Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Amelia Island

For Christmas weekend we decided to go to Amelia Island. It is about 25-minute drive east from Jacksonville and only 2 hours away from Daytona Beach. It is quite an upscale place. As a matter of fact, we didn't even realize how upscale it was until we got there.

Unfortunately, I didn't get off work until almost 6pm that Friday. So we only made it to the Amelia Island Resort by 9pm. We were hungry and thirsty, but not hungry enough for room service ($5 for a bottle of water, anybody?). Fortunatelly, a girl at the check-in desk had a spare copy of the Chinese take-out menu. After studying it for a couple of minutes we decided that we could get some good dinner for the price of two water bottles at the Resort. Cheap eats always make me a bit nervious, especially when it comes to ethnic food (although I guess the US version of Chinese is heavily modified and reflects little of the original substance). But this time I didn't have to worry. The food (crab rangoon and hot and spicy shredded chicken) was excellent, one of the best I've eaten in my life (and I've eaten plenty of Chinese food in the US). Sorry, I don't remember the name of this place, but it's probably the only Chinese place on Amelia Island.

So we ate Chinese food and watched the "Forrest Gump". I'd never seen the whole movie before, just bits and pieces. Well, it was great - just the right mix of funny, sad, smart and dumb, lucky and purely incredulous.

The next day we set off to explore the resort. It can be done several different ways. You can set off on foot, rent a bike, a golf cart, or even call for a complementary shuttle bus. We chose good old walking for the simple reason that I was too cheap to spend $40 for bike rental. Soon it proved to be the best choice - the resort is small enough and there are places and things that one simply can't get to on a bike.

The day was sunny and warm and the tide was low. So we started off by walking on the beach. There are miles of unspoiled beach on Amelia Island. And the scene is as picturesque as one can hope for - few people, no cars, no little ice-cream trucks with their annoying jingles, no water enthusiasts on jet-skis, just a few happy and well-behaved dogs and a scattering of sea shells as far as the eye can see. Better yet, the newly built ugly condominiums are kept reasonably small here (2-4 stories) and so they get partially hidden behind the sand dunes.

The whole walking and shelling part got us really hungry, but we were still not ready to settle for the hotel's breakfast ($16/person and not even a buffet). Instead, we remembered seeing a little shopping village right by the reception center the night before and headed there. Immediately we spotted a nice-looking deli with a impossible to pronounce French name. The prices were much more reasonable and the food was good. This deli also sold a good selection of wines, spices, chocolates, cheeses, and gourmet foods. Afterwards we stopped by some of the shops where most of the clothes and home decore items were frumpy, pseudo-colonial, and kitchy. But it was not the cheap in-your-face bright-pink plastic flamingo kitch of Daytona's gift shops. Instead, it was carefully matched to the overall atmosphere of the resort and the status level of the patrons. Natural materials, be it wood or cotton, prevailed, flamingos gave way to golf and West Indies themed products, and the inconspiquous price tags were not slapped on the merchandize, but swung demurely on schticks of raffia.

So we walked past the stores and into the nature center where we got to see a couple of snakes and lizards native to Amelia Island. Then we stopped by the Spa. I picked up the list of services and learned that they too were overpriced. Besides, most were various procedures for stress-reduction and relaxation while my primary interest was in toning, cellulite reduction, and getting rid of stretch marks. But just in case I asked the Spa associate if they had any kind of treatment that would immediately transform me into the most gorgeous and sexy woman in the world. The girl said they didn't have any such stuff. Unwilling to spend money on anything that delivered less than a total miracle make-over, we left.

We spent the evening in the room watching some strange show on Bravo! (and which of their shows is NOT strange?) about some wanna-be fashion designers half of whom were arrogant pieces of work and the other half couldn't control their artistic emotions try as they might. We did bring our own wine, cheese, fruits, and chocolates from Daytona and had a nice picnic in the room that night.

The next day we woke up extra-early to watch the sunrise. I'm not going to say a word about the experience. Just look at the pictures. Better yet, get out of your house, drive or fly to the beach, and see it for yourself. The rest of the day was unremarkable, except that I saw this little owl and then found a racoon sleeping in a tree. We also went to Christmas brunch buffet. It was very much like a Sunday brunch at a Picadilly restaurant (and I really don't like Picadilly). Unable to stand this overpriced boring existence for another night, we left early and returned back to Daytona only to find Xander getting even fatter (he eats a lot when we're not home).