florida vacation

The Downside of a Sacramento Real Estate Year-End Celebration

Downside-to-vacation.300x300Based on Trendgraphix reports, it looks as though there is only one agent out of the 1,000 or so agents at Lyon Real Estate who sold more homes in 2013 than this Sacramento real estate agent, and that agent works primarily in another county in the Foothills of Sacramento. This is what I do when I come back from my winter vacation — clean up my 2013 records and begin 2014, fresh, on the ground and running. I also look at my big fat belly and wonder how it got that way and why it’s in my way.

Almost 3 whole chickens have crept their way into my body while I lay sleeping, dreaming of carrots and celery. I was soooo good on vacation. While I watched my husband enjoy cheesy omelets for breakfast, I spooned nonfat yogurt with berries into my face. There was no “bacon fest” like one can enjoy in January at Ella Dining Room and Bar. Even for lunch I was somewhat restrained: salads and soups. We walked and explored Key West. At night I pounded on my computer to respond to all the emails I received about Sacramento real estate. That 10-finger action alone burned many calories, I’m certain.

Most of the dinner menus in the Florida Keys involved some sort of shellfish or seafood, generally grilled. OK, there was breeeaaaaad and the teensiest bit of butter. A few desserts. All right, maybe a dessert almost every night. A cocktail, maybe. A glass or two of wine. Perhaps a 20-year tawny after dinner. But it was a minuscule glass of tawny, barely two ounces. I really detest having to face the fact that when you live long enough to cross the 60-year mark, you’ve got to watch what you shove into your face.

I did — I watched the magnificent gastronomic creations with great delight. Night after night. Never took my eyes off the fabulous displays of culinary genius placed in my view and with both hands shoved into my pie hole. Snatched a few French fries off my husband’s plate, too. I even hauled carry-out containers back to our hotel and left the lobster-cheesy-macaroni in the mini bar to rot.

The beginning was so innocent. I started out by leaving half of my food on my plate. Yeah, that’s a good plan. By the end of our vacation, I couldn’t pass by a gelato sign without stopping inside for a taste and a two-scoop treat. I hang my head in shame. Now I must pay the price for such gluttony. Maybe I will wear a cardboard box to my Sacramento real estate office meeting, with a hole cut in the top for my head to poke through.

Or, maybe I will just get back on the elliptical and resume a sensible diet. My clients don’t care if I gain 10 pounds or lose 10 pounds as long as I get the job done.

Coming Home from Key West to Sacramento

Peace-Love-300x243The guy in the second row on the flight from Miami to Dallas / Fort Worth looked friendly enough. He had tousled gray hair, a few wrinkles and a big grin. My husband thought it was worth a shot to ask if he would be willing to trade seats with us because American Airlines somehow messed up our seat assignments. My husband was placed in the bulkhead row. “Sorry,” the friendly guy shook his head, “I need the leg room.”

Whatever. I turned to the guy with the nearly bald head in the bulkhead and asked if he would like to switch seats. He was busy thumbing his cellphone. Bulkhead dude briefly looked up without moving his head, waved at the row across from him and played the kid card. “We’re here with our 3-year-old,” he muttered, and went back to thumbing his phone.

Because he needs to sit directly across the aisle from his wife and daughter. The same daughter who started whining and crying halfway through the flight and never once did he look up at her.

Unfortunately, our flight was delayed, almost an hour late. My husband leaned over the front seat, “Just be prepared,” he warned, “We will probably end up spending the night in Dallas,” because we had exactly 5 minutes to make our connecting flight to Sacramento.

That was not news I wanted to hear. Time to mind-bend reality. Instead, I decided to maintain a positive attitude and was determined we would meet our connecting flight if we had to run like we had just stabbed the gate attendant. Besides, the odds were our connecting flight would be delayed. I was betting on it.

And let me add here that first class on American Airlines is not like first class on other airlines. Other airlines offer its passengers a cold beverage upon boarding, a warm wet towel; the flight attendants know your name. Not American. Coach passengers are free to roam in the first-class cabin, sticking their hairy belly buttons in your face while pushing against the overhead bins as they stumble inebriated to the restrooms, but first-class passengers can’t get so much as get a set of headphones from the flight attendant because the flight attendants are too busy chatting with each other. Chaos doesn’t begin to describe it.

OK, maybe the plane was about to crash, and they were keeping this information from us, as a nicety or per flight regulations. The flight attendants could have been discussing life-saving strategies, whispering, “Let’s first save the woman with the Everglades T-shirt.”

As we were taxi-ing in Dallas, I checked my the mobile site for American and discovered our connecting flight was delayed by 30 minutes. Thank god for booking on an airline with a terrible on-time flight performance average — there is a silver lining for lousy customer service. Then, friendly guy in the second row inquired if we would make our connecting flight. Oh, yeah, now he’s all nice and sweet to us. Now that he has enjoyed his comfy seat in the second row for this entire flight.

By the time we made it to Sacramento, we discovered that American lost only one piece of our luggage and not all of it. And that’s a positive thing, too. As I learned from our trip to the Dry Tortugas, things can always get worse.

Photo: Wall at the Miami International Airport by Elizabeth Weintraub

Leaving Key West and Returning to Reality


The prettiest dreads in Key West

When you’re doing lunch at a Thai restaurant in the pouring rain in Key West and today is your last day of vacation, there is only one logical thing left to do. It’s not like we could hop on the Conch Train either because it wasn’t running. The shops on Duval Street are not calling my name; in fact, I bought very few trinkets in Key West because I couldn’t find anything substantially nice to buy. It was either Emeralds or a Hemingway House t-shirt, so I picked the shirt. I love Emeralds, I simply have no place to wear them.

Unlike pearls. Because pearls look great with just about any kind of outfit, except maybe beach-going apparel. It’s not like I need any more pearls. After our French Polynesia Vacation last year, I am totally pearled-out.

Since we weren’t about to go shopping yesterday, we did the next best thing. A visit to the spa for a couple’s massage. Nothing like working out all of the kinks and pains that crept up during our walkabouts. Of course, I already had booked a Swedish massage the day we arrived in Key West, but that was 6 days ago and it was time for another. My husband gave no preference to which masseuse worked on him or the product. He’s more along the lines of do whatever. Although he did threaten to change his shirt when he saw I pulled on my matching Dry Tortugas shirt.

Why don’t husbands like to be seen in public wearing matchy-matchy outfits with their spouse? I do not know the answer to that.

I do know that once I hit the turf back in Sacramento, it’s going to be a real estate whirlwind. There will be no time to miss Key West and South Florida. It will probably stay that way through May. It’s as though homeowners suddenly woke up from the holiday activities and instantly said to themselves, “Oh, my gosh, I have sell my house, and I have to do it NOW.” It doesn’t astonish me. I understand the sentiment. It’s been this way every year for decades. The second week in January, sellers are ready to list.

This Sacramento real estate agent will be ready to go. Dreamy, exotic vacations are my way to unwind and refresh, because I can work as hard as a dog all year long if I know that my winter vacation is on the horizon.

Preparing for a Trip to the Dry Tortugas from Key West

elizabeth and turtle kraals

Elizabeth Weintraub goofing off at Key West Harbor

Scratching no-see-um bites is pretty much fruitless because they take much longer to go away when you do that, yet I continue to scratch. We bought plenty of bug spray and “after bite” if the bug spray didn’t work. Doesn’t stop insects from munching on my yummy skin. I’ve tried pulverizing the bites in my jetted tub. (Note to self, don’t use body wash in a jetted tub because the bubbles will crawl out to the balcony.) But bugs aren’t the big problem in Key West, really, it’s more like scorpions, so that’s why they let the chickens and roosters run loose. The chickens help to control the scorpion population. I wish I didn’t know that fact.

Conch house, Caroline Street, Key West, Fl

Conch house, Caroline Street, Key West

We wandered down Caroline Street yesterday morning to admire the Conch homes. These stunning structures are a mixture of Plantation Colonial, Victorian and New Orleans style homes, all rolled into one delightful piece of architecture. It’s pleasing to the eye. I adore the ornamental detail and railed-in porches, both on the first floor as well as the second. Many were originally built in the 1800s. Some listings say the homes are CSB, and I’m not sure what it means. Cement structure basement? Chicken side of bacon?

Later I checked prices on a few, because being a Sacramento real estate agent I can’t help myself, and the renovated larger homes start at about $1.5 million. You can add another million or two or four to that sales price if you want to buy a conch home on the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean.

Marina with boats and dock

Key West Harbor Walk

The reason we ended up on Caroline Street is because #1) we meant to tour that street and #2) it runs parallel to the Old Town Harborwalk of Key West. Since we’ve got reservations for the boat to Dry Tortugas National Park this morning, we thought it might be a good idea to track down exactly where we boarded. Good thing we did so because it’s hard to find, and nobody seems to know exactly where it is or, if they do know, they were not telling us. The boarding spot is from the Ferry Terminal, second floor check-in, way at the end of the marina. We need to be onboard at 7:15 A.M. for the two-hour journey, 70 miles off the coast of Key West and maybe 110 miles from Cuba. We will tour Fort Jefferson, built during the Civil War, and probably go snorkeling, searching for turtles, and colorful saltwater fish, maybe a bit of birding.

Sailing ship key west

Sailing vessel anchored in Harbor Walk, Key West

I will write more tomorrow about our trip to Dry Tortugas, providing we don’t drown. The winds are kicking up something awful, and the waves are probably cresting at 2- to 3-feet. I won’t think about that as we make our way in the early morning hours to the harbor.

Perhaps, instead, I shall ponder how yesterday had been a fairly inactive day, as far as crawling down Duval Street goes. I plan to start my exercise program and diet next week. Calories burned walking to the Harbor Marina: 225. Calories consumed (not counting the Margarita nor the Hemingway Daiquiri): 3,750. Number of tattoos received: zero. Number of cigars smoked: zero.

A Catalude at the Hemingway House in Key West

Rudolph Valentino on Elizabeth

Polydactyl Rudolph Valentino at Hemingway House on Elizabeth Weintraub’s lap

Read carefully: tops, bottoms and shoes required for entrance. You don’t see a sign like that every day posted at a business, much less at a museum but hey, this is Key West. After spring break last year, the Hemingway House staff found it necessary to post such a notice at its ticketing desk. This house is such an attraction in Key West that tourists lined up down the street to get inside. Most of them were probably there solely to pet the 6-toed cats and couldn’t give a hoot about Hemingway or recall anything he wrote, if they even read his novels in the first place.

Hemingway House in Key West

Hemingway House in Key West

They hold weddings at the Hemingway House. It doesn’t seem like a romantic way to start a future together, getting married at the home of a philanderer, much less a guy who had 4 wives and thought nothing of shooting enormous animals through the eyes and then mounting them on his wall, but what the heck. I guess we all romanticize history in our own ways.

Much of the home remains in its original condition, high ceilings, crown molding, hardwood and tiled floors. The first floor is laid out in kind of an odd manner in a circle, with its tiny kitchen and smallish bath at the back of the home. Each room contains some item pertaining to Hemingway such as artifacts, framed photographs, personal letters, war medals and books. The grand staircase leading to the second floor is surprisingly narrow, maybe 24-inches-wide at best. There is another building out back, and up those stairs to a large room is where the magic happened: Hemingway’s writing. A cat now nestles in his inbox. Many descendants of his cats remain on the property.

Black Cats at Hemingway

Black cats at Hemingway House

What I can humbly admit was the highlight of my visit and quite possibly one of the nicest things that has ever happened to me is when Rudolph Valentino, one of the polydactyl cats, jumped without an invitation into my lap. Many of the other cats in the household — about 45 are in residence — were ornery and grumpy, as you would be if somebody kept poking you and shoving a camera into your face 8 hours a day.

Rudoplph sat in my lap quietly, purring, inviting me to pet him, so I did what he wanted. Then, he stood up on my lap and began kneading my knees, extending and contracting his giant claws, which resulted in shredding my t-shirt. Still, I sat there and let him do it. This is what cats do to you.

Other tourists came by. I warned one little Asian girl who reached out to pet Rudolph that he bites. Another tourist stooped down to take my picture with her cellphone, yeah, right, my eyes flashed and I held out my hand to demand: Five bucks, please. Rudolph insisted I return both hands to petting him as one hand was no longer sufficient.

If you are wondering if the penny is indeed embedded by a post near the 65-foot pool, it is indeed.

Photos: Elizabeth Weintraub and Adam Weintraub

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