Northeast Regional Park Polk County Florida

Less than half a mile from our place in the sun, situated on US27 Going South from the US192 you will find the Northeast Regional Park – and what a hidden gem.

The park is open from 7am to 10pm.  There is ample parking available.

Down at the bottom end of the park there is a wonderful lake – there were a few people fishing this morning.  The water is clear and you could see the fish.

There are several picnic pavilions with BBQ facilities

3 walking trails – all less than 1 mile in distance, taking you through the oaks and Spanish Moss.  There were plenty of dragon flies, crickets and birds around today.

Moving up the park there are 2 dog parks – separated depending on size of dog!  With dog hurdles and doggie bags with waste disposal units right there.  There are even 2 gates to enter the parks to avoid any runaway pets!

2 basketball courts, soccer and American football pitches, tennis courts and a fantastic children’s playground with climbing frames, swings, slides and even adult seat swings for those watching the kids play.

And it’s all free…..

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Panera Bread

Panera Bread is a chain of restaurants through out the USA specialising in freshly baked breads, sandwiches, paninis, soups, salads and pastries.  The ethos of Panera Bread is that food should be clean.   No artificial colours, preservatives, sweeteners or flavours.  They have vegetarian, gluten conscious and protein rich options.

We tried it for the first time this week.  Chosen from their You Pick 2 menu. The ‘perfect pair for 500 calories or less’. With this menu you can combine any two items – 1/2 salad – 1/2 sandwich – cup of soup – 1/2 mac & cheese – 1 flatbread.  I chose a cup of creamy tomato soup (210 calories) and a 1/2 turkey breast sandwich (220 calories).  My husband chose the black bean soup (150 calories) and the Mediterranean quinoa salad (220 calories).  They were delicious and fresh.

The menu is very informative regarding ingredients and calorie values.  There is easy to find nutrition and allergy information.  There is also a Panera Kids menu featuring organic options.

You can avoid the line by ordering online for ‘rapid pick-up’ at http://www.panerabread.com 20160416_180316

Lake Eola Park – Downtown Orlando

Today we revisited Lake Eola Park in Downtown Orlando.

Parking on E Washington Street was free this Sunday so we were able to park on the street right next to the Swan boat rentals.

You can rent a swan boat to pedal round the lake for $15 per half hour.  Today we chose to promenade round the lake which is just under 1 mile to complete.

There is lots to see – the downtown backdrop, swans (we saw 3 different breeds), ducks, egrets, geese and even an osprey.  Many of the birds were nesting.  There are also many sculptures and statues around the circuit.  We saw a group performing yoga and another group meditating.  Lots of dog walkers and joggers.

On Sundays there is a farmer’s market from 10am till 4pm.  There are many different stalls – jewelry, art, pottery, fresh fruit and vegetables, houseplants and herbs plus food and drink stalls.  Today we tried vegan kale chips – Texas BBQ flavour was the winner, we had freshly cooked corn on the cob, empanadas and tried a corn pattie with mozzarella.

We watched the turtles and fishes for a while before we completed our circuit, the church bells chiming in the background.

Fabulous start to the day. Recommended for the whole family (there’s picnic areas and children’s play areas too).

 

Skip the line – car rental

Yesterday we flew into Orlando International.  We landed within minutes of 3 other jumbo jets Aith another just behind us.  Immigration was full and we were held on the plane for 40 minutes before we could disembark.  We then joined the back of a long queue to clear immigration, then customs and then had to wait for tram to take us across to the terminal building.

I still left smiling though!  I was smiling because I had checked in for my Alamo car rental before I left the UK.  I then clicked on the skip the line button and was able to register my drivers licence details and credit card from home.

So yesterday I was able to skip the line, we went directly to the car garage and within minutes had selected our car of choice and left the building.  It made me very happy!

Rocco’s Tacos Orlando

Last Summer when visiting with a girlfriend we were recommended to try Rocco’s Tacos on Restaurant row.

We went on a Tuesday and found out that it was Taco & Tequila Tuesday!!   We had the ‘endless’ tacos – although in hindsight this was an error for us as we couldn’t manage more than the first plate full – it was delicious and fresh.  My friend had a mojito and I had a traditional Mexican Soda (full of sugar and colour!).  The service was good.

We sat out on the deck overlooking the lake and the Orlando Eye – there were signs about alligators although we didn’t see any.  We did see lots of lizards.  I imagine in the peak season you might need bug spray to sit out.

The restaurant is very themed – interesting decor with ample parking.  Easy to find on   W.Sandlake Drive.

Their website states “Rocco’s Tacos offers a true taste of Mexico within a fun casual environment. When you first step through the door you become part of the atmosphere, joining a diverse crowd enjoying flavors picked directly from Mexico.”  I would agree that it is definitely a fun casual environment.  http://www.roccostacos.com/#!orlando

We enjoyed it and I would definitely dine there again and feel happy to recommend it.

Throwback Thursday -Silver Springs

A few years ago when we were visiting Florida, we had some guests that wanted to stay and their dates overlapped ours, so we took the booking and decided to spend a few days in a different part of Florida.  We chose the Ocala area where we stayed in a fantastic bed and breakfast (sadly now closed) for a couple of days over Thanksgiving.

While we were there we thought we would take advantage to visit Silver Springs Theme Park – it was the original Florida theme park open before Disney World and also one of the largest artesian springs in the world.  I’m told that for decades it was Florida’s most popular tourist destinations.When we arrived we were instantly taken back in time – it was a gentle, natural Florida experience.  There was no hurry, lots of vegetation, beautiful flower displays and some wildlife.  No queues, few people (although back in the heydays of the 60s there were 4-5000 visitors a day).

In the past lots of movies were filmed there including Tarzan and Creature from the Black Lagoon.  We loved the stories about the movies while we enjoyed the boat rides.  We even saw some of the famous monkeys which had been released during one of the Hollywood filming sessions and never returned to captivity.

There were a few ‘rides’ – not in a Disney magic way, more of a rustic, nostalgic way.  There were animal attractions including White Alligators and Florida Panthers.  The key attractions of the park though were the glass-bottom boat rides.

We were lucky that we just caught the start of the Silver Springs Christmas Festival Of Lights when the park was decorated by over a million holiday lights.

My lasting memory of the day was standing in the knot of the palm tree which was said to lead to 5 years of good luck.

The Springs Today

Now owned by Florida’s park service, they have been working to restore it to a more natural state.  The rides and animal attractions are gone, but you can now enjoy the walkway that overlooks the head spring.  Here the water is still blue and crystal clear, making spotting the fish, turtles and alligators very easy.

The Park Service also continue to run the glass bottom boats and have added kayak rentals.    Entry to the park is $8 per vehicle with an additional fee if you wish to take the boat tours. All the information that you need should you wish to visit is available at http://www.silversprings.com

I’m really pleased that we got to visit while it was still running, I can imagine what it was like in it’s heyday.  I’m equally pleased that it is now being returned to it’s natural state for generations to come to enjoy.