The following morning we headed back down south towards Lynne’s house. I really wish that I had filmed my reaction on arriving at the address Lynne had given us. We drove down the picturesque streets of Anna Maria island, around 12pm after having packed up and left Bug Jam. Turning down a private drive lined with coco palms and mangroves, the sat nav said we had 1 minute to go. I started wondering if we would really be this lucky, as the houses down here were beautiful. Soon enough though, we spotted James’ Westy parked up outside and knew that we were in the right place as we parked alongside.
We were just about to get out of the van and go up to the front door when Lynne pulled in behind us, making for some pretty perfect timing.
She invited us inside and told us to make ourselves at home. We took and Aimee and went outside on to her decking where we realised we she had her own boat dock and pool. We couldn’t believe our luck at staying in such a beautiful place!
Shortly after we met two of her sons, Cole and Tyler. Cole was pretty excited about having a kitten around for the next few days and Aimee was happy to have someone to play with and such a large space to do it in. Leaving Cole and kitten, Lynee suggested that we went for a walk down to the beach and a bar, this sounds like a perfect afternoon to me and we set off.
The beach is about a 10 minute walk from Lynne’s house and is absolutely beautiful. The sand is so fine its almost like walking on talcum powder and the sea is a beautiful crystal clear blue.
We walked down to a place called the Sandbar and had a few cocktails. I had a American Mule and Lee had a Dark and Stormy which were very good. From here, Lynne took us to see the pier as it was being rebuilt after having been destroyed in a hurricane and then we walked on to The Waterfront Restaurant for some more drinks. I was going to a have a gin and tonic as they had some rather good looking cocktails, but then I saw they didn’t Capirinhas and I was immediately sold. One of my favourite cocktails, and not so common in the UK, especially not a good one. We also ordered so homemade tortilla chips and cheese dip, which was delicious. The only downside was the price and while we would have loved to have paid completely when we saw the bill was over $100, we decided to split it instead!
Lynne said that James was collecting his friend Rick, and would be home soon. We headed back along the beach and walked back to her house. So far, we were having a good time!
The night Lynne and James cooked blackened Halibut with salad and some starfruit gazpacho, which was all delicious. We went down the fire pit and lit a fire while we sat outside and watched the stars and massive moon until it was time to go to bed. Lynne was letting us stay in one of her spare rooms and we had a ginormous blow up mattress to sleep on. It was a very warm night here and it was nice to be guaranteed somewhere cool and quiet for the night.
The morning brought another glorious day, and we were going to be taken out on the boat. We walked down to the other docks where they keep their main boat, and after some encouragement James got the engine going. We piled in, our first stop was going to be the Rod and Reel for breakfast, as we had been told this is the place to go. As we motored across the bay we spotted dolphins jumping in the sea alongside us. This is definitely the closest I’ve ever got to a dolphin, and it was pretty exciting.
Arriving at the Rod and Reel, Lee was dying to try the seafood omelette, I less so. I went for a safe mushrooms, feta and spinach option, while everyone else had the seafood. I did brave a bit of scallop though, and even in my limited seafood knowledge I can tell that it was cooked beautifully and I could probably have managed to eat a whole one which is saying something for me. Having had a very sizeable breakfast we spent a bit of time walking around the pier and watching the fish, before getting back in the boat.
Their boat moored at the dock. We set off again.
Lynne wanted to take us to Mote Marine Laboratory so that we could see some manatees and turtles. This turned out to be quite a way down the coast and we stopped off to get petrol at Annie’s Bait and Tackle in Cortez. As well as getting some fuel and seeing some pretty good signs, they also had jelly shots!
Refuelled in more ways than one, we continued down the coast line. Arriving at the docks for the Old Salty Dog we stopped for further drinks. I had a hard seltzer that was actually quite nice and a lot better than the Aldi ones we tried before. We then made our way to the aquarium. We saw baby cuttlefish…
Some kind of seahorse?
Lionfish…Jellyfish…This very ugly animal…Some very big groupers and sharks…and some pretty lilies. The section with the manatees and turtles is in a different building, so we walked over to see these too. Alligators too
Then it was time to leave as we wanted to catch sunset on the beach. We stopped to refuel again at Annie’s and had another beer as well as some smoked fish dip and fried green tomatoes. We got back to Lynne’s house in time to pack up some wine and head down to the beach for sunset. We seem to have found people that like drinking as much as we do, which is probably quite dangerous! We brought Aimee with us to give her some time outside and settled down on the sand to watch the weather. One side was dark clouds and rain, while the sunset over blue skies on the other.
The sunset was not spectacular, but was still pretty to watch. Aimee was not overly impressed and kept trying to climb into the bag while whining. The adults were also wining, on a brand called Mommy’s Time Out.
Dinner that night was particularly fancy. Made even better by the fact that while someone else cooked it, me and Lee went for a swim in their heated pool. We had ravioli with Florida lobster and salad to start with, followed by stone crabs. This was something we had been told to try on many occasions, but was insanely expensive. We were also lucky that the very limited time period that they are in season is right now. We got stuck in smashing crab legs, which was a pretty messy business, but was very tasty. I learned that these crabs are not killed, instead by law when fishing for them you can only take one claw. This means the crab can still defend itself, and the other claw grows back.
The following day was supposed to be our last, as we needed to head north in order to be in Pensacola for another gig on the 15th. We said that we would stay for the day and enjoy the island though, leaving after dinner in the evening. Lynne planned a amazing sounding day, we were going to take the boat to the island, swim in the sea, visit her daughters house to look at the huge banyan tree that was growing there and potentially round it all off by getting tattoos. Lee wanted a little pawprint to remember Molly, and I was considering being spontaneous and had a drew myself a little design. Lynne liked it so much she said she wanted it too, which was nice.
Our best laid plans all came undone when we woke up to a cold, blustery and cloudy day. James was making some work calls, so we took the opportunity to use the wifi and catch up on some video making and blogging. Around midday, we left to see Lynne’s daughter Alex’s house. This is another beautiful place, and it does have an amazing tree! It was sad to hear that it is in fact dying, and may need to be completely chopped down.
I was also particularly sold on the artwork she had on her walls, which was really cool. There was also an awesome old Ford in the garage.
And an amazing pool.
We did drive to a tattoo place, but it was $100 start cost which was way above our budget. Next, James wanted to show us his vans, so we stopped off at the garage that were currently refurbishing one of them and had a look at the engine and stripped down bus. He then took us to the place that is reupholstering all his seats and cushions so we could see these. It will indeed be a beautiful bus when it’s done, and a quality job. Our final stop was at the body shop where he has another Vanagon and a Synchro parked. The Synchro is definitely the bigger of the two projects, but at the price he got them for I don’t blame him. We met Chris, the owner of the shop and saw some of the other cars he was working on. Having seen his work, I’m sure Jame’s bus is going to be immaculate once it’s done.
All these local businesses are very close to an area of town called the the Village of the Arts, which is a community of artist who have their own galleries inside their houses. A lot of them were shut however as it was mid-week, but it was still cool to walk down the street as there was quite a lot of artwork outside.
We stopped off a local store and tried some Kombucha, which was really, really good! On the way back we stopped off to buy Lee some replacement swimming shorts as he left his to dry on our bike rack and then forgot to bring them in before driving off.
It was time to eat when we got back and we started preparing some food. Tonights dinner was my favourite, we had blackened Mahi with sweetcorn which was delicious. Washed down with plenty of red wine.
We had packed the van ready to leave and James had picked us some avocados and starfruit from the tree outside. It was around 9pm when we’d finished eating and neither of us was excited about a 3 hour drive. We decided to stay one more night, despite the fact that we had just packed everything up. We were really enjoying spending time with James and Lynne, this just meant that the following day would have a lot of driving.
Our final evening we spent chilling out watching the moon again out on the dock. It was a perfect end to a lovely 3 days on the island and we have made some friends for life. They have both been incredibly welcoming and generous and it was sad to leave early the next morning. We left loaded up with gifts and we are very glad that we accepted the invite to stay with them in the first place. We meant what we said, we are definitely coming back as I want a ride in Lynne’s ’57 chevy and I never got to swim in that beautiful blue sea.