a couple more, then a few more, and then soon we had a whole flock of them.  They were literally floating just inches over my head, kept aloft by the offshore winds, effortlessly, hovering in place and swooping in each time Sandy tossed a tidbit into the air.  So cool!

Sandy feeding the gulls
Gulls fed and happy now, we went back up to Pier Park and bought a Starbucks to enjoy while we browsed the shops a bit. I'm not much of a shopper, but it is fun to poke around with Sandy, see what's for sale and chat up the shop owners who are eager for the company.

The next day - Friday - was my last full day in Panama City. A fellow runner and friend who lives in nearby Santa Rosa Beach made plans to join me for lunch at St. Andrews Bistro on Friday. But first, I must have oysters with Marcia, the third of the three sisters. She has a very busy schedule but we agreed to meet at Hunt's Oyster Bar in St. Andrews at 11:00 AM, right at opening time. There was already a line waiting to get in before 11 AM, which is typical. But we got in, bellied up to the oyster bar, and downed a dozen oysters each while getting caught up with each other. It was too short a visit! But I did have two large bags of cat food and two giant tubs of kitty litter in the back of my SUV to give her. She's very active with local cat rescue programs, including Operation Spay Bay, and I'd rather donate items to her, knowing they'll be very appreciated.

Me, Linda, Marcia at Hunt's Oyster Bar

The oysters were only the appetizer. At noon, I met my friend Linda and my running friend Sally at St. Andrews Bistro just a couple of blocks down from Hunt's for lunch. As much as I tried not to let the conversation veer off onto running topics, it was inevitable. My friend Linda was truly amused by our cult-like conversation. She had to leave to go visit her grandson, so Sally and I stayed and enjoyed each other's company for another hour over cups of coffee.

Short 2 mile run; data from my Garmin GPS watch

My visit in Panama City was coming to an end. I returned to my Marriott condo and started packing up my things. Saturday morning I got another short run in and then loaded my car, checked out of the Marriott, and drove to Gulf Shores, AL where I have another half marathon the next day.

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