Week three of tour was spent in Jacksonville, FL. I had been to Jacksonville before when my brother was stationed there in the Navy. I remembered going there and mostly hanging around with family, but I also remembered a really cool waterfront landing area that was fun at night and had all sorts of restaurants and things to do. When we got to Jacksonville we were happy to see our beautiful hotel, a Hyatt with great rooms and a beautiful rooftop pool! It was a great spot, right on the riverwalk and right next to the Jacksonville Landing, that spot I remembered! Our first walk over to the landing showed just what time can do. Unfortunately that hopping place I remembered had sort of dwindled into a few generic restaurants and an abandoned mall. It was pretty sad to see, but it was still nice to have that right near us and right on the water.
The week was really fun. We enjoyed lots of pool time and it was fun to find a couple places that we could return to throughout the week. For instance, I really enjoyed Chamblains Bookshop Café. It had great meals and was a large building busting at the seams with books! On one of my first days out I also found Chew, an incredible restaurant that served up such amazing food. It had a Southern feel, but was so intricately and delicately prepared. It was refreshing to find somewhere so excellent in Jacksonville. We ended up having a group of 13 go one of our last days for a HUGE family dinner there late in the week. It was just too good to not take advantage of! The second day in Jacksonville I had a great surprise when my old friend Ramon, a dancer from my cruise ship in 2009, contacted me to let me know he was in town for one more day and wanted to get together! I hadn’t seen Ramon in years and it was such a wonderful time catching up with him. He has an incredible spirit and is one of the most amazing dancers I know.
One thing that’s been a little frustrating is that our show gets out around 10:30-11:00 and by then usually the pools in the hotels are closed. This week we had to get around that! The Hyatt was kind enough to keep the pool open late one night just for us! We had so much fun having the space to ourselves to just relax and laugh and let loose together. We have such a great group, but we sometimes don’t ALL get to play together, so those opportunities are much appreciated. The week ended Sunday going to First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, a very large church that owns 9 city blocks downtown. Their incredible facilities proved to hold an excellent, powerful service. It was nice to go to church with some of the orchestra members and with a couple of the kids and their parents. I think it’s been great to have kids on tour. I know it really keeps my spirits up and keeps me thinking of ways to find fun all the time. Anyway- the service at FBC Jax included a 50-piece orchestra and 200 person choir with a couple soloists that just blew the roof right off the place and straight up, raising joyful noise to the Lord. It was beautiful, exciting service.
Next we trekked to Wilmington, DE. Staying in a Doubltree Hotel, this week was all about those delicious chocolate chip cookies. Ha ha! We joked that we were able to save our entire per-diem that week because we survived solely on those cookies. Wilmington is a historic city with the great Dupont Theatre inside the Dupont Hotel. It was a different space for us because our show was a little tight in there. We quickly figured out how to maneuver in the space and make it all work like clockwork, but it definitely took some finagling. It actually reminded me of a Broadway theatre because of its size and history. The space ended up being really fun to play and our audiences in Wilmington were wonderful. It was also good to have our director come out and see the show after having been gone for about a month. She was thrilled with how well the show was holding up. We had a chance to do some understudy rehearsals, too!
Wilmington was a great place to enjoy the ultimate fall week. Our first day in town a group of us walked down to Brandywine Creek and walked through the park right there. It was great to see the water and the fall colors were at their peak. I always embrace any chance to get out and enjoy some nature time. It is definitely therapeutic for me and completely necessary. Wilmington also had some great food! I found the World Café Live, a really interesting space where concerts are held 5 days a week with all sorts of artists. Everything from coffee house performers to big headliners in a 900-seat theatre: this place can host them. There’s also a great restaurant in the building. After a tour through the facility I decided I had to enjoy lunch and the live music, which proved to be really great! We also found some fun coffee shops in town throughout the week, but our go-to spot was the Washington Street Alehouse. It had great food and we ended up eating there and at their sister restaurant, Presto, a few times throughout the week.