Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Myrtle Beach for Mom & Dad

Myrtle Beach is an exceptional destination for families. With a variety of options for entertaining the kids, the Grand Strand has tucked away a little secret that Mom, Dad & Grandparents should discover. The Market Common is an urban village, positioned off Farrow Parkway and is a lovely location for shopping, dining, strolling, catching a movie and so much more! See http://www.marketcommonmb.com.
From the strategically placed fountains to the colorful and well-maintained landscaping, visitors are encouraged to linger in rocking chairs, on benches or at a variety of tables & chairs. The shoppers can relax as they take a break from exploring everything that the Market Common has to offer.
There are easily recognizable chain stores, along with adorable boutiques that proud local owners have established. The streets represent a mini-town that is clean, upscale and pleasant. The residents and guests of this charming community have almost everything they need at their fingertips and within walking distance.

With ongoing activities and events that include musical entertainment, Movies Under the Stars, a farmers’ market from May through October and horse & carriage rides, the Market Common always has something happening.

A new addition for 2014 is a lovely pool & lazy river complex for residents and guests that looks mighty inviting on a hot summer day!

Danny Kuhn, resident of the Market Common, said, “What I love most about living in the Market Common is the proximity of almost everything I need.  It has shopping, dining, movies, books, park, gym, and recreation center, all within just a short walk.  On my bicycle, I can have my toes in the water at Springmaid Pier in 7 minutes.  Some weeks, I don't even get into my car until it's time for church on Sunday, avoiding the summertime traffic.   And, increasingly, the Market Common is trying to promote special events on a larger scale.  It was great this year to attend a fun, outdoor New Year's Eve celebration and just walk a couple of blocks home when it was all over."

When you’ve had enough of the beach, miniature golf and all of the typical tourist attractions, plan an amazing stop for the grownups at the Market Common. You deserve it!

I'll be back soon with more fun things to do in the Myrtle Beach area!
Pack up your car, and come along to visit. Don't forget the golf clubs.

Exploring the world,
Mary Anne Benedetto

Author of Eyelash, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Never Say Perfect, From Italy with Love & Limoncello and Write Your Pet's Life Story in 7 Easy Steps!


Friday, May 9, 2014

Tropical Paradise - Key West, FL

Key West, FL--Notorious as being a haven for adventurous scuba divers, amazing sunsets, a serene location for writers and artists, and a place where the colorful characters emerge at sundown. I have always been intrigued with the idea of visiting Key West. Many years ago, my husband and I were trying to coordinate a vacation to that destination without success. The problem was that we were trying to arrange Marriott points with frequent flyer points, and it just wasn't happening.

We opted for a different Florida location for that particular vacation, but I knew I would someday try again regardless of how long it might take to arrange. The opportunity arose this spring when we were staying at the Sanibel Harbour Resort. As I scanned through brochures featuring local activities, I spotted an advertisement for the Key West Express http://www.seakeywestexpress.com. There it was right before my eyes--the opportunity to take a day trip to Key West from Fort Myers Beach and just check it out. No need to find a hotel there, as we would only be in Key West for a few hours. It would offer me a little taste of this popular destination, and I would then know if I would ever want to return for a longer stay. Perfect.  It would be just like sampling different ports when cruising and deciding where you might return to spend more time in the future.

So off we drove to Fort Myers Beach in the early morning hours to climb aboard the Key West Express, a large catamaran that transports passengers to Key West's vacationland in just three and a half hours. There is only one problem. The boat leaves Fort Myers by 8:30 a.m. (last call at 8:00 a.m.) and arrives at the terminal in Key West at approximately 12 noon. You spend a few hours sightseeing, and before you know it, you are boarding for the sailing that returns you to Fort Myers. This boat departs Key West at 6:00 p.m., with last call being 5:30 p.m. You do the math: 3.5 + 3.5 = 7. With 7 hours total travel time, you are on a boat longer than you are in port. We had to make the most of our exploration time.

How to maximize our short stay? We bought tickets for the Conch Tour Train http://www.conchtourtrain.com, which took us to all of the highlights that we needed to see and offered a great deal of local historical information. We decided to hope off at Hemingway House for a fascinating tour. See http://www.hemingwayhome.com.  A guided tour provided much history and insight about the author, Ernest Hemingway, the home, the lush gardens and the approximately 40 cats that roam the property. This tour immediately inspired me to choose some of Hemingways books for my Kindle, and I intend to read a biography of this very interesting and talented personality. It would seem that he had a short attention span relative to his love life, and being there in the room where he did much of his writing was incredibly inspiring. Im not a person who thinks much about ghosts, but I have to say that being in that house gives you the feeling that his spirit is very much alive.
Hemingway's Writing Room

Another View of Hemingway's Writing Room
Pool in Hemingway's Lush Back Yard
Lazy Days in Key West-Cat Sleeping in a Plant
Artwork in the Living Room
We were hungry after all of our touring, but didnt want to venture too far off the beaten path from the terminal, where we would catch the return sailing of the Key West Express. We stopped in an Irish pub called Finnegans Wake Irish Pub & Eatery. Strangely, we ordered pizza, which turned out to be absolutely delicious. With tummies full, we headed back to the terminal to prepare for the voyage to Fort Myers.
Fred & Mary at Finnegan's Wake Irish Pub-Key West
Caution: Three and a half hours is a long time to sit and do nothing. On the sailing to Key West, I had a very nice chat with a sweet lady seated beside me, which made the time go quickly. My husband dozed and watched a movie that was offered for public viewing. As soon as we boarded for the return, I desperately wished I had either brought my Kindle or a paperback or had purchased a book at the Hemingway House Bookstore. I ventured into the snack bar area and discovered that on their posted list of menu items was Playing Cards. That would do the trick! So I talked my husband into playing Crazy 8s and Around the World until he just couldnt stand it any longer. Lesson learned. Always have access to something to read!

In spite of the quick turnaround, we loved having a few hours to explore Key West.  Without question, I will return to this tropical paradise in the future for a longer visit. And do you know what they say about those Key West sunsets? Just take a peek and swoon...

Stop by for more visits to amazing places!

Mary Anne Benedetto
Author of Eyelash, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Never Say Perfect, From Italy with Love & Limoncello and Write Your Pet's Life Story in 7 Easy Steps!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa

I didn’t intend to neglect this blog, but other than traveling for the Christmas holidays, it’s been too cold to do much sightseeing in the Grand Strand. I ventured south recently to one unforgettable location, however, and I am delighted to tell you all about it.

I climbed out of the rental car and walked into the hotel lobby. I have just stepped into paradise! Who wouldn’t feel as though they had died and reached the heavenly portals after arriving at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa in southwest Florida in March, 2014?

I have no right to complain. I live in coastal South Carolina, but I have to say it’s been an unusually cold winter there. Okay, I know. At least I didn’t have to shovel snow, but do two ice storms count for something? At any rate, I was so happy to shed the winter clothing--black, brown and gray--and wear something coral or yellow or turquoise!

This resort is praiseworthy regardless of what level of ugliness one has experienced in the winter. Located at the last exit before entering the Sanibel Causeway, it is a tucked away oasis that dramatically pleases the senses.

With easy access from Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, we arrived at our hotel at lunchtime. Unfortunately, we were rather on the early side, and our room was not yet ready. No problem, we retreated to the Tarpon House Restaurant for a bite to eat while the bellman temporarily stored our luggage.

My Cobb salad was attractive and delicious, and the view of the pool area and extending out into San Carlos Bay was spectacular. On a gloriously sunny day, the resort was buzzing with outdoor activity.

In our room on the 11th floor, I could barely tear myself away from our balcony and its amazing view, but I knew I had to unpack and settle in. Chores complete, I began to explore the property, discovering a resort-owned yacht that offers a sunset dinner cruise. Add that to the To Do list.

My stroll also led to the spa and fitness center and I took note of a restaurant, Courtside Steakhouse, that is  open for dinner.

Chatting with other guests in the elevator, I met several people who were dreading their return from the lovely resort back into the misery of snow and the seemingly never-ending winter. I almost felt guilty that at the end of my visit, I’ll only be returning to the Myrtle Beach area. Well, not really THAT guilty.

What does one do at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa? Once one recovers from being spellbound by the exquisite views, one can survey the on-property activity options. There were docks offering boat rentals, water sports equipment such as kayaks, wave runners, paddle boards and fishing.

As far as my eyes could see, there was a huge expanse of water which was dotted with tiny islands. Zipping back and forth across the waterway, it resembled the Indy 500 with a constant motion of sailboats, speedboats, fishing boats, tour boats dashing to and from Sanibel Island.

Lounge chairs adorned with plush green towels surrounded the two pools. An inviting Jacuzzi was strategically positioned to enjoy the panoramic views. There is also a small, private beach for guests who love to feel the grains of sand between their toes. The Cove pool bar is open for lunch and is handy for remaining hydrated. Service is available if one raises the little flag on the lounge chair. Not so bad at all!

Pelicans soared by and perched on the piers, taking off to swoop down into the water to enjoy some fishing of their own. People seemed to be happy just basking in the warmth of the sunshine. Some probably haven’t worn a pair of sunglasses in months! Also, it’s easy to forget about everything stressful in life when surrounded by such natural, peaceful beauty.

My next posts will cover the sunset dinner cruise on the Sanibel Harbour Princess, a day trip to Key West on the Key West Express that departs from Fort Myers, and a few other choice highlights from this trip.

Stay tuned for more fun!
Mary Anne Benedetto

Author of Eyelash, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Never Say Perfect, From Italy with Love & Limoncello and Write Your Pet's Life Story in 7 Easy Steps!