Hot, sunny & sandy…Florida 5.2009

Saturday, May 23--day 1

We had a leisurely morning before leaving Kansas City...our flight to Tampa didn't leave until after 2pm...it was a direct flight, filled to the brim with families...everyone seemed excited to be visiting such a warm, sunny and fun-filled state.  I'd never been to the Tampa airport before; but it's really nice.  We had a couple of hours to kill before we were headed south towards Naples to visit some friends on the gulf for a couple of days, and they wouldn't be arriving back at their place until around 11:00pm.  It took awhile to get our rental car, but, while waiting, we talked to Sara and she offered to drive to Tampa and meet us for dinner...yeah!  We were going to get to see her three days earlier than we'd thought.

I was really excited to visit the "old part" of Tampa, called Ybor City...I'd read a little about it prior to our plans to visit there.  It seemed full of history...a place where lots of political rallies were held by Cubans and Italians many years ago.  When we first arrived, the most interesting things were the buildings...old and very pretty; many have wrought iron work on the fronts, similar to my memories of the buildings in the French Quarter in Louisiana.  It was a place full of diverse people and Saturday night action; lots of restaurants, bars, little stores, ice cream parlors and coffee houses. 

   

The guy in the photo below is hand-rolling cigars.  There were several Cigar shops and bars in this area.

         

I found a vintage clothing store...and made my first purchase of the trip...a black and white polka-dot hoodie. 

     

We passed a couple of theatres for "Cabaret"-type shows.

 

Of course, we found a little brew pub; the Tampa Bay brewing company. 

Soon, Sara joined us....it was really great to see her and spend a couple of hours visiting....she's very, very happy!  She's getting ready to make a move to Birmingham, Alabama in late June.  She'll be working in the University of Alabama-Birmingham's Emergency Department as well as in their Critical Care Fellowship program.

   

It was after 11pm; so we said a "temporary" good-bye...we'll be seeing her in Orlando on Tuesday afternoon.

We then "attempted" the drive south towards Naples...only making it about 2 of the 3 hour drive.  We ended up parking and sleeping at a rest area...not much for scenery, but it worked just fine to get us some rest. 

Sunday, May 24--day 2

We were back on the road by 6am the next morning, arriving early and enjoying a wonderful walk on the beach.  I do LOVE walking on the beach...you never know what you're going to find, but it's always interesting!

   

     

   

     

   

     

We met our friends, then we all hit the beach.  The day was really warm...actually, it was pretty hot.  We mostly just hung out at the beach, spent a lot of time playing in the ocean, did some reading...and then we did it all over again.  After our day in the sun, we went out to dinner at a local spot called "Cocomo's".  Then, we went to a little neighborhood area, where you can usually spot a few manatees.  I took about 15 pictures of them....but I ALWAYS MISSED the 5-second glimpse of the manatee and ended up with 15 pics of water-rings (so I decided NOT to post those).

Danny and I took an after-dark walk on the beach.  The tide was out; 1/2 the sky was star-filled and the other half glowed with lightening. I love the sound the waves make at night (okay...it's probably the same sound they make during the day...only there isn't as much "other" noise to drown it all out)....anyway, it was a wonderful way to end the evening.

 

Monday, May 25--day 3

I checked the tide chart last night, to see what time was low tide....it would be at 7:57 am today.  We were off by 7am trying to get to the end of the island (about 3.5 miles) by low tide....we hoofed it down there, but still took a few minutes to snap some photos of more sea creatures, shells, birds, etc.

   

 some little living thing was crawling around inside this shell...

 

 looking toward the end of the island (pic on left); morning clouds settle down on top of the buildings (pic on right).

     

 a lone sailboat in the distance...doesn't that look like fun?

   

 so many birds!..love the ones in the pic on the right..red beaks and legs!

   

 eeewwwhh!  gross!...some things look like they should star in a sci-fi movie.

   

 we also saw a couple of dolphins rolling in the water...but they're faster than my camera...so I just enjoyed watching them.

 just "me and my shadow" at the end of the island.

   

 what a beauty of a morning.

       

 Danny making his way to the end of the island also; Danny and his life-long best-pal.

     

 cool looking starfish...unfortunately, no longer living; just a beautiful empty beach....wonderful!

   

 a lucky fisherman

       

 after our 7 mile walk to the end of the island, we decided to explore the town of Naples.  The first place we visited was the Pier...it was filled with fisherman and tourists, but as we reached the end of the pier, we spotted a couple of dolphins.  They're soooo much fun to watch.

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the Pier wasn't what I was expecting...mainly because I got "boardwalk" and "pier" mixed up in my midwestern-head....so I was expecting a "boardwalk" with lots of shops, rides, bad unhealthy food, etc, instead, what we got was lots of fisherman, buckets of bait sitting around, fishing poles and nets leaning everywhere....and it was HOT....really, really, HOT out. (I'm on the pier in the pic on the right...with the hat!)

       

the beaches were packed with people!

the shopping area near the beaches was very pretty...the buildings and the landscaping were very nice.  The shops and galleries are all upscale, very expensive and, because it was Memorial Day, some were closed.  I was searching for a bead store called "Beadnik"; but never found it.

         

Florida does have amazing flowers blooming everywhere!

   

I read about this little shopping area called "Tin City" down by some old docks...supposedly had 32 unique shops including a winery......interesting little places; but I wouldn't call them "unique" because they all mostly sold tacky t-shirts, senior-citizen matchy-matchy golf-type clothes, sea shell-everything, and the winery....well, it did seem pretty unique...they sold banana wine, grapefruit wine, cherry wine, blueberry wine, etc.....and it wasn't cheap....to say the least...we had the experience, but left without spending a dime.

(but my favorite store was the one selling men's "picture" shirts...that's my term for them anyway....you know what I mean.....some will have pictures of palm trees and flowers and the word "Florida" printed on it several times...or we saw one with a old-fashioned "woody" station wagon and surf boards and palm trees that said "Hermosa Beach" "San Diego" and "California" written on it.  But the one I'm SEARCHING  for is the Colorado one...with pictures of trout, bears, mountains, etc.  I asked the manager of store about this particular shirt and he knew exactly what I was referring to...told me the name of the manufacturer....he said they don't make them anymore.  I was sad to hear that, but I will continue my search over the internet and in each and every vintage store I go in to ....there has to be one out there somewhere!) (and maybe, by the time I DO FIND IT, Danny will like them (sooo not the case now) as much as I do.....I'm always the dreamer, right?)

 

After we returned to the condo, we made some sangria.  I took a glass down near the beach to sit and read and enjoy some quiet time.

We ended the evening with our friends, enjoying a wonderful meal of corn on the cob, baked potatoes, yummy crab legs and chocolate chip cookies.  We're headed out early in the morning...on our way north to Orlando...we'll spend the rest of our trip with Sara!

Tuesday, May 26--day 4

We left the Naples early in the morning, heading north towards Orlando.  Having done this trip a couple of times before, and searching through the guidebooks endlessly, I knew there was nothing to see in between the two places (if you know of someplace cool, let me know, in case Sara moves back to Florida!)

Sara had us buzz through the ambulance bay at ORMC's emergency entrance to pick up her apartment key....she'd be off in about 20 minutes.  After she joined us, we drove down to a local spot to have lunch, Mills Market in the Delaney Park area. Orlando has millions of "chains"; both in stores and eateries, but not too many unique ones.  Her choice was great....good food and a wonderful selection of beer.  I had a "vegetarian cheeseburger wrap...(never have even seen one on any other menu) and a new brew from the Fort Collins brewery (one of my fav breweries...they make some awesome beer!) and both were delicious!  Delaney Park and Thornton Park are residential areas with a beautiful small lake, big-tree-lined sidewalks, old well-built homes and all of it pre-suburb....just wonderful.

Orlando's downtown, where Sara lives, has a new addition since I've been here last...it's a new Target store, with a few other places for more shops (many are still empty it's so new) and some lofts built above them.  Whenever you're in any big city's downtown, you know parking is always an issue.  I've been in a different big city "downtown" Target and knew that usually the parking garage is built on top of the store; and this was the case with this new Orlando one.  But I'd never seen the "cart escalator" before.  Once, when I was talking to Sara on the phone, she was telling me about this new and inventive machine.  Now I realize we're in a town filled with spectacular rides, amazing mechanical productions, etc., but instead of shelling out $80 bucks for a Disney or Universal ticket....yes....we ended up at Target (okay...we were going to pick up a couple of other things too).  It will take your cart and all your purchased goodies with you up to the parking garage.....

     

After we left Target, the skies opened up and a deluge began; Sara told us it's been doing this every day for a week.  The skies turned dark, and the highway traffic slowed to about 20 mph.  But not to be deterred, we popped on the highway and headed to the town of Celebration!  It's about 25 minutes from downtown Orlando and sits in the heart of the Disney empire.  A friend recently told us about it....a planned community built, owned, and ran by Disney....it sounded worth a trip to see it.

When you first drive in....there is this sense that you're on a movie set....everything looks soooo perfect.....it's kind of creepy.  But the really cool thing is almost each house has big front porch, each house looks very different from all the others (we didn't see any that looked similar to each other) and there are no driveways or garages on front sides of the homes. (I particularly like this part!  This was how this town came up in conversation when we were having a discussion with my friend and her family about garage's being built on the front side of homes....I hate that particular feature of MOST American homes....yes, it may be efficient, I just don't like the look of a garage on the front side of a house...okay, enough about that.) 

There are alley's built behind the houses and that's where the garages are.  My pics don't do these homes or the area justice....they were really pretty, beautiful homes.  These pics are of some really large homes, but a lot of the houses, while all good sized, are "deeper" than they are wider or spread out...so they don't look like monstrosities, but just cool and lovely homes.

                    

 There are also condo's in the area, office buildings, schools, a golf course, several small lakes....it's just it's own little cute city...and of course, there is a shopping area with restaurants and a movie theatre.  Below are some pics from the shopping/eating area...the one side of the lake has a whole lot of rocking chairs around it!  Celebration was very interesting town to visit.....much worth the drive.

   



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