A Travellerspoint blog

Rhythm and Ribs!

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The annual St Augustine Rhythm and Ribs Festival was held on the weekend of Apr 5-7. We jumped at the chance to travel back to St Augustine and see some further sights we didn't see last time we visited. In the morning, we visited the Colonial Quarter which had recently opened. We created stamped leather necklaces in the leather shop and ate tapas in a Spanish Taberna before wandering around to enjoy some of the celebrations to mark the 500th Anniversary of the Discovery of Florida. There were Spanish dancers, Latin dancers, Mexican dancers, musical performances and street artists to name a few. This was all separate to the Ribs festival which was in another part of town not far away.

Onto the Festival! There were plenty of rides and activities for the children and we made good use of our multiride passes. Carys enjoyed her first ride on a real pony so much she wanted to stay on. When we were in Fort Worth, she had the opportunity to ride a pony but she was a bit unsure of what to do but this time she couldn't wait to get on. She even held on all by herself and her smile was magical!

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Carys also enjoyed the water bumper boats and a plane ride whilst Nigel enjoyed a pitching game that ditched a person into a barrel of water. His first pitch struck true to the surprise of the cold and wet person on the ledge!

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After some playtime and a beer or two we wandered down to the rib area as it was starting to get busy. The crowds were building for the main musical attraction and the lines for ribs were long and getting longer. There were 6 main rib stalls to try as well as a local rib stall, hot corn cobs, pretzels, pizzas, local beers and desserts.

First up was the Carolina Rib King and a chat with 'Mr Pig' for Carys.

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Mmmmmmmmmmmm, ribs!!!!

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After a visit to Bubbas for some soda pop we were off to try Camp 31 ribs from Alabama. As you can hopefully work out, these bbq stalls travel the country to bbq at festivals and enter competitions. At the end of the weekend, I would love to know how many kilograms of ribs were cooked! I can tell you though that there were 174 kegs of beer consumed!

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By this stage, the rib lines were over an hour long and the music was starting to heat up. We had found some fellow Aussie friends and we had camped out in a quieter area near the VIP tent. Our combined 6 kids were having a ball running around eating corn cobs and drinking soda pop whilst the adults caught up on events and finished our ribs. Out of the 7 ribs stalls, we managed to try 4 of them as the lines were getting ridiculously long. The ribs here are either smothered in sauce or cooked with a dry rub and served with a choice of black eyed peas, mac and cheese, coleslaw, Texas toast (which is just thick cut white bread, toasted) or collard greens (not a favorite of mine!) Brisket is also a favorite and when done right, it melts in your mouth!

Music wise, the music was getting louder and the crowd were getting pumped up. The headline act JJ Grey and Mofro were due on at any minute. By this stage, we'd already listened to a few bands including Yankee Slickers and Love Chunk. Strange names but great live music!

Carys was still having a great time but it was nearly 2100 and she hadn't slept all day so we called time and after a last beer and pretzel we headed home. Naturally, she was fast asleep before we'd driven 5 minutes down the road but we'd had a fab day. Can't wait for next year!!

Posted by dinige 12:39 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Beach time and Easter

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Another weekend rolled around and this time we decided to check out Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville Beaches. These are the nearest beaches to where Nigel is currently working and they are about a 35 minute drive away. Our first stop was a tavern called Poe's, a burger/tavern named after the famous author Edgar Allan Poe. It was quite busy the day we visited but Carys was enchanted by the colourful artwork out the front.

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After lunch we explored the famous Jacksonville Beach Pier. Being a weekend it was packed with fisher-people with all manner of tackleboxes and fishing esky setups. The water was cold and as you can see there was no surf. We all had a great playtime on the beach and even Dr Suess made an appearance!

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In the lead up to Easter, Carys participated in 3 egg hunts! The first was at The Little Gym, followed a few days later by a hunt in the Estate where we live. The second hunt was separated into age group sections and it was crazy! Some children had large buckets and parents breathing down their necks to get as many egg as possible which was intimidating for the some of the littler ones. Although she was a little hesitant at first, Carys had a great time and we also found a ticket for a larger gift basket. Hooray!

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Carys' final egg hunt was at home on Easter morning. We hid eggs and other Easter goodies around the house and Carys needed a bit of prompting before she found some of them. She was so excited she didn't know where to look next! We still have eggs and marshmallows now nearly two months later! Not long after this, Carys and I both came down with a cold and mine developed into Bronchitis so we spent a few weeks at home recuperating. Next up, Rhythm and Ribs!

Posted by dinige 11:54 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Exploring downtown Jacksonville

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Happy Birthday to me! Carys was very excited on my birthday morning and dragged me out to our dining room to show me the decorating that she did with Daddy. Later that day we went shopping for a special birthday cake and Carys told everyone it was my birthday. Lucky for me, I received a free dessert at lunch but as yummy as it sounded, a chocolate and peanut butter souffle was not as nice as it should have been. Peanut butter overload!! (Americans loooove peanut butter!) Not bad for a freebie though! We wandered around another shopping centre and we found an overpriced children's store with a lovely Carys sized vanity unit. Do you think she liked it?

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Carys Monkey chose a strawberry cheesecake for me and she couldn't wait to get it home! Must have been all that shopping! Note my age ;)

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Early March also saw Carys join The Little Gym as a Superbeast. She loves the Little Gym and can't wait for Thurdays so she can do more 'jumping and falling'. The kids are all around the same age and we have made some lovely new friends...Carys even received her first American friend birthday invite today!

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A surprise was waiting at home for Carys after Daycare the next day. A special chair just for her with her cartoon flavour of the month, Dora the Explorer. Carys was soooo excited she didn't know what to do first, sit on Dora or hug her. Sitting won. "Look Mummy Moo, Dora!!"

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On the weekend we headed into Downtown Jacksonville (about 25 mins away) to explore the Riverside Arts Market held under one of the main bridges in the city. Mostly it was a bit of art, produce and plenty of deep fried foods but the view was quite pretty.

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After the markets, we walked a short distance to check out the neighbourhood known as Five Points. It is called this because of a five pointed intersection and apparently it is a 'vibrant urban core' (it didn't seem very vibrant to me!). There was a wonderful park filled with beautiful trees and we even found a barkery to buy Eddie something very special for his 11th birthday!

The five point intersection of today
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A wall of one of the bars..beautiful mosaic work!
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Beautiful tree
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Happy 11th Birthday Eddie xx
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Next up, Atlantic Beach and Easter!

Posted by dinige 19:11 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Pirates, (yarrrr!) and Moving Day!


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To ward off the borings, we headed out to an indoor trampoline centre called Rebounderz where we could all jump to our hearts content (or for at least an hour!) Carys really enjoyed her jumping but being the little thrillseeker she appears to be, she wasn't interested in the toddler area so we headed straight off to the larger tramps.

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We also headed out to see some of the local shopping malls. There are shops everywhere here and most of the bigger ones have special trolleys for the little ones. Carys loves to drive the cars but gets a bit bored after a while so her special cart becomes our shopping trolley. She also loves to roll her tongue at the moment!

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We decided the following weekend to travel to a town called St Augustine about 40 minutes drive from us. St Augustine is known as the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States. It is also known as the home port of pirates who operated throughout the Bahamas! The historic old town has small meandering lanes, tiny shops crammed everywhere and filled with everything, beautiful architecture from the 1560s and beyond and of course, plenty of colourful characters and beautiful moss covered oak trees! The first colourful character we ran into whilst walking around was Maggie the One Dog Band and her friend Captain Ralph. Maggie was very well behaved!

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The main tourist street has plenty of historic and original buildings from the 1500-1600s. The school building can be toured and there is a small art shop behind the building. We were also interested to see that many of the historical buildings were built with a material called tabby. Tabby is created with sea water, crushed oyster shells, lime and sand and as you will see in the coming fort photos, it has certainly stood the test of time!

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After lunch we visited the Pirate Museum. It was a bit hard to take decent photos as flash photography was banned but inside you could see an original Royal Warrant against piracy from 1695, the Original Jolly Roger flag from 1850, an original and the only remaining pirate chest and original pirate props from movies like The Goonies, Pirates of the Caribbean and an original animation cell from the Disney movie, Peter Pan from 1963!

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Next up, we visited the Castillo de San Marco which is a large Spanish stone fortress built to protect and defend Spain’s claims in the New World. It's over 315 years old! We witnessed a canon firing and a pirate ship battle.

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Our final adventure for the day was a ride on the tourist trolley. There were 22 stops around the small centre of town but it was interesting to hear the history behind the sites. The original Ripley's Believe It or Not is located in St Augustine, as well as a fountain called the Fountain of Youth. We didn't visit this as Carys was asleep but I'll let you know if it works next time we go back! One of the original city gates was also on the tour. I'm not sure if the wooden gate actually works anymore though.

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Friday 01 March was our move in day. Apart from a rather large misunderstanding on behalf of the company that organised our furniture and personal effects delivery which resulted in Di and Carys wasting 4 hours of time waiting, the day went relatively smoothly. At last, we were in our permanent accommodation in the States! I won't be posting interior photos of our house or contents on the web but here is a picture of our new cars and our new house :)

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Posted by dinige 16:22 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Jacksonville, Florida (and a quick trip to Orlando)

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Jax day arrived and Wiley and all of our luggage was piled back into our hire car for the short drive back to the airport. Before we left we treated Carys to a Wiley stuffed doll and the doll came flat until it was stuffed from a machine with stuffing swirling around in a dome. Carys still remembers what happened to Wiley and in her words, "Man stuffed Wiley and Carys helped push pedal and Daddy put Wiley's clothes on!" So far, Wiley has been on nearly all of our travels since! After a sad farewell to Great Wolf we were off!

When we arrived at the rental car drop off, the car receiver took one look at our boot (which was chock a block full!) and asked us how we were getting to the terminal. When we told him we were catching the bus he offered to drive us straight there. The easiest way to describe just how big this airport is is to show you a picture DFW Airport Map Note the freeway running straight through the middle! The bus trip would have taken 10-15 minutes, not including luggage drag time and waiting time and this offer saved us a bucket load of time! We were expecting to be dropped off out the front of the terminal, search for a trolley, lug our bags again and wait in line for ages but oh no, we were dropped off right at the check in desk. Yep, they have check in desks at the kerbside where you step out of your car, check yourself and your bags in, step into the elevator and out the door again straight to the security screening area!

We cleared security and headed to the Admirals Lounge for a few hours before our final flight. Unlike the all inclusive airline member lounges in Australia, this lounge charged you for drinks and food but provided free Wifi (as we found out, so does the vast majority of businesses here). Unlike the Aussie lounges though, boarding calls aren't made and if we didn't randomly check the departure board, we would have missed our fight which conveniently boarded early. Fortunately though, we made our flight and settled in for the two hour flight to Jacksonville. large_P2100856.jpg

Unbeknownst to us, we had a welcoming committee at the airport to meet us. We were so surprised to see Nigel's younger brother Aidan and his American fiancée Meg that we forgot to take photos but here they are with their wonderful sign :)large_529531_460..662625850_n.jpg

We were also met by two work representatives and if it wasn't for all of our welcomers and their vehicles, we would have had a very expensive (and eventually refunded) taxi trip to our accommodation 40 minutes away as the driver that was booked for us was a no show. By this time, it was about 2130 and Carys was very sleepy but excited. We found our temporary accommodation and had a great time catching up with Aidan and Meg.

The next day was a day for exploring the area very close to our accommodation as we didn't have a car. Again, Aidan and Meg helped us out so we could pick up some essentials. The area around our accommodation was surrounded by supermarkets, restaurants, takeaways, specialty stores and more all within an easy walk. We said goodbye to our rellies and settled in to house and car hunting. As exciting as that was for us, I won't bore you all with the details.

Here is where Orlando comes into the picture. For those that aren't aware, Orlando is the home of Disneyworld, Epcot Centre, Seaworld, Wet 'N' Wild and Universal Studios just to name a few. It is also about 2.5 hours drive south of Jacksonville and the city we travelled to to buy our new cars. Here is a photo of Carys next to a Ram F1500, these cars are everywhere! Although they are huge, they don't appear to come with a gun rack for those who have asked.
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The dealer very graciously drove both of our new cars to us in Jacksonville a few days later to save us the embuggerance of driving back down to Orlando twice ourselves. One major thing we have noticed about the Florida people so far is their Southern hospitality. Everyone is soooo friendly here with a "yes ma'am" or "yes sir" for everything and military people here are respected and so highly regarded compared to our own.

America so far, to me anyway, is a land of opposites. Light switches operate in the opposite direction, cars are driven on the opposite side of the car and road, nobody uses clothes lines (everything is dried in a dryer), the internet is uber fast, things in general are cheaper than at home, the units of measurement aren't metric and the list goes on. To end this post and make up for the lack of photos compared to other entries, I'll add some photos of the strange things we have seen so far.

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Mmm, yummy!

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You read it correctly, sausage covered in pancakes

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My favourite so far! I'm waiting for Thanksgiving to find a whole turkey in a can to add to my photo collection!

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And finally the little parcel delivery van! Until next time, toodle-oo!

Posted by dinige 07:43 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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