at the gulf coast

We have been home from vacation for about a week now and can honestly say we still miss the beach! Everyone has a favorite vacationing spot, and ours is definitely on the beach, soaking up some sun, jumping in the waves and living the coastal life. 

Our family vacation this year took us to a couple of spots in Florida: Pensacola and Destin. We stayed with family and thoroughly enjoyed the time with them! Our days were filled with great memories, yummy food (always a favorite part of traveling), sandy beaches, lots of laughter and even some thrift store shopping (woohoo!).

We wanted to share some of our favorite photos from the trip, as well as some great local places to try out if you are in the area. 

In Pensacola, there is an amazing fish market called Joe Patti's Seafood. It's a unique and fun experience to visit as it's fairly busy there. When you arrive, you pick a number to be called on (like in a deli) and tell them what you want. There's a long row of seafood selections behind the glass counters and it can be a little overwhelming when you are narrowing down your choices. Luckily for us our brother (a Pensacola native) was a pro at ordering and took it all in stride! While he ordered, we toured the place and showed the lobsters to our boys, which was pretty thrilling for them. One lobster that was being purchased weighed in at a whopping 14 lbs.! There is also a gelato bar inside that offers free cups of vanilla gelato to children. It was seriously some of the best tasting gelato we've ever had. We can still taste the rich, deep, vanilla tones of it, that make you think you are almost eating a freshly baked waffle cone. Yum! If only they had gallon containers to take home. We came away from Joe Patti's with some delicious shrimp and several varieties of fish, not to mention sushi, and it was all delicious! It's definitely worth a visit if you are in the Pensacola area.

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Part of our trip was also spent in Destin. We shared a condo with family and it was the best decision for us (as a family with little ones).  When you are traveling with small children it's wonderful to be able to have separate bedrooms if possible, since there are still nap schedules and bed times to think about. Granted the bed times get pushed a bit later than usual, but having a closed room for them, while the adults can hang out, is definitely the way to go. Our condo was beautiful with an amazing view of both the ocean in front of us and the bay beside us. We had our own kitchen (which was wonderful to help save a little on eating out) as well as a washer and dryer. That was also fabulous so that we didn't have a few suitcases full of dirty laundry to lug back with us. In comparing a condo to a hotel, the condo definitely won out for our family.

One evening our criteria for dinner was a bit unusual to say the least: find a restaurant (non-chain) that served fried pickles. We headed out to a place in Sandestin that was located in the Village of Baytowne Wharf. Tucked away from the road and located inside a resort, it was a neat place to walk around and see sights as a family. There were a lot of options for restaurants and dessert, but also a variety of activities to try out too for the kids (and adults for that matter). We let Oliver ride the carousel with his cousin and it was kind of magical to see it all lit up at night. A neat place to explore and also to snap a few family shots!
(And by the way, we did have some fried pickles here, and they were amazing!)

Funny story. We took the boys to a local park and while we were there we had two weird (or rather a bit abnormal) encounters. One was that Aleksandr found a live crawfish (minus one claw) crawling around. Guess who decided to take it home and boil it for a little afternoon snack? (it was not Carrie). And secondly, we witnessed the strength of a very determined squirrel, who found an apple in the garbage and proceeded to carry it with his teeth up a tree! Um, what in the world? It's kind of fun to visit parks out state! 

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Finally we ended our visit back in Pensacola. A favorite spot was walking along the dock at the harbor watching all the big boats. When you have little boys it's pretty easy to find something that captivates their attention, but as adults it was really a perfect way to end an evening. The sun was setting, the breeze was coming up off the water, and we loved seeing the variety of yachts and sailboats anchored at the marina. One of the prettiest ones was a great big red one. We were able to watch this one pull out to sea, which was pretty exciting for the boys to watch. We loved the whole trip and can't wait to go back again!