Friday, October 28, 2011

Mini-Vacay: Florida

This past weekend we were in Palm Beach County, Florida, for my best friend from college's wedding (I was a bridesmaid, just as Coll, the bride, was in our wedding).  We decided to take advantage of the warm weather since we were already paying for flights regardless and make it a mini-vacation by flying in Thursday night and leaving Monday night.  After watching flights for nearly six months; I booked our tickets in August for $180 each r/t (great deal considering in the previous months prices hoovered between $225 and $280) and with input from Coll, we flew into Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and drove about 45 minutes to Palm Beach Gardens.

Flights went well and we landed on time at FLL, around midnight ET.  We easily got our luggage (thankfully, although I'd been prepared and packed my BM dress, shoes and makeup in my carryon) and then went to pick up our rental car.  I'd done the "name your own price" bidding on and got an economy car for $109 for 4 days; not too shabby...except, that when we went to Budget to pick up our economy car, we were told they were low on vehichles and they were giving us a van.  It's okay, I thought, and I teased to Ben that driving a van would be good practice for kids (even though we currently both swear we'll never own one).  So, we go out to spot C-22....
...and only to find this monster beast! Uhhh, heck no.  I looked at Ben and said there's no way I'm driving this thing and he agreed he wouldn't feel comfortable either. 
 We went inside and I was ready to raise hell and demand a refund since our paperwork clearly said we'd signed up for an economy car. Luckily, the manager was really nice and completely understood. So then we ended up with this lil' guy; which I adored!
We had no issue getting to Palm Beach Gardens (the drive was super easy and quick at 1am) or checking into our hotel, Hilton Gardens Inn (if you ever go to PB, I recommend this hotel.  It was nice, good sized rooms, comfy beds and is in a great location. It's even within walking distance of the Downtown shopping complex. We paid $109/night, with the wedding block rate).  Friday morning we woke up and decided to venture out for breakfast.  The consierge suggested a placed called TJs for breakfast and pointed in a general direction.  After driving around, we finally realized she said "TooJay's".  We happily got a huge breakfast there for the whopping price of $19.42!  (After driving around for a few days, we finally realized this is a chain).
After breakfast we used our trusty little "Get Out in Jupiter" map, provided in our guest bags by the bride; to navigate our way to the beach.  Coll had recommended Marcinski Beach to us and we found it without any issue.  It was my first time touching the Atlantic Ocean; ever!!
After spending some time at the beach, we ended up going on what turned out to be a mini-bar crawl.  We were starving and found saw a place on our map called "Dive Bar".  We found it, sat down, and realized; uh, no it's not a dive bar.  It's a sushi bar and it's somewhat expensive.  We had a drink and left (Ben was mortified to have only one drink at a place; but my thought was "who cares? We'll never come back here anyways").  After talking with Coll, we decided that Guanabana's was a better option.  It was a bar on the water with good appetizers.  So we go there; except that while Ben is in the bathroom, I realize we're not there.  We're definitely at some random bar, The Square Grouper. But it was on the water and pretty nice; except that they don't serve food and after my mojito at Dive Bar, I had a decent buzz.  Again, we have a drink there and leave. Then (after driving past it and turning around) we finally find Guanabana's. 
On the water at Square Grouper
At Guanabana's!

After Guanabana's we hurried back to the hotel to shower and get ready for rehearsal dinner.  Rehearsal went well (although the wedding planner that can "come" with the church was an absolute OCD riot) and then we headed to Waterway Cafe.  Oh my gosh was this place amazing.  It was huge! And again, right on some water, so it was really pretty.  But better than the physique, was the food.  We had a limited menu to order from and Ben and I both opted for crab cakes; which were delicious! Post-rehearsal; we dropped the car off at walked to Downtown.  It was a mall/shopping/dining complex, about 100 yards from the hotel.  There's this chain bar/restaurant called Yardhouse, which had over 120 beers on tap.  Being the craft-beer fanatic Ben is, he was in Heaven!
I could definitely get used to a drive like this everyday!
Saturday morning the bridesmaids and I were dropped off my one of the girl's husband's at Frenchman's Reserve country club to get ready for the wedding (and where the reception was held).  Holy crap; this place was gorgeous!  We had hair and makeup done there.  Coll, looking absolutely stunning!!!!  I regret to say that I don't have any pictures on my camera of her (I may have to borrow some from her photograph when she posts them).  Coll had the coolest wedding dress ever and it was SO her.  It was a sweetheart, sequined and beaded cocktail dress (white), but had a long skirt (with pockets) that attached for a formal gown.  Coll wore it with a belt and lace bolero for the ceremony and beginning of the reception.  One of the best parts of the day was getting off the trolley to walk into the church.  It was like it hit Coll that this was really happening and she just started bawling.  It was so sweet and the emotion was so geniune and raw.  The ceremony was really touching (her priest from her hometown had flown down to FL to conduct it), pictures were short (again, regrettable, I don't think I got one of just Coll and I), and then the party started.
Drinks on the trolley; post ceremony
One of their "wow" factors was a cigar bar; literally a guy from Cuba and his uncle rolling fresh cigars in front of you.  Ben was head over heels; and he's not a big cigar smoker, he just thought it was cool. 
We enjoyed hanging out with the other BMs and their husbands/dates sampling all of the appetizers.  Coll and her husband did their first dance; which was choreographed and something they'd taken dance lessons for.  You could totally tell, they did a fabulous job!  They had a live band for their music, which was really good...and the night just kind of flew bye!  The bride and groom did a sparkler exit, which was fun and I'm exited to see how the pictures turn out! Overall it was such a beautiful wedding and it was great to have been a part of it! I am SO happy for them! 

Sunday morning we woke up, surprisingly not hung out, and went to Sugarcane Cafe for the post-wedding brunch.  Afterwards we drove along the coast for a while (since we were hanging out in Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter primarily; we wanted to drive down and see the technical West Palm Beach area) then we ended up at Duffy's to watch the Bears game.  Duffy's another local-chain and kind of like a Buffalo Wild Wings or something.
After Duffy's we headed back to the beach for a few hours before going back to the hotel and getting ready for dinner.  Funnily enough, Ben's best friend is also familiar with Palm Beach, so he suggested we try Carmine's Trattoria.  We both weren't sure we wanted a heavy meal like pasta, but after driving by and seeing the outdoor dining space, we decided it was worth it.  We had a delicious meal and wine...
...but of course, with me, a meal isn't a meal unless there's a dessert.  We drove to Palm Beach Ice Cream and had some pretty good ice cream before calling it a night.
Knowing Monday was our last day, we made the most of it.  Checkout was noon and we wanted to have time to go to the beach and shower, so we woke up early, got breakfast at Bagel Boyz (yum!) and ate breakfast on the beach.  It was so calm and serene. The perfect breakfast.
Once we checked out, we drove south to the Everglades.  Ben really wanted to see an alligator; so the night before we'd searched for air/fan boat tours and came across Loxahatchee Everglades Rides/Tours .  They were reasonably priced ($44/person for one hour) and had good reviews.  It was awesome!  We saw several alligators, as well as birds and plants.  The tour guide, Dan, was a riot but also really knew his stuff and told us some cool stories about what he'd seen.
(I asked to take a picture of the guide, Dan, and he insisted that I be in it with him)
After the tour we drove to the airport and had enough time to kill to grab a margarita and dinner to cheers the end of our vacation.  It was a great trip!

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