We recently took a jaunt down to Winter Park, Fla., for a two-day stay to attend the wedding of one of our nephews.
We had never visited historic Winter Park, though we have been to Orlando, of course, to visit Minnie and Mickey. There was much happiness and wedding excitement in the air. What a wonderful spot we discovered.
Our reservations for the visit were at the Park Plaza Hotel, which I chose because it is in the heart of the historic section of town. We arrived in the late afternoon in the middle of a summer rainstorm and found there was no place to park near the hotel. I hopped out of the double parked car and ran inside to ask whether was valet parking and was told not to worry about anything. The valet came outside with me and we unloaded our things and went back inside to check in.
We felt as though we had stepped into a time warp.
The hotel was built in the 1920s and was so charming — kind of like putting on a cozy old sweater. The baggage trolley I am sure was original, made of brass and had a wonderful squeaky sound and barely fit in the tiny elevator. The hotel only has two floors, very intimate in feeling, not intimidating like some large modern establishments. If you have ever been to England and stayed in an old inn in the country, you know what I mean. At any moment I felt as though Miss Marple would step out of the closet.
After we had unpacked and gotten our bearings, we went downstairs to ask about restaurants close by. There are many within walking distance, and we chose an Italian bistro a short walk away. Night had fallen, so there was really no way to see much but we had the feeling we were in for a treat the next day.
When we got back at our hotel, the desk clerk told us to call in the morning if we would like breakfast and then we nipped off to bed. There are trains that travel through Winter Park through the night, but the sound of them lulled us to sleep.
When we awoke early the next day, I called the desk to ask about coffee and I got a real surprise. The clerk asked if we would like our bread hot and our coffee right away. I replied that I would be down in a minute to get it and then I heard a wonderful “we will be right up with your breakfast.” Five minutes later, there was a knock on the door and a very polite man stood in the doorway carrying a tray laden with toasted croissants, freshly squeezed orange juice, two carafes of coffee and a vase full of fresh flowers. We were amazed. The entire staff at the Park Plaza was so wonderful and helpful we felt as though they had never known a stranger.
There were several hours before the wedding festivities were to start, so exploring the area was on our minds. The morning was absolutely beautiful and so was Winter Park.
The town was chartered in 1887 and began life as a winter resort for wealthy people from the North who wanted to escape their cold winter weather. Rollins College, the oldest college in Florida, was founded there in 1885. The town has brick streets, lots of lakes and beautiful trees and is also known for its beautiful parks that boast lovely fountains. There are lots of benches tucked everywhere so one can find lots of places to sit and ponder or just people watch.
The wedding was beautiful. It took place in a lovely garden near where we were staying so the whole affair was very enjoyable. The next morning we walked around Winter Park again to just enjoy the setting once more.
On our trip home we took a side trip for a late lunch to St. Simons Island which is also very charming and visitor friendly. It has gotten much bigger in the last two years and, as with many little coastal towns, has become more of a home for full-time residents from “off.”
How Hilton Head delights
Murray Sease and I had a great time last week.
We ventured over to “the island” for two art shows. The first stop was at Honey Horn Plantation for the opening reception of “Summer Images,” a collection of works by several of our favorite artists. The show will hang through Aug. 27, so you have lots of time to visit Honey Horn and see the paintings.
Our next stop was at the Hilton Head Art League’s opening reception for Amos Hummell and his whimsical new works. When Murray and I arrived, there were only three of Amos’ 25 paintings unsold. By the way, all of his paintings come with three wishes. The joint was jumping, as they say. Tommy Beaumont supplied the fabulous music as Amos and his dear wife Lynn greeted everyone.
We are all thrilled Amos has once again picked up his paint brush and gotten back to what he does best.
Art lovers from Hilton Head and Bluffton were out in great numbers at both parties, proving that art is alive and well.
Some of those enjoying themselves were Natalie Hefter, Margaret Crawford, Mira Scott, Collins Doughtie and his adorable wife, Charlene Gardner, Doug Corkern, Vicky Jourdan, Don and Joyce Nagel and Emily Wilson.
A Bluffton unveiling
Join Pearce Scott and members of the Bluffton Historical Society at The Heyward House from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 30, for the unveiling of the freshly refurbished town welcome center.
Lowcountry Boil will provide music, and there will be food and drink, too. Attendees will also have a chance to register for a two-night stay at the marvelous Palmetto Bluff enclave. See you there!
Bite into history
Next time you bite into a chocolate chip cookie, think about this. The cookie turns 79 this year. A lady named Ruth Wakefield added cut-up pieces of chocolate to her cookie dough at her Toll House Restaurant in Massachusetts, hence the name's origin.
Babbie Guscio is the social columnist for The Bluffton Packet. She can be reached at The Store on Calhoun Street or at email@example.com.