Flashback Friday – Bike Sebring Race February 2014

 

Bike Sebring takes place every February at the famous Sebring International Raceway – the weekend closest to Valentine’s Day.  Hosted by The Rotary Club of Highlands County & the Highlands Pedalers Bicycle Club it is officially know as the Bike Sebring 12 Hour & Ultra cycling RAAM Qualifier.

All monies go to great causes as the Rotary Club of Highlands County uses proceeds from this event to support local charities.

We love to visit Florida in February – the weather is much more conducive to cycling than in the UK at that time of year although it can be cool and if you are taking part in either the 12 or 24 hour races you will need some warm weather gear for the early start/finish (6am) .

2017 registration is now available.  Click here for more information Bike Sebring

 

Advertisements

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens – Sarasota

Situated at 900 S.Palm Avenue, Sarasota, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are a little oasis very close to downtown.

William and Marie Selby moved to Sarasota in the early 1920s.  Marie loved nature and wanted to keep Sarasota beautiful and green.  When she died in 1971 she bequeathed her home and property to the community with the aim of forming a botanical garden and just 2 years later Selby Gardens were founded and opened to the public in July 1975.

We entered through the Welcome Centre, purchasing our admission.  From here we went into the Tropical Conservatory which was awash with many varied and beautiful orchids.  We went on to the Bonsai Exhibit – all labelled with when they were born! and then onto the Cycad Display.  Following the path we saw the Fern Garden and stopped to admire the Koi – with the buddhas and the Japanese bell.  We passed the Bamboo Garden and then onto Banyan Grove which was one of my favourites – the roots of the Banyan tree are absolutely huge, beautiful and fascinating.  We both hugged the hugging tree and explored the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden which had lots of colourful animal sculptures, bridges and steps, waterfall – great fun for all with an adult swing seat to sit in while watching the children play.

From here we continued along the short circular pathway, admiring the Desert garden, on to the Gazebo and then along to the Baywalk which hosted another large buddha and had lovely views across the Bay to Sarasota and Armand.  In the Mangroves we saw several birds including Pelican, Osprey and a Belted Kingfisher.  We rejoined the pathway and passed the palm and then on to the Payne Mansion where there was an exhibit of old botanical books and paintings plus living plants in jars which are used for research purposes.

We saw the display gardens – although it wasn’t really the right time of year to fully appreciate the Butterfly Garden.

A couple of hours soon passed by in a leisurely relaxed way.  There is a little shop selling garden themed items and plants.  There is also a little cafe for coffee and cake.

At just $20 entry for an adult we would highly recommend it.  For more info go to Marie Selby

2 girls, 1 week in a holiday villa in Orlando – Disney Springs

On our last full vacation day, we headed to Disney Springs to check out the changes.

We parked in the multi-storey Orange car park – undercover so keeping the car cooler for our return, lots of spaces and good location into Disney Springs by the bowling at Splitsville and the new Coca Cola World.

Starting our visit on the terrace of Coca Cola World (3 storeys of Coke branded products) we took in the view and got our bearings.

We made our way through the new undercover shopping arcade – to the outside stores.  What an absolutely fabulous setting, fountains, palm trees with pristine shop fronts.  We had a quick browse in Kate Spade before making our way to The Boathouse for our lunch reservation.

Lunch at the Boathouse was everything we had hoped for – great service, good quality food, nice selection and the crafted cocktails were the best!

After lunch we made our way to the Disney and Lego stores before going back to the new stores including Under Armour, Sephora, Zara and Ugg.

Taking a mid afternoon break, we went to Sprinkles for a cupcake desert.  I had been looking forward to trying the cupcake ATM out, however, it was out of order.  We went in and order a cupcake sundae – a cupcake cut in half with a scoop of ice-cream in the middle. For us, the product didn’t live up to the hype – I’m not sure we would return – particularly as there is Ghirardelli which serves amazing ice creams.

All shopped out and appetites well and truly satisfied we headed home, just ahead of a very  nasty storm!

2 girls, 1 week in a holiday villa in Orlando

The following day we headed out on the US 27 for Bok Tower Gardens as we were interested to see the newly opened Hammock Hollow.

Located to the right of the restaurant area as you go in, it is nice ly tucked away so the tranquility around the Tower is not spoiled.

Hammock Hollow is amazing – including a snake shaped sandpit, water fountains to play in, a word garden, fairy gardent with dress up accessories and stage, hammocks, pine garden.  With lots of shade, seating and picnic areas I think it will be very popular.

We also took.a turn along the main walk, through the wild garden and bog garden stopping briefly at the window on the pond.

We then headed to the Blue Palmetto Cafe for a lovely wrap and some beer battered fries.

After lunch we had a leisurely stroll up to the Tower, feeding the fish on the way.

Another excellent visit – highly recommended

2 girls, 1 holiday villa in Orlando, on a road trip!

We thought we’d have a change of scenery and with easy images coming to mind of cocktail drinking on fine white sand beaches we headed over to Sarasota on the Gulf coast.

Just 1 hr 40mins  along the I4 and I75 and we arrived at our destination – the Hyatt Regency.  We were able to check in early and then set off walking to funderstand somewhere nice to have lunch.   It was hot, the traffic heavy and noisy with a lot of construction.  After going round in a circle with sidewalks closed, our enthusiasm was fraying so we headed into the Ritz Calton to lunch as Jack Dusty’s overlooking the marina.  A mojito and lunch later we felt better.

Unfortunately we heard that all the beaches along the Sarasota area were affected by Red Tide which is an algae that kills fish and affects humans breathing – it also stinks.  The beaches are littered with dead fish.  With this in mind we headed off to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens instead.

What a haven, not massive but absolutely beautifully maintained with lots of interesting gardens and play areas – greenhouses, waterfalls, tree hugging, mangroves and wildlife – we while away a couple of hours.

Then buoyed up we decided to risk it and head over to the shops, bars and restaurants of St Armands Circle.  When we gor there we couldnt smell the red tide (although I was a little wheezy) and free parking was abundant.   Reminding us a bit of Winter Park but in a circle with statues we had a little stroll and browse before heading back to the hotel.

We ended the day with room service and sitting out on the balcony looking back across the marina towards Jack Dusty’s.

2 girls, 1 week in a holiday villa Orlando

Yesterday we had a Disney day.  As an annual passholder I was able to get my friend a 1 day hopper ticket for $79 plus taxes.

We started at Magic Kingdom.  You can tell it is low season as the monorail was on a real go slow and as we arrived they announced it was going out of service.

Bag check and added security and then we were in.  All themed for Halloween the first spot was Snow White with no.line!  After a photo call we headed down the Main Street and arrange some fast passes.  We took a turn on the Tomorrowland transit, had lunch and then went on Its a Small World , Pirates of the Carribean and Buzz Lightyear.  After a little retail therapy we decided to head over to Epcot.

We had just arrived at Epcot when the afternoon storm broke – we decided to sit it out in the car lot and then headed in.  This time on the way in we had a photo opportunity with Daisy Duck! We 7were visiting for the Food & Wine festival rather than the rides, howe’ve,  there were very few lines – we could even have queued to see Anna & Elsa in only 20 minutes.

 

2 girls, 1 week in an Orlando holiday villa

We woke really early – it was still dark – due to the 5 hour time difference ftom the UK and our early night.  I opened the blinds in my room to watch for the sunrise.

As the sun rose, I donned my swimming costume and stepped out to the pool for an early morning dip – the sun rise was beautiful and the temperature perfect – pool was like bath water without pool heat.  As I relaxed by the pool afterwards a couple of hot air balloons glided over.

After a light breakfast, quick showers and getting dressed we headed out to visit the Premium Outlet on Vinelands Avenue.  With more stores and an easy to follow layout we prefer this one to the one on International Drive.  We looked in Ugg, GAP, Saks on Fifth before moving across the road to where the bulk of the stores are.  Best buys were probably in Kate Spade with upto 80% off.

Then an early storm came in, starting with a few large drops of rain, the skies darkened dramatically and then opened.  We decided it was a good time to visit the food court for some lunch!  There are a couple of new franchises in the food court including Greenacre which makes from scratch salad bowls and a new sandwich stall.  After the storm passed, we completed our outlet shopping and then headed to Target on the way back to the villa.

Super Target at Rolling Oaks really sells everything and is clean and not so crowded at Walmart – although it is a little bit more expensive I think.

Starting to feel hungry our final stop was to order 2 take out pizzas from Papa Johns.  $6.99 each, cooked to order and delicious!

Still gettin used to the time difference we watched a little television Dancing with the Stars and an hour of the presidential debate before calling it a day.