“You can’t judge a book by its cover”…we know that. And it’s been confirmed over and over again as we travel the world.
We were traveling in Florida for a couple of months. It was during the Covid era and people were hesitant to travel, so we had very few pet sits lined up. This was unusual for us. Generally we set up assignments back to back with an occasional pet free week when we tour, do day long hikes or go to a museum, out to dinner etc. Our policy is to not leave pets for much more than a couple of hours when we are sitting. Instead of sightseeing during a pet sit, we just spoil the heck out of them. Their owners are on vacation so we make sure the pets have a special time as well.
We completed a delightful five week pet sit in Big Canoe, Georgia over Christmas that we got through the Trusted House Sitter platform. Circumstances were such that they wanted us to return for another few weeks in March. We didn’t have much going on and we loved the big old 95 pound pitbull, Blue, and his brother the rambunctious boxer mix, Rudy, so we said ‘yes’.
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.
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!
A friend from Arizona contacted us to see if we wanted to meet up with her in Apopka 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.
I have to add a third event that ranked right up there even though it doesn’t have the flair of Scottish music or the adventure of an alligator jumping out of the water. It was just one of those perfectly timed unexpected tiny delights.
We felt like having pizza and a Modelo (negro if possible). It happens to us every so often when we just have to have a pizza, thin crunchy crust, fresh basil, cheese and tomato sauce. Nick’s Pizza rated very high on TripAdvisor and the internet. It was also close to our airbnb. We gave them a call to see if they were open and to check on their outdoor seating. So after a morning of travel planning, camera photo op browsing and geocaching at a park in Winter Gardens we were ready to chow down.
Only 12 minutes away, we got the directions and zoomed off thinking of pizza with our mouth watering in anticipation of the first bite.
And there it was. Oh no, please. A tiny building next to a gas station and a tattoo parlor and a Midwife’s office! Two cement tables were outside the order window. We looked at each other. We were both reluctant to get a pizza here. But we were hungry and on the verge of angry so we decided to just order a pizza, get some gas and buy a beer at the gas station and be done with it.
I walked up to the window to encounter an enthusiastic young man with huge brown eyes. I think it was young Nick, the son of Nick (it is a family business). He helped me select a pizza after a brief chat and said it would be done in 15-20 minutes.
It was cool enough to sit in the car. Thank goodness. The outdoor sitting area at Nick’s didn’t thrill us. Soon we saw Nick bounding over to the car with pizza in hand and an ear to ear smile. He passed the pizza to us through the car window. It had a brown bag perched on top of the pizza box filled with zeppoles. It was a dessert gift bag of warm zeppoles, crispy on the outside yet light and fluffy on the inside. They are mini Italian donut holes which are like the beignets we had at Cafe Monde in New Orleans. Of course they became our first course. Need you ask?
We would have missed it. The great pizza, beer, warm zeppoles and big smile because we judged the look of a building. We know better than that. Don’t you?
Everglades National Park: The visitor centers and walks through The Everglades are amazing:
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 thrive, brilliant experience:
Take a break from the street art at Zaks bakery…. The bread and pastry – yes!:
The colorful and abundant orchid show at Lake Apopka, check out their showroom:
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):