Really smooth travel for both me and my mom heading out, and for me heading back as well.
The bed I used in the guest room at my aunt & uncle's has a t'DoL blanket on it!
It was cool in Florida when we got there - 60s by day and 40s by night, which made the adjustment a lot easier for me.
Lots of visits to SeaWorld for free because my aunt works there. Got to feed stingrays, and really enjoyed the Christmas shows. Amazing ice skating, wonderful fireworks, intricate choreography with lit trees, but my favorite show was the one full of Christmas carols and the true Christmas story.
Also at SeaWorld, the neat 3d 180-degree panoramic movie of views from a sea turtle's perspective on the shore and on the sea. Saw it twice and loved it both times.
A parade with lots of golf carts bedecked with Christmas lights at the gated senior community where my aunt & uncle live. Only in Florida, ha ha!
My uncle (mom's brother) came down from Virginia and spent over a week in Florida with his sisters.
The tons of time my wonderful cousin Diane spent with us, despite the sad things happening with her mother-in-law.
An entire post should be dedicated to the amazing eating that took place. I got royally spoiled on my aunt's wonderful cooking and all sorts of Puerto Rican or Cuban deliciousness. Can't forget the endless barrage of sweets and candies...here I thought my mom had a sweet tooth!
Fabulous weather for the four of us who took a three-night trip to the Florida Keys. Lots of fun shops in Key West to drool over. Nor can I exclude the delight of this here Key Lime Pie lover coming to the Keys and getting to savor local Key Lime pie, fudge, jellybeans...
I got to see a few Magnificent Frigatebirds at the Keys, a species I'd never imagined I would see! Also startled to find wild (non-native) iguanas running around.
A definite highlight was taking the glass-bottom boat tour at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo, which provided my first chance to see a natural coral reef with many kinds of fish, and even a single green sea turtle!
Found a fantastic Cuban restaurant in the Miami area we all pigged out at. They had a great bread pudding, which I haven't had in ages, and reminds me of my grandparents. (So I must also mention my aunt's fabulous rice pudding, which I ate in copious quantities during my visit as well.)
A great day at Busch Gardens in Tampa, which also had some very nice Christmas shows, and fantastic decorations. And I got to see a red-ruffed lemur active and running, as well as a really good view of a cheetah chasing a lure.
Visiting Discovery Bay (a Christmas gift from my aunt) also deserves a post of its own. Up until then, I thought the aviaries at Busch Gardens and the San Diego Zoo were the bestest places...no longer! I could live in the one at Discovery Bay. I'd want to get a job there, except the Florida heat would destroy my health in very short order, if even the winters are too hot for me. And then there was the immense fun of snorkeling at the Grand Reef, a huge man-made area full of reef fish, stingrays (some quite large), all with no peril of getting stung by jellyfish and the big sharks safe on the other side of the glass. All it needed was a sea turtle or two for absolute perfection. ;)
A special mention should be made of the 30% off at all SeaWorld and Busch Garden shops, thanks to my aunt working there, and which just happened to be a special 40% off when we went to Discovery Cove. Very nice!
Another big highlight was getting out to Blue Springs State Park and getting to see a bunch of manatees in the wild, up close and clearly, which is something I've wanted for years. We went kayaking and didn't spot any of them in the river due to how dark and deep it was, but did get to see gators. Can't have a trip to Florida without wild alligators!
I spent far too much at their gift store, but where else in the world will I find a shop stuffed with manatee items?! It's a good thing I don't live anywhere close!
This has gotten more than long enough, but hopefully conveys at least in part how wonderful my vacation was. Thank you, God, for such a wonderful time, and wonderful relatives!