Jacksonville, Florida, USA

Kiely and Darren with the newly acquired hotsauce

I’ve never thought to write about a Jacksonville trip. I lived there as a child for a while, and after many years, my mother decided to return there to escape the winters of New York State.

I’ve only been back a few times since my mother returned, and I often find myself in the car, nose nearly pressed to the window, trying to pick out the buildings I recalled from my childhood surrounded by so much new construction.

I decided to write about it this time because this is Darren’s very first trip to Florida, which meant a dash of tourism for a few days!

We flew into Orlando, as our closest option for a direct flight and had a 3 hour ride north to Jacksonville.  We opted to stay at a local bed and breakfast a few blocks from my mother’s, The House on Cherry Street.

The Spoils of Cherry Street!

The first thing I’d like to highlight about The House on Cherry Street is that it is the best B&B experience I have ever had – and the website pictures don’t even begin to do it justice. The house is lovely, our room was charming, the breakfasts wonderful, and the company of our hosts, Victoria and Robert, was an absolute pleasure; so much so, we found ourselves planning our next visit and encouraging Victoria and Robert to come to London.

So, that first night, we opted for one of my favorite pizzas in the US, Moon River Pizza. My mention of it clearly made an impression on Darren, who counted the minutes from Orlando until dinner.  The food is inexpensive and their pizza is consistently good and not greasy. We crashed shortly thereafter,  full of jetlag and meaty pizza.

Day II:

Deep Fried Gator Tail!

We headed out to the Riverside Arts Market, which reminded me a lot of a New York City summertime Street Fair.

The Market includes live music, a farmer’s market, a crafts market, food, and in the evening, films are screened on thewaterfront. This week’s film was The Wizard of Oz, but we sadly missed it. Darren bought BBQ sauce (above) , and we went for a walk on the waterfront before heading out towards Mayport in search of a lot of deep fried at Singleton’s Seafood Shack.

Singleton’s promises a lot of fish and a museum of handmade wooden boats, crafted by the original Singleton.  We opted for deep fried gator tail to start, and by the time the fried king fish arrived, Darren was broken. We dropped him back at the B&B for a rest, yet none of us really recovered from all the fried, so a dinner of salad followed.

Day III:

At Ripley's The Largest Erector Set Creation

Full of nostalgia, we all headed out to The Fox for breakfast. The Fox was and is a diner with a bit of an equine theme, despite the name. I regaled Darren with tales of a hated home perm which had its debut at this venue. It seems a five year old yours truly believed a perm would somehow give me Christie Brinkley hair, but instead, I had little orphan Annie hair. I remember  crying in the bathroom and trying to comb it out before we went out for breakfast, where I was declared, “cute”, by our waitress, Thelma. The good news was that the food was great, even without a perm!

Still on a mission of tourism, we headed to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the US.  First, we also went to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, which I always wanted to do as a child, but somehow never did. The Ripley’s museum was fun, but for me, it was really all about the Jack Palance- narrated 1980s nostalgia. We considered a wander around the Castillo de San Marco, but given the blazing sun, decided to opt for a nice walk around in the sunshine, including ice cream and Mexican food.

Day IV and V: This is where tourism was abandoned.

Breakfast included, "Darren's Cheese"

After delicious Cherry Street breakfasts, which included “Darren’s cheese” specially sourced by our hosts,  Darren was left to work on his writing, while I spent time with my mother, catching up, learning why I’m crap at knitting, and helping her with computer stuffs. The latter seems to be the duty of my generation, explaining the mysteries of the home computer to our parents, who just want it to work.

Obligatory picture of oranges

There was a dinner out at The Brick, and a dinner at home with my mother, which included a delicious spinach tart and key lime pie. I also had the wonderful, and internet fuelled chance to catch up with one of my best friends from grammar school, Kyla,  who I sadly fell out of contact with after we moved to New York in 1986. Kyla was always incredibly artistic and I was happy to see she still is, having started her own photography business, Calhoun Clicks.

All in all, it was five days that passed entirely too quickly. We’ll just have to visit again soon!