Brit’s Summer Travel Series: Watercolor, Florida

Brit’s Summer Travel Series: Watercolor, Florida

Travel has not been cancelled this summer in spite of rising coronavirus cases around the world. A record number of Americans are hitting the road this summer, favoring road trips to air travel and domestic locales to foreign destinations.

Growing up, my dad loved taking me and my sister on road trips around the U.S….from San Diego to Seattle, or Manhattan, Kansas to Montana and so many more stops over the years. This summer, I’ll be sharing my favorite U.S. summer destinations with you as part of my Summer Travel Series.

To kick things off, we’re going to Watercolor, Florida! Watercolor is a picture-perfect town nestled in between Destin and Panama City Beach along the scenic 30-A Highway. I’ve been going to Watercolor since 2010, but my husband and his family have gone since the 90s, around the time the town was developed. His mom has the most beautiful beach house there so we try to go a couple of times a year and it is just magical.

This beautiful beach town is a quick four-hour drive from New Orleans, Louisiana, a six-hour drive from Atlanta, Georgia and nine hours from Houston, Texas. There are also two airports nearby–Northwest Beaches Airport in Panama City and Pensacola International Airport that bring in flights from around the country.

Beach set-ups at Watercolor

Watercolor is a private resort community and it has its own beach, beach club, pools, tennis courts and miniature water park. The town has a hotel and homes that can be rented or owned. By staying at the hotel or one of these homes, you then have access to all of the town’s amenities.

Biking around Watercolor

Watercolor and the surrounding communities are connected by biking trails so you don’t have to drive once you get there if you don’t want to. Ubers are VERY limited in the area so I would recommend arranging rides to and from the airport and any dinners that are far away in advance because it is really hard to get a ride last-minute.

The restaurants in the area are some of my all-time favorites. Our family favorite and closest restaurant to our house is Cafe Thirty-A. It’s a very traditional restaurant and they have great fish, an incredible wine list and it is family-friendly. Next on our list is Basmati’s…I think they have the best cocktails and the food is so good! Borago is also a wonderful option if you are in the mood for Italian.

For lunch, I have to go to Shrimp Shack at least once every trip. They have the best lobster rolls–huge pieces of fresh lobster served on a simple bun with no sauce, but a side of melted butter…the best. And sometimes I get their gumbo too. The actual restaurant is really small, but they have patio-style seating that looks over the water and it makes for a great afternoon. My other lunch favorite is George’s at Alys Beach, but I have been told by most people I bring there that they don’t like it. I however, love it. The building looks like it has been dropped out of the Hamptons and delivered straight to 30A. The food is wonderful and the service is great.

We also try to go to the Big Bad Breakfast (BBB) at Inlet Beach on our trips–either right when we get in or before we fly out. BBB is originally from Oxford, Mississippi, the same town where my husband and I went to college at Ole Miss so we love going to the new BBB at Inlet Beach for a little bit of nostalgia and the food is amazing.

Reservations are always essential at these restaurants for dinner, but even more so now because of coronavirus restrictions. I will say our most recent trip was quite different than those in the past. The town was still busy, but the Watercolor Inn seemed really understaffed and over-occupied leading to crowding and nearly hour long wait times to even order a drink. If you’re at the beach club, I would just suggest packing a cooler and bringing your own drinks to the beach.

Other than the beach and beach club, there is also Camp Watercolor and the lake for guests to enjoy (in addition to smaller community pools and parks.) Camp Watercolor was just re-done and has a really fun lazy river, a slide and a pool for children of all ages.

Ready for a fun day at Camp Watercolor!

If you’re more interested in checking out the lake, they offer kayaking, paddle boarding and canoeing in a beautiful setting. But whatever you’re interested in doing during your vacation, Watercolor will almost certainly have you covered.

I hope you enjoyed this trip to Watercolor with me! Come back next week to see our next stop on Brit’s Summer Travel Series!

XO,

Brit

Travel during COVID-19

Travel during COVID-19

As an avid traveler, the past few months have been incredibly strange for me. In my pre-COVID life, my husband and I would fly somewhere at least twice a month, but until last week, we hadn’t stepped foot in an airport since March.

To be honest with you, I was a bit trepidatious about going to the airport and actually flying. I had so many questions and had heard horror stories about not being able to use the bathroom or not having access to get water or food. In the weeks leading up to our trip, I called the Austin-Bergstrom Airport a couple of times to see what it was like in the airport. They assured me that places like Starbucks and Jo’s Coffee were open and all of the bathrooms were open.

I had also heard stories about crazy-long lines to check bags and get through security, but in our experience, it took less than 10 minutes to check two bags and we got through security in under 15 minutes.

The line for security at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on June 7, 2020.

We flew from Austin, Texas to Panama City Beach, Florida for our first post-COVID vacation. There were no direct flights available so on the way to Florida we had a layover in Nashville, Tennessee and on our way home we had a layover in Houston, Texas. Our layover in Nashville was about 10 minutes so I can’t really speak to what that airport was like, but I would rate Austin’s airport as the cleanest and most efficient.

William P. Hobby Airport on June 14, 2020.

For our trip, we flew on Southwest Airlines and I have to give them such a major shoutout. Everyone from the people behind the counter checking bags to the people boarding you for the flight were so helpful. I think they are incredibly sensitive to the fact that people are nervous about flying again and they worked hard to make everyone comfortable and safe.

If you’re familiar with Southwest Airlines, you will know their boarding process is quite different than other airlines. You check in 24 hours before your flight and are assigned either an “A,” “B,” or “C” with a number between 1-50 behind the letter. That is still the same, but instead of calling passengers in groups of 30, the boarding agents now call passengers in groups of 10. I actually loved this aspect. It was much more civilized and I think it kept the bottle-neck of passengers way down. Until September 30th, Southwest says they are only booking flights at 60 percent capacity leaving the *dreaded* middle seats empty unless you are a family or group traveling together and want to sit in the same row. I loved this and on all four of our flights, there were empty seats and a lot of space between passengers.

None of our flights were completely full. The only people who sat in middle seats chose to sit in them or were traveling with their families.

I do think Southwest could improve the cleanliness of the planes. Our flight to Florida was around 6 a.m., so I believe the plane had been cleaned the night before and you could tell. Our seats were clean and the plane seemed fresh. Our flights home were a very different story. Our flight from Panama City to Houston had a quick turn-around time and there were still crumbs on my set when I boarded the plane. Same story on our flight from Houston to Austin. Luckily, I bring my own wipes and wiped down our seats, armrests, seatbelts and tray-tables, but I do think the airlines should be doing more to keep their planes clean. They were very focused on picking up trash and requested passengers hand them wipes people usually stuff behind the seats several times during the flight, but picking up trash alone does not equal cleanliness.

Passengers are required to wear masks while boarding the plane and during the entire flight unless they are eating or drinking, but while you are in the airport, you are not required to wear a mask. During our longer flights, Austin to Nashville and Panama City to Houston, we were offered a can of water and a snack, but I always bring my own water and snacks so I didn’t take any. On the shorter flights, Nashville to Panama City and Houston to Austin, beverage and snack services were not offered. We were able to use the bathrooms on all flights, but you are not allowed to form lines.

COVID or not, I always try to pack my own snacks. For our flight to Florida, I made Kodiak pancakes, and packed grapes and celery. I don’t usually like fast food and try to avoid buying salty snacks in the airport.

Overall, I really appreciate the changes airports and airlines have implemented and I think they actually make the process of flying less hectic. I do think sanitization efforts should be taken up a notch by sanitizing the buckets used for security, requiring passengers wear socks through security and that airplanes are cleaned AND sanitized thoroughly after each flight.

Up, Up and Away! Leaving Austin for the first time in three months to go to the beach!

Have you traveled during coronavirus recently or do you plan to soon? Leave me a comment and let me know your experience.

XO,

Brit

Champagne Tasting to Pop-off Memorial Day Weekend Celebrations

Champagne Tasting to Pop-off Memorial Day Weekend Celebrations

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, friends! Not only is this weekend special because we get a chance to honor the heroes who have been lost in service to our country, but it is also the first holiday we can celebrate *somewhat* openly as coronavirus social-distancing restrictions begin lifting.

If you’re gathering with friends and family for the first time in a while, a blind champagne tasting just might be the perfect way to break the ice as you ease back into normalcy. Last summer, I hosted a blind tasting with our friends in Watercolor, Florida and it was such a hit! The tasting is easy to put together and the results will shock you.

HOW TO HOST A BLIND CHAMPAGNE TASTING:

  • Start by selecting your bubbles. For our tasting last summer, we had six guests and three bottles worked perfectly.  The game is played best when you choose bottles at different price points and from different regions.
  • Print or order scorecards for you and your guests to rate the selections. We found these adorable scorecards on Etsy from the SweetUnrest store.
Champagne tasting scorecards from Etsy in the SweetUnrest store.

After our tasting, I found that I preferred Prosecco to Champagne which completely shocked me. I hope you all enjoy this blind tasting and let me know which champagne selections you choose for your own tasting! Cheers and Happy Memorial Day!

XO,

Brit