Welcome to ORRRRLAAAAANDO!!!
This was my boomtastic greeting from long time friends as I arrived in the state for only the second time in my life. I remember very little about my first visit other than the heat, humidity and the company. I expected as much from this visit but much to my delight, I was wrong.
I never thought I would say that 79 degrees feels good but for this part of the USA, I would say it does. I am sure it got a lot hotter than that but my hosts got me started early in the mornings and we were indoors and exhausted by the heat of afternoon.
I knew that I liked the water but during this trip I have learned that I LOVE the water (even the rain)…
Saturday morning I found myself in a SUP meet up hosted by Paddleboard Orlando with about 30 other people (a large class for them). After a small newbie intro, we were all off (my hosts are old hats at this). I was every uneasy and unsure for the first of the paddle (even with shouts that I was a natural) and my feet ached quickly (which I was told was normal). I felt so silly not being able to relax my feet but falling when you are suppose to be standing up didn’t seem like an option (even if it’s only water).
By the halfway point of our paddle out, several people had fallen in (relieving my anxiety) and I successfully lowered myself onto my board, resting my feet in the cool water. That is when it all came together for me, almost as if I should have just fallen in myself and spared my feet from exhaustion. As much fun as it was to ride close to the water and dangle my feet in, I got back up (again successfully) and was determined to finish the paddle as I had started it.
My feet (and I) were totally relaxed on the paddle in and I enjoyed conversations with fellow paddlers (even managed not to notice the wake made by a passing boat). I was told that my sense of balance was impressive, solidifying that I could indeed be good at this SUP thing (which I had been wanting to try for ages)…
Sunday morning we woke with the dawn (well probably a lot earlier) and headed to the coast for sunrise on the beach and some kayaking. The sunrise was stunning even though the cloud cover was thick. I am always amazed at how clear creation is for me at the edge of land. Everything is silent except my awe at the way this world works. I enjoy the cohesion of simple thoughts with heavy subject matter (don’t ask me why)…
We drove to Thousand Islands Conservation Area to do our kayaking. I was excited to see if we would indeed see any manatee or dolphin. I had little to no problem mounting the kayak and paddling out and was eagerly looking forward to the silencing of mind. While waiting for our third, my host and I paddled down a narrow channel and I soon found out that my mind would be silent accept for ridiculously bad Sy Fy movie channel plots…
Even though I am in the land of gators, I haven’t seen any (ok one and it was tiny) but my mind manifested a Lake Placid sized monster tipping my kayak and devouring me, or an Anaconda slithering into the water, wrapping itself around and suffocating me. Why couldn’t I be manifesting the kayak getting bumped by a manatee snout? “CC, you have seen too many movies” I began to tell myself and my host. We paddled back into wider water and with the arrival of our third party, I forgot about the giant gators and snakes.
The waterway continued to open up as we paddled tward the river and I began to really enjoy the ability to dip my feet in the water as we went along. One of my hosts hopped out of her kayak to take a dip in the water. It was then I realized how shallow the water was we were in (very shallow). I had to laugh out loud at myself as I realized what I thought was merky deep water was, in fact, the bottom of the river bed. SMH. I am pretty sure in water that shallow I could see whatever giant monster was coming and at least attempt to defend myself 😉
For the most part we were the only three out there and before long we were enjoying the wide open paddling, drifting as the current increased and watching the mullet jump out of the water. Pelicans swooped down from perching on the “no wake” signs for lunch and were soon followed by dolphins 🙂 I never really expected to see any and man, oh man, am I glad I was wrong. The first was one sensed us and quickly swam away but the second set gave us a bit more of a show. We stopped paddling so as not to scare them away and just watched them speed up to catch food and slow down to catch a breath. That has to be one of the most real, raw and beautiful sounds I have ever heard. I don’t think there is anything more exciting than seeing something like that, in nature, where it it suppose to happen. I didn’t cry (which is pretty shocking for me) but it was unforgettable. It would have been icing on the cake to have seen a manatee too but I wasn’t going to get greedy after a sighting like that.
Kayaking, for me, was harder that SUP, perhaps because I am a lot stronger in my lower body than upper, and I was more than ready to call it a day after a couple of hours.
The ride home was long enough for a cat nap and I woke up to the sounds of heavy rain on the windshield. It continued like that most of the afternoon and I sat in the naturally lit t.v. room with a cup of tea enjoying the rain fall in the side garden. The back yards in this neighborhood, although small, are full of brilliant/green/leafy plants and trees. If one is going to be stuck inside watching heavy rainfall, this is one of the best spots I can think of 🙂
I wouldn’t be doing this trip justice if I didn’t mention the incredible cuisine I had been exposed to…
My very first meal here in Orlando was at a place I had been “warned” about…Tako Cheena!! Ladies and Gents, this place lives up to the hype! I have never had anything more delicious than the Panko Crusted Cod tako. My hosts have their favorites…Indian Yellow Curry Tofu and Asian Braised Beef but by my second visit, I knew that the Cod would be my go to tako! TC is a prefect blend of noise (great tunes and super friendly staff), art (unique, local pieces (including a beautiful 4×4 painting of Yoda)) and intimacy (about 10 4tops and some window seating) and i highly recommend it!!
My hosts were eager to try another tasty place for the first time and given the name Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria (I’m a huge tea fan) they decided to go with me 🙂 It did not disappoint. We each had a unique sandwich, side and something from their tea selection. I chose The Cobb (turkey, tomato, melted blue cheese, watercress, red onion, bacon & avocado), the spicy turkey mac&cheese and a small pot of Monks Blend tea. Delicious is an understatement! Here we too found a small, artsy eatery with a super friendly staff! GEEK ALERT: There was something about the vibrant, smiley host Sam so I asked her a few questions what do you know…she is part of Skill Focus: Burlesque, a troupe that dresses up as Sci-Fi and Fanstasy characters as their show…Now, I didn’t catch one of the shows BUT in her character profile picture she is dressed like Han Solo so I am pretty sure they are legit! I marvel at the odds I have of finding something geektastic everywhere I go 😉
Much to GiGi’s delight, I had my first official taste of Cuban cuisine Sunday after kayaking at Roberto’s Little Havana in Cocoa Beach. I chose the Chicharron de Pollo with black beans, rice and maduros and it was unbelievable! I also couldn’t leave without having a taste if Cuban coffee. That meal kept me full well into the evening 🙂
My hosts had to return to work today so I am enjoying my last day here in their beautiful backporch dining room/t.v. area getting back in the groove of reading/writing, with a view of the back yard (with lake canal) and to the sounds of Joey and Shelly (their birds).
I realize this is a lengthy post so if you stayed till the end, I appreciate it!
Happy Monday from Orlando,