Category Archives: Florida

Amelia Island Part 1

Hello in Blogland!

There hasn’t been a lot to report in a while and I got out of the habit of blogging.   Sis and I had a vacation, so there are new things to share with you.

Amelia Island!  I received a Garmin GPS for Christmas (LOVE IT) and it doesn’t recognize Amelia Island, but it does Fernandina Beach which so handily is the same place.  Sis was attending a professional conference and brought me along for company and driving assistance.  I enjoy driving, and she doesn’t so it is a good match.  The first road test of the Garmin with the sisters on wheels provided some entertainment to watch the roads go past on the display and hear the oh-so-patient “Recalculating.”

Garvin the Garmin is pretty insistent on the routes you are to take and doesn’t have a lot of understanding that you might wish to detour a bit for various reasons.  I declare that The Voice becomes a little testy at times when you ignore it.   One of our brief stops was at one of the Citrus stores – with free samples and juice.  That alone was worth the stop.

We both LOVE pralines, and the store had a packaged one that we bought to give it a try.   Sis is trying to adapt to a low carb diet so chooses her carbs with care and this was not worth a second taste to her.  It wasn’t all that bad, but did have a “chemical-y” taste to it.  Interesting that they used a plastic lid for a drink cup as a support for the praline.

Garvin took us right to the door of the hotel.  It was a recently remodeled hotel with comfy beds and great pillows.  A nice bar area held a microwave and small refrigerator.  After dropping Sis off at the first conference session I did a bit of shopping in a local grocery store to lay in some lunch and snack supplies.

The original plan had both of us getting up and I would drop Sis off at the conference each morning and pick her up in the afternoon in order to have the car for the day for driving around and doing things.  But the conference schedule was arranged so the participants would have time to enjoy the features of the resort and she was “released” at lunch time most days.  Sis was the only one to arise in the early hours and drove herself.  Save gas you know and I was looking forward to some crafting time…sleeping in a bit had NOTHING to do with the decision (HAH!).

The hotel also had a marvelous hot breakfast – fluffy scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, and the usual cereal, toast, yogurt, and pastries.  I’d go down and linger over a leisurely breakfast while reading and return with my spinning wheel to spin while I watched the world go by.  People generally do a double take when they walk past when they see me spinning.  Some stop and chat with me, and it is always interesting.  One man said “You don’t see people doing that much, do you?”  My response was that he wasn’t hanging around with the right people…

I did brave the chill of the pool one day to do my water exercises but although pleasant was a bit on the COLD side.  Sis loves being in the water, too, and when she got home from the conference the first day we hit the pool.  I got in but she dipped her toe in and declared it was too cold so went and sat in the sun with her book.

This is going to be the tale of the seafood restaurants.  We LOVE seafood, and since this area has a great history of fishing…so it must be easy to find good seafood, right?  The first restaurant was within walking distance of the hotel but I about fell out of my seat over the price of the food.  A little more than I was expecting but we decided to stay and I’m glad we did.  The crab cakes were perfect – large bits of real crab with just enough other stuff to make them hold together while cooking.  YUM.  It was also interesting to note that the tables were supported by antique treadle sewing machine bases.  Interesting but horrifying…all those gorgeous sewing machines trashed!!!

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TECO Manatee Viewing Center

We are not the only ones that want to get to warmer places – the manatees do too and take refuge from the chilly water in the power plant cooling water canals.   TECO has developed the south shore of their cooling water discharge canal into a very nice viewing center, museum with interactive exhibits and of course a snack bar and gift shop.  It is a popular  spot for both people and manatees when the Florida winter weather turns a bit more chilly than we would like.

The dark blobs in the water are the manatees.  LOTS of manatees!  None came closer to the viewing area than what you see here but it was fascinating to watch one effortlessly float to the surface of the water and stick up a bit of snout to catch a leisurely breath and sink again.  Now and then you spot a bit of the paddle-shaped tail as one dove a bit deeper or the scarred sides as one rolled in the water.  If you were observant, the leaping rays or tarpon wouldn’t catch you by surprise.  If you were looking in the wrong direction the only signs visible were ripples in the water and other onlookers pointing where you were NOT looking.

Tarpon are fascinating to watch jump.  Not only do they leap into the air, but they spin like a thrown football at the same time.  I did hear some gasps of “shark” one time after a tarpon exhibition…

The spotted rays were gliding about near the viewing areas and I enjoyed watching them seemingly “fly” through the water.

Don’t see it?  About the middle of the image, just about where the color has turned to blue you see a dark smudge.  Look closer and you can almost see the spots on it’s back.  Almost.  I promise, it is there.

OK – NOW do you see it???  Even I had to go back and resize a part of the image to remember where the ray was swimming.

wow…look at all the manatees – I think I did use a bit of the telephoto setting to get a bit “closer.”

There is also a nature walk and self-guided tour of the estuary to show more about the animals and plants that inhabit the area.  I do love going here, and based on the FULL parking area, so do a few other people!

Gamble Plantation – Florida State Park

Ahhh.  This is the weather I remember from growing up in Florida.  I am enjoying every moment of it!

The weather in Florida is glorious.  Saturday a few of my knitting group went to the Gamble Plantation, a Florida State Park in easy driving distance. It is believed to be the only surviving antebellum mansion existing in south Florida.  The mansion itself is glowing white and reminds me of a mini-Tara (from Gone With the Wind if you need a bit of a reminder of the reference).  Do check out the link to the state park page. (they have a better picture)  I am not a student of architecture but there is just something appealing about the appearance of the building.

The grounds are right on the “main road” and when you see the white picket fence you know you have arrived. The house makes a great impression and  you know you have arrived at a special place.  I can just imagine riding up on horseback in the sticky heat and seeing the cool white mansion as a place of rest, recovery, and refinement.  A bit of astonishment too of what was built on the frontier.  Over to the right is a tidy gray and white frame house, where some of the family lived once the “big house” became too expensive and impractical for upkeep.  It had been moved from another part of the property to the current location.

There was just enough time before the tour began for us to view the exhibits in the small but informative museum for a perspective of the property, people, and the events through the years.

We were in the first tour group and had a very interesting and knowledgeable docent to show us the house and relay the history of the house and it’s people.  I’ve toured some of the big Louisiana plantations and kind of expected to see somewhat of the same design here.  Entering the house, there is a beautiful (but rather ordinary) wood staircase to your immediate left and a hallway to your right.  No elegant foyer to take your breath away.    The home was built when this part of Florida was the frontier and danger lurked from every direction; not only from lightning, fire, and storms but also from unfriendly folks.  Mr. Gamble designed the structure so there was always an alternate exit or two from any room.

One of the stops on the tour was a workroom that we could not enter as there was damage to the roof above and the ceiling of the room wasn’t stable.  But the docent opened the door and allowed us to look into the deep, dark interior.  And what did we see? A spinning wheel and a skein winder!  I had my camera out and snapped a couple of quick shots before we had to move along.  It was torture to be that close and not be able to inspect more carefully.

The warming kitchen, where the vegetables and side dishes were cooked and plates prepared for serving was fascinating.  It had the odor of wood fires as there had been recent demonstrations and dinner prepared by a famous chef specializing in recreating the techniques and menus of the time.  What a sense of reality that created.  As if a couple of logs added to the coals are all that would be needed to start the meal preparations.  The odd shaped globe in the image below is a coffee roaster!  You really can’t see, but it has a long handle that the cook could turn for even roasting.

The house is decorated with antiques, but not all of them are from the 1850’s era.  Some might find fault with that, but I find it charming – as if each generation left behind their cherished bits and pieces for us to enjoy.  The stories of the acquisition and restoration of some of the pieces is nearly as interesting as the information about the house!

The Cistern was fascinating.  The water collected in there provided safe and clean(er) drinking water than was otherwise available.

You really have to admire what they were able to accomplish with local building materials and the skill to construct a building that has lasted through the years.  Not without quite a bit of work as the building was in serious disrepair (especially after being used as a fertilizer storage barn) and in danger of demolition in the early 1900’s.  Fortunately it was rescued by some women who took the preservation of the site and it’s history as a mission.  The result of their hard work and vision is the bit of irreplaceable history we can take a few moments of our time to tour and visit today.

I do encourage you to make a point of stopping here on a visit to Southwest Florida.

Squirrels!!

Here on the outskirts of the big city it is amazing at the amount of wildlife that can be seen. Lots of birds, and our friends the squirrels. I was at a park recently to take some ebay pictures and as soon as I had stopped my car a gang of squirrels ran right up to me. One of them were brave enough to sit quietly for me while I got out my camera. Another ran up a tree and watched carefully to see if I would have any treats for him/her.

The squirrel up the tree couldn’t have picked a prettier place to perch – green leaves and moss artistically draped over a weathered broken branch!

Postcards – Spook Hill

This one has been up on ebay for a few days, but no nibbles yet!  I really didn’t want to let go of it so am happy/sad no one wants it.  The language on the card is indicative of the racial prejudices of the time; it was printed in 1954 by the Curt Teich Company.  Ebay 400001748602 if you want to take a closer look!

There really is a Spook Hill!  The white line is still there, along with a sign giving the instructions.  The grove has been replaced by private homes and Spook Hill Elementary School.  Of course the school has a friendly ghost as a mascot.