Friday, May 24, 2013

A walk down memory lane ... in Daytona Beach, Florida

"Minutes after entering Ponce Inlet, we found ourselves in shallow waters. Every which way we turned, the depth sounder alarm, set at 7 feet, beeped nonstop. We slowed to a stop trying to figure out how to get out of our current position. We were in front of some restaurant and felt all eyes on us. A SeaTow boat immediately (a sign that the area is quite shallow) showed up.  It would cost $10/ft to be towed, but we were already on the phone with Boat/US with whom we are members.  The gentleman on the SeaTow boat was nice enough to tell us that we had 5 feet of water at our stern, and if we backed straight out, we should be all right." Read More

That was our log from March 2001. It was our second day cruising in Florida waters (the first day we were with a hired captain). We were newbies, and had no idea navigating Ponce Inlet required local knowledge. Below is a Google map picture showing how much shoaling occurs in that area.
Ponce Inlet
Last week, we got the chance to revisit our old stomping grounds - Halifax Marina in Daytona Beach, where we had spent a month that year. Conveniently located within a park, the city marina is complete with a boat launch, West Marine, boat brokerage, boat lounge, and restaurants. It is also within walking distance to the lovely downtown, library, ball park, shops and restaurants. What a great location to walk and bike!

We do miss this lovely and well-run marina. We had met some fun people and had a wonderful time here. We encountered just one problem. Our wooden dock was infested with roaches. We discovered that after coming back from a pot-luck get together at the boater's lounge. It was the first time we were out at night. Can you imagine stepping on not one but tons of roaches? That crunching sound was downright gross... I didn't dare to go out at night again. Despite spraying the lines with chemicals, some did get on the boat. We had to bug bomb the boat twice to get rid of them critters.

Fuel dock
Our home (wooden dock with pilings) for a month
Floating docks
Most people come to Daytona Beach for the NASCAR races, the infamous spring break and of course the 23 miles of wide sandy beaches where you can actually drive on the beach. We stopped by the Daytona International Speedway and grabbed a bite to eat at our favorite burger place - Brickyard Lounge for some of the best burgers and fries in town. 
Daytona International Speedway
car display

Boardwalk to the beach at Lighthouse Point, Ponce Inlet
Then we drove to Ponce Inlet, about half hour south of Daytona Beach. We like the quiet beaches here at Lighthouse Point Park. Amenities here include paved or beach parking, bathrooms, outdoor rinse-off showers, picnic tables, nature trails and a fishing pier. There is  no food concession, so bring a picnic basket or get a bite to eat at Inlet Harbor or other restaurants in the vicinity.
Beach at Lighthouse Point Park, Ponce Inlet

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spring in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Keukenhof Tulip Garden
more tulips at Keukenhof
Windmill at Keukenhof
This weekend last year we were in Amsterdam. We had taken the Thaly train (book early to get better fares) from Paris, and the journey took a little more than 3 hours. The Dutch speaks English, but nowhere was English written anywhere at the Amsterdam Central Station. Fortunately, the signs were quite intuitive. When we emerged from the train station, we were greeted with lovely historic towering buildings. And complete chaos - trams, buses, bicycles and tourists everywhere! The canal was bustling with what looked like rush hour traffic. A tourist office next to the train station provided some help in getting around, but don't expect any freebies. The Dutch are shrewd business people. Nothing is free. The toilets, maps, even speaking with an agent (to buy train tickets) come with a fee.
only thing that is free - public urinal
We couldn't resist snapping this plaque!

You're more likely to be run over by a bicycle than by a car
Per my brother's recommendation, we stayed at a hotel outside of town. It took about half an hour to get there by tram; we enjoyed mingling with the locals and immersing in the culture. Since it was spring, we planned a visit to the famed Keukenhof Garden to see the awesome tulips. We lucked out on the weather, and spent a fabulous day at this incredible destination. Getting to the Schipol Airport (to pick up the bus to the garden) from our hotel was kind of confusing.  Make sure you carry some change because many train stations are automated and have nobody manning the stations. For some reason, our credit cards did not work in their machines.
houseboats on one of many canals around Amsterdam
Red Light District
we didn't go in, but you can get "medical" seeds here
Liberal Amsterdam can be a culture shock to some people. It is a complete antithesis to aristocratic, sophisticated Paris. We love Amsterdam because it is such a fun, vibrant, exciting city, where anything goes. The people are very friendly, and we felt safe walking all around town and taking the tram back to our hotel in the evenings. We savored some delicious Chinese food in Chinatown, and brought home some wonderful Gouda cheese and dried fruits that we picked up at the Albert Cuyp Market. All in all, it was an excellent getaway from Paris.

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