I’d probably never have ended up in Daytona Beach had it not been for the Daytona 500, but I’m glad I did. It’s a beautiful, peaceful, sleepy town. Even during race week, I felt like there weren't enough people around; it reminded me of the kind of beach town that you might read about in a 1980s American novel: quaint but more like a vacation destination than a hometown.
Fun fact: there are cats EVERYWHERE in Daytona, so if you're superstitious and don't like black cats, don't look down at your feet. Chances are you'll see one...
Since it was race week and we’d decided very last minute that we were going to be in attendance, nearly every hotel was booked by the time we started looking. It didn’t matter whether the hotel was rated low or high on booking.com. Everyone took what they could get.
I think we got lucky though. My mom ended up finding a vacancy at The German Berl’ Inn (Get it? Berl-in…), and we loved it. The location was safe and beautiful, and it was the first time that I’d ever stayed at a Bed & Breakfast, much less a historic looking one that took me back in time to a classier, more traditional era. I loved the feel of the place. It wasn’t a big inn, but it felt like the kind of vacation house that I’d have dreamt up. When I first walked in, I felt like I was in Europe again.
The family that ran the inn was from Berlin, and they were the most hospitable people I'd ever met. I'd say their hospitality might've even superseded their delicious, freshly prepared breakfasts, and the breakfast choices were pretty hard to beat.
Needless to say, I’m glad we found this place and met so many wonderful people.
We arrived on Saturday, got settled in, and then met with some friends who drove from Orlando to see us. We ended up going to the Daytona Beach Boardwalk, and I enjoyed the atmosphere. People were suntanning on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and buying ice cream at parlors attached to larger restaurants and arcades. There were carnival rides too, and it was a fun place to be.
Since it was mid-afternoon, we decided to find a place to grab some coffee, but everywhere was packed, so we ended up at Johnny Rockets. It's a traditional American deli, and though I don’t know how good their food is because I’d gotten a brownie sundae, I liked the open kitchen and the dancing waiters/waitresses who sang along to this one classic American song every time it came on.
Shortly after, we went to dinner at Rossellini’s, and my goodness, I knew right away that the owners were Italian. I don’t think I’d ever had a better margarita pizza in the U.S. The calamari was just as delicious, and the olive paste that went with the bread was to die for. Needless to say, we delighted in an evening of fine dining.
The Daytona 500
Read Part One here.
After a delicious breakfast, we had the entire morning to explore Daytona Beach before heading to the airport, so my mom and I decided to walk across the bridge to the beach resorts along the island strip. It was a scenic and relaxing walk. I probably should’ve applied more sunscreen and chosen more comfortable shoes to walk in, but I enjoyed myself all the same.
This time, we stopped by a couple souvenir shops to buy postcards and t-shirts (I like to collect them), and then we stepped into Zeno’s Boardwalk Sweet Shop for “the world’s most famous” saltwater taffy. There were so many flavors to choose from, and the shop smelled SO GOOD. There was even a taffy spinning machine in the window! I found it so fascinating that I took a video of it.
Afterwards, we revisited the beach and walked back across the bridge to Sweet Marlays’ Coffee (in the South Beach Street Historic District) for a snack before heading to the airport. The shop's pastries and beverages were divine, and their hummus dip was also insanely delicious.
It was the ideal café. I couldn't even have imagined it to be better if I tried!
On our way back to the hotel, we saw the marina again, did a little window shopping, marveled at the grandfather clocks on display in the windows of traditional antique stores, and said goodbye to Daytona before getting on the plane to Atlanta and then from there to Chicago. My last farewell was, of course, to the Daytona International Speedway, and as I sat back and relaxed while the plane took off, I decided that I’d like to come back someday.