Monday, March 12, 2012

Using Motel Coupons

If you are traveling along the eastern U.S. interstate system, such as I95, I77 or I64, be sure to stop at a welcome center or rest area and pick up the brochures of motel coupons. These coupons can really save you some big dollars.

For instance, a stay at a Hampton Inn outside of Richmond, VA would have been $98 if I had just walked in and used my AAA or AARP card. With a coupon from one of the brochures, we paid $69.00.

Even better was a Fairfield Inn outside of Savannah, GA. We paid $49.00 for our night there. And that includes their breakfast and free copy of USAToday.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Review: La Fogata, Mexican Restaurant, Bonita Springs, FL

Someone recommended La Fogata to us, telling us they had great guacamole. The recommendation was right. Not only was the guacamole great but so was our entire meal. The two young ladies waiting on the tables were extremely friendly and pleasant, taking the time to answer questions about the menu.

We arrived around 6 p.m. on a Monday evening and had our choice of tables. By 6:30, there was no place to sit. The restaurant is located near the K-Mart in the plaza right on the corner of Bonita Beach Rd and S. Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41). If you are in the area, and looking for Mexican food, we highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: Big Al's Sports Bar and Grill, Bonita Springs, FL

Like any sports bar and grill, Big Al's is loud and has tons of TV screens all over the place. We ate here twice during our visit to the Bonita Springs area. The first time we had trouble with service. Our soups and salads took forever to come and, not surprisingly, our entrees came too soon afterward ... some of us weren't finished with our salads.

Then the waitress messed up the tab. There were four of us and we had told her one tab. She 'couldn't remember' and brought a total tab and two split tabs. We told her one tab and she ended up bringing the wrong tab. We were so annoyed, I asked to speak to the manager who apologized and gave us four tokens for future free drinks.

So we decided to give it another try. Again our soups and salads took forever. I had dirty silverware and asked our waitress for a replacement. When my salad was brought out by another wait staff, I still didn't have clean silverware and asked the young man who brought my salad for a clean fork. He never brought it. Finally I grabbed our waitress and asked her again. She admitted she had 'forgotten' and went and got clean silverware.

The staff definitely displays a 'I couldn't care less' attitude, which is too bad, because the food is very good. However, we definitely will not be going back.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: Naples Botanical Gardens

As part of our stay in SW Florida we visited the Naples Botanical Gardens. We went early, getting there just when it opened at 10 a.m. It was nice to tour the garden before it got too hot and before the crowds arrived.

We really enjoyed our visit. Inside the Children's Garden area there is a lovely butterfly garden and paths to wander along. There was even a fountain area where children could play in the water.

There are several types of gardens such as an Asian garden, a Florida Garden and a Water Garden with absolutely beautiful water lilies.

We saw several piliated woodpeckers, plus juvenile bald eagles, egrets, and I even spotted two racoons. It took us about two hours to tour the garden in a relaxed stroll. If you like botanical gardens, this is one I would recommend.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Snook Inn, restaurant, Marco Island, FL

Our drives around the Bonita Springs area took us down to Naples and out to Marco Island. Marco Island isn't very large and it is covered with homes and small shops. We drove around a bit and then decided to find a place for lunch. Following cars pulling into the parking lot we ended up at Snook Inn.

It was perfect. A lovely restaurant with reasonably priced food and we sat under a thatched hut on the waterfront. Lunch included the salad bar which was inside. A nice selection of vegetables and salad items and absolutely delicious bread you could cut for yourself.

My husband had the crab cake sandwich. Our friends had the grouper. I opted for the Shrimp and Lobster Mac and Cheese. I had some concern about ordering this because I was afraid it would be dripping in cheese sauce. It wasn't. It was baked to perfection and absolutely delicious.

The four of us highly recommend this restaurant. And get there early. We pulled into the parking lot around 11:30 a.m. By the time we left, people were driving around looking for a spot.

2013 Update: We were back to Snook Inn for lunch. We arrived at around 2:30 on a weekday and we still had to wait 20 minutes. The place was mobbed and there was a steady flow of cars in and out. And, as before, our food was excellent.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Crazy Florida Weather

Decided to take a day trip to Naples, FL, about 20 miles from our rented condo in Bonita Springs. The weather was beautiful and our plan was to arrive at opening time at Naples Botanical Garden. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit there, seeing not only beautiful flowers but catching sight of several young bald eagles, racoons and piliated woodpeckers.

Next stop, just off Marco Island, was the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. They had some very nice indoor displays, including a gallery displaying an annual photography show. There are three outside trails and we walked two of them, hoping to see some more birds. But by this time in the afternoon, we didn't see or hear anything.

So we headed back to Bonita Springs and as we approached, the sky turned dark and the temperature dropped. We began to wonder if it had been like that all day in Bonita Springs and how lucky we were with the weather in the Naples area. An inquiry to a couple of ladies walking a dog confirmed that, yes, the weather was lousy all day in Bonita Springs.

So next time, before we decided our plans for the day, I checked the weather radar. If was cloudy here but looked cloud-free 20 miles away, we'd make it an 'away' day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Great Ribs in Knoxville, TN

We were ready for a late lunch when we hit Knoxville on our way to FL. I pulled out the AAA tour book and after flipping through the suggested restaurants, we decided on Calhoun's. It took us a little while to find the location on Kingston Pike (according to their web site it is the original location) but it was well worth the effort.

We both had a half slab of ribs which at $13.50 included two sides and a basket of mixed breads. Both my husband and I agreed that these were the best ribs we've ever had. The portion was very generous and both of us left stuffed. Matter of fact, we even skipped dinner that night.

There is no doubt that if we ever make our way through Knoxville again, we'll be stopping at Calhoun's for a meal.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Hampton Inn, Dry Ridge, Kentucky

Friends of ours, who travel to Florida every winter, regularly stay at this particular Hampton Inn. Since the chain is tops on our list too, we stopped here also on our way south.

Being a silver Hampton Honors member, I am used to getting little freebies like cookies and/or bottles of water. This particular Hampton Inn really surprised me.

As a Hilton Honors member we got a freebie gift BOX containing two bottles of water, bag of M&Ms peanuts, small bags of Chex Mix, small bag of bar b q chips, package with two chocolate chip cookies and a Nutri-Grain bar. In addition I was told that there would be fresh cookies and ice cold milk in the lobby at 7 p.m. and P & J sandwiches at 9 p.m.

Our next nice surprise was the towel art in our room. Our king sized bed had a towel elephant. The towels in the bath were laid out in a decorative manner. And even the shower curtain .... with the top centered and the bottom flared out. What a really nice touch. So nice that I went back downstairs and spoke to management about it.

Don't hesitate to stay at the Hampton Inn in Dry Ridge, KY if you are in the area. Now if this would only become chain-wide ...............

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Looking For A Place to Eat in Dunkirk, NY

On our way south, to spend some time in warm Florida, we pulled off the NYS Thruway looking for a convenient place to eat. We saw an Applebee's but, typical of our strategy when traveling of avoiding chains we have at home, we looked for something different.

Tucked away in a small side building in the Tops supermarket plaza is a little place called Kangaroo Cafe. When we walked in we thought it was only a coffee place but were then handed menus with an extensive list of interesting sandwiches and wraps.

My husband had the freshly made chili and I had a panini of turkey, cranberries, swiss cheese and cole slaw. Both of our lunches were excellent and we topped it off by sharing a cappuccino and big chocolate chip cookie. The staff was friendly and helpful. We felt relaxed and comfortable. A very nice place to grab a bit or a coffee and, if you are traveling on the thruway, the restaurant is located on the left, in the plaza just past the thruway exit stop light.