Who doesn’t love a good surprise? Okay, some people don’t; but I do. So when Michael wants to surprise me with a trip, especially one to celebrate our anniversary, I’m all game, no questions asked. (Okay, maybe a few questions, but not many.) So, we’re off on another road trip adventure to who knows where (well, he knows). All I know is that we’re headed south for a few hours, and that bringing my swimsuit is recommended. That’s all I need to know. And so, we’re off!
I love how the landscape on I-95 changes as soon as you veer off of Hwy 16. It takes on that familiar Florida appeal, with moss-draped trees, swampland, and waterways. It’s lovely today, despite the overcast skies. I wonder if we’re headed to St. Augustine, where we spent my birthday a few years back. Wherever our destination, I hope we get there soon because I’m getting antsy.
In a few hours we exit and I notice signs for Amelia Island. Aha! Now I have questions. Where are we staying? What’s there to do here? Is there a hot tub? How close are we to the beach? There is a beach, right? You know me, I’m the planner and I like to chart out our activities in a new place. But I also love surprises, so this time I’ll have to go with the flow.
Michael shakes his head and ignores my interrogation. About 15 minutes later, we pull into the gravelly guest parking area of Hoyt House, and I peer over at Michael. He’s got that little grin on his face that says, “I think you’re going to like this one!”
An impressive three-story, royal blue Victorian, with a well maintained country garden, welcomes us. The extensive front porch with rocking chairs and cozy bench seats brings a smile to my face. (One globe earned for rocking chairs on the porch.)
Inside the house, Ricky the innkeeper greets us. Turns out he and his wife Tracey are from New Orleans, same as Michael, so that’s a fun surprise. He gives us the rundown about the house (which includes evening wine and cheese — Yes! That earns another globe.), walks us down a charming hallway to our room, #1 – The Wells Suite (More to come about to this.), then escorts us outside to view the pool area. Yes, there’s a pool and Jacuzzi on premises! Woo-hoo! (Um, yeah, bonus globe!)
Already I see that this is a five-globe B&B, and we haven’t even laid our heads on the pillows, nor partaken in the breakfast.
Okay, so why is the bed an easy four feet off the floor? IDK, but I love it. Thankfully, there are bed steps on either side (otherwise, we’d need a running jumpstart). The four posts with wispy chiffon drapes, coupled with piles of fluffy pillows and a gorgeous puffy comforter, make this the centerpiece of the charming boudoir.
Accenting the bed are several antique furnishings and decorative pieces that make me want to spend the next few days nestled in this bright space reading a good book. Speaking of books, I’m floored when I notice the bookshelf wallpaper in the bathroom. How did they know a book nerd would be staying here? Yes, I’m in heaven! (Watch the video for the little surprise that was waiting for us in our room.)
Thanks to dinner recommendations by the innkeepers and a few guests we meet while admiring the turn-of-the-century house, we make last-minute reservations at España Restaurant. Despite the threat of rain, we decide to take a chance and dine in the garden area. Shout out to Marina for squeezing us in at the final hour.
What a lovely little spot. And the food is amazing! We gobbled our tapas so quickly that we forgot to take pictures (Duh!). I’m this close to ordering the escargot, but instead decide on the champinoñes a la España (portobello mushrooms with Manchego cheese and Serrano ham), and Michael orders the Gambas Mozambique (shrimp in coconut milk with chopped cilantro).
Oh. Em. Gee! The Mozambique sauce with those shrimp is to die for! Seriously. Someone knew this would be a hit because they brought us a simple round of baked bread, perfect for sopping up that spicy sauce. Delicioso! When Michael asks Marina what’s in the sauce, she replies, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” then makes the familiar throat cut motion. LOL! Thankfully, she directs us to the recipe featured in an article displayed inside. (See image at bottom of this post for recipe.)
But wait, there’s more! No way are we leaving here without trying one of the paella dishes the others raved about at Hoyt House. So we go for paella marinera (seafood paella) for one, and it is perfecto! There’s a plate for two, but the only way two people could eat that plus the tapas and that yummy sangria is if you’re just a glutton. Thank goodness we are not because this has been the most perfect dinner. And now we’re ready to walk it off.
So, we head over to the historic downtown area to peek into the quaint shops, then find ourselves at the marina. And what do ya know—this place is the spot where Florida’s first sunset happens—every day. We join a few dozen other sun worshippers who are gathered to watch that big orange ball in the sky sink slowly behind the clouds and settle into the ocean.
“You do know there’s going to be another show like this tomorrow,” I tell a woman who looks as if this is the last sunset she’ll ever see.
“I know,” she says, “but isn’t it beautiful.”
Yes, it is. (Watch the video for more shots.)
But we can’t end our evening there. Not when there’s a warm Jacuzzi waiting for us back at our B&B. And that caps off the night for The Globetrotters. What an amazing day.
A Serendipitous Anniversary Day
Apparently, on this weekend, Hoyt House is a full house, so we want to get a table for two in the breakfast room. But wait, what time is breakfast served? Yikes! We forgot to ask. (Rookie mistake.) I search the notes in the room, but find no mention of it. So, at 7:30 a.m. we head in the direction of the succulent aroma of bacon.
As it turns out, we’re a tad early, so we relax in one of the two parlors. We love chatting with the other guests at a B&B. That’s part of what makes these quaint visits unique. Yesterday, we met three nice couples—two from Georgia, and one from Florida. It’ll be nice to see who makes an appearance for breakfast. Since the breakfast space is so cozy, we know we’ll be able to meet a few more people this morning.
Even though we’re not super hungry after last night’s yummy dinner, we still eagerly anticipate the second half of what makes a great B&B great—the breakfast. Hoyt House offers a daily special dish and a fruity starter (today, a homemade fruit pastry), alongside its regular menu of eggs your way, its signature “Everything But the Kitchen Sink Frittata” (another globe!), plus meats, juices, cereals, tea, and coffee.
What was that I said about us not being gluttons? Whatever! Breakfast was delicious. And the conversation was very nice. Turns out, two other couples are also celebrating their anniversary today. Yaaaayyyy, us!
Time for exploring. One guest mentions that he jogged a few miles to the beach this morning, and pointed us in the direction, so we figure that’s where we’ll start. But on the way, we make a round-about in the immediate area and discover St. Peter’s Cemetery. Now, most people wouldn’t even notice it, and certainly wouldn’t stop for a “visit”, but you know Michael is a genealogist and family historian, and he cannot resist a good cemetery (kind of like how I am with a good book). So yes, we stop. It’s actually a lovely place, and we enjoy a quick tour to try locating the earliest gravesite. I think I see one with a born date of 1812. Wow! (Watch the video for Michael’s commentary.)
Moving on, we find our way to Fernandina Beach/Main Beach. We consider taking a stroll to get our feet in the surf and some sand between our toes, but decide to keep driving and come back later. The road which parallels the beach is lined with well-maintained rental homes that we imagine are sold out at peak season.
From there, we find ourselves on the southeast end of the island. Our quick driving tour takes us past Amelia Island State Park, where you can go horseback riding along the beach (I promise, I’m going to check that off my bucket list one day). Just ahead is a bridge, and suddenly we find ourselves headed towards Jacksonville. Oh, wow, it’s that close? Cool. Okay, that’s not on today’s agenda (oh right, we have no agenda), so we turn around.
For some reason, Michael veers off onto Amelia Island Parkway (here’s where the serendipity happens), then notices a sign at the juncture to Julia Street. “Welcome to Historic American Beach. Founded in 1935 by The Afro-American Life Insurance Company.” What? A beach founded by black people, and a sign that acknowledges it? Cool! Just up ahead we notice a cute little aqua colored building and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s a museum dedicated to the history of American Beach.
Museum geek that I am, I know we have to stop in for a visit. Of course, I get no dispute from Mr. Historian. Four bucks per person is a small fee to pay for this little slice of American history we’re sure we’d never find anywhere else.
The volatile racial and political climate that engulfed the area (and the entire United States) during and following The Great Depression, allowed segregation to prevent African Americans from setting foot onto local beaches. Can you say “Jim Crow”? Wealthy blacks weren’t having it, so they decided to buy the area now known as American Beach. The beach was home to black people from all walks of life. To this day, the homes and land are still majority black owned. And it’s a struggle. After all, beachfront property is prime pickings for hotels, rental homes, condos, and commerce (i.e. shops, restaurants). Hats off to the current owners for hanging on. With that knowledge, we have to drive down to take a walk along the beach.
Noticing a historic marker, we park (illegally) and stroll down a wooden pier to enjoy the lovely scenery at the doorway to the Atlantic. As we turn towards the car, we notice a man sitting on his upstairs deck in a nearby home. So, Mr. Friendly (Michael) strikes up a conversation with him about the area. Before you know it, the man invites us into his home (talk about friendly). Before long, we’re laughing and joking, telling lies, learning more about the area, and basically enjoying some good old Southern Hospitality. I love it! Our host even feeds us; well, actually, he wants us to taste his wife’s homemade spaghetti with vegan sausage (yum-a-licious!). Speaking of his wife, after nearly two hours hanging out here, the wife comes home and is unsurprisingly as sweet as the husband. By now, we’ve taken up much more of their time than we intended (actually, we never intended, but it sure has been nice), so we bid them farewell and continue our drive around the island.
Back in the historic district, we stroll the area, grab some ice cream at Fantastic Fudge (Y.U.M!), then walk over to the marina to watch that fabulous sunset again. Just three years ago, we sat at a Thai restaurant in Cancun (don’t judge us) and watched this same sunset at the close of our first day as husband and wife. At this point, we must be making some serious goo-goo eyes at each other, because a woman asks if we’d like her to take our picture. Sure! She’s tapping away on my phone — “Fix her hair, turn this way, kiss each other . . .” blah, blah, blah.
“Are you a professional photographer, or what?” I ask.
“Yes, I am.”
LOL! What are the chances?
So, on a day of exploration around Amelia Island, finding our way to a cemetery, a museum, a beach, and a stranger’s home, we wind up watching Florida’s first sunset and being photographed by a pro. Go figure! Happy Anniversary, Boo!
Farewell, Hoyt House!
The fact that there’s a Tesla electric charging station in the tiny parking lot of Hoyt House is a surprise, and cause for bonus points. Of course, we’re big Tesla fans, so it was fun to see this as we drove in the other day.
Now, it’s almost time to depart. But not before indulging in another delicious breakfast at Hoyt House. Today, the griddle offers fruit-topped pancakes with sausage or bacon. So we take our time to enjoy the meal and converse with another couple. It’s sweet to see how much Ricky enjoys serving the guests while Tracey prepares the meals in the spacious kitchen. They’re both in their element.
Following breakfast, we chat with our hosts, who mention that they have one night with an empty house before the place fills up again. It’s no surprise. Hoyt House is a gem, offering everything we look for in a luxury B&B, plus many of our bonus features.
With that, we’re happy to give Hoyt House a 5-Globe rating.
We look forward to returning!
And now, The Globetrotters are off, in search of another exciting adventure.
“Always on the go. Always on the run. Always having fun!”
Watch the video of our trip to Amelia Island, and see more pictures below.
Check out where we stopped on our way to Amelia Island.