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Trip Report Scouting Mt. Dora, Florida

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After 3 years of staying with various friends and visiting towns recommended by others, I found a Florida town that met my criteria for possible relocation/retirement. Mt. Dora is about 1 hour west of Sanford. It faces a large lake aptly named Lake Dora. A 4 x 5-block downtown map published by the Chamber of Commerce is chockablock filled with cute shops and places to eat.

If you Google it, you will see that it's October Arts/Crafts show draws a pile of people. I first visited Mt. Dora in Feb. and have returned to see how I could maneuver in the hottest weather in Florida, I arranged to stay 10 days at Simpson’s B&B smack dab in the middle of town. I will pretend that I live here for the next days and also visit some retirement places and Winter Park (based upon another friend’s recco).

I’m a 67-yo widder (OK, 'widow') with breathing issues whose reason isn’t totally understood. In the terribly hot weather in the D.C. area, my breathing hasn’t been bad at all. How would it go in Florida?

Next: I pack my bags, preflight.

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    I moved from the great white north to South Florida 20 years ago.

    You learn early on to deal with the heat. When outdoors you walk slowly. The rest of the time car, house, malls, etc all have A/C. Often too much in food stores, etc.

    We bike most days and even in summer it's ok due to breeze caused by biking.

    Just make sure you wear sunglasses and suntan lotion.

    I've heard the name Mt Dora but know nothing about it. Sounds funny to have "Mt" in this part of the country.

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    Hope it goes well, TDudette. I live about 30 minutes away. DH and I were just mentioning how this summer hasn't been quite as unbearable as usual. A note of caution, though - DH has compromised breathing, and has a lot of trouble with the molds here as well as the abundance of oak pollen in the spring. (We call summertime here "Florida winter" because that when we stay inside, out of the weather. :-d

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    We've lived here in Sanford for 20 years and have been to Mt. Dora many, many times over the years. It's a quaint town but have you considered The Villages? (located in Lake County as well but about a 30 mile or 50 minute drive from Mt. Dora.) It is a retirement mecca and you could make many friends and have lots to do. We have a family member who moved down several years ago and retired there and he is beyond thrilled, plays lots of golf (although they have hundreds of activities) has dated some wonderful women and is having the time of his life. If you're in town now, they offer trolley tours of the place. Best of luck to you!

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    I'd guess if you can make it in DC heat and humidity, Florida wouldn't be bad!! Florida does have this "thing" about it I am reminded of whenever I go--there is a breeze, for some reason.
    Inland Florida is so different from coastal, I think.

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    Yes, as others have said, I find Florida heat to be less oppressive than DC heat. Must be the breeze!
    <I pack my bags, preflight.> :-) Nice reference, TDudette!
    I hope you enjoy your stay in Mt. Dora. We have friends who spend a biking weekend there a couple of times a year, once coinciding with the art show. It's a big draw.
    As for allergies and breathing issues, each person is different. I myself don't tolerate the oak pollen well at all, others suffer from the mold, and the list goes on. I wish you luck--may you be tolerant!

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    Mvor; LOL about 'Mt' as well. Elevation not too high but it's there.

    sludick; I had problems in Austin in November with, I think, cedar. Big oak in my neighbor's yard so I don't know.

    Penny77; I actually looked at Sanford and The Villages on my last trip (when I first found Mt. D). I prefer to be alone so Villages didn't appeal.

    Gretchen; Ironically it was 20 degrees cooler in Orlando when I landed.

    NewbE; Mold may be the problem for me. The art show is huge--vendors/retailers make a chunk of their yearly income at them.

    Thanks for all of your best wishes! Cody's has a trivia on Fridays at 6:45. I may try to attend this week.

    Back to the TR: Pre-flight: All the years my husband and I traveled, we never took a computer. For one reason, there weren’t lap tops, iPads, etc. until our very last trips together. Every large town had several internet cafés so it wasn’t really necessary. After his demise, I used the hotel computer, and then took the auto train so could easily pack it. This is my first flight with the derned thing.

    My cute green carryon accommodated it well, along with my clothes. And a big bag for purse and camera stuff completed what needed to be schlepped. A small purse was packed for evening. I packed 3 pairs of slacks, a skirt and several tops that “go” with more than one thing. One dressier top.

    Two years on the train made me repress memories of air travel and its restrictions. I inadvertently packed some colored pencils and a too large bottle (it wasn’t very large!) of mouthwash. Other consumables like shampoo I would buy down here if hotel didn’t provide.

    All arrangements were made online in June. Southwest/Airtran/Payless auto, Econoparkexpress parking at BWI (Baltimore), and Simpson’s B&B. All confirmed the day before, including printing my boarding pass. I really didn’t expect to have trouble finding vacancies and didn’t. But I wasn’t on my way to Disney World, eh?

    Flight leaving at 7:50 a.m. so I got to parking place (econopark) at 6:15. I left home at 5:25. Gulp. Yawn. Pre-printing the board pass allowed me to bypass check-in and go straight to a very long windy security line. It went quickly though and we stood in a tube-like structure for x-ray. I had a mind picture of someone guffawing at the view.

    My green suitcase got side-lined and the bottle of mouth wash confiscated. Pencils (much better weapons) left alone. When I unpacked, I found I’d packed my very sharpest scissors and didn’t realize it! Now they are weapons. Nice TSA guy said liquids are being monitored pretty closely.

    Naturally, my plane was at the further-most gate but I managed to get there unwinded. One hour before takeoff, I was seated with a group on the way to Orlando. Airtran has assigned seats so there was not nervous jostling to be first in the “B” line. And, except for some of the more rambunctious children, the area was quiet. It took all of my self-control to not stand up and ask if there were any Fodorites.

    Flight was smooth and blessedly quiet. Except for the times the plane was over the water, one could see the ground for most of the flight. Cinnamon cookies were the snacks. No preservatives! Called Biscoff.

    We arrived 1 minute early only to find another plane “parked” in our spot so we were about 10 minutes late. It was disconcerting to realize that the plane was making a 180! A long trip via monorail to actual terminal, through lots of eating/shopping places down the escalator and a left to car rentals. Do you want to know what happens if you pack too much in a green wheeled carryon? The pull comes out and won't go back in. You can invert the pull and pull on the handle until the pull breaks in half. Still more fun than checking luggage.

    Payless doesn’t have a desk so I lost some time searching. Finally found their courtesy phone and was sent to Slot 12 outside. Waited about 10 minutes and the Payless bus came along. My credit card company assured me that extra insurance was taken care of by them and to not buy from rental company. Raja, the car agent, tried really hard to get me to buy it and made me sign several places absolving them of responsibility.

    The car is a Nissan Scion and very much like driving my own little box. I ignored Dundee’s (GPS) direction (it wasn’t my fault—signage was poor) to take the correct exit to route 4 so lost 10 minutes getting turned around. “He” took me to route 429 that really was shorter. Unfortunately, he also took me to an exit for which I didn’t have correct change or a pass (have to check with rental company. Do ask when you rent a car) so broke the law but couldn’t get right back on 429! I called police to turn myself in for the 50-cent toll and the officer said, “Don’t worry about it, dear.”

    Using the doubtful Dundee to get back, I see a McDonald’s so order a cheeseburger and get some change. OK, I got fries and a shake also. Hadn’t had a meal since dinner the night before. I called Jamie at Simpson's to let her know where I was. Back on 429 and I hit another toll for $1.50 but this one is manned. He wouldn’t take the extra 50 cents but did give me a receipt to send to Payless. ($3.00 in tolls at this point).

    Dundee says stay left on 441 when he should have said TURN left so I made an illegal U-ie and low and behold I’m in Mt. Dora very soon! Found a loading spot at the corner of 5th and Donnelly and called Jamie. She had just gone for a jog so I had no worries about help with green bag up the full flight of stairs ('no elevator' alert!) to get to the B&B rooms. All of the nearest public lots were full so I found one 3 blocks away—not really very far if you have no health problems. So far, my breathing is OK.

    Next: Simpson's B&B, KaDee Kay kitchen, Maggie's, Cecile's

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    TDudette, about tolls here - it's standard practice here for the major car rental companies to just pass the toll charges on to you (they will bill the credit card you used to rent the car) and save you the trouble of stopping to pay. Something like 6 of our 7 major highways are toll roads....

    Now, Payless is not one of those, so I checked their Orlando site for their policy:

    "You are responsible for paying all tolls incurred while using the vehicle. If you incur a toll
    during the rental period without paying the toll in cash and we, or our agent must pay the toll
    on your behalf, you will be charged a Convenience Fee of $2.95 per rental day up to a
    maximum of $14.75 per rental plus the published toll fee at the time you incur the toll. Tolls
    will be processed after the return of the Vehicle and will be charged to the Credit or Debit
    Card you provided for the rental. Charges will appear as a separate line item on your credit
    card or bank statement."

    So - at this point, don't bother to stop at any toll booths, since you will be charged the daily convenience fee + toll anyway. No worries.

    P.S. I travel the Florida Turnpike and the 429 every day to get to work. Those tolls DO add up, don't they?

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    Thanks for checking, sludick! Great info for any visiting Florida driver.

    Back to the TR:

    About Simpson’s B&B

    Pros: Charming doors with transoms and screened doors hark back to days before A/C. Very comfortable room, bed and wonderful bathroom.

    Cons: No parking—use free public lots. There is one right outside the back entry though.
    Flight of stairs required
    No wi-fi but nearby cafés have it. Computer picked up a nearby signal for email only.
    The staff isn’t there daily but are just a call away.

    The room (“Jim’s Suite”) is wonderful and the first to be renovated. It is also the smallest. A kitchenette is on the right and a round table for 2 on the right. The table is set nicely with square plates/chargers. There are snacks, cookies, coffee, hot choc and tea available. Dividing the room on the left is a love seat that faces a nice side chair with footrest and mounted flat TV.

    Behind the love seat and on the opposite wall is a king (I believe) bed. To the left an armoire and a new bathroom with plenty of counter space. Although the furnishings are not top of the line, the suite is pleasant, comfortable and plenty large for 1 person. Would be fine for 2 average-sized folks as well.

    By the time I unpacked and sat for a few minutes, it was after 2. I started a stroll along Donnelly Street and visited several shops. A right turn to the previously-visited KaDee Kay revealed the entire street being torn up. I stopped to say hello to owner Karen. Shop busy despite facing a closed street. Cecile’s French Corner very quiet so I ordered a Crepe Normandy (Chicken/mushrooms/cream sauce--$12 with tax) to go to warm up later in microwave. The little alley I mentioned in Feb’s TR is still there and one shop still available to rent. Maggie’s Attic sells all kinds of wine and beer. I stopped in and mentioned liking Australian Shiraz and owner sold me “19 Crimes,” a 2012 red table wine (he also opened it but I did find a corkscrew in the room later). It’s $20 price reduced to $14 on sale. He also carries Rioja. Tomorrow night will be a tasting including Italian wines. Cost $15.

    Back to the room to write up notes and try to stay awake but was unsuccessful at the latter. Awoke at 3 a.m. but able to sleep until 7:30. Although not a huge showerhead, shower was wonderful and water stayed warm throughout. Bamboo tea shampoo and other personal items provided so that was lovely. Thick, thick white towels!

    Saturday, 18 July 2013

    Breakfast: 2 coffees, egg/sausage/cheese wrap and apple Danish (around $10 plus free wi-fi)
    Lunch: Cobb salad, cinnamon cake, cappuccino ($18.46)
    Dinner: Some of last night’s leftovers

    Strolled to Arbor Gourmet coffee shop (I had spied the “free wifi” and “open at 7 a.m.” sign yesterday. On the way, I realized the public parking lot closer to B&B was nearly empty so I move my rental car there. Will try very hard to not move the car! Oh, it’s a Cube not a Scion.

    Spoke with owner, Terry at some length. The empty space down the alley rents for $2,500 a month! He and wife Bobbie have been here about 5 years (from Ohio) and love it.

    On the walk back, I went down an alley to Merrill’s Market. Supposedly has food. It’s not open past opening time. I can see plenty of wine bottles. Doubt they’ll sell mouthwash! Walked back to Donnelly Street and stopped at 2 of the places on the map that even hinted about food but no luck. Deposited computer in room and went left to 5th Avenue. Spot a realty office and go in. Am greeted by Steven and we sit until 3:00 going through listings that fit my uncertain criteria. He will take me to 16 places on Wednesday and Thursday. My homework is to weight the listings so we can make the most of our time at each place. We shall see.

    Continued strolling and stopped at Walk in the Woods. Found a pair of shoes that fit more snugly than my current ones and were cheap so wore them out of the store. Crossed the street and continue walking and looking. Back to Donnelly but on the other side of the street. There are too many shops to even try to describe in this little town. I go to Cody’s for cobb salad and water. Cap and cake for dessert. I will have breakfast here tomorrow through B&B and see a “free wifi” sign there. Waitperson/manager says that Mrs. Cody is in France.

    Stroll back to room around 5 and the skies open up. By the time for the wine tasting, it’s still rainy so I decide I’ll just save the $15 fee and buy another wine tomorrow. Re-warmed half of the crepe for dinner and finished up the snacks. Stayed in for the rest of the night.

    Sunday, 21 July 2013

    Breakfast: Cody’s ($5? Special rate with Simpson’s) Bacon/egg sandwich, coffee, OJ and small coffee cake
    Linner (lunch/dinner): Pot Roast, Chocolate Cake, Glass of wine ($28.30 before tip)

    Alarm works! Up at 7 and at Cody’s by 8 for pre-arranged breakfast. Nice little bowl of all kinds of fruit, bacon and egg sandwich and small slice of cinnamon coffee cake are good. Free wifi so I’ll stay until my welcome is worn out or battery fails and down-load realtor’s list. I stayed welcomed and the battery held up!

    I got through the first 16 listings and made an Excel spread sheet. Things like low HOA, low taxes and curb appeal get checks. About half have higher marks. Will finish the next 11 tomorrow and email to Steven. Deposited my computer back in the room and continued my Mt. Dora stroll. Back to 5th Ave. and down to Lake Dora. There are some gorgeous houses there. Torn up area is a real mess but will be a wonderful pedestrian area in October. I walked to the public pier and saw the tour boat, took shots and moseyed back to the cute alley.

    Stopped back at Maggie’s Attic and Adrian says over 100 people were there last night. She sold me a San Giorgio alle Rose Chianti on sale from $17 to $14. She also jotted down the names of places she and her husband have looked to buy once they get a nest egg together. Said hello to KaDee Kay and Arbor Gourmet folks. Bought a blueberry scone from the latter to keep in the fridge for a future breakfast.

    Stopped by the Windsor Rose English Tea Room and Restaurant. Town map indicated that they sell groceries. Such a cute place! Inside all decorated with English “stuff” and one wall lined with teas, tea pots, biscuits and such. But no real groceries (or mouth wash!) so I ended up with some fruit mints and a promise to come back for the pot roast special later.

    Back to the room to drop off purchases and organize my pictures and bag. Great to be so convenient to site-seeing and sleeping at the same time, eh? Truly, if you are considering saving money by staying in the suburbs, please add the huge advantage of running to your room easily before you decide!

    Back to 5th Avenue but going east this time. I pass a design/gift store, ice cream palace and cupcake store (moving to 4th FYI) and come to the Mt. Dora Center for the Arts. It is closed. Artisans on 5th Street is open and I spend a long time looking at art work. Then chat with Heather and Karen there and learn some details about the organization. I also get the business cards of 2 of the artists whose work appealed.

    Went along to Baker and passed Fiesta Grande Mexican Grill and somehow missed a photo store. Back to 4th Avenue and continued my stroll—stopping and chatting as I felt like it. Back to Tea Room for pot roast!

    This is a cute place. Friendly wait staff in black with white maid’s aprons. Commemorative plates, pictures of royalty and tea things cover the walls. A list on the table has 2 columns in 8-point, single-spaced type of flavors of tea available on one side and 12 wines on the other. I forgot to note the beers and whiskeys that were listed on the menu, but there were some. Waitperson says they will have a baby shower for the new royal. I might get to attend.

    The pot roast is fork-tender and served over a bed of roasted potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and red pepper. Two little Yorkshire puddings are crispy on the outside and soft inside. Yum! I could only eat about half to have room for chocolate cake with a raspberry custard filling! Ordered Root 1 Carmenere red wine. It was heavy and peppery but fine with the red meat. Don’t tell the wine police, but I put some ice in it. Ate about ¾ of the cake. Left with a bag of food to eat another day.

    Outside it is pretty hot and humid. Not as bad as Maryland last week but still hot. My third trek up the stairs back to Jim’s room and I have not used the nebulizer today for the first time in months. A great and hopeful thing.

    As I plug in the Kindle, a camera battery and the computer, I’m struck by how travel has changed since 1984 when DH and I first went to Greece. I had a 35 mm camera and kept an armed guard from putting my unexposed film through the x-ray machine. I think they weighed luggage but don’t recall if extra was charged for overweight. There was one screen in the plane and everyone watched the same movie.

    Today, most hotels have hair dryers and toiletries and one can purchase major brands at most destinations in the world so no need to pack them. As mentioned earlier, today my bag is filled with chargers. Now that I’m older, with medicine also. I must remember to take copies of prescriptions but again, not so much a big deal in our ever-shrinking world.

    Another thunder boomer and I’ve decided to call it a day. I’ll drive to a big box store in the a.m. tomorrow. No one has keeled over from my bad breath yet.

    Next: A continued search for mouthwash.

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    Did I say how nice it is to be right in the historic area of a place?

    Monday, 22 July 2013

    Breakfast: Cody’s, $13 Crustless spinach/feta quiche
    Lunch: Village Coffee Shop, $? Chicken salad sandwich
    Dinner: Leftover pot roast in room

    Up at 7 and back to Cody’s at 7:45. Quiche was a tad dry but good. Mrs. Cody is back from a wedding near Lyon, France. Has lived in Mt. D around 8 years and loves it.

    I read the last 11 house descriptions on-line, completed another Excel chart and sent everything back to Steven. It was 10:30 by the time I finished. The breakfast pass only saved $3 btw—I mistakenly wrote $5 for breakfast on Sunday. As I passed the parking lot where “cube” is living, I realize it’s full. Hmmm. Do I really want to go to Walgreen’s? Take computer back to room and Cindy is cleaning and Jamie is here. Also here are 3 members of the Simpson family and Isabelle the pooch. We chat for a while and make plans for my getting away on the following Monday. I do want to pre-print my boarding pass but no one here on Sunday. I bemoan the lack of mouthwash in the historic area.

    Get to room and can’t stand the taste in my mouth so give up my spot and drive up Donnelly to the corner of Rte. 441 (around 20 blocks) —the dreaded dual-lane highway with big box stores. Everything needed is there and I take a little ride along 441 noting several of the stores I might need for “big” shopping. Pulled a U-ie and zig-zagged my way back to Simpson’s under quite a few live oaks and Spanish moss.

    Pass a rather large high school. The houses got nicer the closer to Lake Dora—not a huge surprise. I drove through a very nice Gilbert Park after I stumbled onto Highland Street (where someone mentioned a self- laundry and Jeremiah’s resto—saw the latter). Back to “my” spot and it is occupied as is the rest of the public lot at the back door of the B&B. I drove around one more time and a miracle occurred as my spot opened up!

    Back to room (the stairs are getting to my breathing but they sure help exercise needs). Cindy said they might let me use the “house” washer. That would be a nice surprise--don't think they'd really want to open that door. Back to Donnelly St. and Village Coffee Pot. Chick salad pretty good. Listened to a couple of guys in their 80s gossiping and telling condo “war” stories. They compared ages so I know how old they were.

    Time to stroll but I’m greeted by a very large black cloud so I shop my way back to Simpson’s. Find a nifty top at Vincent’s but no room in my bags. I go up the stairs for the 3rd time today to wait out the storm. There I am greeted by the news that an 8-lb., 6-oz. royal boy was born at 4:24 (26?) Read and listen to CNN until rain ends and go out again.

    Stop at several more shops and visit a recommended Mt. Dora Coffee House and Bistro for an iced-coffee. Stroll back to Merrill’s and see that “market” has been removed from its name. Live music scheduled! As I go back up Mt. Dora Drawdy Way (where car is located), I realize that it is a one-way street and I went the wrong way on it this a.m. The tea room is closed—I wonder when they’ll have the shower.

    Back to the room for the last time 4-ish. Download photos and check emails. I re-heated the pot roast and it is just as tender. Asleep by 9:30.

    Tuesday, 23 July 2013

    Breakfast: Cody’s, Farmer’s quiche, $10 with Simpson’s coupon
    Lunch: Leftover blueberry scone, some cashews
    Dinner: Jeremiah’s, Ribs, $21.70

    Up at 7 and take my time getting ready watching new baby and news coverage. Back to Cody’s and try the farmer’s (cheese/spinach/red peppers/mushroom/bacon on top) quiche. It is more moist than the spinach/feta. Both crust-less BTW. Gal zapped a blueberry muffin so its texture got nasty—wish she’d toasted it. I’ll be trying other places for breakfast and will try to wait to get online in the hotter part of the day instead of first thing.

    Looked for retirement places info online and got number for nearby Waterman Community. I called and have an appointment there this afternoon. Rain began after I returned to the room so wrote emails and read to pass the time. Decided to eat the blueberry scone for lunch. Sorry, I just haven’t found a scone I like and this was no different. Not dry as many I’ve had, but no crunch.

    I keep forgetting to mention the ubiquitous little skinks (geckoes?). So far, they skitter away. Very cute.

    At 10 of 2, I left to drive up Donnelly to visit Waterman Village. Spent 1.5 hours with Cheryl who drove us, via golf course, to a one-bedroom villa, the grounds and community center and who spent a lot of time crunching numbers.

    Drove over to Jermiah’s and ordered ribs, mashed pot and apple sauce. Could barely finish ½ of it so it will be another day’s meal. It was OK but our local Adam’s Ribs are less sweet. Waitperson mentioned that she had just gotten back from vacation. That led me to ask her where a person who already lives in a vacation land actually goes for vacation?? She went to another part of Florida, of course.

    Rain sprinkling once again so back to my room. Parking lot clearing out so I get a spot next to “mine”.

    Wednesday: Condo searching with Steven

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    Thanks for posting, TDudette, I am enjoying reading about your days in Mt. Dora!

    My experiences with baked goods in parts of Florida haven't been all that positive, I'm afraid. I stick to Southern specialties, because what they call scones or croissants or brioche or even bagels in some places just aren't what I expect them to be. They say it's the humidity, but I think that you don't find very sophisticated bakers outside the big cities, which is true in most states, I bet.

    Can't wait to hear how your condo search went...

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    Great report and now for the harder questions:

    assume you are aware of how high property taxes are in Florida as well as the cost of auto insurance not to mention wind insurance (yes you will need it in a condo), right?

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    Thanks for all of the kind words.

    NewbE: I've seen a lot of cakes. Coffee cake was very good.

    Dukey1: About prop taxes--this condo has a "Y" in the 'Homestead' space and, as a widder, I can get further reductions. I'll be sure to get that pinned down as part of any agreement. My Md. ones aren't all that great. I didn't know about wind ins. but will find out if that's included in the condo insurance. By not needing flood insurance, I hope I'll save a bit. Thank you--I really do appreciate any good info.

    Hey yestravel: It's quirky and cute and this area may be on an upswing. Here's hoping so I can flip or rent out the condo if things don't work out.

    More TR to follow.

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    TDudette, it sounds like you are enjoying Mt Dora.

    From your reference to jostling for spaces in B group it seems you are unaware that now on SW you get a specific boarding number within each boarding group, so no jostling.

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    Hey jubi, No, I didn't know that SW has done that. Can assigned seats be far behind?


    Spent the rest of the evening reading emails and a good book.

    Wed. 24 July 2013

    Breakfast: Bacon and egg at Cody’s $8
    Lunch: Casa Mia, Caesar salad, Prosciutto and peas fettuccine, one glass Chianti, Cannoli’s for 2, $43.29 for 2 people
    Dinner: One Flight Up, Turkey and Swiss on white toast, 2 glasses of shiraz, $24.3

    Up and out early to be ready for the 9 a.m. appt. with realtor Steven. I have sent him my excel chart showing the places that got my highest score on paper and ask that he feel free to over-rule or insert choices. At his office, we get everything in order for visiting efficiency and he has a few realtors who haven’t returned his courtesy calls (“I’m taking a client to your listing and wish to confirm that it is OK”).

    We look at 7 in Mt. Dora and then break for lunch at Casa Mia in Tavares (“Home of the Bi-Planes”) and we look at 3 more nearby.

    I liked one in Mt. Dora but LOVED one in Tavares. The owners were there and Steven and I sat and chatted with them for a long time. It was the least “cookie cutter” of all we had seen. Back to Mt. Dora and we talked and talked about how to choose. We part with promise to talk on Thursday a.m. Steven will informally chat with the other brokers involved.

    A new place to try is One Flight Up. It is one flight up in a French Quarter-looking building with wrought iron decoration. They open at 8 for breakfast and have wifi! It is almost directly across the street from Simpson's. Roger there sat down and talked with me about places to look. Fortunately, they all coincided with today’s junket.

    I took ½ sandwich home and I spent the evening wondering what to do about the condos today.

    Thursday, 25 July 2013

    Breakfast: One Flight Up, Egg and sausage on English muffin, coffee, <$10
    Lunch: Left-over turkey sandwich
    Dinner: Palm Tree Grille, Pork and rosemary fettucine, Limoncello cake, Glass of Cab/Malbec blend, $29.94

    Slept until 8 and ran over to One Flight Up. The breakfasts were similar to Cody’s. The eggs looked exactly the same. Perfectly round with a very hard-cooked pale yolk. Not great. I wondered if they were micro-waved.

    Back to room and stopped by the office. Jamie will not be back until Monday so we get final bill paid and load me up with room supplies. Jamie will print out my boarding pass Monday a.m.. Mr. Simpson let me add my whites to the linens in my room. Since I’m here for 10 days, they are kindly making an exception for me and it is appreciated. Did I tell you above that Steven said I could come over to his house and do laundry.... After my washing lesson, Jamie and I talked for a while and she showed me 2 of the not yet updated suites. They are so cute. Some funky older kitchen sinks would be missed by me but I didn’t ask if they would be replaced. She mentioned that the wide hall not only helped with breeze but is where travelers' trunks would sit. I can see that Jim's Suite was 2 rooms but they removed a wall to keep the king-sized bed from overwhelming a room. Also door to bath is on a hanging slider.

    Being the frustrated designer I am, I got to let Jamie know what I would change in Jim's suite. Very minor—coasters and a place to put drinks by the love seat. I wanted a new lamp in one place and to move the floor lamp. We really had fun.

    After I put in the clothes, I went to see Steven. He’s going to get an offer together for the Tavares condo and email it to me and I’ll pass it on to my “people”. If we can do this, I’ll sign the offer on Sunday.

    In the meantime, I’m planning to drive to Winter Park tomorrow. It will be about a 40-minute trip. There is an Amtrak Station in that town--a real draw as I love trains. A link about Main Streets (
    http://www.destinationmainstreets.com/florida/winter-park.php )

    suggests that this town is somewhat upscale. This is something to consider. Perhaps downtown restos will be better as well.

    Decided to ride around and find what stores are on Rte. 441. Although not quite as developed as the coastal roads, there are many big box and resto chains. It’s truly not my favorite part about Florida. However, I must drive 19 miles from my cottage to complete my weekly purchases. The Tavares condo is less than 5 miles to a nice-looking mall. Post Office in walking distance.

    It starts to rain while I’m driving so I decide to look for a new suitcase tomorrow after Winter Park. Back to the room to pick up computer but there are no parking spaces in the lot I like.
    Found one in the next-closer lot. If you were just spending a weekend and eating out, car moving wouldn’t be a problem. For a 10-day visit, it was a tad inconvenient. I still haven’t come across a market within walking distance. Reading material says there’s a farmer’s market on weekend.

    Walk over to Maggie’s Attic and they have one more on-sale Chianti left so I take it for the room, and go to Palm Tree Grille for dinner. It came out so fast, I figured the pasta wasn’t freshly cooked. The pork was thinly sliced—tasty but not succulent. I’d give it a B or B-. Wine was good. The limoncello cake was the best part of the meal and only the second time I’ve mentioned any area food as notable.

    Boxed up my leftovers and went back to the room to write, read and eat cake. Going through notes and I see if have forgotten to write that wine and beer are sold in Walgreen’s.

    Tomorrow Winter Park.

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    I hope you enjoy Winter Park! We love the Tiffany museum there, and I do think there are a quite a few nice restaurants, including a nationally renowned gastropub, The Ravenous Pig. Cute shops, too. Anyway, can't wait to read the next installment...

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    Thanks, jubi.
    NewbE, please read below but I did like Winter Park a lot. Didn't take time for the art gallery this time.

    TR: Friday, 26 July 2013

    Breakfast: One Flight Up, Spinach quiche, lemon pound cake, coffee $?
    Lunch: Paris Bistro, 216 N. Park Ave., Chicken on croissant, coffee, $11.13
    Dinner: Warmed up ribs

    Up at seven and over to OFU across the street. The quiche had a crust but it was a little soft so I’m wondering if it was micro-waved. Cake delish and will be 2 more servings. Spoke with Jodie and she told me about the back stairs.

    Checked condo listings in Winter Park. The ones in my price range look like older brick buildings. Back to room to park the computer, then off to Winter Park. Dundee wants to take us on a toll road. My map shows a back way so I ignore Dundee until I "chicken out" and follow his directions. Of course, I pass the road I thought I would take and will return the way I had originally planned. I wish for a real navigator and then say “suck it up” and get my nerves back.

    JR and I bought our first GPS 6 years ago. One problem is that GPS goes on one side of a square and I go on another. Possibly because my left-sidedness leads to this conflict. Wresting navigation control from someone who is always certain and often wrong can be a recipe for mix-ups. On the other hand, both Steven’s and my Garmin put the Tavares condo on the left side of the road rather than the right.

    Winter Park. The historic area has a nice park on one side of the road and more upscale shops than Mt. Adorable. I had passed a Talbot’s with “Sale” sign so go around the block to follow parking garage signs and park nearby. Free three-hour spaces line both sides of Park Avenue. At noon on a Friday in July, they are filled. This must be a “joy” in winter time.

    Smartly, the first several levels of the parking garage (this one free) are reserved for government workers. I have to go to 5th floor, the roof top level, where there are 4 or 5 free spaces. Elevator down and I stroll toward Talbot’s. Passing Paris Bistro and nice young man (who kindly calls me ‘Miss’) shows me the lunch menu. I tell him I’ll return after shopping and I do (after buying t-shirt and jeans at T’s!). Nice folks in T’s say that Winter Park is just as quirky as Mt. Dora—don’t let the upscale buildings fool you.

    Back to Bistro and maitre d’ leads me into a very nice inside dining room with dark red velveteen banquettes around the back walls, toile-looking wall paper, European art work, and coffered ceiling. Excellent Josh is waitperson. Moved here from Milwaukee 3 years ago and loving the weather so far. By the way, I’m appalled at the way some businesses leave their doors open with A/C running.

    I call Steven and tell him I won’t have enough working capital to own 2 houses at the same time so we’d better put things on hold. Not to be discouraged, he said he’d think on it. We’ll still meet on Sunday so I can see what he comes up with. Owners might rent to me for a while. I'll just take paper work home with me to Md.

    Strolled some more. Stopped at Timothy’s Gallery. Clerk said owners of 25 years mostly buy from the Craft Council. Indeed I saw pieces that I’ve seen in Annapolis shops. Pretty painted round table and 4 chairs. Back to car and took my originally-planned route back. Got to see some cr*ppy-looking outlying areas in the half hour trip. Churches look better than homes and there are quite a few boarded up businesses.

    Had to park in a lot 2 blocks south of B&B but it affords a nice stroll and more shopping. Found a tee shirt for the neighbor who picked up my mail that reads ‘I climbed Mt. Dora! Elevation 144 feet’ and looked at more shops.

    Back to room and the wifi signal I’ve been getting for email won’t come up so I guess I’ll wait until a.m. to check it. Maybe something will change later. Downloaded 10 more photos and watched a “Castle” rerun. Cody’s will have a trivia party tonight at 6:45. I might go.

    I warm up the ribs and they are more tender now. Go figure. Down to Cody’s for trivia and found an almost full café. Connie and Jeff run this weekly. She paired me with Sandra. Sandra has lived in Mt. Dora for 6 years and has dealt with the stroke that took her walking and some speech when she was 42. She is 70 now but keeps on plugging,

    We tied for last place with Mr. and Mrs. Cody but had a great time. We would have come in 3rd but we bet the maximum on the final bonus question and went down in flames. We did win 2 scratch-off cards for knowing that Mick Jagger was 22 when he wrote “Mother’s Little Helper”. (We guessed) We earned $2 that will go to her grandchildren. We exchanged cards and I realized that she lives in a sweet place I’ve passed and almost taken a photo of—will do so now with her kind permission.

    Back to room to continue pondering. I hear a door close. Jamie has said that Linda from store below will be spending the night. Hope it is she. I’ve decided to send home some clothes rather than buy another suitcase, so sorted out stuff.

    Saturday, 27 July 2013

    Breakfast: Arbor, coffee and bun, $4.24 then Cody’s coffee and OJ, $4.00

    Out the door at 8:30 and Linda pokes her head out from the opposite suite. Offers boxes from her store as mailers but I gratefully decline. Ran over to Arbor to check messages then went to PO and spent $21 to send home a box of dirty clothes (and nice scissors that somehow didn’t get confiscated on the way here)—cheaper than a new suitcase, eh? Back to my lot and there are still spaces. Still wanting coffee so went to Cody’s. Gal (Kim?) from last night on duty this a.m.—she and boyfriend coming to DC next month. Sandra and her grandson, Alex come in. He thanks us for the $2—nice kid.

    They talk about how they were robbed in various places in the world. Sandra has a friend who buys junky purses to carry in her travels.

    I’m going to go back to the room now then be a tourist again. Photos to come when I return to Md.

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    TDudette, I am on my condo's board, and I can tell you that wind insurance is not a separate policy the way flood insurance is. (We are not directly on the coast, nor is Mt. Dora; perhaps things are different when one lives right on the shore.) Our condo master policy covers wind damage, with a thicket of insurance-ese and legal-ese to wade through in order to determine what, exactly, would be covered in the case of a major storm, or a named storm, and so on. I'm sure your realtor knows what he's talking about, but you could also contact the condo board to ask questions directly; I know our board would be happy to speak to a prospective owner, even if there's no contract pending.

    Good luck!

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    Thanks, NewbE, I brought home 70+ pages to read, including condo rules, so I should get it figured out. Good to know about contacting condo board directly as well.

    Am back home so will finish up the TR in the morning. Realize I didn't write down lunch and dinner above.

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    For what it’s worth, we lived in the Washington area for more than 30 years and now have lived on the west coast of Florida for the past 12 years. We have found the summers here to be less oppressive than those in Washington; typically, the temperature is a little lower each day here and the humidity is about the same as it was in Washington. We do benefit from an afternoon sea breeze many days. The downside: the summer heat lasts until mid-October! This makes the summers seem almost endless! The very mild winters, however, are the tradeoff.

    We love to visit Mt. Dora. We hope this plan works for you.

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    Do you ever wish for a sign from above about making a decision? I woke up about 3 a.m. and turned on the news only to hear a propane facility, near where I liked in Tavares, had exploded last night!

    Thanks, Beaucoup, does your area get many hurricanes?

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    In 12 years, we have had one tropical storm come ashore nearby (it did minor damage) and Hurricane Charley, which did major damage nearby, but not here. We have storm shutters, etc., but rarely have to use them. We do worry, however, about being gone during hurricane season, so we time our travel accordingly!

    I might mention, too, that we have found the cost of living, generally, to be about the same here as in the Washington area. Housing, however, is more reasonably priced here. As someone pointed out earlier, car insurance is much more expensive; property taxes are similar as are sales taxes. Of course, there is no state income tax.

    Good luck with your decision. We would not go back to Washington, but we do like to visit our old haunts!

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    Perhaps so, jubi. Prices will continue to rise in FL I do believe though. I'm at the beginnings of the Baby Boomers so had hoped to find something perfect now.

    Think i'll see about selling this place first. Wish I'd "pulled the trigger" 3 years ago!

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    Yes, yestravel, things are on the upswing. I managed to let the week go by without finishing up. So here's the end. I started with a completed 27 July

    Saturday, 27 July 2013

    Breakfast: Arbor, coffee and bun, $4.24 then Cody’s coffee and OJ, $4.00
    Lunch: Garden Gate Tea Room, $25.04, Salmon Soufflé Roulade, lemonade, blueberry cobbler
    Dinner: One Flight Up, ½ Ham and Swiss sandwich, $?

    Out the door at 8:30 and shop owner Lynn (who sleeps over occasionally) pokes her head out from the opposite suite. Offers boxes from her store as mailers but I gratefully decline. Ran over to Arbor to check messages then went to PO and spent $21 to send home a box of dirty clothes (and nice scissors that somehow didn’t get confiscated on the way here)—cheaper than a new suitcase, eh? Back to my lot and there are still spaces. Still wanting coffee so back to Cody’s. Gal (Kim?) from last night on duty this a.m.—she and boyfriend coming to DC next month. Sandra and her grandson, Alex come in. He thanks us for the $2—nice kid.

    They all talk about how they were robbed in various places in the world. Sandra has a friend who buys junky purses to carry in her travels. I’m going to go back to the room now then be a tourist again. It is very hot outside today so I walk slowly back to the room. Stop off to say hi to Linda. Her shop, “Under the Cherry Blossoms,” is on the street level of Simpson’s building. Someone stacked some nice old china pieces to make a cute serving pyramid. Didn’t take a photo of it as it is someone’s art/craft—very bad form.

    Start a new stroll and it is very hot. Too hot for gelato so I bypass that shop. Stop in to Lynn’s again and we exchange cards. Her last name means Cherry Blossoms in Polish. Go into the design shop I missed the other day and it is lovely. Mt. Dora Center is still closed and today the shades are down. I wanted to check out the digital photo shop as I missed it the other day. Found the sign but all doors locked. Will try to find it online.

    The Garden Gate Tea Room, described as blissful is very crowded with a birthday party and a baby shower. There’s a cute entry way with some tables for the heat-immune and a warren of rooms with precious decorations. Really, no other word to describe it. A pretty good lunch: “Heavenly Salmon Soufflé” Poched salmon in a cream sauce baked in a light roulade. Greens with orange ginger vinaigrette. Fresh lemonade was perfect and the warm blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream was good, albeit more crunchy than I remember from my youth. One of the better overall meals so far.

    A somewhat long wait for the meal was a good sign. No microwaved quickness. Spoke to the couple next to me for a bit. She and I shared an old rattan settee. They have moved inland in Florida and are liking things very much.

    I slowly walk back to Simpson’s as the heat is rather intense now. Room is cool so I download more photos and write some notes. Think I’ll wait until things cool off before going out again. Much will be open until 8 tonight. Rest a while then "run" across to OFU and get online. Offer the realtor says he has emailed is not there. Band comes in to set up so I get a sandwich to go for later. Meet up with Lynn and she is going to the Ghost Walk run by one of Mt. D’s quirky people. A blend of Monty Python and the Adams Family according to this person! I pass and return to room for an evening of reading/TV/poor email signal.

    Sunday, 28 July 2013

    Breakfast: Windsor Tea House, Sausage, Eggs, Hash Browns, coffee, $12.84
    Lunch: Coffee—not hungry after the big breakfast, $2.00
    Dinner: ½ ham and swiss sandwich

    It’s cool as I walk one block south and one block west for Big Breakfast at Windsor Tea Room. It’s very good and the room is getting full when I leave at 10. Sorry, coffee shops, but it was more satisfying food. Fun breakfast names such as “Benedict Arnold Eggs”, “Billy Bunter Breakfast”, “Sir Francis Drake Fruit Plate”—very clever. They kindly let me dawdle over a crossword (supplied by my neighbor who gets NY Times) and I get help for a 5-letter desert name from someone who offered his assistance when he passed by. It’s humid as I continue 3 or so blocks south to the lake and the open air market.

    I pass a very pretty Lakeside Inn that prospective visitors might want to check out (being lakeside and having parking could be something important), Mt. Dora Lawn Bowling Club (Est. 1928), and a lower, covered, level of the lot where I first parked on the 19th. There’s a nice breeze off the lake. Good looking produce, Nathan’s hot dog stand, local food stands and woman selling wooden roses. The roses are made of coconut skin—look a little like balsa. Watch Robert Sanford copying a tiger in pastels and white charcoal. He draws whiskers that are perfect. He lives in Winter Haven.

    A very slow walk back up a slightly inclined Donnelly St. to Simpson’s. I am covered in “dew” when I get home. I sign the guest book in the meeting room that faces the street. The windows are open so I grab my computer. Can’t get a good signal here. Lynn comes up and she lets me know I’ll be alone tonight. This is amusing to me. In how many hotels have you been left alone in the building? This is my second! See my TR about Ashland VA.

    Back to OFU for a huge iced coffee and internet access. Handsome older gentleman plays acoustic guitar with canned background music. Chicago “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?” “Fever”

    No file from Steven but an email saying he did send it. Emailed back that we’d see it at his office. The time for the meeting arrived and he was there. Just across the street on the corner. He prints out the 71-page document and tries to resend it with his computer next to mine. It is successful. We spend the next two hours going through the doc. Looks pretty standard.

    I continue strolling. Vincent’s is having a sale so I get a cute white linen shirt that has the vee-neck I wished my own has and never got around to changing. One last trip to say goodbye to Terry. His wife is home but he isn’t talkative about her condition. I get a coffee, check email and beat the next rain storm. Hustling back acroos the parking lot, up Mt Dora Drawry Way and up the back stairs gives me the puffs.

    Back to room for final night here and it is really storming . I eat the last half of my sandwich and will leave the pork and pasta pesto uneaten. Watched TV and read.

    Monday, 29 July 2013

    Breakfast: One Flight Up, Coffee and lemon coffee cake, $4.50
    Lunch: Ham/swiss on foccaccia, water, $11.10 (!) from kiosk right by the gate
    Dinner: Egg sandwich at home

    Awake well before time to get ready so turned on TV and watched about terrible bus accident Near Naples. Hated to see it.

    Grabbed a breakfast at OFU, moved the Cube to an open space in front of the B&B and returned to room to finish packing and make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. At 9, I heard the front door close so went to the office. Jamie let me printout my boarding pass and kindly carried my bag down the stairs. Trip to Orlando would have been perfect if I’d listened to Dundee. I had vowed that I would but when he said “Stay left on 429,” it was clearly marked ‘414’ so I didn’t. Ended up going south of car rental return and lost 10 minutes but it was OK. Check-in at Payless was painless. Remember to hang on to your receipt until your credit card statement arrives. Their transportation to the airport right on the spot. Again, having that pre-printed boarding pass and no checked luggage saved so much time.

    On the return trip toward security, I see a huge Hyatt hotel. Might that help explain all the restos in the area? And there are restaurants in the gate areas. One little walk-up store next to my gate sold me a sandwich and a water for $11.10!

    Easy trip home and congenial seat mates. One minor problem was that the Air Tran luggage pick up was at door 2 and the private off-site busses were at doors 7-9. Just a little bit of a walk but certainly not convenient. However, the Econopark Express bus was there and the driver had water for us. If you use this service, head toward those higher-numbered doors first if you can.

    Wrapping up: I can’t emphasize enough how nice it was at Simpson’s B&B. My room, positioned mid-way in the long building, was very quiet. The cost for 10 days was in the low $800s with taxes. I bought two $10 breakfast tickets for Cody’s—saved $3 using them for full breakfast. I spent more on breakfasts than I would have expected.

    Being able to drop off purchases and that computer were huge advantages. I believe they will get wifi in the near future so do check. I could pick up a nearby signal for emails, but not all consistently.

    Payless drop-off at the airport was easy. One pulled into the offsite drop-off area, the car is inspected on the spot, and a receipt printed out of the Payless persons little gizmo. The bus to the airport is right there and the driver let each of us off at the correct area, and told us what floor to get off on. I don’t believe it took any longer to use this off-site car rental but would like to hear from others about it. Raja, the clerk who gave me the car didn’t mention about a transponder and I forgot to give them the few receipts I collected. This is the first time I’ve actually rented a car. The few times JR did it, I was rather oblivious to the process. My notes aren’t handy, but I want to say I paid around $360 for the 10 days. I’ll double-check.

    Almost every day was in the low 90’s with a thunderstorm or 2 later in the day. So far, except for one day, the heat was not as intense as that we’ve experienced in D.C. Locals say there has been more rain this summer than usual. At the end of the day, I had that same “been at the beach all day” languor and can see how the prolonged summer might be a problem.

    Get quarters for tolls or check with car rental to see if they put a transponder on their cars. When not sure, get receipts if possible.

    Listen to Dundee when he says stay left. Even if it doesn’t seem correct. There were several different names for the same street/road in the area I visited. A recent road map might be a helpful supplement to GPS.

    Mt. Dora inspired me to make some note cards to write my thank you's. This might translate into future Mt. Dora business with Lynn--please stay tuned. Photos to come and thanks for slogging through this!

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    Nice report, TDudette!

    I thought of you this morning when I saw an article in the Orlando Sentinel about transponders. At long last, they are moving along to make our transponders work in every state (federal law, mandatory by 2016 I believe). Went online to get some more info on the new units they will be issuing, along with some rental car FAQs for you.

    Rental car tolls: https://www.sunpass.com/rentalcar

    New transponders: https://www.sunpass.com/tagSwapUpgrade

    There is also the E-Pass (Expressway Authority), but they are much smaller and transponders from both work on either system (Sunpass is Florida DOT). Sunpass is farther along on this conversion, so I'd go that way. You can get either a little unit with suction cups (which you can use in other cars) or a windshield sticker that doesn't come off. I use the suction cup thingy, as we have 3 cars. By the way, there is often a discounted toll if you use a transponder vs. cash.

    Hope this is useful information for you.

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    LOL, sludick and thanks once again. Just another quirky, cute aspect of Mt. Dora!

    The food at Windsor was among the best that I tasted. One place, Goblins, got great reviews in the guest book but I didn't get to it.

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    The nice folks at Simpson's sent me a holiday card. Friendly and great marketing!

    Lynn didn't want my Mt. Dora card.

    I'm staying in Maryland a while longer. Except for the price of the condo, there wasn't going to be too much difference in the cost of living in Mt. Dora. Not enough to justify leaving a host of good friends and doctors whom I've trained.

    May take a look at some North and South Carolina towns next. In the meantime, I've bought tickets for a Madrid/London trip in the Spring.

    Thanks again for all of your info and kind words on this trip to Mount Adorable!

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    Merry Christmas, TDudette!

    I certainly agree with your decision. We have known many people who felt compelled to move here for the warm weather only to find that it does not replace precious friends, family, and established medical/social support.

    Come down to visit, though -

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    Although this is a year old, this was a great, great read. I have been trying to decide at which B&B to stay when I fo for Christmas and now Simpson's is in the mix. :)

    I gather some of the places have now closed, though, like the Arbor Gormet and Garden Gate tea room.

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    Thanks, JAGIRL, I appreciate your kind words.

    I was shocked to read Garden Gate Tea Room closed. It was very crowded when I ate a great lunch there. Arbor Gourmet not so much. The owner's wife was ill when I was there and, as mentioned, he said the rents were very high. A nice antique shop was going out of business along that way.

    Just remember the stairs at Simpson's (unless they've put in an elevator) and to ask for a redone room if "quirky" doesn't do it for you! Do they have wifi now? Mr. Simpson seemed open to suggestion about that.

    Hope you write a trip report!

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