Hello! I’m back, after an unexpected month off from blogging. I was planning to schedule a post or two for while I was away on holiday, which… didn’t happen… and then when I got home it took me a while to get back into the swing of things.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times on here that I had a holiday to the US planned. My cousin, who lives in Atlanta, was getting married, and we (my boyfriend, parents, sister and I) decided to make the most of the opportunity for some beach time as well. To minimise driving time (or, heaven forbid, the cost of flying into and out of different airports) we decided to head for the Florida Panhandle, and after a little bit of searching online we found this beautiful rental apartment in Destin.
The apartment was one of the best and most spacious rental accommodations I’ve ever stayed in. The kitchen was fully equipped with everything you could need, and there was a lot of storage space, so it would be ideal for a longer stay. It has three bedrooms, two with king size beds and one with two doubles, and all have en suite bathrooms. There are two balconies, the main one looking out over the marina and accessible from the living room and master bedroom, and the second looking down on to the pool and accessible from the second (our) bedroom.
The sea was mostly hidden by a neighbouring apartment complex, but we did have a sea view on either side of it, and were treated to some spectacular sunsets. It was also fun to watch the wildlife in the marina – there were often enormous shoals of fish circling around in there, and casual fishermen would swing by to haul up a net full of them, plus there was a regular heron, some extremely tame sparrows, and we even saw a great big ray swimming around one day.
The apartment complex had a beautiful swimming pool, which was mostly deserted, since it was “cold”, to quote the locals – the temperature was in the upper 20’s every day, and perfect for sunbathing as far as we were concerned! We also had an access code allowing us onto the beach – as far as we could tell from exploring, the beach seemed to be entirely private access, so that’s something to bear in mind if you’re visiting Destin. There are some public access beaches in the national parks, but from what I read on Tripadvisor the quality isn’t as high, and you often have to pay for access and/or walk a considerable distance from your car to reach the actual sea side. Anyway, our particular stretch of white sand was pretty perfect, and also quiet, so we were more than content to stay close!
Since we were visiting out of season, we knew that the majority of Destin’s local attractions would be closed. To be honest though, I’m not sure there was a huge amount we were missing out on, other than Big Kahuna’s, a water park which looked fun, and a weekly fireworks display on the beach front. We were also told that the traffic in summer is CRAZY, and it was still busy by our standards in October! In any case, our number one priority was just to relax, and we took that seriously 🙂 We did venture out to the local outlet mall – a few items of clothing were found by all, and my sister and I also got a great deal on a beautiful Calvin Klein handbag each, but it was mostly an exercise in sighing over all the beautiful things – and to try out the tasty cuisine and Southern hospitality. With a member of the party who is both gluten intolerant and a vegetarian, plus another two who don’t like fish or seafood, this turned out to be much more difficult than I would have imagined. Most places have a gluten-free menu, but almost all the dishes on there are meat-based. I can recommend the following though:
– The Local Market – We ate here at least three times, and loved it. The decor is lovely, really open, with big wooden tables and benches, with chalk board menus and shelves full of produce. The majority of the lunch menu is sandwiches, which are on the pricier side (around $12-13) but 100% worth it – they are big, stuffed full of high quality, fresh ingredients, and come with generous sides plus a packet of Lays chips (Walkers crisps to us Brits). They also do amazing specials – I had a half rotisserie chicken, which was safely the biggest portion of chicken I’ve ever had in my life, with fries and coleslaw, for $6. $6, folks. The staff are friendly and relaxed, patiently waited for us to slowwwly decide what we wanted to order, and welcomed us back when we returned.
– La Paz – La Paz is next door to, and shares a car park with, The Local Market; I noticed some of the staff in both; The Local Market is open for breakfast and lunch and La Paz is open for dinner; they have a similar vibe… I’m going to go ahead and say they’re sister restaurants, although they’re not advertised as such. Anyway, La Paz is a Mexican restaurant with a friendly, family feel. The decor is quirky, with walls covered (and then some) in fun / crazy art and pictures. Most importantly though, the food is fresh and tasty – the photo above (sorry for the poor quality!) is of the South of the Border salad. 100% of the dishes on the menu are available gluten free (with the carbs coming in the form of corn chips, corn tortillas or rice) and there are plenty of veggie options.
– Mimmo’s – A more upmarket option, Mimmo’s is an Italian restaurant open for both lunch and dinner on weekdays, dinner only on weekends. The front windows are almost entirely covered by enormous curtains, which made me doubt it was open despite one of those neon “open” signs, but it’s nice inside and the food and service were great. Gluten free pasta is available, although only one type, but that was a happy compromise.
A few others we tried:
– Waffle House – The waffles, bacon and maple syrup get my vote; the coffee, not so much. The wait staff were the friendliest of the trip, which is saying something, but this is one to avoid if you’re coeliac – the one “gluten free” option, an omelette, was served with toast…
– TGI Friday’s – TGI’s is TGI’s – reliable quality, if a little overpriced. Bonus points for an extra lovely waiter, and a complete GF menu including dessert, beer and cider.
– Pizza Hut – mentioned here only because the GF pizza was enjoyed; the rest of us suffered from huge amounts of grease! The restaurant was large but always empty, which is never a good sign.
– Cheeseburger in Paradise – good fries, and a GF vegetarian burger!
– Island Wing Company – really good, baked chicken wings. Choose how many you want (from 5 to 100!) and which of the many sauces takes your fancy. We visited on a Sunday lunch time so there were several different NFL games showing on the multiple TV screens, which was… overwhelming. When we left I noticed that they have an outdoor seating area with only one screen, so if I were to go back I’d definitely sit there!
I hope y’all 😉 have a lovely weekend. I’m off to a ceilidh tonight and a wedding reception tomorrow, and inspired by this post by Sunny Sweet Pea, I think I might have a relaxing movie day on Sunday to recover!