Ahoy! Evan and I are back from sunny Florida! I didn’t blog while I was away and we did a whole lot (and ate a WHOLE LOT) so I have a ton of adventure recapping I wanna do.
My dad and stepmom Mona have a condo/townhouse in Bradenton (gulf side) and they may not have it forever so Evan and I figured we should take advantage of not having to pay for a hotel while we can. The last time we did a Florida vacay was in March 2013 so we were due. It’s only about a two and a half hour flight from Toronto (if you fly direct, we had a stopover in Atlanta on the way over and in Detroit on the way back) and flights are also relatively cheap, so it’s an easy vacation. It cost less for both of us to fly, with a rental car, than it does for just me to fly to BC.
Anyway, we arrived around noon in Tampa last Friday, picked up our rental car (and we got a free upgrade with a sunroof so that was a nice bonus) and made our way south to Bradenton. I was so happy to be in the sunshine!!!
And see the palm trees!
We had wintry weather here the week before we left so I was excited to escape it (I heard it was beautiful here while we were gone though, of course).
Our first stop was Target.
We no longer have Target in Canada (it was only here for a year, just a taste!!) and I am sad about it. Even though it wasn’t quite the same as the US Target when it came to prices and selection (this is actually why I think Canadian Target failed – they were always low on stock) they still had stuff I liked that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I really like their purses, for example. We happened to be visiting on Black Friday and I got a great deal on a new Fitbit (the Alta), a new purse (which is the same as a black purse I already own from target but in brown) and some other random things and various trashy snacks including candy corn Oreos.
I can not believe how many different types of Oreos there were! We have a few now but nothing like that. We also stocked up on our beer for the week, which we hardly drank any of because we were so full from all our eating. Oh well, I’m sure my dad will appreciate arriving at the house this winter to a stocked beer fridge.
Our next stop was the Olive Garden!
GIVE ME ALL THE SALAD AND BREADSTICKS!! And once again, the Olive Garden used to be in Canada and is now gone. I miss it and was happy we were able to fit it in. We picked up Jimmy John’s for dinner and spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking and hanging around the house.
Saturday morning we were up early to drive to Orlando to meet up with Paula and Fabian. Paula and I met through our blogs and decided that we wanted to be real friends, so we met for the first time in 2013 when Evan and I were in Florida.
And Paula and Fabian also came out to visit us last spring.
I love how Paula has switched up her hair a bunch of times over the years, but mine is still the exact. same. She is an adventurous minx.
I was really excited to see them both. I freaking love Paula, Fabian too, but Paula is like my kindred spirit and I’m so glad our blogs brought us together. I’m sad she lives so far away, but it is a good excuse to visit Florida in the winter.
We first stopped at Bradenton Donuts because we heard they had the best donuts of all time and we didn’t want to show up empty handed.
Definitely a bit of a dive, but it’s the donuts that matter.
I actually do think they’re the best donuts I’ve ever had. They’re made with potato flour or something. I don’t know but they’re spectacular and I wish I was eating them right now.
If you read Paula’s blog the rest of this might be a repeat for you, but hopefully you still enjoy yourself. Since we showed Paula and Fabian such a great touristy time when they were here, they wanted to return the favour. We dropped our stuff off at their place and then we all headed out to Black Hammock to take an air boat ride on Lake Jessup, one of the most gator-infested lakes in Florida!
The lake was actually super beautiful and I wanted to swim SO BADLY, but I also didn’t want to die. Our tour guide was saying that problem gators are brought to this lake from other places in Florida so, much danger on the gator front. Fabian told us that some guy didn’t believe the gators in the lake were that big of a threat so he tried to go swimming and got his arm bitten off. I don’t know if that is just an urban legend but needless to say there was no swimming here.
We had some time before our boat left so we checked out the area a bit, had a drink, and took a bunch of pictures (another reason I love getting together with fellow bloggers, they are also all about the pictures!)
At first I didn’t understand how that gator cutout worked and I put my head between the gator’s jaws, which meant my chest area was sticking out directly above the head spot. Thankfully someone told me to get myself together before they got a picture so that embarrassing image of my nungas isn’t floating around.
But this embarrassing picture of Evan is.
He kills me.
And from the front.
Then it was air boat time.
I have always wanted to ride in one!!! Paula and Fabian were making my dreams come true. I did not realize that air boats are so loud you have to wear ear protection.
We only saw a few gators, I guess because of the time of year, but still, the ride was awesome. I loved it. It is amazing the places you can go on an air boat that you wouldn’t be able to on a boat with a regular outboard motor. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a boat that had to stop to remove tangled weeds from the prop, but that was not a concern on this ride.
We were able to just go right in between the trees in the super swampy areas like it was nothing.
Our tour guide was awesome and very informative and told us a bunch of facts that I can’t remember now. He was also a character so I quite enjoyed him and his magnificent American accent.
Crossing the lake the boat went so fast that when I opened my mouth to say something to Evan a bunch of drool came flying out. Attractive.
Can you spot the sneaky gator in the grass?
Here’s a baby gator that was just chilling by the shore.
Just a little muffin.
After our ride we all got a chance to hold a baby gator.
Fabian and his beautiful smile.
Evan was a definite no on the gator holding. We had the chance to hold a crocodile in Cuba too and he took a hard pass on that also. Evan does not appreciate a reptile of any kind.
The Black Hammock restaurant is right there so afterwards we hit that up to eat some gator. I guess hanging around all the gators makes you hungry for gator. It was amazing in there, I felt like I was in Crocodile Dundee.
It was also two for one margaritas so you know that’s a good time. Evan got the catfish nuggets to start and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a fan – I had some really terrible catfish once and haven’t tried it since, but I ended up really liking it!
10/10, would eat catfish again.
If you’re going to eat alligator I feel like this is the place to do it, so Evan and I ordered a two 1/4 pounds – blackened and cajun.
My first time trying gator and I have to tell you it was delicious. It tasted similar to chicken but was chewier. I really enjoyed it and would also eat it again. Though probably not in Canada ’cause I don’t think it would be our forte…
Fun, fun times with Paula and Fabian!
And that was just the beginning of our shenanigans!