Breakfast Worth the Wait in Asbury Park

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I love going out to breakfast (or any meal really), but there’s something about that late morning meal on a weekend that I especially enjoy. This week I returned to “Toast,” a spot that I had tried a few years ago that was good, but hadn’t really left me ohhhing or ahhhing at the time. Well, I’m happy to report that certainly wasn’t the case yesterday!

screenshot_2016-09-26-10-20-02-1Arriving at prime time on a Sunday morning (around 10am), we were told there would be a 15-20 min wait. Luckily, they take your cell number & text you when your table is ready, so you’re free to roam around Asbury Park while you’re waiting. Once we got our call, we were seated quickly & handed the delicious menu to peruse.

I immediately spotted the Eggs Benedict, of which they offer a few varieties including a Crab Cake version (which I saw pass by several times) and a Smoked Salmon Benedict, which I always adore. Yesterday however, the highlighted “Huevos Rancheros” caught my attention. I love this dish and you just don’t see it very often, so my selection was easily made.

img_20160925_112029The food took a little while to arrive, but we enjoyed the bustling atmosphere and our warm drinks (a tasty Pumpkin Spice Latte for me) while we waited.  And it was worth it…  My two over-easy eggs, covered in Mexican cojita cheese, sat upon a crispy tortilla surrounded by a delicious variety of beans, tomatoes & fresh cilantro. Every bite was a treat. My son devoured a giant Belgian waffle topped with fresh strawberries, and my friend enjoyed her “Bacon & Brie” omelette. Delish!

Toast is only open for breakfast & lunch, but the menu offers a wide variety of options, and all items are available all day. I can’t wait to go back & try the “Lobster Cobb Salad” and I’m sure that the “Smoked Salmon Benedict” will also end up on my plate before too long!

Toast is located at 516 Cookman Ave in Asbury Park, NJ.
Current hours are Wednesday thru Monday, from 7:30am to 3pm.  During the off season, they are closed on Tuesdays.

Visit their site for the full menu (www.toastasburypark.com) and their Facebook Page for daily specials and more!

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Tuesday’s Travel Tip – Cruising!!!

 

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Planning a cruise?  Already booked?  My FAVORITE site when it comes to cruising is www.cruisecritic.com. They offer professional & traveler reviews, detailed ship information, port guides & so much more. From dining room menus, to debarkation tips; best beach bars to roomiest cabins… this site has it all!

To get the most out of this site, be sure to join the “Community” for access to all the forums. There are message boards for First Time Cruisers, Ports of Call, each individual cruise line, specialty cruises, etc. This is a great spot to do your research before booking, or to gather more information once your trip’s been confirmed.

mercuryFor me, the most valuable forums on this site are the “Roll Calls.”  These are specific threads where you can meet other cruisers who are booked on your sailing. You simply search by cruise line, then by ship & departure date to connect with the people who will be sailing with you. It’s a great opportunity to share information & get answers to any questions you may have. You can also hook up with other families who have kids the same age as yours or plan excursions ahead of time as a group to save time & money. Most of the people you will meet are experienced cruisers and have a wealth of information to share.

We’ve had so much fun with the people we’ve met & have gone on some great excursions with these groups – usually at about half the cost of what the cruise line would charge for the same outing… everything from zip-lining in Costa Rica to swimming with the stingrays in Grand Cayman.

Some cruise lines even offer a Cruise Critic “Meet & Mingle” party for everyone in the Roll Call once you set sail. Or a member of the group may organize a more informal meet-up on their own. In either case, it’s a great way to connect with the people you’ve been talking to for the months leading up to your cruise. And most times, there are cocktails involved, so don’t miss it!

Honestly, I’m not always up for making tons of friends on vacation, but cruises can be overwhelming in terms of info & options, especially for first-timers. The more knowledge you have going into the cruise, the more relaxing & enjoyable it will be.  I’ve relied on this site for over 15 years & 16 cruises… so I’d have to say it’s well worth a visit!

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Water Park Fun on Jekyll Island, GA

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Located just about an hour north of Jacksonville, FL, on tiny Jekyll Island, you’ll find “Summer Waves“… a perfectly sized, very clean water park, with enough attractions to keep everybody entertained for the day.

20160625_133545-1The park features a wave pool, lazy river, 2 splash parks (one for bigger kids & one for little tikes), and 4 water slides of varying intensity.  There are plenty of shady spots with lounge chairs to set up camp and although you can’t bring in your own food, “Larry’s Giant Subs” offers a fairly diverse, reasonably priced menu.  There are also several snack shacks, lockers, showers & changing areas plus a decent Surf/Gift Shop for anything you may have forgotten.

On a Saturday, at the very start of summer, it wasn’t too, too crowded, but I can imagine at peak times of the season, it can get a little overwhelming.  I’d recommend getting there early to secure a good spot and hit the big water slides first to avoid the lines that seem to build as the day goes on.  For park hours, click HERE.

My 10-year old had a blast and “Grandpa” survived multiple trips with him down the water slides, while “Grandma” & I opted for the wave pool & lazy river 🙂

Please note:  There is $6 entrance fee, per car, to get onto Jekyll Island.  It’s a beautiful remote spot that features a few hotels, a campground, beaches, miniature golf, historic trolley tours, and a few shops & restaurants.  For discounted Summer Waves passes, be sure to check out Living Social & Groupon.

Day Trip: Adventure Aquarium

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If you’re planning a visit to Philadelphia or simply looking for a fun day out with the kids, head to the Camden, NJ waterfront and check out the Adventure Aquarium.  Three full stories of exhibits await you at this hands-on, well laid-out aquatic wonderland.

Come face to face with sharks, sea turtles, sting rays and more in their enormous salt water tank, visit the African hippos and check out 2 very different species of penguins. There’s even a 4D movie if you enjoy getting sprayed in the face & having air blown at the back of your head… lol.

Check out the daily feeding schedules to hear more about the different animals and be sure to bring the kids to all of the “touch tanks” where they can pet sharks, stingrays, starfish and more.

There’s a reasonably priced food court offering the usual chicken fingers, pizza, pretzels, etc, or you can bring in your own lunch & snacks.  We enjoyed eating outside on the patio overlooking the river & the Philadelphia skyline or head out towards “Penguin Island” for another relaxing spot.

Discount tickets are available at your local AAA office ($22 for adults, $17 for kids) or keep an eye out for a Groupon.  The Aquarium is open daily from 10am to 5pm with parking right across the street for $10/day.  Check out their web site for all the details:  www.adventureaquarium.com

An Ocean Grove Sunrise for St Patrick’s Day

I’ve been lucky enough to live a few blocks from the beach for over 20 years now, but somehow, I’ve never made it down to watch the sunrise… until this morning.  Thanks to the time change & an inability to sleep lately, this was my view this morning…

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So amazing!  You can bet I’ll be making an effort to get down here on a regular basis in the months to come… and I recommend that everyone makes this happen at least once or twice!

Pura Vida in Pictures

 

20160130_172633Our Girls Getaway to Costa Rica was a complete success!  Perfect weather, an incredibly relaxed resort & the discovery of “Pura Vida” – the simple life at it’s best.

We really enjoyed the Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa, as it was a change from our usual “stock” all-inclusives.  The intimate atmosphere made everything so accessible… just a few steps from the pool, to the restaurant to the beach.  The service was excellent & the staff was friendly & knowledgeable, offering helpful advice on what to see & do.  We loved the open-air feel of the resort & enjoyed all of our meals & drinks outside in the beautiful, tropical setting.

For a full review of this resort, check out my latest article on Trip101.com:  “Discover Pura Vida at Costa Rica’s Flamingo Beach Resort”

But for the “Photostory” – just keep scrolling 🙂

I’m starting with my favorite thing to do on vacation…  Morning coffee on the balcony. Here it came with a great view & a strong Costa Rican brew.

Here’s our actual room from the inside & out.  Basic accommodations, but with everything we needed.  And our 2nd floor “Poolview” room was a winner as we could see both the pool AND the ocean – jackpot!

I loved heading over to the beach early in the morning and enjoying this long, beautiful stretch all to myself.  And I mean EARLY as the symphony of tropical birds had me up every day by 6am!20160130_0618302016-01-30 06.44.57

The sun rose from behind the resort, so the ocean lit up before the sand… so pretty to watch!

This the main Arenas Restaurant, with air-conditioned seating inside and this awesome screened-in patio outside, looking over at the beach.  Drinks & dinner were also available upstairs at the open-air, Sunset Lounge.
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We did make a few friends during our stay…  this guy crawled right up onto my chair to say hello one afternoon!PhotoGrid_1454433100894

Here are a few more shots from around the resort… As you can see, it’s all about the water.  The covered pool is for the kids – such a great idea!

We did venture out and took a Sunset Catamaran Cruise on the 47′ “Panache” – a beautiful boat, manned by a super fun crew.  We stopped to snorkel, had some snacks, enjoyed the complimentary cocktails and ended with an amazing sunset…

Speaking of sunsets… staying on the Pacific side of Costa Rica guarantees some breathtaking views every night.  These were taken as we walked down the beach to “Coco Loco” – a restaurant/bar that sits right on the sand.

Costa Rica is famous for its surf… Unfortunately the only wave I “caught” was this one, just as the sun was setting.

This really was a perfect destination… totally relaxing, friendly people and a great place to reconnect a little with nature.  The “Pura Vida” lifestyle certainly is amazing!

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Last but not least… for the Foodies:  Two delicious ceviches, fresh fish tacos (at the airport of all places) and my favorite cocktail – The Green Monster!  Cheers!!!