Well this afternoon I finally made it back home from a wonderful family reunion/vacation. Something I was long overdue for this year. This year's family reunion was held in Jacksonville, Florida and we stayed in the Marriott Sawgrass Spa and Resort. My dad, mom and myself headed out of Saint Louis back on July 26th in the morning and after one layover flight we finally made it to Florida by that afternoon. We arrived at our hotel and enjoyed the beautiful scenery on the way. Word to the wise...if you have not stayed at this hotel, DO IT! Beautiful scenery, service was top notch, and the room that I shared with my sister (who with a few difficulties arrived the next day) was beautiful.
After we settled into our rooms, I did some exploring and sought the pools, exercise room and anything else I could find. I must say I was thoroughly impressed with all of the accommodations and couldn't wait for the family reunion festivities to begin the next day (July 27th). So fast forward my sister makes it in Friday morning and we all chill out until the Meet and Greet festivities start around 5pm in a tent connected to the hotel. This year's coordinator was my cousin Gary Savage and he did an AMAZING job. Upon arriving in the tent the program had just begun and I started to do what I do best, and that's take pictures.
After the program concluded with a light fare of appetizers we were free to roam around the hotel and still had use of the tent until 10pm. So my family decided to board a shuttle to take us to the ocean, it was already dark so we really weren't able to appreciate the view. So my sister and I decided we would go Sunday morning.
There was also another thing that I thought was quite interesting about that evening...which was the karaoke night that they had in the pub on the first floor and did I also mention the free drinks for the ladies from 8pm to midnight? Yes, that help make up my mind tremendously. lol So needlessly to say around 9pm I made my way down to the pub after relaxing in my room and found a nice booth to sit in so I could A) watch the entrance door, B) watch the olympics on one of the tv's, and C) watch the brave souls who would go on stage and belt their hearts out. I had a great time at first and even a better time after 4 vodka, cranberry and orange juice drinks that were mixed to perfection!
So shortly after midnight (July 28th) I leave to go back upstairs to my room. I don't know what I was on because around 3:30 am I wake up and felt like going down to the exercise room and working out! Now mind you I should have been still sleeping like a baby with the drinks I had but no......it was bothering me in my sleep...go figure.
|Burning some late night oil|
After working out for a hour and getting back upstairs to my room around 5am I finally doze off but have to be right back up by 7am to get ready to be downstairs in the lobby by 8am for our Family reunion field trips. You following me so far? So my sister and I after much debating (5 minutes) decided to trail the coach bus that would be taking the rest of the family to our two destinations for the day. The first field trip was at a Historic site called the Kingsley Plantation. When I thought plantation I was thinking of the one I recall from New Orleans over 1o years ago, something like a house from Gone with the Wind. Nope. When we first arrived after a 5 minute drive on a dusty road with moss trees all over the place oh and can't forget all the water.....we were greeted by the slave quarters first of this place and after you walked up the road then you saw the "big house" which in realtity was not that big...what did make it interesting was the waterfront they used where they had new slaves brought in and the product that they exported which was cotton was ready to be shipped off. I must say I did have chills even in the 90 degree weather as I took everything in. The real kicker to me was that the slave master Zephaniah Kingsley, had a wife named Anna Madgigine Jai who he purchased as a slave from West Africa. I had to wrap my head around that a few times. She helped him with the plantation in regards to running the slaves and making sure the crops were taken care of.
After we concluded our trip at the plantation, we were on our way to another historical site called The Ritz Theatre and Museum. This place also is rich with history but for much more positive reasons. For starters I learned the history of the Negro National hymn "Lift Every Voice and Sing". It was actually composed by two noted native sons of Jacksonville, brothers James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson. What really stood out to me with this exhibit was all of the memorbilia they had, some of it as early as the 1900's. Trust me if you are ever down in that area, go on the tour. I had a great time.
So after our tour at The Ritz was done, my sister and I decided to go check out the shopping areas. So we go to the St. Johns Town Center. This shopping place is like no other I have ever seen. Quite simply it is epic. I thought the Plaza in Kansas City, MO was something...I have to officially move it to number two on my list. St. Johns blew it out the water. There were so many shops there, Louie Vuitton was just one of many premiere stores there. It would probably have taken us a few days to go through each shop just to browse.
After shopping for a while (well she shopped, I browsed) we made it back to the hotel with just about a hour to relax before getting dressed for dinner in one of the ballrooms. I just have to say I have NEVER seen so many damn ballrooms in a hotel. I understand why for this hotel especially with it being part of the PGA (Professional Golf Association) circuit. It has to have the proper accommodations but DAMN it's a lotof room to cover when you are walking.
After a mini-nap, I get ready for the family reunion dinner and make my way down to the designated ballroom where they will be taking family pictures. People are slowly showing up and my family is there first so we take our group picture and then grab a table up front. Eventually everyone else makes it in and we then go again to the photographer for him to take a big family picture. Afterwards we return back to our seats and the program begins. I was on the program to read a scripture and delivered marvelously. lol
We all had a great time and food was simply off the chain. I will say this, that hotel knows how to throw down on some red meat. The Filet Mignon with the mushrooms sauce was probably one of the best dishes I've had in a looooooooooooooooong time. I'm used to hotels over cooking their food, not this place! We also had some other food options as well but that and the Fettuccine Alfredo were the highlights to my palete. They concluded the evening with a karaoke contest. My sister had to get her rental so I went with her. We went back to our room and mom brought a bottle of wine over and we popped the corked and enjoyed the bottle while watching tv.
|Pictures I took and made into a collage of the morning I went to the beach with my sister.|
Next day (July 29th) I wake up around 6:45am (which was 45 min late) to get ready to go to the beach. I wake my sister up as well so she can hurry up and put on her swimsuit. We take a shuttle over again to the Cabana Club which is propterty owned by the Marriott Sawgrass and I tell ya the only pain in the ass problem was the couple that got on the shuttle as well. The lady wouldn't shut up and singing horribly and my sister and I kept looking at each other and with only eye contact we said "shoot me". lolol So thankfully we get to our destination with our sanity intact and we enjoyed ourselves for about a hour before heading back.
Also took some video as well,
We eventually make it back to the hotel around 8am but we made darn sure that annoying couple went on a shuttle back to the hotel before us. So after our trek back, we have to get ready for Sunday Fellowship back in the same room we had dinner in the night before. It was a really nice service. There wasn't a preacher it was just family coming together and letting you know what they were thankful for. At the end of the service around 11am we said our goodbyes and wished each other safe journeys back home.
My sister and I headed on out to Saint Augustine because she wanted to check out their outlet location called St. Augustine Premier Outlets. Originally my Google Navigation system took us to the historical part of St. Augustine which was flipping amazing! Next time I'm out this way (whenever that will be) I'm going to spend my time here! The setup and history of this place, kinda gave me the feeling that I was in the French Quarter down in New Orleans. For once I was glad my GPS went haywired.
So after all that fun, we head back to hotel. My sister had an evening flight to catch so she departed around 5pm and we said our goodbyes to her. My mother and I went back to the beach to enjoy the surfs and waves one more time.
Also took video as well,
Afterwards we go back to the hotel and walk around outside. While we were looking out from one of the patios, some kids come up to us and inform of the turtles in the lake. Sure enough they were swimming by and a security guard was nice enough to give us some bread to feed them and I tell ya it was an interesting site.
Afterwards we walked around for a few more minutes and then go back to our rooms for the evening. I went down to the pub around 10pm to watch the Olympics and grab something to eat. I wanted to just sit there and soak up everything that I had done for the past 4 days. It was great. I was able to just enjoy nature and it was so peaceful as I recalled my time at the beach. I had a few talks with God as well. I had more questions than answers. Afterwards I took a leisurely stroll through the hotel. Ended up back in my room and went to sleep.
This morning (July 30th) I woke up and packed up my items. We made it back home safely and my day has been mainly consumed with uploading all these pictures and videos. For the record this is by far the most pictures I have EVER taken for an event. By my last count I had taken around 580. Of course I took out ones that were blurry so it brought the count to about 570.
It is 12:15am (July 31st) as I'm finishing this post. I have work in the morning. So as I sign off, I'm hoping I'll hear some waves from a faraway beach in my dreams;) Good nite and I can't wait for next reunion.
|Some Seashells I picked up from the beach. I love how different they look.|