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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Travel: Riding the Rails to Winter Park

We love train travel...no security checks, large comfy reclining seats, and none of the hassles of air travel.  It just seemed like a dandy idea to take a train somewhere for Valentine's Day this year.  We were impressed with what we saw when we passed through Winter Park last year for a D.C. vacation, so we decided to spend a long weekend there.

Here are some pictures from that trip.

We stayed at the Park Plaza Hotel on Park Avenue.  Our balcony suite is just above the street light.

Our balcony would have been more enjoyable had the weather been warmer, but it was still pleasant to sit outside and watch the traffic on Park Avenue.
Winter Park has a must-do scenic boat tour that they call The Scenic Boat Tour.  This is an hour or so journey through canals linking a couple of fresh water lakes.  The lake banks are lined with mansions worth millions.  We weren't invited to go ashore.

Heritage Center had an interesting sculpture of a dog.  Or is it?     
Surprise!  You are looking at a propane molecule.

Samantha Brown, the Goddess of Travel, sipped wine at the Wine Room, and so did we. From small pours to large, we tried a variety of wines from the inexpensive to "holy cow" that one is $29 per ounce. One word of caution, while Sam raved over a high priced wine the one we tried was stale. I can only assume the bottle had been recently replaced for Sam's visit. After that it probably just hung around until we happened along. I don't imagine the pricier wines move that quickly, and after exposure to air they don't have a long shelf life.

Wine Room on Urbanspoon

The Wine Room also had some really good "small plates" to mellow out the wine buzz.

Suggested dining options:

Park Plaza Gardens:  good food with a lively bar scene.  The Sunday brunch with non-stop mimosas is not to be missed, and the restaurant can be accessed through the hotel. In the Cafe , try the Prime Rib French Dip. We did on our night of arrival, and it was excellent.
Park Plaza Gardens on Urbanspoon

Croissant Gourmet:  a great breakfast stop with French pastries and really good coffee. In addition to pastries you will find hot and cold sandwiches, salads, and specialty quiches.
Croissant Gourmet on Urbanspoon

310 Park South:  for lunch there were good soups, salads, sandwiches, plus a superb wine and beer selection.  The dinner menu looked good too, but we weren't in Winter Park long enough to eat everything everywhere.
310 Park South on Urbanspoon

Bosphorous Restaurant:  the lamb chops were very tasty and if we had been in Winter Park longer I would have dined there again.  I now know the proper pronunciation of raki and it got easier to pronounce after the second or third raki.  This establishment also has some pretty tasty Turkish wines.
Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine on Urbanspoon

There are many other restaurants that we would have tried if we had stayed in Winter Park for a few more days.

Winter Park is an excellent long-weekend destination and Amtrak got us there and back for $44 total.  The trip is about two hours each way.  The Tampa to Winter Park train departs Union Station around 5:45 in the evening and the return from Winter Park leaves around 9:55 in the morning.

Oh yeah, the club car is another perk.

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