You can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t judge the pizza by the tattoo parlor.
TrustedHouseSitter set us up with a delightful five-week pet sit in Big Canoe, Georgia over Christmas, 2020. Fewer people were traveling at that time due to Covid, so the requests to pet sit were scarce. We are highly rated and keep pretty busy, so this was unusual for us. Circumstances were such that they wanted us to pet sit again for a few weeks in March. We were happy to oblige. We love the big old 95 pound pitbull, Blue, and his brother, the rambunctious boxer mix, Rudy. We said “yes” in a heartbeat.
Generally we set up assignments back to back with an occasional pet free week in between to tour, do day long hikes, go to a museum, go out to dinner, or wherever our mood moves us. Our policy is to not leave pets for more than a couple of hours when we are sitting. When we pet sit, it is all about the animals. We just spoil the heck out of them. Their owners are on vacation so we make sure the pets have a special time also.
It was during the Big Canoe break that we decided to get to know Florida. We started to line up excursions: tours of the Everglades and Biscayne National Park, family and friends visits, Miami street art, geocaching and picturesque photoshoots and Airbnbs.
A friend from Arizona contacted us to see if we wanted to meet up with her in Apopka, Florida at a huge orchid show. She is an international orchid judge so we knew we would be in for a real treat. And it was. The orchid show is how we ended up in Altamonte Springs, Florida in a little AirBnB. We did our normal exploration of the area. The two most memorable excursions were to the cute and crafty town of Mt Dora during its annual Scottish Highland Festival and the extraordinary Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive where gators were big and close. Great photo ops!
After the adventures of Scottish games and alligators jumping out of the water, we wanted something simple. A simple craving turned into an adventure in shifting expectations.
We just wanted pizza and beer. Being savvy travelers with discerning taste, we first went to TripAdvisor to see where to get good pizza and we found that Nick’s Pizza was highly rated and close to our AirBnB. TripAdvisor and the internet have never led us astray before, right? We just wanted an Italian pizza with a Mexican beer. Mexican Modelo Negra style pilsner beer with a slice of lime is our favorite beer and a Florida staple. Our pizza craving could only be sated with a thin crispy crust, fresh basil, cheese and tomato sauce. Nick’s Pizza had a high rating and was close to our airbnb, what could go wrong? We gave them a call to see if they were open and to check on their outdoor seating. After a morning of travel planning, camera photo op browsing, and geocaching at a park in Winter Gardens we were ready to chow down. We got the directions and zoomed off thinking of pizza with our mouth watering in anticipation of the first bite.
“Oh no, please.” we said as we pulled up to a tiny building that was less than inspiring, let alone appetizing. “Nick’s Pizza” was located in a tiny building next to a gas station, a tattoo parlor, and a Midwife’s office. Two cement tables were outside the order window that technically fit the bill of “outdoor seating.” Nick’s Pizza was no sidewalk cafe in Rome. We looked at each other and tried to decide which would win, hunger or hesitation. We were both reluctant to get a pizza here. But we were hungry and on the verge of “hangry” so we decided to just order a pizza, get some gas and buy a beer at the gas station, and be done with it. When in Rome, right?
Bev walked up to the window to encounter an enthusiastic young man with huge brown eyes. She thought it was young Nick, the son of big Nick. It was a family business, after all. He helped her select a pizza after a brief chat and said it would be done in 15-20 minutes. Bev later said that he ” spoke of his pizza like a work of art that would fill up every hollow in her heart and stomach”. He was a heck of a salesman. If his pizza was as good as his pitch, we were in for a treat.
It was cool enough to sit in the car. Thank goodness. The outdoor sitting area at Nick’s did not thrill us. We imagined that the hot sun on the concrete would bake our backsides like calzones. Soon we saw Nick bounding over to the car with pizza in hand and an ear to ear smile winning over our hesitation with a willingness to serve and faith in his product. He passed the pizza to us through the car window. Perched on top of the pizza box was a brown bag filled with warm zeppoles. Zeppoles are an Italian style dessert doughnut that are crispy on the outside yet light and fluffy on the inside and sprinkled with powdered sugar. They remind us of the beignets we had at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Of course they became our first course. Need you ask? A little bit of Rome and a Little bit of New Orleans all in Altamonte Springs. Nick’s Pizza defied our expectations and delighted our pallets. Our craving “hangry” turned to happiness with a smile and a bit of powdered sugar.
We would have missed the great pizza, beer, warm zeppoles and big smile if we had judged the look of a building. We know better than that. Don’t you?
Other links for the Big Canoe, Georgia, The Everglades, Lake Apopka, and Altamonte Springs, Florida links:
We also experienced the Everglades by kayak, great perspective:
Geocaching is one of our favorite ways to get to know a place, this is the site we use:
We used this list to sort through things to do in Big Canoe. Highlight was Gibbs Garden during tulip season:
The Miami Street art scene is alive and well and worth the visit. It changed this neighborhood from a dismal place to a thriving, brilliant experience:
Take a break from the street art at Zaks bakery…. The bread and pastry – yes!:
A free and fabulous (would do it again) 11 mile drive with a ton of wildlife in Lake Apopka:
The games and music of the Scottish during the Mt Dora annual festival was a bonus:
Nick’s website is modest but don’t let that fool you. Check out the yelp or tripadvisor reviews:
If you are interested in pet sitting or to have a pet sitter, this is a platform that we use (also has a 20% discount embedded):
Check out our Podcast, Travel by Pet Sitting, by clicking on the image below: